Enduring Brilliance, the current Pastel Society of America 50th Anniversary exhibition, perfectly sums up the extraordinary possibilities of the pastel medium. 

I’d like to share five paintings that stood out for me in what is a pretty spectacular collection! Of course, many more paintings (many more!) appeal to me, but these five kept calling me back.


Pastel Society of America exhibition: Terri Ford, "Morning Amber," pastel, 18 x 18 in
Terri Ford, “Morning Amber,” pastel, 18 x 18 in.

This painting describes perfectly, the light effect of the late afternoon sun. Warm colours illuminate the tree branches. These contrast with the less intensely coloured areas of the tree and vibrate against the shocking blue of the sky. The whole tree twists and reaches out of the picture plane, creating an entire landscape beyond the painting for us to imagine.


Pastel Society of America exhibition: Marla Baggetta, "Peppermints," pastel, 13 x 11 in.
Marla Baggetta, “Peppermints,” pastel, 13 x 11 in.

Ohhhh those sweeties! Larger than life, they beg to be unwrapped. Such a mundane subject – a few candies – made into a feast for the senses. I can hear the plastic wrapper actually crinkle as I look at the painting. Can you not anticipate the taste of peppermint as you reach out to release the sweetie from its wrapper? I also appreciate the grounding that the large cantilever shape of the cast shadow creates.


Pastel Society of America exhibition: Edward Robitz, "Lexi," pastel, 28 x 20 in.
Edward Robitz, “Lexi,” pastel, 28 x 20 in.

This feels like a very traditional painting and recalls portraits of the past. The sombre-coloured and tightly buttoned outfit with a high neck and the frilly skirt with visible slip affirm this vision as do the clasped hands in the girl’s lap. Yet that’s all contrasted with the delight of what’s obviously brightly dyed hair – fushia reds shot through with yellows – that speaks to a modern-day young woman as does the straightforward expression on her face. 


Pastel Society of America exhibition: Brian Cobble, "Low Tide Venice," pastel, 19 1/2 x 29 in.
Brian Cobble, “Low Tide Venice,” pastel, 19 1/2 x 29 in.

There’s something exquisite about this painting with its empty stage. Such a stillness seems unknowable in the crowded experience of Venice! The painting is set in the early evening with the sun only touching the uppermost buildings. The rest of the scene is visible only in the light that’s cast by the sky. This adds to the feeling of calm that pervades the painting. The reflection adds some delicious colour and contemporary design.


Pastel Society of America exhibition: Doug Dawson, "The Bonfire," pastel, 20 x 23 in.
Doug Dawson, “The Bonfire,” pastel, 20 x 23 in.


Purples punctuated by accents of analogous greens and reds create an overall abstract cool look. The warm colour comes from the bonfire of the title and the areas that reflect back its light. We’re drawn towards that warm patch and then realise there’s a figure watching, tending the fire, staff in hand. As our eyes wander the painting, we discover a dock and then a boat lying alongside. All this adds to the completion of the puzzle of what’s happening in the painting. 

Do go and check out all the paintings in the exhibition. There’s much inspiration to be had!



And here are the Pastel Society of America Exhibition Award Winners!


The Pastel Society of America has put together a digital book of the award winners that you can flip through. It’s pretty cool! Check it out here.


Pastel Society of America exhibition: Cover of award booklet
Pastel Society of America exhibition: Cover of award booklet.


And that’s it for this time,



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