Meet Louise Renée, the winner of the Best Beginner category in the June 2022 PleinAir Salon. Her piece just happens to be a pastel painting! Whoo hoo!

Have a look at her painting, so full of details and discoveries!


Louise Renée, "Clermont le forgeron qui veut toute, toute la vivre sa vie," pastel, 30 x 22 in. June 2022 Best Beginner Award.
Louise Renée, “Clermont le forgeron qui veut toute, toute la vivre sa vie,” pastel, 30 x 22 in. June 2022 Best Beginner Award.


The title, which comes from a French song by Angèle Arsenault, translates roughly as “Clermont the blacksmith who wants to live life to the fullest.” The song speaks of the importance of living life to the fullest.

This is what Louise had to say about the inspiration for her painting: 

“This is a painting of Clermont, a Québécois blacksmith at work in his forge in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. He creates beautiful copper weathervanes and many other custom metal objects for his clients. He also owns a sugar shack where he makes delicious maple syrup.

Clermont is larger than life – exuberant, passionate, full of vitality, and ready to discuss the big issues in life. He exudes “la joie de vivre” and hope for humanity. His warmth, creativity, and generosity should inspire us to develop our talents, keep learning, and help others as much as we can. 

It’s after visiting his forge with my husband that I decided to retire after 35 years of teaching French Literature at the university and devote my time to painting.” 


Louise Renée at work on her winning piece!
Louise Renée at work on her winning piece!


Louise Renée describes the materials and techniques she used to create her winning piece:

“I used soft pastels and pastel pencils. I blended them mostly with my fingers as if I were sculpting every shape. 

I’ve recently retired from a long career in teaching, so I’m very new to pastel painting. For that reason, everything I tried was exciting! For example, the colour of the hood above the forge looked grey to me, but I ended up using blues, greens, and purples so that the greyish tones would come to life. 

I experimented with the checkered shirt before I was able to achieve that soft, fuzzy texture of the flannelette fabric. Getting the right colour for the leather glove and apron was fun. Believe it or not, it took me 2 hours to capture one stick of rebar! I admit that this was quite ambitious for a beginner!”


Louise Renée, "Autumn Sanctuary," pastel, 27 x 21 in.
Louise Renée, “Autumn Sanctuary,” pastel, 27 x 21 in. This is the first pastel painting that I did after retiring. It’s based on a photo of a little birdhouse that my husband built with the leftover lumber from the fence he had just put up. I was fascinated by the play of light on the leaves, so I took a photo of this precious moment. When I examined the photo closely, I was astounded by the amazing number of colours in each leaf – some of them had as many as 50 or 60! How does Nature do this? The painting took two months of daily work to complete, but I lost track of time and enjoyed every minute. Painting has become my own retirement sanctuary!


Expressing her feelings about winning the award, Louise had this to say: 

“I felt overwhelmed and deeply honoured. At the young age of 18, I had to decide whether to go into teaching literature or studying art. I loved both equally. I chose literature but took many workshops in art over the years. 

I only began painting seriously after retiring. But I threw myself into it with passion, and I’ve been learning so much with every painting. Some paintings take me two months to complete, but I lose track of time and enjoy the challenge of trying to express something deep inside me that resonates with the image that I’m working on. Every painting has a story, and I write a text to express the emotions that inspired it or that I ended up feeling as I was painting. 

This prize is a huge encouragement to someone who is just starting out in the world of art where learning is endless and so fulfilling. I’m so grateful.”


Louise Renée, "Our French Heritage," pastel, 16 1/2 x 14 in.
Louise Renée, “Our French Heritage,” pastel, 16 1/2 x 14 in. This painting is based on photos I took of my children in France where I had rented a beautiful 18th-century house. Here, they have just caught some big frogs. I jokingly told them that frogs were part of their heritage since that’s what the French in Manitoba is called. I love the kids’ delight, in playing in the lovely gardens. In this painting, I didn’t use any brown in their hair or faces. I gravitated to colours that I least expected – blues, greens, and magentas. I felt that these colours helped to convey the joie de vivre that exuded from every pore.


And finally, here’s Louise’s advice to anyone hesitating to enter the PleinAir Salon:

“Leave your ego at the door. The competition is about connecting with other artists and benefiting from their experiences more than comparing yourself to them. Winning is of course very nice and gives your confidence a huge boost, but just knowing that you’re now a part of a huge artistic community is incredibly rewarding. 

Stay optimistic, keep working, look at all the paintings that were judged the best and see if you can learn something. There is always room in art for another voice, even if you feel that a subject has been done much too often. Your style is like your handwriting – it’s something you may not even be aware of. Even if you don’t rank in a competition, keep trying because your voice is unique.”

Such good advice Louise!


Louise Renée, "Fairy Tree," pastel, 24 x 36 in.
Louise Renée, “Fairy Tree,” pastel, 24 x 36 in. When my husband and I visited Ireland in 2007, we stayed at one of my sister’s friends who generously showed us around Belfast. As we were about to leave and explore the countryside, he told us about a famous Irish legend. According to this legend, if you cut down a hawthorn tree in the middle of a field, bad luck will come your way. For that reason, farmers usually leave them alone. However, if you happen to see a sheep resting under a hawthorn, you’ll be destined to enjoy many years of good luck.
As luck would have it, we were driving down a narrow country road bordered by low stone walls when suddenly, we noticed a sheep resting under a fairy tree! Of course, we had to stop and take a photo. And sure enough, we’ve been blessed with luck, love, and happiness ever since.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us Louise Renée!!



Lisa Skelly Wins Best Plein Air Pastel Again!


Congratulations Lisa! Here’s her winning piece for the June PleinAir Salon.


Lisa Skelly, "Aquatic Symphony at Aliso," pastel, 8 x 10 in. June 2022 Best Plein Air Pastel
Lisa Skelly, “Aquatic Symphony at Aliso,” pastel, 8 x 10 in. June 2022 Best Plein Air Pastel.


Lisa also won best Plein Air pastel back in April. You can see her image and read what she had to say about her win HERE

Check out all the June PleinAir Salon winners.

And be sure to ENTER the PleinAirSalon. The next deadline is 31st August so you can still enter. Be brave and do it!

And that’s it for this time,



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