And yet again, a pastellist takes an award in the October PleinAir Salon competition! Queue the applause! This time, we have a winner for Best Floral. And it’s….Marcia Holmes who won the award for this pastel painting:


Best Floral -Marcia Holmes, "Rainbow Water Lilies," pastel, 30 x 24 in, October 2022 Best Floral
Marcia Holmes, “Rainbow Water Lilies,” pastel, 30 x 24 in, October 2022 Best Floral


I wanted to hear all about the inspiration for this piece! (As Marcia talks about her “best floral” painting, you’ll also find more of her work scattered throughout.)

“The inspiration for Rainbow Water Lilies was an aerated water lily pond outside a farm-to-table restaurant in Taos, New Mexico. 

In preparation for my recent solo exhibition, My Floral Muse, at Degas Gallery in New Orleans, my intention was to paint this scene eventually in a large-scale format, horizontally, in line with the actual expanse of water lilies (which was accomplished as the largest piece in the show, a 60 x 48-inch oil and mixed media on canvas). However, a random computer screenshot caught my attention.”

Q. Were there any particular challenges when doing this piece?

“The challenge was “on” in a different way. It was my personal challenge to paint a pastel and an oil painting simultaneously: same subject, same size, same layout. 

So, up went two easels with the source material in between. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain, especially in learning more about my own techniques and approaches (which are different in each media) and with no preconceived notion of outcome. I enjoyed it thoroughly!  If you’re going to lay out one piece, why not two? Surprisingly I finished the oil first that night and 75% of this pastel…one of those dream painting sessions!


Best Floral -Marcia Holmes, "Rainbow Water Lilies II," oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in. Private Collection
Marcia Holmes, “Rainbow Water Lilies II,” oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in. Private Collection. This is the OIL version.


In hindsight, I see more abandonment of pastel strokes on the completed pastel. The strata of layers contain the motion from underlying water aeration indicated in a non-stagnant transparent oil and ink underpainting; succeeded by an active water surface affected by mountain breezes and created with energetic layering of pastel strokes.  

The upper quadrant structure is a cruciform composition with the high-key water lilies becoming the main focus. The rainbow sky reflection luminosity is achieved by optical colour mixing, areas of colours recede, even in high key, overlapping close values disappear into each other.”

Q. Can you talk about your palette choice?

A new box of Girault blue and green pastels influenced the colour, but all varieties of pastels were used for the floral colours.  


Best Floral - Marcia Holmes, "Rose and Eucalyptus Bouquet," pastel, 12 x 12 in. Private Collection
Marcia Holmes, “Rose and Eucalyptus Bouquet,” pastel, 12 x 12 in. Private Collection. This painting won Best of Show at the 2021 Connecticut Pastel Society Juried Exhibition.


Q. How did you feel when you heard you’d won this award?

First of all, I was thrilled to make the Top 100 Finalists with juror Rose Frantzen selecting! I had watched Rose paint her father on Realism Live outdoor alla prima. I admired the expressiveness of her gestural strokes, the building of layers, her giant oil palette and her unending talent! I set the alarm to watch the awards, missed it by 15 minutes, so waited for the recording, casually watched along until….VOILA, Best Floral, Marcia Holmes,“Rainbow Water Lilies.” I was over the moon!! 

Today, reading the promotion of Rose Frantzen’s art video, I noticed this excerpt: 

Attack your canvas with chaotic abandonment … and then shape your concepts into a finely tuned, highly disciplined work of art.   

Perhaps, those abandoned energetic pastel strokes of mine made a difference.  


Marcia Holmes, "Garden Fascination," pastel and oil, 40 x 30 in. Private Collection
Marcia Holmes, “Garden Fascination,” pastel and oil, 40 x 30 in. Private Collection


Q. What advice would you give others who are thinking about entering?

I would say to others about entering: believe in your art, in yourself, and enter. I believed in this pastel painting and the first month I entered it, it received an Honourable Mention, then in October, the Best Floral. Invest in yourself as well: I did listen to PleinAir Salon Winner Lori Putnam’s advice, and it did make a difference. She encouraged us to enter in multiple categories and I did!! I entered it into three categories. 

Yes, it does cost a bit, but all in all, the investment is in the promotion of your art.”

Such good advice Marcia. Thanks so much and congratulations again on your Best Floral award!



Take the Best Floral Winner’s advice and enter!


Marcia Holmes has given you some excellent suggestions about entering shows. One of these is: Believe in yourself and your art!

We’re at the start of 2023 so why not begin your year by entering the January PleinAir Salon Competition? As Marcia pointed out, there are numerous categories to choose from and this widens the possibilities. Enter before 15th January and you’ll get 25% off your entry fee!

There’s still lots of time but if you have a piece that you believe in, then go ahead and enter HERE


falling snow at dusk on a bridge Photo by Aaron Wilson of Unsplash.
Photo by Aaron Wilson of Unsplash.


And that’s it for now!



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