A Sweet Surprise

Into the Fog

Into the Fog

In November, I learned that I was nominated for an Artlink Visual Art award as an outstanding painter. I was so excited that I couldn’t concentrate to read beyond the first few sentences of the notification letter. I am so pleased with this nomination because I work in a medium that has not traditionally been considered as a painting medium – pastel. Even today, if I post my work on certain sites, pastel is categorized as “drawing,” even though during the mid-nineteenth century when Whistler first began to use pastel, academic art theory and practice settled the matter. 1 To be nominated means that I have achieved my goal – using the medium in a manner that is maybe, a bit unexpected. I like it when people look with surprise at my work.

I work in a co-op art gallery. I enjoy working there and getting feedback from the customers, especially when they do not know that I am the artist whose work they are talking about. But from that experience, I have learned that people are not always sure as to what pastel is. Knowing the nature of a co-op, customers want to know what we do, what we create. Recently a woman responded in the affirmative that she knew what pastels were. And then a few moments later she confessed that she didn’t understand. And I don’t blame her. There are many reasons to be confused. But I don’t want to go through that today.

One of the reasons that I was drawn to pastel was because of Degas. I thought that pastels were magical. Today I realize that I was drawn to his use of color. None-the-less, I love pastel. I think it is the perfect medium. Pastels are sticks of pigment and are made from the same pigments that other painting mediums are made from. They are often confused with chalk, but chalk is a dyed substance. To confuse the matter further, some manufacturers call their pastels “pastel chalks.” I think they are simply trying to say “soft pastels” as opposed to “oil pastels.” Painting with pastel is as close as you can come to painting with pure pigment because it has the least amount of binder. 2 And pastel is considered to be the most permanent of all media because it doesn’t yellow, darken or crack with time. 3

Another thing that attracted me to pastel was the size of the little box that they can came in. I was living in a very small space when I took up pastel. I laugh today because that small box of 24 sticks has grown and now my palette takes up an entire table. I also found it to be very liberating to not have to mix all of my colors in order to paint. I was trained as an oil painter and found the mixing of colors to be laborious. Sometimes I wonder if I still worked in oil, would I feel the need to exactly match my colors. Anyway, I was limited to the choices in my palette – the sticks of colors that I had. And while it was limiting, it was also challenging. I mean, I had to make it work with what I had.

I also had a cat at the time, which played a factor in taking up pastel. When I was in college, many of our assignments were done in a waterbased medium; qouache or acrylic. On more than one occasion I would find myself so focused on the painting that I didn’t notice my cat drinking the rinse water until it was time to rinse my brush. Horrifying I know! I had to take her health into consideration. Another benefit, when I am done, or when I am interrupted, all I have to do is wash my hands and walk away – no brushes to clean and no palette to scrape. And if I don’t finish in one setting, I don’t have to remember how I mixed my colors. And they are so versatile, they can be used with other mediums. I really do think that pastel is the perfect medium.

Anyway, pastel is my favorite medium, and I am honored for the nomination. I will learn the results in January.

  1. from the book, James Abbott McNeill Whistler – Pastels
  2. from the Pastel of America website. http://pastelsocietyofamerica.org/
  3. from the Pastel of America website. http://pastelsocietyofamerica.org/

Here are three more images that I submitted to accept the nomination.

Masters' Garden

Masters’ Garden

Shining Through

Shining Through

Colors of Fall with Yellow Sky

Colors of Fall with Yellow Sky

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