October 09, 2007


Pastel 70th Anniversary Competition Winners

by Karen Stanger Johnston

Changing Channels
by Mike Barret Kolasinski, 2007, pastel on archival foam board, 12 x 24.

First Place: Mike Barret Kolasinski

Chicago artist Mike Barret Kolasinski is passionate about nature. He calls his pastel landscapes “Wildscapes” and says that because he has always been attracted to the natural environment these paintings do not contain any elements of man-made objects. “I am a visual activist for nature,” the artist says. Kolasinski begins a painting by observing light as it interacts with the landscape, particularly the way it reflects on water, which is found in all his pictures. He then works from plein air sketches or digital images.

Read about the semifinalists in each category, and vote, by October 30, for the Readers' Choice competition winner on our message board, Artists' Forum.

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Colored Pencil
Grand Prize Winner
Mixed Media

A signature member of the Pastel Society of America and a founding signature member of the Chicago Pastel Painters, Kolasinski was named a finalist in the landscape category of The Artist’s Magazine’s Annual Art Competition in 1998, and he was featured in the February 2006 issue of American Artist. His paintings have won many awards.

For more information on Kolasinski, visit his website at www.mikebarretkolasinski.com.

Second Place: Alice McMahon White

Yer Blues
by Alice McMahon White, 2006, pastel on sanded paper, 42 x 26.

This painting is part of a series titled The White Album, what Chicago artist Alice McMahon White calls “a quirky Photorealist album” of her three teenagers. “It is foremost a portrait of adolescence,” White explains. The series draws parallels between the Beatles era—when the artist was a teenager—and today, and highlights the universal nature of coming of age. “These ‘snapshots’ are one way I’ve found to cope with the process that all parents must go through of letting go,” she says.

To get ideas, White spends a lot of time thinking as well as taking notes and candid digital photographs. She also studies and sketches her subjects. All of the works in the series are created in pastel or graphite and titled after Beatles or John Lennon songs. Each child is portrayed in a consistent manner throughout the series. “Yer Blues incorporates a reference to the devastation of 9/11 in the airplane vapor trail and the overall blues of the color scheme,” White says. “The sand sifting through my son’s hands is meant to be a statement that life in the United States as we once knew it is forever changed.”

White’s paintings are in a number of corporate and public collections in the Chicago area, as well as in private collections throughout the United States and Ireland. She shows her work regularly and has won several awards.

For more information on White, visit her website at http://amwhitestudio.com, or e-mail her at .

Third Place: David Will

Morning Light
by David Will, 2005, pastel on archival mat board, 18 x 24.

Although California artist David Will works in a variety of media, pastel is his current medium of choice. “I find that pastels offer me the painterly effects of oil, the spontaneity of watercolor, and the intense colors that are literally right at your fingertips when you paint in pastel,” the artist says. For his pastel paintings, he uses three or four different surfaces, from lightly sanded to more heavily textured. This painting was done on a dark-brown archival mat board. “I like working from dark to light, and the sunlit areas in this scene played against a predominantly shadowed setting, so it seemed like an obvious choice,” Will explains. Before beginning a painting, the artist takes digital photographs and, if possible, makes an on-site sketch. In the studio he enlarges pictures that interest him and edits them on his computer.

After attending the American Academy of Art, in Chicago, where he received training in illustration, anatomy, and oil painting and studied watercolor with Irving Shapiro, Will worked for many years as a commercial art designer and illustrator. His paintings have won numerous awards, and Morning Light won Best of Show in the 2006 Membership Exhibition of the Pastel Society of the West Coast, of which Will is a signature member. He is also a juried member of the Pastel Society of America.

For more information on Will, visit his website at www.davidwillfineart.com.

More Semifinalists

Brian Mathas Burt

The Offering
by Brian Mathas Burt, 2007, pastel on sanded paper, 12 x 7. Collection Mr. and Mrs. Ferrigno.

Ohio artist Brian Mathas Burt’s still lifes are always painted from life. The artist usually starts with one object and builds up the composition from there. For this work, he initially chose a brass pot he bought at a thrift store. He hung the pot from the ceiling and began to add and subtract different items, looking for elements that would complement it in terms of color, shape, or imagery. “It’s a building process that never remains static,” the artist says. “Sometimes halfway through the piece something must be taken out or added.”

Burt starts with a simple line drawing and then uses whatever methods he thinks will work for a particular painting. “After school I tried to learn as many techniques as I could so that I had a toolbox loaded with different approaches that could be tailored for whatever I was working on,” he explains.
Burt earned a bachelor of fine art degree in 1998 from Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, and studied for three years at the Atelier School of Fine Arts, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

For more information on Burt, visit his website at www.bmburt.com, or e-mail him at .

Brunswick Oaks
by Roger Cates, 2007, pastel, 17 x 23. Collection Dosher Memorial Hospital, Southport, North Carolina.

“My desire to paint is often triggered by contrasts in the landscape—contrasts of values, colors, or temperatures, for example,” says North Carolina artist Roger Cates. “I find shadows intriguing. I am also fascinated by the effects of distance and humidity in the landscape and look for opportunities to emphasize atmospheric perspective in a painting.”

Working from a combination of digital photographs and sketches, Cates makes a line drawing and then establishes light and dark areas. He usually begins with the sky, which he blends using pieces of Styrofoam packing material. He applies several layers of color and often lightly blends an area using a piece of hard pastel or a harder brand of a softer pastel. Some of the color of the blending piece is transferred to the surface, allowing Cates to alter the value or temperature of an area. “If I want to push some foliage back in the scene, I may blend with a blue over a yellow-green,” the artist says. In the final stages he softens edges and adds details, color, and highlights to enhance the center of interest. He likes pastels because they make it relatively easy for him to alter a color or make slight changes in his composition.

Also a watercolorist, Cates is a signature member of the Watercolor Society of North Carolina. His paintings have received awards in several regional and local exhibitions, including a best in show award at the 27th Annual July National Exhibition in Southport, North Carolina, in June 2007. Cates is represented by the Wilmington Gallery at New Castle, in Wilmington, and the Franklin Square Gallery, in Southport, both in North Carolina. 

For more information on Cates, e-mail him at .

Wish for a Steady Hand
by Kathleen Montgomery, 2006, pastel, 24 x 18. Collection Nancy Hurd, Columbus, Ohio.

Michigan artist Kathleen Montgomery works in colored pencil as well as pastel. “My colored pencil pieces are very detailed and tight,” Montgomery says. “Pastel gives me the opportunity to loosen up and work in a larger format.” She mostly creates still-lifes and portraits. “Patterns and colors inspire me, and I am continually on the lookout for items that can help me express a mood or a memory,” the artist says. “A model’s attitudes and expressions are fascinating to me—the result of a variety of life experiences with a story to tell.”

Montgomery begins every work from life—from a model, a still-life setup, or occasionally en plein air. Once the basic composition is down on paper, she takes notes. For a head-and-shoulders portrait, she usually requires at least three sessions with the model and takes photographs to finish details such as hair and clothes. For the background, she uses what is actually behind the model or creates it from photos she has taken. She often uses Photoshop digital imaging software to plan her compositions.

Montgomery earned a bachelor of fine art degree from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. She later updated her degree, specializing in computer graphics.

For more information on Montgomery, e-mail her at .

Gregory Pai

Nanakuli Evensong
by Gregory Pai, 2007, pastel, 9 x 12.

“I find my greatest inspiration in the simple beauty of the natural landscape,” says artist Gregory Pai. As a resident of Hawaii, inspiration isn’t very hard to find. Pai works either en plein air or from on-site photographs. While taking photos of this scene, he was actually standing under a highway surrounded by garbage. To his left was a huge homeless camp. “Homelessness is a large problem in Hawaii,” the artist explains. “Some of the people from the camp were regarding me with suspicion and hostility as they probably thought I was some kind of city inspector spying on them. The situation was quite uncomfortable and I felt lucky to get away without any physical confrontation. I decided to title the painting Nanakuli Evensong because “evensong” means “evening prayer.” It was just a small expression of the terrible irony and pathos of such beauty in the midst of such human suffering.”

Pai first makes a drawing of his subject to block out the composition and an underpainting using Turpenoid or Gamsol, either in local or complementary colors. He usually works from the background to the foreground or from the top down, moving from dark to light and saving highlights and details for last. Originally trained as an architect, Pai studied drawing and pastel painting at the Honolulu Academy of Arts Academy Art Center at Linekona School, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

For more information on Pai, e-mail him at . To view more of his work, visit the Members Gallery of the Pastel Artists of Hawaii website at www.pastelartistsofhawaii.org.

Colette Odya Smith

Spring Clean
by Colette Odya Smith, 2007, pastel and watercolor, 24 x 24. Courtesy Katie Gingrass Gallery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“Random, natural beauty is my most consistent inspiration,” says Wisconsin artist Colette Odya Smith. “I often find myself wandering or traveling with my camera in hand. I am usually drawn to quiet corners of wilderness and, if possible, to water.” Smith prefers soft pastels for the vibrancy of the pigments and their lush surface texture. “With soft pastels I can get going quickly and yet I can start and stop as I need to without the loss of workability,” the artist explains. Although she likes to combine the pastels with watercolor, she is open to using other mediums with them as well and has employed India ink, stencils for applying spray fixative, and even gold and copper leaf.

Smith majored in fine art, humanities, and education at Macalester College, in St. Paul, Minnesota, and studied pastel painting at The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is a signature member of the Pastel Society of America, the Pastel Society of New Mexico, Wisconsin Painters & Sculptors, and the League of Milwaukee Artists. She has exhibited nationally and regionally for more than 10 years, receiving numerous awards. Smith was featured in the July/August 2005 issue of American Artist. Her work in is many private and corporate collections. In 2006, she was named one of 75 Women of Influence in the arts in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

For more information on Smith, visit her website at www.coletteodyasmith.net, or e-mail her at .

American Artist would like to thank the following sponsors for making our 70th Anniversary Competition a success:

Blick Art Materials
General Pencil
Hartford Fine Art & Framing
Jerry’s Artarama
Legion Paper
Savoir Faire

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