Artistic Process | Riva Sweetrocket

"Riva Sweetrocket painting Sweet Tooth" image


“Working in soft pastel reminds me that life is beautiful, irresistible, yet fragile and fleeting.”

My first encounter with soft pastels was a delightful accident. The colors were just so stunning and magnetic, and as soon as I tried them I was hooked. Quickly however, they demonstrated their insufferable side: they were delicate, messy and impossible to control. I thrive on order, and for a while the situation was untenable. With time and experimentation however, I forged a path between my own temperament and the wayward nature of the medium.

"Riva Sweetrocket painting Heaven and Earth" image

Soft pastels consist of dry pigment and binder. As distinct from oil pastels, soft pastels have a chalky consistency and create substantial dust while working. To mitigate this, I mount my painting to the wall and work vertically. This keeps the dust trending down and away from areas I have already painted. I paint on Arches Cover acid-free paper which comes on a multi-yard roll. It serves beautifully as a working surface. From background to foreground and top to bottom, I compose a painting gradually section by section. To create a clean boundary between objects, I first remove unwanted background with an eraser, then break a pastel stick to expose a jagged, sharp edge. This sharp edge allows me to apply a crisp line along the perimeter of a foreground object.

"Riva Sweetrocket painting Learning to Swim" image

My painting ideas initially develop as rough concepts in my mind. I start with this rudimentary intuitive impression and use a collage-building process to bring the images to life. Working in this way engages my design instinct, and feels natural after many years in digital print layout. I fully immerse myself in whichever piece I am working on at the moment. This seems almost imperative in order to devote myself wholly to the process. It is this engaged absorption that delivers me through the often tedious moments of rendering and refining a composition to completion. There is something particularly compelling about touch. I paint with my hands, and when all is said and done I have touched a painting thousands of times, transferring hours upon hours of care and attention into a few square feet of space. I hope the end product reflects that energy and devotion.

"Sweet Tooth (detail)" image