Meet 8 artists who embrace the pure pigments of pastels
This story was featured in the June 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Oregonian Gretha Lindwood always wanted to be an artist. After art school, she worked as a retail illustrator and graphic designer, but her weekends and evenings were often spent painting. Then about six years ago, the company she worked for went under. “It was actually a godsend for me,” she says, “because I saw it as my opportunity to become a full-time artist.”
Lindwood began painting in oils, but when she bought her first pastel set and began taking pastel workshops, “a light turned on” inside her. “Pastels excited me right away—the vibrant, luminous color just jazzed me up,” she says. Since then the artist has received several awards for her vivid, plein-air landscapes. Many of her favorite places to paint are not far from her Portland home. “The wetlands, lakes, and wildlife of Sauvie Island are just so lovely,” she says, adding, “but I also frequently see something off the side of the road that is so stunning I have to get out and paint it.”
Lindwood’s overall goal for her work is to produce a response in the viewer. “I hope the viewer will have a similar experience as I had when I was out there [on location],” she says. “I want people to feel that they’ve stepped into that scene in the painting and really get a sense of the beauty I felt in that moment.” Lindwood’s work can be found at Art On Broadway Gallery, Beaverton, OR; Aurora Gallery, Vancouver, WA; Cannon Beach Gallery, Cannon Beach, OR; Fairweather House & Gallery, Seaside, OR; Ryan Gallery, Lincoln City, OR; and www.artbygretha.com. —Lindsay Mitchell
Cris A. Horne
Artist Cris A. Horne says that many teachers in her art-school classes tried to talk her into focusing her creative eye on something other than animals. But she was undaunted. Today animals remain a constant in her expanding body of work. “I have no desire to restrict the reach of my art, [but] some bonds are meant to be,” Horne says.
The artist now calls Georgia home, but she grew up in Brazil, an only child who lived in the heart of a metropolis. Horne recalls that she looked forward to visiting family farms where she could disappear into the animal world. Back in the big city, she painted animals and religiously studied her father’s book, Painting Geniuses, where she immersed herself in works by George Stubbs and Théodore Géricault.
In her contemporary animal portraits, Horne’s goal is to portray her muses correctly but also go beyond that and capture what makes each creature unique. “I’m always trying to portray the beauty and preciousness of the animal life around us, whether it’s in the wild or it’s sitting on one’s couch,” she says.
As an art student, Esther Engelman had no idea that Hollywood and the film industry would have a major impact on her future career. Engelman, for example, couldn’t have predicted that she would marry a makeup artist for motion pictures and would eventually grow accustomed to packing up her pastels to join her husband on film locations around the world. Over the years, the Southern California pastelist has immersed herself in the lush fall colors of New England during the filming of Mermaids and the beauty of Italy’s golden light during the shooting of Tea With Mussolini. Engelman’s personal mission on these journeys was to retreat to unspoiled terrain to capture the many moods and atmospheres it evoked. Thus, she says, while her husband transformed the faces of the stars, she focused on letting landscapes become the stars of her imagination. “I always try to capture a sense of place, peace, and joy, transporting the viewers to where they can linger for a while within a painting,” she says.
The artist is represented by Saga Fine Art, Monrovia, CA; California Art Club Gallery at the Old Mill, San Marino, CA; Embler Art Gallery, John F. Kennedy Airport, Jamaica, NY; and Ocean House, Westerly, RI. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Growing up in Santa Barbara, CA, artist Linda Mutti developed a love for the outdoors that never left her. “I was always playing outside,” she says. Today Mutti still spends a lot of time outdoors—but now she prefers to play with paint. “I love painting en plein air because it’s such a living experience that excites all my senses,” she says. After taking a 30-year break from art to raise her family, Mutti picked up painting again in the mid-1990s. Initially she worked in oils, but she was unhappy with the results. “Then I picked up pastels, and it opened up everything for me—my work became brighter and more spontaneous,” she says.
The artist doesn’t have to venture far from her home in Santa Barbara to find inspiration. “The surrounding landscape is unbelievably beautiful and compelling,” she says, adding, “I always keep my pastel kit in my car because I never know when I’m going to see something that makes me want to pull over and paint it.” No matter what the scene, it is the light and how it falls on the landscape that captivates Mutti most, and she strives to convey the stunning beauty of light in every piece she paints. “I hope the viewer will find something moving in my work, whether it’s a connection to a memory, a sense of beauty, or just a feeling of comfort,” she says. Mutti’s work can be found at Gallery Los Olivos, Los Olivos, CA; Bronze, Silver & Gold, Cambria, CA; and www.lindamutti.com. —Lindsay Mitchell
After working as a professor of psychology for many years, native Tennessean Randy Carden turned his attention to art. He had been interested in it as an admirer his whole life, but it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that he decided to give it a try as a painter. After dabbling on his own for a couple of years, Carden took his first workshop, and “it was like somebody flipped a switch that has been on for years now, and I can’t turn it off,” he says.
Today Carden creates landscape, figurative, and still-life works in both oil and pastel, working from life whenever possible. “It’s really all about the light,” he says, adding, “Any subject can be beautiful as long as you capture the effect of light on that subject.” Recently Carden earned a spot in the Pastel 100 competition sponsored by Pastel Journal, a sister publication of Southwest Art. He attributes his success to the guidance of others and an unrelenting work ethic. “From what I know about psychology, art is more about grit than talent—and that’s what’s so rewarding to me,” he says. Carden’s background in psychology is also a big influence on his artistic purpose. “Many Americans suffer from a Type A behavior pattern. It’s always go-go-go, and they don’t slow down to breathe” and notice the beauty all around them, he says. “What I’m trying to do is capture a fleeting moment in time, so it’s preserved for others to experience and appreciate later.” Carden’s work can be found at www.randycarden.com. —Lindsay Mitchell
Judith Perry has always marveled at the beauty of the California landscape. Throughout her childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area, she dreamed of becoming an artist. But it wasn’t until recently, after her children were grown and out on their own, that Perry was able to vigorously pursue her artistic goals. After dabbling in oils over the years, she fell in love with pastels about nine years ago and hasn’t looked back. “I really identify with the tactile aspects of pastels,” she says, adding, “I can’t imagine painting in any other medium now.”
Perry’s lifelong affinity for nature is evident in her studio and plein-air works depicting the diverse landscapes of her home state, from the California coastline to the Sierras and southern deserts. “Living here has just been awe-inspiring for me,” she says. “When I’m painting, I can feel myself in the middle of the scene just reveling in the beauty of this wonderful place [I] call home.” It is that profound sense of wonder that Perry strives to convey in each piece she creates. “My hope is that viewers will understand what I felt when I painted that scene—and that having one of my paintings in their home will enhance their lives just a little bit,” she says.
Perry is a signature member of the Sierra Pastel Society and a member of the California Art Club and the Pastel Society of the West Coast. Her work can be found at Gold Country Artists Gallery, Placerville, CA; Markleeville Art & Soul, Markleeville, CA; and www.judithperryfineart.com. —Lindsay Mitchell
Although Leslie Lienau creates paintings in all genres, she is mostly drawn to still-life and landscape works these days. A bowl of juicy strawberries, a bouquet of bright blue anemones, and the agitated movement of ocean waves crashing to the shore speak directly to her artistic soul.
Lienau’s signature paintings often combine an impressionistic style with her classical realism training, which dates back to her studies at L’École Albert Defois in France. These days Lienau shares her knowledge and experience with students at the school she founded in Edmond, OK, the Conservatory for Classical Art. She teaches drawing and painting in the classical tradition to both adults and children. For her own paintings, Lienau chooses to work in both oil and pastel. She finds pastel’s color saturation and moody mark-making capability alluring. Whether oil or pastel, Lienau hopes that her paintings stir an emotional response in the viewer. “I want my work to conjure up a happy memory or stimulate a desire to notice the virtue and grace of the simple and quiet that may surround us if we allow ourselves to see it,” she says. Lienau’s work can be found at www.leslielienaupaintings.com. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Southern California artist Margaret Lindsey has great admiration for the early California Impressionists, who were known for capturing the Golden State’s atmospheric light on the landscape. Today Lindsey enthusiastically carries on the tradition of artists like William Wendt. She relishes depicting the splendor found in scenes close to home, including the desert of Borrego Springs, the hills of Ojai, and the coastal headlands of the Palos Verdes peninsula.
Lindsey is a firm believer in the idea that beauty provides room for a person’s soul to expand and to rest. “In my landscape painting, my aspiration is to portray a contemplative moment evoking a sense of awe and wonder at the natural abundance in the world around us, leaving the viewer with a transcendent yearning for more,” Lindsey says.
A self-described contemporary realist, the artist was drawn to pastel from the first time she picked up a pastel stick. Lindsey was attracted to the immediacy and luminosity of the medium. The experience, she recalls, was liberating after working in colored pencil, which seemed tedious and time-consuming by comparison. Lindsey is represented at Destination: Art, in Torrance, CA, where she is the featured artist in a show opening June 1. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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