20 Pastel Works by 20 Top Artists

Each year, for two decades, the Pastel 100 Annual Competition has been honoring 100 exceptional pastel works by top artists and emerging talents. When the winners of the 20th Annual Pastel 100 Competition are celebrated in the April 2019 issue of Pastel Journal, the magazine will have showcased a total of 2,000 pastel paintings!

To mark our 20th anniversary, we revisited the archives of Pastel 100 paintings and selected 20 of our favorite prizewinners. Intriguing. Energetic. Powerful. Compelling. Elegant, Fresh. Vibrant. Captivating. Flawless. Bold. These are just some of the words that have been used to describe these award-winning pastel works. Take a look, soak up some inspiration, and then enter your own pastel art in the 20th Annual Pastel 100 Competition here. Enjoy!

1. Frosty Morning by Skip Whitcomb

Frosty Morning by Skip Whitcomb, pastel, 30 x 36; the Pastel Journal Grand Prize Award, 2000

Never Stop Learning. What separates the great masters of painting from the rest? If he were to narrow it down to just one attribute, Skip Whitcomb says it’s the ability to continue to learn.

“All the great masters were great students, all of their lives,” notes Whitcomb, who likes to study the masters to continue his growth as an artist. “You can go to a museum, take your sketchbook, sit and do thumbnails of your favorite paintings. You’ll start to understand what that artist was about, why nothing in the painting was an accident. It’s as close as you can get to having a talk with that artist about creation of the painting.”

2. Desert Spring Suite by W. Truman Hosner

Desert Spring Suite by W. Truman Hosner | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Desert Spring Suite by W. Truman Hosner, pastel, 20 x 26; the Pastel Journal Grand Prize Award, 2001

Less Is More. “There are truths that seem almost simplistic at first, but the more you study them the more you find out just how true they are,” says Truman Hosner. “For example, you often hear the phrase, ‘less is more,’ and it sounds simple. But, the more I’ve painted from life the more I’ve learned it’s more important what I don’t put down than what I do.”

The artist notes that Desert Spring Suite is a good example of this. “In the desert, there’s this clear sharp light, and you can see every detail of every plant, every spine on the cactus,” he continues. “But you can’t paint all that. You have to make choices.”

3. Three Reds by Brennie Brackett

Three Reds by Brennie Brackett | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Three Reds by Brennie Brackett, pastel, 25 x 20; First Place, Still Life & Floral Category, 2002

Work for the “Wow.” At the beginning, composition was one of the hardest things for artist Brennie Brackett. Now it offers her endless opportunities for creativity.

“I enjoy painting, but the most fun for me is thinking about what I want to do,” she says. “Mostly it’s fiddling with an array of objects until they form a pleasing composition. I usually let out an audible ‘wow’ when I get to the place I want to be.”

4.  Downtown by Andrew McDermott

Downtown by Andrew McDermott | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Downtown by Andrew McDermott, pastel, 18 x 24; the Pastel Journal Grand Prize Award, 2003

Be Yourself. McDermott’s bird’s-eye view composition caught the attention of jurors, but his award-winner is also unique in its having been painted on a black paper. McDermott says he’d been told in school not to use black paper.

“I wanted to figure out why, so I tried it. In doing so, I discovered there is no reason not to try different things,” he explains. “You can break the rules. You have to find your own way. Go to workshops, take classes, learn from your instructors, but don’t emulate them. Just be yourself.”

5. Jewels by Nancy McDonald

Jewels by Nancy McDonald | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Jewels by Nancy McDonald, pastel, 30 x 26; the Art Spirit Foundation/Dianne B. Bernhard Gold Medal Award, 2004

Play With Color. The colors artist Nancy McDonald likes to use is just about what she feels. “I don’t follow any rules,” she says. “I like to play with color a lot, and I find that subtle contrasts are every bit as important as others.”

To begin her painting, Jewels, she applied a dynamic lavender-purple acrylic wash unevenly over white, sanded pastel paper. “I’ve tried lots of different grounds but I like intense colors best. They give a sort of buzz that comes through the whole painting.”

6. The Preacher by Sam Goodsell

The Preacher by Sam Goodsell | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

The Preacher by Sam Goodsell, pastel, 60 x 40; Third Place, Portrait & Figure Category, 2005

Strike the Right Pose. An important aspect of portraiture is finding the right pose, the attitude that reveals the sitter’s personality. Thumbnail sketches help Sam Goodsell work out these issues, as he, at the same time, considers the negative space around the subject. “Think of the person as a silhouette and look for interesting outside spaces — that’s what I do,” he states.

7. In a Pensive Mood by Diana DeSantis

In a Pensive Mood by Diana DeSantis | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

In a Pensive Mood by Diana DeSantis, pastel, 22 x 30; Third Place, Portrait & Figure Category, 2006

Start With Abstraction. Diana DeSantis says the last thing she’s thinking of when painting a portrait is likeness. Instead, her focus is on the shapes of the figure, the features and even the details.

She proceeds from abstraction: Large, indistinguishable shapes are broken down into smaller ones, until something — yes, the likeness, emerges. “If an artist is out to get a likeness and loses the focus on shapes, positive and negative, then he has lost the drawing and lost the likeness,” she explains.

8. Transitory Shadows by Kim Lordier

Transitory Shadows by Kim Lordier | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Transitory Shadows by Kim Lordier, pastel, 24 x 36; the Pastel Journal Grand Prize Award, 2007

Know When to Stop. Simplifying is key to Lordier’s impressionistic style. She credits Barry John Raybould, a self-taught oil painter, for teaching her how to find the underlying abstract design in a composition by creating quick light-and-dark studies (notans). “I’m finding that the more I work, the quicker I’m able to find the essence of the scene — and stop,” notes Lordier.

9. Tchoupitoulas by Brian Cobble

Tchoupitoulas by Brian Cobble | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Tchoupitoulas by Brian Cobble, pastel, 15 x 34; the Pastel Journal Grand Prize Award, 2008

Look for a Mood. Tchoupitoulas depicts a once-bustling street, now quiet. Brian Cobble, known for his townscapes, is often drawn to the unpopulated scene. When he came upon this part of the uptown side of New Orleans in 2004, Hurricane Sandy was a disaster yet to come. But already the area was “spooky and abandoned,” Cobble says, and very much the sort of milieu to inspire a painting.

10. Threads by Peter Seltzer

Threads by Peter Seltzer | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Threads by Peter Seltzer, pastel, 24 x 20; the Ruth Richeson/Unison Pastels Award, 2009

Give the Viewer Something to Ponder. There are symbols to read in Peter Seltzer’s work — “threads” to pull, if you will. “There’s often a subtext in my work,” he explains, “but I try to make the painting visually compelling enough that those who want to come to it on a purely visual level have something to spend time with and those come to it looking for a narrative will also find something.”

11. Ghat Women by Dawn Emerson

Ghat Women by Dawn Emerson | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Ghat Women by Dawn Emerson, pastel, 19 x 15; the Art Spirit Foundation/Dianne B. Bernhard Silver Medal, 2010

Capture a Rhythm. When she did the sketch for Ghat Women, Dawn Emerson responded to the rhythm and the patterns. “I knew right away it was going to become a painting,” she recalls. “I saw the circular design of the figures and the way I could make the reds work throughout the painting. Design is a big part of what I do. The composition was really important from the get-go. I knew I wanted to lead the viewer’s eye from the front to the back.”

12. Awakened By The Sun by Frederick Somers

Awakened By The Sun by Frederick Somers | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Awakened By The Sun by Frederick Somers, pastel, 16 x 24; Second Place, Landscape & Interior Category, 2011

Let Your Heart Lead. In his search for what this painting needed, Somers let his heart guide the way. “I inched up on the composition — to let it breathe,” he says. “The left side had more linear strokes, dark lines and highlights, while on the right there were larger tonal shapes. I played the warmth of the oranges against the shadow on the snow, making it glow. I added reds, melding them into the background shapes, to make it interesting.”

13. Is It Spring Yet? by Elizabeth Ganji

Is It Spring Yet? by Elizabeth Ganji | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Is It Spring Yet? by Elizabeth Ganji, pastel, 12 x 16; Third Place, Animal & Wildlife Category, 2012

Work Without a Net. Elizabeth Ganji often creates a thumbnail value sketch with gray markers to help plan out the design and values of her pastel works; but she doesn’t do a drawing on the actual paper. She starts instead with a charcoal underpainting — to avoid letting the sketch become too precious.

“The more I work on a painting, the more stagnant it becomes and I begin to lose the essence and energy that I’m trying to convey,” she notes. “If I love it too much early on, I’ll take fewer risks and my strokes will become less carefree and playful.”

14. Yellowstone Finale by Aaron Schuerr

Yellowstone Finale by Aaron Schuerr | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Yellowstone Finale by Aaron Schuerr, pastel, 20 x 30; First Place, Landscape & Interior Category, 2013

Edit the Scene. To unify the contrasting warmth of the light with the coolness of the snow in shadow, Aaron Schuerr keyed all the values to the bright light at the horizon. “In the painting, the blue on the snow or the gold in the water is not necessarily what I saw,” he explains. “It’s what related best to the light at the horizon. I also tried to adjust the temperature of the foreground stream so that it’s cooler than the steam near the horizon.”

15. The Path To Giverny by Ray Hassard

The Path To Giverny by Ray Hassard | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

The Path To Giverny by Ray Hassard, pastel, 10 x 12; the Pastel Journal Gold Award, 2014

Designing the Story. In the reference photo for his prizewinning landscape, the cyclist was with his girlfriend and heading away from town. But Ray Hassard flipped him around and edited out the second figure to strengthen the composition and the storytelling.

“In a way, it was a painting of the morning when I was heading to Giverny for the first time and seeing it at the end of this field,” notes Hassard. “I wanted the viewer to feel like he or she was heading there, too.”  The cyclist and path, which he intentionally placed off center, lead the viewer’s eye to the village in the distance.

16. Bon Appetit, No. 3 by Yael Maimon

Bon Appetit, No. 3 by Yael Maimon | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Bon Appetit, No. 3 by Yael Maimon, pastel, 17.5 x 23.5; First Place, Animal & Wildlife Category, 2015

Know Your Subject. Yael Maimon’s award-winning pastel is part of a Cat series that she has been working on for years. “I know cats inside and out,” says Maimon, “and yet, with each painting I learn new things about my subject.”

The artist spends a lot of time observing the animals, making color studies and quick sketches, studying cat anatomy, and even attending cat surgeries at her local animal rescue center. “I think knowing your subject well is essential to painting it with conviction and confidence, and to conveying its true essence,” explains Maimon.

17. Chloe by Daud Akhriev

Chloe by Daud Akhriev | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Chloe by Daud Akhriev, pastel, 19 x 25; Richeson Pastel Silver Award, 2016

Capture Light With Layers. Akhriev achieves the brilliant effects of light through a layering process. “I like to begin with darker, more saturated color so that I can bring out the light at the end,” he explains. “With Chloe, in order to intensify the light I began very dark, and then at the end, I layered on the light areas thickly using Sennelier and Unison soft pastels, putting on heavier, buttery layers.”

18. Lipstick by Jian Wang

Lipstick by Jian Wang | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Lipstick by Jian Wang, pastel, 29.5 x 21.5; the Pastel Journal Award of Excellence, 2017

The Power of Limits.  We can’t get enough of the masterful way Jian Wang limited the details for powerful results in Lipstick. “The artist makes the viewer focus on what’s important by employing more finished areas against areas that are merely suggested,” says juror Vianna Szabo. “Letting the arm fade into the rhythmic drawing of the hand holding the mirror keeps viewers focused on the face and gesture of the woman. The splash of pink in the background suggests atmosphere and light without placing her in any particular environment.”

Wang has used the power of suggestion, allowing viewers the freedom to discern their own interpretation of the quiet scene.

19. Painting Old Chinese Pottery by Aurelio Rodriguez Lopez

Painting Old Chinese Pottery by Aurelio Rodriguez Lopez | 20 Pastel Works and Words of Wisdom from 20 Award-Winning Artists | Artists Network

Painting Old Chinese Pottery by Aurelio Rodriguez Lopez, pastel, 17.75 x 35.5; the Pastel Journal Founder’s Award, 2018

Know Your Concept. Although Aurelio Rodriguez Lopez’s prizewinning painting dazzles with its technical precision, the artist’s great achievement is that the technique plays a central role in the inventive “painting within a painting” concept — in the very act of expression, which Lopez describes as an “homage to pastel.”

20. What Will Be Our Next Favorite Pastel?

The Spot Is Open and It Could Be Yours. Enter your latest, greatest pastel works into the 20th Annual Pastel 100 today, and become a part of our anniversary celebration!

Pastel 100 Competition

A very special thank you to Jack Richeson & Co., Diane B. Bernhard/Art Spirit Foundation, Terry Ludwig Pastels, Canson/Rembrandt, Holbein, Great American ArtWorks, PanPastel and UART for their sponsorship and generous support of the competition over the years. By supporting the contest, you’ve also encouraged and supported hundreds of artists and their pastel works, helping the medium to grow and flourish.