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  • Writer's pictureLisa DuBois

The Process of a Beautiful Masterpiece

I painted in pastel on a sidewalk the other day. This was my 4th year participating in Pastels on 5th, a fundraiser for Alternatives to Violence, a non-profit safe house here in Loveland, Colorado. I really like the way it turned out. Each year is better than the last, and they’ve all been a great experience. Here’s a look at my first pastel painting in 2017:

Sidewalk art of a heart with light breaking into it.
Destiny Breaks In... my first Pastels on 5th, 2017

It’s a journey...

We all like to show our best side. On Facebook and Instagram we post the lovely and fun photos of celebrations, good hair days, well mannered children… our finished artwork. What we don’t show is the path it took to get there. Sometimes it’s not so pretty.

Today I will walk you through the process of my pastel painting coming to life on a sidewalk. And this is only my little part in this great endeavor to make this happen. I just show up and paint. But there is an army of volunteers who have organized, emailed, marked our spots on the sidewalks, set up social distancing entries and exits, fed us bagels and coffee for breakfast, and snacks and frozen custard for lunch! I am so grateful for them. They worked hard.

Early morning at Pastels on 5th, Loveland, Colorado, 2020.
It takes many volunteers and many hours to make it happen

But back to my process…

First I let the ideas swirl. They bubble up, I consider how they will work with my skills, my time, and the constraints of my materials and desires of my sponsor. This year, my sponsor, Shadow Play Films, gave me carte blanche to do whatever I chose, with the only request that I incorporate the Loveland Studio Tour into the design somehow. That suited me just fine, as I am an artist in the studio tour, and don’t mind promoting that!

My original idea was a Loveland street scene, with a sandwich board in it promoting the Studio Tour. Great idea, except I rarely do street scenes and wasn’t crazy about trying to pull it off in pastels on a sidewalk. Maybe I should stick to my strengths: faces. I have done some form of faces the past two years.

A family singalong, in pastel on sidewalk, depicting a grandfather playing the banjo and his grandson playing guitar.
Family Singalong, 2019

Pastel portrait of a red-headed woman, on sidewalk
Colorful Life, 2018

This year, I decided to go with Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, with a bit of a twist making the masterpiece an artist, using the Loveland Art Studio logo of a colorful hand as her hand, as well as a paintbrush in her mouth as she stands in front of her easel.

In preparation, I worked up what we artists call a “cartoon”: a small version of the artwork, where we work out composition, color, values… all those important art things.

Pastel painting of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, where the girl is also an artist.
My cartoon... Girl with a Pearl Earring

The day before the event, I check my list and pack my supplies: yardstick, sunscreen, portable battery charger, wipes, etc.

On Saturday morning, I arrived about 7:30, and got to work in the cool of the day. Feeling fresh, I eat my bagel and drink some coffee as I sketch out my work.

A chalk drawing of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring on sidewalk
My sidewalk spot for the day

Layers of color

Outer layers peel off as the morning warms up. On a 4 x 4’ piece of concrete, I start from the top and work my way down, so that I don’t smudge it all up trying to reach across. Every year, I consider whether or not to do this… it’s a long day. The morning is definitely my favorite time. I am grateful that I practice pilates and some yoga moves… it certainly helps when squatting and stretching over a sidewalk all day!

A sidewalk pastel painting by Lisa DuBois in progress
Layers of color on a sidewalk

But even so, the day becomes hot, and the body becomes tired. The hardest part is the afternoon when the sun is sweltering down, and I just want to be done. And finally… I am!

I love chatting with people as they walk by. I clean up my area, stand and stretch, admire my work and take a walkabout to admire all the other work too.

Sidewalk pastel painting of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring shown as an artist.
Girl with a pearl earring... and an easel

Some other fabulous artwork from Pastels on 5th 2020

A sidewalk pastel painting of a colorful tree frog.
A vibrant tree frog by Amanda Gress & students

A sidewalk pastel painting of an angelic doctor wearing a face mask.
A beautiful message beautifully done.

A sidewalk pastel painting of an elephant with a vibrant sunset background.
First place winner 2020

S - T - R - E - T - C - H - !!!

At church the day following Pastels on 5th, I sat with sore muscles as the pastor at Citipointe Noco spoke about this season of stretching. We must condition ourselves with stretching in obedience to what the Lord calls us to do. I stretched before and after my day at Pastels on 5th. I stretched the next day. On Monday, I stretched some more. And the aches are still working themselves out... it's a process. At 55, they don’t work out as quickly as they once did.

But it was all worth it, to create a beautiful piece of artwork that people can enjoy. And even more so, that all the money raised from this event goes to help others that are in process right now. Alternatives to Violence works toward a safe community free from domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, by rescuing and providing a safe transition for families in danger.

Maybe someday you will meet someone who has benefitted from Alternatives to Violence. Maybe you already know one. Maybe they will be on the other side of their process to freedom, and maybe they are still in process, stretching. You will see a beautiful masterpiece, but may never know the stretching, grueling process it took for them to get there.

Pastels on 5th is holding a People’s Choice Award. And because of COVID safety measures, it has moved online and continues ALL WEEK! Each vote is $1, and the proceeds go to Alternatives to Violence. You can cast as many votes as you feel led to do… $1 = 1 vote, $10 = 10 votes, $100 = 100 votes. If you’d like to vote for mine, that is sweet and makes me feel good (I’m #46), but this isn’t about me. You can see the artwork for yourself in person; it’s still on the sidewalks, and you can see all the images and vote here.

And mark your calendars, and check out my FB page and IG feed to hear more about the Loveland Art Studio Tour Oct 10-11, and 17-18.

Thank you so much and remember, you “are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Close-up of a portrait of a woman painted on a sidewalk in pastel.
You are God's masterpiece

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