June’s Remarkable Pastels!

Oh. My. Gosh. I can hardly believe we are already in July and it’s time for the roundup of the pastels I’ve enjoyed through the month of June. Once again, culling the 55 collected pastels down to 10 choices was incredibly difficult. It’s always when I get down to about 15 that I look and ponder, look and ponder. It takes ages to make those final choices. I actually hate having to make the chop but I still think 10 is a good number to present to you. So here are this month’s remarkable pastels!

June's Remarkable Pastels: Adrian Frankel Giuliani, "Jami Swimming II," pastel, 22 x 27 in

Adrian Frankel Giuliani, “Jami Swimming II,” pastel, 22 x 27 in

I’ve always loved this pastel by Adrian Frankel Giuliani. I can hear the sounds of the swimming pool underneath the water and the bubbles just beginning to break free from those bulbous cheeks. I can feel the flow of water as this child moves vigorously by me. I inhale ‘swimming pool’ aroma and recall my own childhood full of exuberance and blissful innocence. I also love the thickness and energy of the pastel marks in this high-key, slightly abstracted, large piece.



June's Remarkable Pastels: Glen Maxion, "Last Day of Summer," pastel, 25 x 19 in

Glen Maxion, “Last Day of Summer,” pastel, 25 x 19 in

I was totally charmed by this pastel done by Glen Maxion. Like Adrian’s piece, I can feel the experience of being there – the sound of the waves and the cries of the figures jumping in the waves, the taste of the salt, the slight breeze that sends a shiver over wet skin. One girl looks out perhaps at the figures or maybe beyond while the other appears to examine the action of the water over the sand at their feet. What’s amazing to me is a closer look at the painting suggests the paper is Canson even though at first glance, the pastel looks thickly applied and layered. Another memory of childhood and the joys of summer at the beach.



June's Remarkable Pastels: Nancy Feinman Nowak, "Right at the Corner," plein air pastel, 9 x 12 in

Nancy Feinman Nowak, “Right at the Corner,” plein air pastel, 9 x 12 in

This pastel by Nancy Feinman Nowak stopped me in my tracks when I came across it. Simple simple simple yet absolutely captivating. I love the taking of something so seemingly insignificant – the side of a fairly ordinary house in light – and making it into something worth stopping for. Certainly this is what Nancy has done in this painting. Look at all those grayed colours that when combined make for what feels like a colourful painting. There’s such confidence in the strokes, the range of values, and in the colour choices.



June's Remarkable Pastels: Kathy Falla Howard, "Senora de la Luz (The Lady of Light)," plein air pastel, 8 x 10 in

Kathy Falla Howard, “Senora de la Luz (The Lady of Light),” plein air pastel, 8 x 10 in

Another plein air piece, this one by Kathy Falla Howard (done during the Santa Fe Plein Air Festival) gives me a sense of calm and peace. This simple backlit church sits solidly on the paper surrounded by a mountain and sky backdrop, trees and shrubbery on either side, and the sunlit cemetery with flower-marked graves in the foreground. Such simplicity of vision gives a feeling of times past and speaks to the importance to the community of this small church built in 1880.



June's Remarkable Pastels: Barry Monohon, "Evening Field With Rapidly Changing Light - Brownvillius," pastel on paper, 8 1/2 x 9 in

Barry Monohon, “Evening Field With Rapidly Changing Light – Brownvillius,” pastel on paper, 8 1/2 x 9 in

There’s something about this piece by Barry Monohon I just love. It’s so simple yet vibrates with colour and texture. There is a feeling of the magnificence and the vitality of nature that comes through. You may not think so at first viewing, but there’s depth – just look at the piece from far away and you’ll see the field glowing beyond the trees. You’ll also notice the warmly coloured textured ground in front and the cool dark shade beneath the sunlit trees.There’s no obvious centre of interest yet my eye travels around the whole, never stuck in one place, moved around by the mark-making itself. Is there something European about it? Perhaps it reminds me of the work of the Impressionists.



June's Remarkable Pastels: Jeff Ventola, "Breach," pastel, 8 x 10 in

Jeff Ventola, “Breach,” pastel, 8 x 10 in

Okay, without looking at the caption, how large do you think Jeff Ventola‘s painting is? Come on, ‘fess up! Did you consider that it was so small? I didn’t. I was sure that it was a huge painting! I think that phenomenon comes from the vastness of landscape suggested. Yet another painting of a simple subject in nature, this one brings together the sound of rolling thunder in the distance, the smell of imminent rain or perhaps of the earth after the rain has fallen, the glory of being alive. It feels like a metaphor for life – its ups and downs, its clear skies and menacing clouds, its ever-changing cycle. I love the way Jeff has coloured the small slice of water, reflecting the colours above. And I need to add that apparently Jeff withdrew from painting for 10 months after receiving some vituperative remarks. Well I, for one, am glad he’s back on the painting horse!



June's Remarkable Pastels: Bre Crowell, "Dancing Til Dawn," pastel, 20 x 24 in

Bre Crowell, “Dancing Til Dawn,” pastel, 20 x 24 in

Similar in composition to Jeff’s work, this one is completely different. I love the energy and directness of this abstract painting by Bre Crowell. The pastel marks feel intuitive as they range in squiggles, meanderings, and slashes across the paper. The title helps me see a figure whirling and turning, dancing like no one’s watching. For me, for some reason, it brings to mind fairytales of dancing princesses and also the character of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady when she sings, ‘I Could Have Danced All Night.’ Funny what can come up when you view a painting! Isn’t that part of the joy?



June's Remarkable Pastels: Ron Monsma, "Marked," pastel on illlustration board, 16 x 20 in

Ron Monsma, “Marked,” pastel on illustration board, 16 x 20 in

I’ve always enjoyed Ron Monsma‘s figurative paintings but for some reason, it’s this non-figurative piece that made it into this monthly collection. There’s always much to think about when you view Ron’s work and this one is no exception. What does it mean? What clue does the title give us? Why are these objects combined and what does the combination tell us? There’s the solidity of brick and wood creating a structure on and around which something of nature – a nest but one with an egg-shaped hole in it, and an egg, pierced by a nail yet unbroken – reside. All all starkly visible against a brooding sky. For me, the painting says something about the relationship between humankind’s construction and the damage it does to wildlife. Am I way off base? Ron paints the objects in a realistic way yet the content of the painting is more surreal than real and asks more questions than it answers. What’s your take on this painting?



June's Remarkable Pastels: Neil Condron, "Self Portrait," pastel, 19 3/4 x 22 in (50 x 56 cm)

Neil Condron, “Self Portrait,” pastel, 19 3/4 x 22 in (50 x 56 cm)

Speaking of questions, what about Neil Condron‘s pondering self portrait? There’s nothing held back as Neil looks at himself and records what he sees – a middle aged artist complete with wrinkles, bumps and all, the face of a life lived yet one that may be pondering the past? or the present? or perhaps the future? The vignetting effect at the bottom of the painting reminds us that we aren’t looking at an actual face. Instead, we’re looking at pastel marks on paper posing as a face. I rather like that prompt.



June's Remarkable Pastels: Jz Xu, "Red Box," pastel on paper, 12 x 19 in

Jz Xu, “Red Box,” pastel on paper, 12 x 19 in

Lastly we come to Jz Xu‘s pastel – a mostly blue painting with a splash of red. You’d think the eye would be caught, trapped almost, by that square of red near the centre of the painting and although it captures our attention initially, our eyes instead, move around the picture taking in the interesting details of pillows and blankets on a bed, items on the windowsill, the landscape beyond framed by the blinds and window frame. We do come back to the box and wonder about its significance but rather than stop there, on that nondescript though bright square, we move on. Quite the feat, persuading our attention to be diverted from that mysterious red box. There’s a wonderful directness in the pastel marks with only a few strokes representing folds in the sheet and light between the blinds.


And that’s it for this month’s roundup. Remarkable pastels all!

I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, opinions so leave me a reply. I look forward to hearing from you!!


A quick aside, I was delighted to see so many of my monthly choices show up at this year’s IAPS Pastel World Exhibition with some winning prizes. A pleasant confirmation.


Until next week when I’ll have some of my own work for you to consider,

~ Gail

12 thoughts on “June’s Remarkable Pastels!

  1. Michele

    Gail, thanks for brightening up yet another day and week with your wonderful selections, always helpful inspiration not just to fuel painting but for life in general. For me, both the Giuliani and Monohon pieces share such transparency and immediacy, where the viewer sees through each painting more effortlessly than usual, to the artist’s memory or experience of the senses, of summer light, cool water, that gorgeous once-a-year freedom to dive into nature in all its glory.

    1. Gail Post author

      Thank you for your lovely and kind words Michele. I agree with you about the immediacy of Guiliani’s and Monohon’s work. I LOVE the way you describe what you are experiencing when you look at their work!

  2. Gailen Lovett

    Hi Gail,
    On Neil Condron’s pastel: I think it takes a bit of wit and a lot of confidence to put oneself out for public view in an un-romantisized self portrait. Sinead O’Connor’s CD: How About I Be Me (and you be you)? which features a Neil Condron painting sums up his self portrait for me.
    Thanks for another month of thoughtful art.
    Gailen Lovett

    1. Gail Post author

      Glad you liked them Marlene.
      When making my selections, I do strive for variation. And that variation may even include level of accomplishment.

    1. Gail Post author

      Thanks Carolyn! I feel it’s important to say why I chose the paintings. Sometimes when I get down to choosing from 15 pastels and it’s so difficult, I’ll begin writing notes about each piece. The more I have to say, the more chances a piece will make it into the cut of 10!


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