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An Artist's Identity

An accomplished artists has a unique style. That style represents the character of the artist's work. Consider this: upon viewing a series of paintings in an exhibit, can you pick out the works of a particular artist? If you can, then that artist has established his or her identity in art.

The Pastel Society of America has opened its 2021 online exhibit, "Enduring Brilliance." I am pleased to have been accepted into that exhibit for my pastel painting, "Recovering from Winter," shown below. You can view Enduring Brilliance and its fantastic collection of pastel paintings in the online exhibit here.

After a brief period of pastel painting as a teenager, I resumed landscape painting with pastels in 2003. My "style" was realist, simply depicting what I saw in a landscape. I was inspired by the Hudson River Painters (having grown up along the Hudson River in Yonkers, N.Y.), which were mostly "realist" in their depiction of the landscape. So I followed that route, depicting landscapes in pastel as they appeared to the viewer in reality.

But having had the above painting accepted into the Pastel Society of America's Exhibit, I began to think about the flexibility and creativity I could apply to the pastel medium. So I recently paused my daily painting activities (you can find many of my works on Instagram), and chose to spend more time thinking about how I can express the medium of pastel in its most characteristic way.

Pastels exude the brilliance of pure color. They can be applied in rough strokes on a sanded paper surface just as a child scribbles marks with chalk on a sidewalk. applied as chalk in strokes on a surface. Outside of the medium, there are compositional elements, values (lights and darks) and nuances that can be expressed beyond the realistic depiction of a landscape scene. A pastel artist has the opportunity to paint an "under-painting" prior to applying the layers of pastel. That also offers the artist a creative twist that often opens up a viewpoint not considered when viewing the actual subject.

Take a look below. This is the acrylic paint under-painting of "Off Road to the Beach," inspired by a vacation at Breezy Point, New York, on the Atlantic Ocean.

What was the purpose of this under-painting? It forced me to focus on the key features of the bright sandy vista on that early summer morning, bringing out the contrasts of the vehicle tracks in the sand. Here is the completed painting "Off Road to the Beach:"

"Where the Birch Trees Lean," was inspired by a hike at Miner's Falls near Munising, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan:

Here's the acrylic underpainting of this pastel. Note the angular sections representing the light and dark values of the final composition:

"At the Lake" was inspired by a visit to Gould City Township Park, at the northern end of Lake Michigan on the Upper Peninsula.

Here is the acrylic underpainting. Simple, basic pink (under the water) and blue (under the beach and rocks) which show sporadically through the layers of pastel in the final painting. An underpainting can be a complementary color that can cause the opposite pastel color to "pop," or a more subtle hue that can calm down the vibrancy of pastel.

As the cooler weather approaches in Southeast Michigan, I have my eyes set on winter landscapes once again. Below is an updated version of "Breaking Drifts," displaying some of the characteristics of a pastel painting I plan to deploy on a regular basis. You can see some of the red/pink underpainting as well as the firm strokes and sharpness in the foreground, contrasted with the muted distance (except for the tree with clumps of snow catching the late-day sun).

Speaking of Winter, my painting "Winter's Breath" will be traveling to Chicago in October for the Pastels Chicago 2021 National Juried Exhibit at the McCord Gallery and Cultural Center:

Not to confuse my viewers, but another of my paintings entitled "Winter's Breath," seen below, is heading to the Great Lakes Pastel Society Members Exhibit at the J Petters Gallery in Douglas, MI. and is an award-winner (award to be announced at the show). Can you spot the bold blue acrylic underpainting?

This summer I have refined my technique and I've veered away from the usual realist depiction of the landscape. I am confident that this new focus will help to better define my unique style so that my viewers can pick out my pastels from a wall of many others.

Visit my online shop or drop me a note if you want to chat more about pastels!

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