Artist Quest for Color: Return to Pastel Landscape

It all started with a purple mountain.

Day before yesterday, I saw a purple mountain on one of the oil paintings currently on my working wall.

pastel landscape
Purple Mountain (Muse I), pastel on sanded panel, 8 x 10 PURCHASE INFO>

With the purple mountain in my mind’s eye, I moved the oil painting to my easel and stopped. Instead of going for the paint brush, I walked across the studio and laid out 2 trays of pastel. I dug through the drawer and found a small sanded panel.

Stepping back, I looked across the room at the oil painting. A piece of luscious vibrant purple pigment on the palette caught my eye. I grabbed it and stroked the mountain into the gritty surface.

Artist Quest for Color Unleashed

This unleashed a cascade of color. Lavenders, yellows, golds, greens, blues and finally vermilion red rang across the paper. A chorus of voices singing in harmony, one behind the other. I hung on for dear life and let them lead me by the hand. When they quieted down, I clipped the pastel to my easel and replayed their song in oil paint.

Now I am not going to post the oil painting ~ not yet. I have been searching for something in my art. Since 2012 I have been looking for a deeper connection. A deeper, more fluent connection with my own unique voice. This connection between pastel and oil satisfies my quest.

New Approach ~ Find the Trigger

I have struggled to make my oils behave like pastels. Why? Why not speak first in my primary language, then translate.

Touching raw pigment triggers something for me. This first piece is the beginning of a new chapter. Rather than post the oil paintings now, I will hold them until I have several. In the meantime, I will use pastel to open my door. (No pun intended!)

pastel palette
Colors on my pastel palette include hand mixed pigments from Unison, Sennelier, and Diane Townsend.

PASTEL LANDSCAPE  What many may not know is that pastel was my ‘first language.’ Although I have not used pastels much in the past 20 years, I first used them in college. Through the late 70s and 80s, my pastels won me entry to national exhibitions at Pastel Society of America, Pastel Society of Canada, Virginia Museum, and numerous others. My pastels are in the permanent collections of the City University of New York, Longwood University Art Museum, and many corporate collections.

I turned my back on pastel when clients asked for oil paintings. It IS time for me to come home! No more searching. Only singing with my own unique voice!

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The Nest ~ Plein Air or Memory Painting?

Years ago, my painting mentor Robert Mayo asked if I ever tried to paint from memory. Rather than copying nature, have you ever just painted what’s inside of you?

Mmmmmmmmmmmm. I still recall the feeling of puzzlement at his question. I had never considered such a question. He’d handed me a new coat inside out and I didn’t know what to do with it. How would I use such a thing? What is it for?

daily painting coastal landscape clouds osprey nest
The Nest, oil, 20 x 24

Plein Air or Memory Painting?

This question has lived inside me for 30 years. Now I find myself exploring some memory paintings. This one, like others in this series, comes from memories of painting en plein air at Bethel Beach.

Which way are you creating? Are you copying something out there? Or are you letting your heart and soul speak your own truth?

I remember another question put to me by my painting professor at East Carolina University, Ed Reep. Ed set up two studios for us. He had a still life in one. We put our easels in the other. He asked us to paint from the still life in the other room. Awkward and impossible, as I recall.

In a dream, rooms can represent states of consciousness. In these examples, I was being asked to go back and forth from one to the other. Stepping back and forth is good training for dancing with the creator.

In this painting, I began with my feelings of earth and sky. Drawing from memory of the feeling of being out there with my feet in the sand and my head in the clouds, I mixed a big brush full of Holbein Blue Gray with a touch of Gamblin Quick Dry White and laid in the sky. Going back for more paint, I switched to Ultramarine Blue.

Mixing Cad Yellow Deep with Manganese Blue, I answered the sky with warm green earth. I really wasn’t trying to do anything more than block in the color shapes of earth and sky. I was thinking I might take the earth sky block in on the beach to paint.

Before I knew what was happening. the landscape on the canvas was speaking to me. I slowed the process down. Sitting in the chair across the studio, I stopped to listen. That’s when I began to see the pink lights on the cloud. I painted them in and sat back down. Still thinking I would take the canvas out on the beach.

That’s when I saw the inlet. Lightening the sky color, I floated it in below the cloud. Then a line of light sand along the far shore appeared in my mind’s eye. Mixing ochre with white and a touch of red, I rubbed it out beyond the inlet. Creating the far shore. Did I get the symbolism at the time? No.

Back in the chair. It was quiet for awhile. Then I saw the nest. Right at the axis. A tiny vertical rising from the sand on the far shore with a y-shape at the top. Of course. I mixed Alizarin Crimson with some of the left over green. With a small palette knife, I scratched in the lines.

The Nest. I had put on the strange coat without a thought. Had the coat been turned inside out? Or have I? This IS my nest. Do I get the symbolism now? Yes. What does it say to you? Which way are you creating? Are you copying something out there? Are you letting your heart and soul speak your own truth?

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Muses of Tuscany Retreat>
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See other paintings from this series>