Wade Zahares, The Shortest Day, 2008, Schmincke pastel on Wallis, 24 x 30 inches. City skies on snowy nights always amused me with the strange colors that light up the night. 

Wade Zahares – Whimsy, Colour, And A Winter Wonderland!

As we close in on Christmas and the holiday season and all the laughter and love that seems to be that much more apparent and visible at this time of year, not to mention all the sparkle, light, and in northern climes, winter temperatures and snow, I wondered who to invite as a guest blogger. How do we celebrate this time of magic and memories of childhood? And then it came to me, the work of Wade Zahares!

I’ve been delighted by Wade’s work for sometime now. His amazing perspectives and unusual viewpoints not to mention his saturated colour and sense of fun and magic appeal to me enormously, so much so that I’ve featured his work twice in my monthly round-ups (in September 2015 and March 2017). I was super pleased when he agreed to do this last guest blog of 2017!  Although Wade paints all seasons, I asked him to put the primary focus on his winter scenes, the season being what it is.

And in case you don’t know his work, this will give you a good taste 🙂

 

Wade Zahares, "Flower Cabins," 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 24 x 35 inches. After creating many pastels on site at the famous Flower Cabins in Truro, Ma., I did my own studio interpretation.

Wade Zahares, “Flower Cabins,” 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 24 x 35 inches.  After creating many pastels on site at the famous Flower Cabins in Truro, Ma., I did my own studio interpretation.

 

Before I hand the blog over to Wade Zahares, here’s a wee bio.

Oh and one note, make sure you look at the sizes of some of these pieces – it doesn’t show here but some of them are very large!!

 

WADE ZAHARES BIO

Wade Zahares creates art noted for its strong lines, bold colors, and dazzling perspective. In addition to his New York Times Best Illustrated Book, Window Music, Zahares has illustrated a number of critically acclaimed picture books. A graduate of the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore, Zahares does corporate commissions, producing large scale pastel paintings for such clients as McDonalds, Bank of America, HBO, Cinemax, and Sesame Street Magazine. His work is in the permanent collection of the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Wade Zahares lives in Maine. Check out his website.

And now, here’s Wade Zahares!!!

~~~~~~

 

My thoughts of being an artist were easily on, when kids from the old neighborhood where I grew up in Maine would make fun of me as I opted out of playing football and other neighborhood sports to go draw pictures sitting on my bedroom floor. There was just something special about it. On Saturdays I would watch the 60’s cartoons. I loved the backgrounds in these and would try to do my own version. My work today still has some of the same qualities.

 

Wade Zahares, "On My Way to Maine," 1991, Rembrandt pastel on Canson, 30 x 40inches. Elevated highways and New England buildings completely saturates my work from Boston living.

Wade Zahares, “On My Way to Maine,” 1991, Rembrandt pastel on Canson, 30 x 40inches. Elevated highways and New England buildings completely saturates my work from Boston living.

 

High school art class is where I got my start with Jan Merrill. I give her much gratitude for pointing me in the right direction. I started my first two years of college at University of Maine at Orono, then transferred to Maryland Institute College of Art in 1980 where I received my BFA. My most influential teacher at the Institute was my illustration instructor, Susan Waters Eller. After graduating I backpacked throughout Europe for several months, before settling in Boston where I started my art career.

Wade Zahares, First Pastel, 1982, Rembrandt pastel on Strathmore, 25 x19 inches. Working with perspective, shadows, and my new medium pastel.

Wade Zahares, First Pastel, 1982, Rembrandt pastel  on Strathmore, 25 x19 inches. Working with perspective, shadows, and my new medium pastel.

 

While in college I started using pastel, on the advice from an instructor, as a good way to start working color into my charcoal drawings. I never worried about style as I figured that would come naturally, as it did. I started with the hard pastels, like NuPastels and Rembrandt on Canson paper, and slowly moved to the softer pastels like Unison and my favorite, Schmincke. My paper, usually limited by brand as I like to work large and needed rolls of paper rather than sheets, slowly evolved from paper with no tooth to Kitty Wallis Sanded Pastel Paper.

 

Wade Zahares, "Untitled," 1983, Rembrandt pastel, on Strathmore, 19 x 25 inches. An instructor once said, "Draw what you love and always give it your best." Some of the best advice I have ever received.

Wade Zahares, “Untitled,” 1983, Rembrandt pastel, on Strathmore, 19 x 25 inches.  An instructor once said, “Draw what you love and always give it your best.” Some of the best advice I have ever received.

 

I have always loved the simplicity of the medium. Tell that to me when I am going out to do plein air especially in the early days trucking around Boston with my easel, pastel box, board and paper, all covered in pastel!

 

Wade Zahares, "Triple Decker," 1984, Rembrandt and NuPastels on Black Canson, 18 x 12 inches. Sold. Capturing that perfect moment is the best reward from working en plein air.

Wade Zahares, “Triple Decker,” 1984, Rembrandt and NuPastels on Black Canson, 18 x 12 inches. Sold. Capturing that perfect moment is the best reward from working en plein air.

 

My style has evolved and continues to evolve slowly. I try not to think about the way it is developing and let it naturally happen. I am more concerned about my subject matter, light, color and composition. My ideas stem from my last piece and my compositions evolve and repeat, at times turning the pencil sketch upside down and discovering a new one.

6. Wade Zahares, "Santa," 1995, Rembrandt pastel on Canson, 40 x 20 inches. At times just a piece of something has more power then the whole.

6. Wade Zahares, “Santa,” 1995, Rembrandt pastel on Canson, 40 x 20 inches. At times just a piece of something has more power then the whole.

 

My methods are constantly changing, adapting to the challenges I’m presented with. I start with a few sketches of the idea (something that became very important to me as an illustrator of books), narrow it down to a final one, and then transfer it to my pastel paper. Then with tight latex gloves on, I apply the pastel to the paper, covering it with a heavy coat. I then smear the pastel to the paper with my gloved covered fingers, adding more pastel if needed. I then go back into the pastel and work up my shadows, light, and details. This is a good time to erase, before spraying with a coat of fixative. At this point changes are nearly impossible. Finally, my favorite part, the final coat. I cut the last 2 fingers off the glove of my right hand to smear the last coat of pastel. It’s like frosting a cake. A little fixative on heavily coated areas and it’s ready for framing.

 

Wade Zahares, Progress of "Commercial Street," 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 24 x 35 inches.

Wade Zahares, Progress of “Commercial Street,” 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 24 x 35 inches.

Wade Zahares, Progress of "Commercial Street," 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 24 x 35 inches.

Wade Zahares, Progress of “Commercial Street,” 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 24 x 35 inches.

Wade Zahares, Progress of "Commercial Street," 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 24 x 35 inches.

Wade Zahares, Progress of “Commercial Street,” 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 24 x 35 inches.

Wade Zahares, "Commercial Street," 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 24 x 35 inches.

Wade Zahares, “Commercial Street,” 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 24 x 35 inches.

 

In my younger years I was influenced by M.C. Escher for his amazing perspective, Edward Hopper for his subject matter, Claude Monet for his paint quality, and Wayne Thiebaud for his color and composition. Other influences over the years have been Chris Van Allsburg, Grant Wood, David Hockney, Thomas Hart Benton, and Alex Katz.

 

Wade Zahares, "My Falcon," 2000, Schmincke and Sennelier pastel on Canson, 30 x 40 inches. Ariel views have always been a favorite to execute. I close my eyes and picture myself flying above whatever kind of landscape I desire, and then move on to the most tedious part, building the skeleton of the landscape.

Wade Zahares, “My Falcon,” 2000, Schmincke and Sennelier pastel on Canson,  30 x 40 inches. Ariel views have always been a favorite to execute. I close my eyes and picture myself flying above whatever kind of landscape I desire, and then move on to the most tedious part, building the skeleton of the landscape.

 

During the warmer months, only a few in Maine, and after a long winter in the studio, I love to go out and do plein air pastels. I started plein air work right out of school not knowing what other job to get as an artist. Waiting tables on weekends gave me the time during the week to sit on the streets of Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston neighborhoods to draw my favorite scenes of tar shingled triple deckers and 80’s cars.

 

Wade Zahares, "My Back Yard," 1984, Rembrandt and NuPastels on Canson, 14 x 18 inches. Sold. Dividing my bedroom in two with a curtain to improvise a studio gave me the opportunity to do this pastel, plein air inside!

Wade Zahares, “My Back Yard,” 1984, Rembrandt and NuPastels on Canson, 14 x 18 inches. Sold. Dividing my bedroom in two with a curtain to improvise a studio gave me the opportunity to do this pastel, plein air inside!

 

I started showing wherever I could, and people started noticing and buying. This soon lead to interest from corporate art dealers who also liked my studio work which began to sell. I followed this route, putting my plein air work on the back burner. It wasn’t until the mid-2000s that my teaching career brought me back to plein air, something I will never let go of again. Plein air gives me a break from my tedious studio work which could take up to two weeks for each piece, and also refreshes my memory of life’s details that will be added to future work.

 

Wade Zahares, "May Flowers," 2017, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 11 x 17 inches. Land Trust Donations are alway good, a bit scary painting out in the woods all by myself though. I am finding new energy with my pastels as I compose these wooded pieces.

Wade Zahares, “May Flowers,” 2017, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 11 x 17 inches. Land Trust Donations are alway good, a bit scary painting out in the woods all by myself though. I am finding new energy with my pastels as I compose these wooded pieces.

 

My fate with illustrating children’s books started back in the 80’s. I rented one of my first studios in an old warehouse in South Boston on a floor that was occupied by artists. I soon found myself managing the floor of non-residential studios, 16 of them, soon to be 48 studios with the build out of 24 more studios in another warehouse across the parking lot. One of my tenants, a graphic designer, introduce me to Judy Sue Goodwin Sturges and her husband, the late Philomen Sturges, who represents children’s book illustrators and they both loved my work.

 

Wade Zahares, "Vulture," 2001, Schmincke and Sennelier pastel on Canson, 19 x 25 inches. Sold. Illustrating children’s books always challenges me with new and difficult subject matters.

Wade Zahares, “Vulture,” 2001, Schmincke and Sennelier pastel on Canson, 19 x 25 inches. Sold. Illustrating children’s books always challenges me with new and difficult subject matters.

 

Wade Zahares, "My Dog Chip," 2003, Schmincke pastel on Wallis, 25 x 19 inches. Sold. A green sky was exactly what I had in mind when I dreamed up this pastel for a portfolio piece for my picture book representative.

Wade Zahares, “My Dog Chip,” 2003, Schmincke pastel on Wallis, 25 x 19 inches. Sold. A green sky was exactly what I had in mind when I dreamed up this pastel for a portfolio piece for my picture book representative.

 

It took several years to sign my first contract, but I have been working with her and the staff at Studio Goodwin Sturges ever since. My 8th book, Frosty the Snowman, came out in 2013. Reflecting on the books, they have always presented a great challenge in communicating my ideas to others as well as stretching my composition to the limit, forcing ideas, drawing challenges, and learning to focus and manage my time.

 

Wade Zahares, "The Night Before," 2013, Schmincke pastel on Wallis, 19 x 31 inches. Appearing as the end papers in my children’s book Frosty the Snowman 2013, Charlesbridge Publishing. All I had to do was close my eyes and remember years ago. Love painting snow at night!

Wade Zahares, “The Night Before,” 2013, Schmincke pastel on Wallis, 19 x 31 inches. Appearing as the end papers in my children’s book Frosty the Snowman, 2013, Charlesbridge Publishing. All I had to do was close my eyes and remember years ago. Love painting snow at night!

 

Wade Zahares, "Let’s Go Sliding," 2002, Schmincke pastel on Canson, 19 x 25 inches, Developed for Frosty the Snowman in 2002, eleven years later and a few changes he finally got published.

Wade Zahares, “Let’s Go Sliding,” 2002, Schmincke pastel on Canson, 19 x 25 inches, Developed for Frosty the Snowman in 2002, eleven years later and a few changes he finally got published.

 

Fifty something years of watching “The Grinch,” “Charlie Brown” and “Rudolph” and all the beautiful snow scenes from the 60’s cartoons, have influenced my work for my lifetime. Oh, that orange glow from the fire on Misfit Island and the snowy winter scenes by Charles Schultz, they are embedded in my mind always making an annual appearance at this time of year.

 

Wade Zahares, "Toy Soldiers," 1992, Rembrandt and NuPastels on Canson, 36 x 63 inches. Sold. Building a skeleton underneath my landscapes and creating rolling hills for my houses and stylized trees to sit on, was the challenge at the time.

Wade Zahares, “Toy Soldiers,” 1992, Rembrandt and NuPastels on Canson, 36 x 63 inches. Sold. Building a skeleton underneath my landscapes and creating rolling hills for my houses and stylized trees to sit on, was the challenge at the time.

 

Raised in Maine and growing up as a skier, made me appreciate the beauty of snow. Memories of building snow forts under starry nights and Christmas glows, trying to capture the glistening night with my crayons. I love the contrast you can achieve with a warm glow and the cold snow. Or the brightness of the night when you can see for miles.

 

Wade Zahares, "They’re Celebrating," 1997, Rembrandt and NuPastel on Canson, 25 x19 inches.. I just can’t help myself with creating winter pictures in the winter. Creating snow-covered trees and warm glows was a concentration of mine for a while in the 90s. The coldest nights are the most quiet. You can hear a snowball roll down the snow covered hills. Adding a warm orange glow plays nicely against the cold blue snow.

Wade Zahares, “They’re Celebrating,” 1997, Rembrandt and NuPastel on Canson, 25 x19 inches.. I just can’t help myself with creating winter pictures in the winter. Creating snow-covered trees and warm glows was a concentration of mine for a while in the 90s. The coldest nights are the most quiet. You can hear a snowball roll down the snow covered hills. Adding a warm orange glow plays nicely against the cold blue snow.

 

I love to take advantage of this time of year and create as much art before I get cabin fever. Whether inside by a warm fire looking out on a cold winter’s night, or outside feeling the snow on your face looking in a window at a warm room.

 

Wade Zahares, "City Streets," 2012, Schmincke pastel on Wallis, 19 x 25 inches. Driving up the elevated 93 on my way home from my studio in South Boston inspired this busy night time scene.

Wade Zahares, “City Streets,” 2012, Schmincke pastel on Wallis, 19 x 25 inches. Driving up the elevated 93 on my way home from my studio in South Boston inspired this busy night time scene.

 

Shadows are so important to me when painting snow. They create lots of contrast giving it drama and help define the landscape. Snow stylized on trees, indentations by footsteps or by the way a plow pushed it, the way it falls and blows, lands on everything, ripples, melts – these are all the details that are so much fun to include in my work.

 

Wade Zahares, "My First Plow," 1995, Rembrandt and NuPastels on Canson, 19 x 25 inches. Even a truck can be a character! I alway have a couple of light sources in my work, something I am conscious about at the beginning of the process of a piece.

Wade Zahares, “My First Plow,” 1995, Rembrandt and NuPastels on Canson, 19 x 25 inches. Even a truck can be a character! I alway have a couple of light sources in my work, something I am conscious about at the beginning of the process of a piece.

 

Then there are the snowflakes. They may look easy to just add on top of my finished piece. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. If I did that, they would not stick to the already heavily saturated pastel drawing or be completely opaque, the way I like them. I include these smudges of color at the beginning of the process and work them up just like everything else. It does add a lot of time at the final stage but it’s well worth it.

 

Wade Zahares, "Happy New Year," 1993, Rembrandt pastel on Canson, 25 x 19 inches. Sold. Working at night in the city was the inspiration for my weather series, which would later show up again in my future as a children’s book illustrator.

Wade Zahares, “Happy New Year,” 1993, Rembrandt pastel on Canson,  25 x 19 inches. Sold. Working at night in the city was the inspiration for my weather series, which would later show up again in my future as a children’s book illustrator.

 

White pastel was a staple for snow for me for many years. Just small pieces are now found in my box, alongside the all cool and warm colors that appear in my snowy scenes. Inspired that it’s back, my studio is all stocked up, ready for a long winter of work!

 

Wade Zahares, "Christmas Eve Cat," 2009, Schmincke pastel on Wallis, 24 x 35 inches. Inside looking out and outside looking in is a common theme thought my work over the years.

Wade Zahares, “Christmas Eve Cat,” 2009, Schmincke pastel on Wallis, 24 x 35 inches. Inside looking out and outside looking in is a common theme thought my work over the years.

 

Life is all about finding your passion and purpose. I was lucky and found mine early in life.

 

Wade Zahares, "Flower Farm," 2017, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 18 x 24 inches. Sold. Commissions are alway welcomed as they keep the bills paid. Creating many sources of income is the only way I can survive as an artist.

Wade Zahares, “Flower Farm,” 2017, Schmincke and Unison pastel on Wallis, 18 x 24 inches. Sold. Commissions are alway welcomed as they keep the bills paid. Creating many sources of income is the only way I can survive as an artist.

 

*****

Fabulous huh?! I am definitely ready for the Christmas season now!

I know it’s a crazy time of year so I sure appreciate you taking the time to stop by and read this post. Do Wade Zahares’s images make you feel all warm and cozy inside? Do you have any favourites? Are you inspired by this rather different style of pastel?  You know I’d LOVE to hear from you so please leave us a comment.

Have a wonderful Holiday Season and enjoy the Winter Solstice!!!

 

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

Wade Zahares, "Ho,Ho,Ho," 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel, 25 x17 inches, Last year’s email card that was mailed to my clients and put on social media.

Work in progress – Wade Zahares, “Ho,Ho,Ho,” 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel, 25 x17 inches.

Wade Zahares, "Ho,Ho,Ho," 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel, 25 x17 inches, Last year’s email card that was mailed to my clients and put on social media.

Wade Zahares, “Ho,Ho,Ho,” 2016, Schmincke and Unison pastel, 25 x 17 inches. Last year’s email card that was mailed to my clients and put on social media.

Wade Zahare’s Frosty the Snowman book!!

32 thoughts on “Wade Zahares – Whimsy, Colour, And A Winter Wonderland!

  1. Chris

    Hi Gail
    Firstly – thank YOU so much for presenting us with pastel artists’ work month after month – the styles are SO inspiring. Wade’s creations are wonderful – so much detail in some of them to look at for ages. l particularly enjoyed hearing how long it takes for a piece from start to finish and Wade’s trials and tribulations over the years – the reality that an artist most likely will have to have several ways of offering talents to provide a living. I get so much joy from celebrating artiness in other artists creativity.
    Thanks again for sharing your multiple skills with us it is much appreciated.
    Merry Christmas!

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Chris thank you for such a full and lovely comment. I too love hearing the struggles artist’s face and go through on their artistic journey. It reminds me that we all face the same things even if the details are different.
      Merry Christmas!!

      Reply
    2. Judy Miller

      Thank you so much, Gail, for introducing me to Wade Zahares. I am enthralled by his work and overwhelmed by his process, focus and how well he expresses himself verbally. I have never lived in the snow yet I feel the nostalgia of his snow scenes. Two of my favorites are non-snow, “Flower Farm” and “Flower Cabin” , their simplicity of composition and sense of color and light is astonishing. A great Christmas gift!

      Reply
      1. Gail Sibley Post author

        Judy, speaking of expressing yourself well verbally, thank you for sharing in such a poetic way how you feel about Wade Zahares’s work!! Happy to introduce you to this amazing artist!

        Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      I know, isn’t that just the coolest! I HAD to include that one!
      Wade sent me sooooo many images to choose from and boy was it hard to choose! You can see I still went overboard but I knew everyone would love LOTS!

      Reply
  2. Elaine Benevides

    Gail, I was surprisingly taken by Wade’s style!! It’s a painting style that I haven’t exposed myself enough to, hence with which I am less familiar. I’m so glad you featured him, as it’s just expanded my art world! Thank you, Wade and Gail!! By the way, didn’t you just mention the name Wayne Thiebaud to me ;-)!??!

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Glad for the surprise element Elaine. I just LOVE featuring a variety of styles so that we can all see the possibilities and potential of the pastel medium. And also to show there sure isn’t just one style! I’ve loved Wade’s style for some time so was thrilled to have him guest blog!
      And yes, I did recently mention Wayne Thiebaud to you – synchronicity?

      Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      So beautifully put Bernadette. Yes – so many of us have those deep childhood memories when we were blissfully innocent in the ways of the world and so much was magical! I find it amazing that Wade creates many of these pieces on Canson Mi-Teintes paper!!

      Reply
  3. Marla

    Love Wade’s style … all those people who influenced his work, I also love, so I guess it’s no surprise. One thing I didn’t understand … why does he cut off the fingers of his glove to finish the painting with the final coat?

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Yes – well spotted on the influences and the link to the artists you love Marla. And great question!! I’ll leave Wade to answer that 🙂

      Reply
  4. Wendy Prest

    Thank you so much! I love this work! The style certainly has evolved very nicely. I was interested that the pictures can take up to 2 weeks to finish, and appreciated the progress pictures at the beginning.
    Wade, I really like your work! I’m so glad to have met you!

    Reply
  5. Sylvan

    Enjoy all yr monthly choices but this one blew me away. So excited to see pastel can be used in such a strong illustrative way. Thanks to Wade for his generosity detailing his methods and for taking us along his art journey. So much inspiration here. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Sharon Haney

    I absolutely adored this post, thank you for including it as a part of one of my favorite blogs (yours). Wade’s whimsical stylized and colorful paintings are magical and I love they way they make me smile. He is very open about his progress in his professional life and also generous with his sharing of his methods. I lived in the north until I married and moved south and seeing his trees and building laden with snow brings back so many memories of winter life and the holidays. Snow is beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Wade’s paintings and reading his guest blog. I can feel the silence, beauty and coziness of life in the north through his work. Thank you so much.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thank you Sharon for your lovely long comment! I love the way you describe your impressions of his work and your own feelings as you relate to them.
      And delighted to hear HowToPastel is one of your favourite blogs 🙂

      Reply
  7. Ruth Burley

    Wow….again. What a talent!!! My favorites from this list are Christmas Eve Cat and My Back Yard. Firstly, I always love to see a cat watching a snow scene outside from inside the house. Also, I’m strangely attracted to detail as well as architectural paintings. I’m in awe of how Wade does his detail in such a soft, dreamy & colorful way. So much to see and yet so easy to see it. Love the buildings and the bike in the snowy Boston scene too. I also like to wear tight latex gloves and also do some blending while wearing them. Also, I now feel better about taking a few days or more to finish a painting. Thanks so much, Wade, for explaining your growth as an artist and for explaining your processes. Utterly awesome!!!

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Ruth – wow!! Love all you have written. I am taken (and surprised) by your statement about feeling better around taking a few days or more to finish a painting. Of course you can! 🙂 So glad you got so much out of this post by Wade Zahares!!

      Reply
  8. Clarence Porter

    I finally took the time to read the Wade Zahares post and as always, it did not disappoint. Coming from an illustration background, I fell in love with his work the first time I saw it. He brings a wonderful illustrator/designer sense to the medium of pastels. His almost otherworldly perspective views are both powerful and playful and his colour sense is dynamic. Thanks for sharing this with the pastel community Gail. Well done.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thank you Clarence for your considered comment. You express so much of how I feel about the work of Wade Zahares.
      I sometimes envy those who have had an illustrating background because I feel you’ve received a great foundation in creating an image from imagination in a very concrete and instant way!
      And yes, I too am quite awed by Wade Zahares’s extreme perspective views.

      Reply

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