Category Archives: Pastel Dust

Pastel Dust on the Road 3…


Moab…this is such a beautiful place.  From the moment I drove down into the Colorado River valley that holds this town I was in awe of the overwhelming beauty.  Extreme describes it….cliffs in reds and yellows, intense skies something different to look at all around you .                                                                                                                     .            I went to Moab to participate in the Plein Air Moab painting event Oct 7-15. The event includes 3 quick draw sessions, a main competition, a paint out, receptions and more.  The Moab Art and Rec Center (MARC) is hosting their 2nd plein air.  The team that organized this were incredible.  Everything; every event ran like clock work.  One day the quick draw was at the Castle Valley Winery where we painted on their property and submitted it to the show and sale.    for 3 hours, we painted  ,then framed.  Two more quick draws on other days happened downtown Moab with same rules and events.  The final event was the main competition – a painting of the artist’s choice that they had completed during the time in Moab.  Other paintings could be displayed for sale at the MARC as well…but only one entered into the competition.  Friday night we entered the MARC to one room filled with the artists’ best work.  Many had signs on them “Award Winning Painting”.  I looked for mine and it was included in that catagory!   That’s the icing on the cake!

During the paint out, several pieces of art sold which wonderful – since that is the ultimate goal!  But it is also equally important to develop new friendships and learn new things from fellow artists, judges, etc.

And there is taking some risks in our work, try new techniques and see as much of the area and photograph as much as  you can for future reference.  I had shied away from driving the LaSal Loop which is a road that takes you south of Moab, then westerly over some mountain passes, down into the Castle Valley and back to Moab via Hwy 128.    The first while I was in Moab, the weather was cold and stormy with snow on the mountains, so that detered my thoughts of doing this drive in the mighty Prius.  However with warm weather for several days, the snow had all but disappeared so I decided that I would drive at least part way up the pass to get  some views of colorful fall leaves and different terrain.  I soon found that it the road was really steep and narrow and I wasn’t comfortable trying to turn around on the narrow roads and minimal turn-outs…so I kept driving over the passes, a little timidly on the ascents and descents with switchbacks at a max of 10 mph.  It was beautiful and when one was atop each of the passes, the view below was incredible.  I admit that when I saw the familiar terrain of the Castle Valley, I breathed a sigh of relief!  Once I got down into the valley, I decided I would paint one more work so elected to paint a scene near Onion Creek…a stream that barely runs water when the weather is dry…but is one that carries water that is poisonous leeched with selenium, arsnic and saline.  The creek bed has no vegetation and it is strangely quiet with no birds in the immediate area.

Saturday came with the realization that the stay in Moab was coming to an end.  Work was to be picked up at the MARC at 6 that evening.  In the morning I stopped in to listen to the judged talk about the work selected for awards and decided that I would go somewhere and paint one more session.  Sandi who organized the event came up to me and asked what I was doing for the day.  I told her and she asked if she could go with.  Happily I invited her and we drove up Kane Creek beyond where one leaves the Colorado and heads up another canyon.  We painted and visited for about 2 hours.  It was the perfect way to end a great 10 day visit to this spot.

Sunday morning I was ready to head out for points south into New Mexico.  I stopped at the little cafe that sells great Moab coffee, grabbed a 16 oz cup, bid farefwell to the MARC and headed down 191 to southerly  points….

happy painting….

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Pastel Dust on the Road…


              Last  Wednesday I embarked on a journey to painting and drawing in various areas.  First stop was the plein air event “Plein Air Palouse” in Moscow, ID.  For 3 days 25 painters spent time out and about in the heart of the Palouse painting rural and urban scenes in and around Moscow.  This was the 2nd plein air event for Moscow and they are an enthusiastic, warm, welcoming group.  Thursday  I drove north of Moscow toward Potlatch looking for my landscape representational of the Palouse.  Driving down Walker Road, I found it.  At the top a hill was an ideal plein air painting spot…a nice place to pull over, some stacked old bales of hay and a view looking north of fields, hills, barns and timber that is characteristic of the Palouse.  I pulled over and  painted a 12×16 of a view finders cropped field of view of the valley.  About 3 hours later, I am satisfied with the result.  I snapped several photos of the area for future paintings and headed back to Moscow, happy with the painting    expedition!                                       Friday morning I decided to paint urban and wanted to paint some historic building.  Like many small towns, Moscow has a Carnegie Library with unique architecture and style.  And the beautiful thing is, when they decided they needed more space, they didn’t  destroy the original building, they added onto it but kept the itegrity of the original building.  So this sort of Tuscan style building sits on the corner of Jefferson and 2nd in all is originial glory.  I paint it.  While I am there painting in the shade and solitude of the Library, the reporter and photographer from the Daily News come by and spend 20-30 minutes visiting and taking photos of me painting.  Saturday morning  one of the photos and a really good article about the plein air event and me graced the front page and more of the paper.                                                                                                                                                                                                     Late Friday I drove up to the U of I campus and parked in a parking area currently abandoned, but with a great view of the  U of I farm.  There are a series of beautiful, well maintained barns and I wanted to paint them in the evening light.  I did a 9×12 of the large barn and horses under a coral tinged sky.  I was pretty happy with the results, put it in a frame and forgot to photograph it.

Saturday was spent at the Farmer’s Market downtown.  I did a bunch of sketching and photos.  Great people watching!  In the afternoon all the paintings were delivered to City Hall to hang in their gallery complete with reception.  It was a great time and lots of discussion ensued regarding the event and how to improve it.  The enthusiasm of the group is one thing that needs no improvement.  They are gracious hosts and willing to help the artists as they could.  Kudos to Kathleen and DJ.  The best thing was meeting several new artists and visiting with them about our works.

So this was the first stop on my art quest journey.  I leave Moscow Sunday and head south to UT with a couple of stops along the way…More photos of my journey will be posted on Facebook


Pastel Dust en Plein Air…


The last post talked about the trip to Whidbey Island, WA for the Northwest Pastel Society annual Paint Out and included some of the photos I shot of the island. But the main reason for going was to actually paint out on location of choice!

I like to be surrounded by all my props usually.   That way you are never without a color or particular paper, etc.  In other words, there isn’t much excuse to not get a painting done.  Well, then when plein air comes into play…it requires you hauling your supplies and equipment out in country, set up and paint.  Whoa!  I can’t possibly take all my “stuff. ‘ So I condense things, take my full size French easel, another bag of necessaries, like the extra pastels the art box won’t hold, paper, gloves, apron, board, etc.   And a chair.  Ok, with this load I am not going to venture too far from base.  The easel is a torture…there is always something coming undone and flopping and dragging.  So in this instance, if you are really lucky, maybe you can drive to the spot you want to paint and on Whidbey, you can do that at many sites.  One site we painted was in a state park and there was a picnic table.  Heaven!  The light was great and I painted a trail leading into the forest         Another day we found this beautifully landscaped rhodie garden which had many more varieties plants than just rhodies.  All fairly easy spots to get to.  So then I decided if I am going to paint plein air then I best quip myself with a manageable pack.  So that is what I have done.  I scrapped the French easel for a compact Daniel Smith 5# one that holds your pastel box when set up.  It carries easily and then with one bag and fold up chair (optional, depending on where and how long I am going) I can at least get out of the parking lot!

So plein air takes some extra effort, but there is nothing like getting out there and painting without the aid of a photo.  You need to take into consideration the ever-changing light, the elements, narrowing your field of view into something manageable and have the props you need with you. A well done plein air piece just stands out from the crowd!

Happy painting…             


Pastel Dust on Whidbey Island


5 days of nothing but painting, photographing, enjoying fellow artists on one of the prettiest islands in the northwest.  Whidbey  is an island you can reach via ferry from Mukilteo (near Everett and Edmonds, WA) on the south end or via Hwy 20 from the mainland through Anacortes and over the Deception Pass Bridge.

The event was the annual Northwest Pastel Society Paint Out organized by a couple of NPS members who took on a big project of finding suggested painting spots, dining, demonstrations by artists and lodging at Fort Casey.  Jan Wall and Karen Schroeder made the event what it was and by all testaments by attendees it was a success.

I coercer-ed my friend and fellow artist Lauri Borer into going and we had a great time exploring, painting, photographing and laughing.

It is a challenge to get out and do plein air work….the light changes quickly, there are bugs and nettles, there is wind and not all desired painting points are a “drive to.”  One morning we headed out and after not finding something that we wanted to paint at the suggested spot, came upon this hidden rhodie farm and 10 acres of gardens hidden away.  We hiked around the property which was beautiful and each settled on a spot to paint.  Later a few other artists found this spot as well.The rhodies were not blooming this time of year, but the other plants were providing the show.

We  visited the sites at the state parks and the reserves of Ebey’s Landing, the farms, the light house at Fort Casey, the towns of Coupeville, Langley and Oak Harbor.

Deception Pass points of interest were there to be painted – and we trekked out there early one morning only to be met with chilly winds so we elected to drive to Anacortes and down to Mount Vernon and introduce Laurie to Dakota Art Pastels Store.  After lugging around a full size French easel, I took the opportunity to buy a new easel for plein air work and that would lighten the load of packing  by some 10 pounds, at least.  Unfortunately, we did not stop back at Deception Pass because later we learned the weather moderated and painting was good.  Lesson learned…maybe not go racing out the door too early in the morning – OR – wait a bit at the destination – the weather might change!

    One other morning we woke to fog coming in from the west and it gently settled into one of the valleys near the Keystone Ferry…but not for long!        

It was great to spend time to get to know some fellow artists better and to watch their demos and learn how some make their own pastels, about an intense workshop for artists in NM, how they do an abstract composition and more.

It was a best of times with tons of photos and memories.  Do a paint out sometime if the opportunity comes your way…tips…pack light, make sure  you have bug spray, sun screen, attire for cool and hot conditions, condensed supplies, camera, water and a good buddy to share with!  happy painting…


Pastel Plein Air Dust…


Another trip to Montana in mid July to just do some photography and paint “en plein air”…

My son and family came to WA for a wedding the first part of July and Chris’s schedule required him to return to  MT afterhis week of vacation while his family stayed another.  So he and I loaded his car with pastels, paper, hats, insect repellent, etc. – all things to occupy me in my quest to paint MT.  We spent the first 3 days in Billings – where I used to live – visiting with friends in the evenings, but spending the days scouting the area for places to set up an easel and paint and take reference photos for future use.   It was hot and dry til late afternoon when the thunder clouds rolled in, which meant you had best be under cover with the pastels all tucked away.

So I got a few paintings done.  Southern Montana had more than it’s share of rain this spring and a lot of snow melt which caused some major flooding through several areas.  One such spot showed the water still standing in some fields…the object of this painting…

I have been using some of the Pastelmat paper for paintings and liking how it takes the pigment and the colors of the paper.  I chose a neutral color and sketched in the basic layout with a piece of charcoal.  Beginning with some basic sky, I get that color on the paper, then working down to the distant landscape.   There is some hint of rain showers in the distance, so I want to convey that in the painting.  Less is more when painting such an impression…you don’t want a huge amount of pigment to  fill the tooth of the paper.  A note about this paper…it is quite “velvety” in feel, and it will hold a good amount of pigment, workable fix for texture…but you don’t want to use a heavy hand and fill the tooth up immediately!  Once the distant landscape and sky details are completed I continue my painting, adding the tree line and while I am painting the background trees, I add some of that color into the lower part of the  painting for reflections that will be established in the water.

     And with water and reflections…again, keeping a minimal amount of pigment on paper adds to the “look” of the water.  A gentle stroke with the side of a soft pastel stick gives the water a nice, soft look with some of the background peeking through the water’s surface.

The pastels…I used a mixture of Unison, Sennelier, Terry Ludwig and some Diane Townsend.  Great darks in the Ludwigs…good texture with the Townsends…often for the shimmery last stroke for some special detail, Sennelier 463 and 179 for my base for trees to create depth…

As a note about this paper…I bought a pad of the paper for traveling and doing plein air painting in the field…1) because of the ease of transport and the size; 2) because it is inter-leafed with a protective sheet of Glassine or some other type of paper that aids in storage during travel.  One thing I have found is this paper says it is 9×12 inches; it is a little shy of that…so that can cause a problem if one is trying to put that painting directly into a plein air frame without matting…I use a lot of the stock Plein Air frames sold by Jerry’s Artarama and have not had a problem with other pre-cut paper…so something to keep in mind when you go to frame the work when using this particular paper.  I do love the feel of it, however and it does come in other larger sizes, which I love.

So enjoy some painting time out in the field…and try some of the great papers available now…I love the Pastelmat!

Happy painting…


Pastel Dust in Joseph, OR Quick Draw


Joseph, OR is a little town of less than 2000 that is nestled up next to the Wallowa Mountains in NE Oregon and near one of the most beautiful lakes – Wallowa Lake.  The area was part of the Nez Pearce land and Chief Joseph.  The area is filled with history but more recently artists.  This area has some of the NW’s best artists,     sculpture and 2D.  Each year the Wallowa Valley Festival of the Arts happens the first full weekend of June.  I have gone for several  years now and exhibited there.  Over the last 3 years they have had a quick draw event that is a very fun and exciting time.  There is live music, fabulous treats and appetizers and drinks while several artists attempt to create a masterpiece in a one and a half hour time frame.  As the artists draw, paint, sculpt, the attendees have the option to watch the pieces come to life and then bid on their favorite work.  The silent auction then goes on for a half an hour after the quick draw time limit is up.

This quick draw is, as I said an hour and a half long.  The quick draw event at the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale that I go to is one half an hour-long!  So to approach that event is  a little different from this one that allows an hour more! I love to do these for the challenge.

All that said, there is some definite planning that has to occur to make a quick draw a success and even then I rely on a little divine intervention because sometimes even the best laid plans can turn upside down in a hurry!

The process…I know going to the event the exact size of painting I am going to do.  I have the mat ready, in the frame and the paper I am working on is mounted on a foam core cut to the size of the frame.  Once the painting is complete, it slides into the prepped frame, backing paper covers the back and the wire for hanging screwed in place. (All these details – thanks my husband Les)

I know what I am going to paint.  I have sketched it and laid it out on a sketch pad prior to the  event.  This year I decided to do a painting based on a few photos I had taken in the Joseph area in years past.  The basic scene is one looking at Prairie Creek and some cows grazing in deep, lush grasses.

This year, my friend Betty Wood is attending the show and she is there with camera in hand.  She photographed the process of the painting from the beginning to its completion.  Betty is a fine artist.  She works in lots of different mediums, most recently having some fun with wood carving.  Her work is amazing and wins at the wood carving shows consistently.

I first of all use a hard pastel stick and make some light lines on the paper, separating the paper into quadrants to allow me to quickly place cows, an old

barn, trees, etc in strategic, visually satisfying spots.  I am using Pastel Mat paper.  It is new to me and I love it.  It has an almost suede, soft feel to it, yet it holds pastel well.  I am using a salmon colored sheet and will allow some of the paper to be exposed.

I start painting at the top of the paper and block in the sky, followed  by the  Wallowa Mountains which I want to be a significant resemblance of the mountains.    I work fairly quickly and get this done so I can start on the meat of the painting.      Before I have started, I have earmarked the basic pastels I want to use and limit my palette so I am not wasting time looking for that particular blue or whatever color it might be.  Once the mountains and sky are complete I can concentrate on the near land mass.  I rough in the trees and   basic shapes of the land and creek with a dark blue.  Once that is on the paper I use a workable fixative and

give it a quick spray.  That dark blue is the base for the springtime trees  and the contour of the creek bed.  From that point it is about

getting the distant valley in and establish a depth and distance and getting the up close basic color in.  Once that is done I add the old barn and draw in the cows…shapes only at this point.  People stop by and watch the process and I visit as I can.  I don’t feel too much pressure because things are coming together.  I love to show the process to the people who are there.

I then get the creek to come to life with some reflections and the feel of moving water.  I add the small amounts of details to the cows.  They are Hereford/Angus cross, so white faces and some white along the top of the neck and tail are added.   

I use a hard pastel and “burnish the grasses in a little lighter value that the base.  Some light purples set to dance across the fields as a hint of wild flowers.  Also use some of the Diane Townsend sticks because they have a lot of grabbing power because of the degree of pumice in them…texture in the foreground !  The other pastels are Unison, Sennelier, Terry Ludwig and some Schmincke.  The dark blue is #463 Sennelier.  With about 20 minutes or so to spare, I feel like the work has come together.  I shoot a couple of shots of it and Les helps me get it in the frame.  Another friend Penne Locati is there and we visit now that I am finished.  She and a friend bid on it  throughout the process, but at the last moment another dedicated bidder wins the piece.  It sells for highest price at the quick draw…more than $400 and goes to Pendleton to live.  The buyer told me she bought it to honor her mother in remembrance.    A nice way to have one’s work represented…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  


Pastel Dust and a good cup of Jo


On my first trip to Miles City, my son reminded me there wasn’t a Starbucks around, BUT there were a couple of good coffee shops I should try.  So, I agreed to meet him at Cafe Utza, a coffee shop on Nineth just off Main.  Well, it wasn’t good coffee, it was GREAT coffee…and homemade pastries that I was warned disappeared often before the first wave of morning coffee breaks were over.  And there is art in the shop!  And great music playing…. last year they hung a series of my small works and we agreed to bring some more work this year.  I brought 8 of the 6×6 pieces all framed in plein air mahogany frames.  Three artists will hang work throughout the next week; then it will be two of us. 

We came to visit family and to participate in the Quick Draw event that annually is held during the renowned annual Miles City Bucking Horse Sale…events that draw people from far and near to watch match bronc rides, horse races, horse sales, bucking bull sales, concert and more over 4 days in mid May.  This is a major happening here and the town is brimming with spectators and participants…Come to this event sometime or just come to Miles City and experience the heritage of the west that this town is proud of…and stop and enjoy a good cup of coffee.

So now about Cafe Utza….which means “Black Coffee”…

When I first went to the cafe, I was reminded of the coffee houses that sprang up in Chicago (where I lived) in the ’70’s.  There is always good music playing, good strong, tasty coffee, eclectic furnishings, etc.  That’s Utza.  When you walk into the shop, you are met with red walls of a long narrow area that is graced with comfy seating from sofa and overstuffed chairs to the kitchen tables of the 50’s that we sat at as kids.   There are some great photos and art that are permanent to the place; a collection of logo items for purchase and a case filled with some of the best pastries I have ever had.  And from experience, if you  want to have a good selection, you get to Cafe Utza before the first wave of coffee breakers hit the door! 

This art blog is really about another art…the art of food and drink.  Kara Stewart who owns Cafe Utza had a vision of having  her own shop.  She  followed her dream and opened Cafe Utza in 2005.    Daily there are wonderful fresh pastries such as scones cut into large wedges and a variety of fruits toppings.  The menu isn’t “set”, so it is a surprise to see what graces the pastry case each day.  She also roasts her coffee – daily – so you always get that fresh roasted, robust coffee.  I am a black coffee drinker and I love that full-bodied, strong coffee.  This is where you go to get that.  My son loves mochas – and Kara does these right as well.  That’s her art….making something from the heart, for others to enjoy…she is an artist of her trade.  

Kara told us a little about her dream and her heritage.  Her great-grandmother who was Basque came to the US and settled in eastern Montana – basically a mail order bride.  Kara’s grandmother (now 87) met her husband when he and his brother came from Texas on cattle drives north that came to eastern Montana.  Her roots run deep in history of eastern Montana and told me that some of her grandfather’s memorabilia is part of the collection at the Range Riders Museum.  Kara knew she wanted to do something with food and decided upon the coffee shop.  She honors heritage with the fabulous pastries and with the name Cafe Utza.  And as a savvy business person, she supports and promotes her local events and art.  I feel privileged to hang work there – I’m not local – but I am native to central Montana and  I appreciate what someone like Kara does for their hometown…they share their talents; their art and they give to the community by showcasing other artists and their art.  May 2011 May 2011 108


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