Anna Wainright, "Night Comes," 2015, pastel, 9 x 12 in, Private Collection

Anna Wainright And Her Evocative Landscapes

The pastels by Anna Wainright have awed me over and over again ever since I discovered this artist a couple of years ago.  I featured one of her pieces in one of my first monthly round-ups and I remember having the dickens of a time choosing between three paintings! So I’m tickled pink that she’s here to tell her story and share how her paintings evolve.


Anna Wainright Bio

A little about Anna first. First off, she’s often known as AJ 🙂

Anna Wainright is a signature member of several pastel societies, including the Pastel Society of America (PSA), and reached Master Circle status in the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS). Early this year, she had a feature article in the Pastel Journal and her work has been included in their Pastel 100 competition in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016. Her work has been included in many juried exhibitions including part of the PSA’s Exhibition at the Butler Museum of Fine Art. Find out more on her website.

If you don’t know Anna’s work, have a look at this!

AJ Wainright, "A New Dawn," pastel on paper, 12 x 16 in
AJ Wainright, “A New Dawn,” pastel on paper, 12 x 16 in

And now, I’ll hand the blog over to Anna Wainwright!



Discovering pastels

I always loved drawing and coloring when I was a child. I don’t ever remember being encouraged to do it, however. When I went to college, I thought I would take courses that interested me, and that’s how I became a Graphic Design major. But this by no means gave me any true sense of what an artist truly was. The courses essentially were geared toward how you can get a job. Of course, I didn’t. When my children finally reached ages of independence, I started dabbling in acrylics, watercolor, and some oil, with very little success. I remember someone in an art supply store asking, “Are you an artist?” and I pondered that and replied “I don’t think so, my family doesn’t even like what I do.”

In or around 2006, I saw pastel paintings for the first time that I remembered. The colors were so brilliant, and I asked the artist about the process. I was in Florida quite often then, and was fortunate to meet Brooke Allison. She is an incredibly talented master artist in pastels and oils, and she was willing to give me lessons. She was a patient and kind teacher, and she encouraged me to keep painting. She would always ask when I saw her, “Are you painting?” It was around that time that I found that I couldn’t stop painting. I was also lucky a second time, in meeting the late Marge Levine in New Jersey, another master pastelist, who helped me learn more and more about having a well-rounded experience as an artist through discussions, working indoors and outdoors, and having a more critical eye by studying the Masters, contemporary and historic.

They both taught me that the only way I would get any better was to paint as often as I could. I was still working full time then, and that meant that I had to paint well into the wee hours if I was going to have the amount of time I needed to get into the zone. This also meant that I didn’t have time to do any preparation for a painting. It was usually, find a photo of something I liked, then try to paint it.

I believe that pastels made a connection to my eye and hand that I didn’t have with the other mediums. I had more control, as in drawing, and I had all colors and values at my fingertips. I could grab any color in the spectrum without stopping what I was doing. It was the immediacy of the medium, and the flexibility of the process that encouraged me. I could change things if I wanted. I could make mistakes, and I could fix them, or I could make more mistakes.


Anna Wainright, "A Walk In The Dark," 2016, pastel, 9 x 12 in
Anna Wainright, “A Walk In The Dark,” 2016, pastel on paper, 9 x 12 in


It’s About Emotion

I have been told my paintings tend to be “moody”, and many are dark. Perhaps it’s because I am drawn to artists who can bring some mystery and tension to their paintings. Artists such as Whistler, who painted dark images which required me to study and experience them in order to appreciate them. Paintings like his Nocturnes and provocative portraits fascinated me. I am not really sure what draws me more often to a darker palette in a painting. Perhaps it’s the contrast and mystery that is created by the dark. I feel an emotion when I see Whistler’s paintings.

My deepest desire as an artist, is that someone experience some feeling or emotion when they see my paintings. Whistler, Sargent, Turner, Innes, and Corot, are continuous reminders of my goal as an artist. It’s not that I want to be “like” them, I don’t. It’s important to me that I be a distinct voice, and that I not merely replicate what I see.


Anna Wainright, "Dock Of The Bay," 2014, pastel, 11 x 14 in
Anna Wainright, “Dock Of The Bay,” 2014, pastel on paper, 11 x 14 in, Private Collection


Anna Wainright, "Dusk After The Snow," 2014, pastel, 12 x 18 in
Anna Wainright, “Dusk After The Snow,” 2014, pastel on paper, 12 x 18 in


The Evolution Of A Painting 

At some point, I heard the term “painterly.” I wanted my pastels to be painterly. I wanted them to look like paintings. I also found out that my paintings would always take a direction I hadn’t anticipated, and I started to embrace that. I stopped being concerned about them looking like the thing I started out to paint.

Taking you through the process of one of my favorite paintings might give an idea of how I work. This painting “Last Light” happened this way.

At first it was a dark 18 x 24 in painting that I was somewhat happy with, but then decided I didn’t like it anymore. So it went back on the easel and I started making changes. Most of the changes I still didn’t like.


Anna Wainright, work in progress 1 - 18x24in
Anna Wainright, work in progress 1 – 18x24in
Anna Wainright, work in progress 2 - 18x24in
Anna Wainright, work in progress 2 – 18x24in
Anna Wainright, work in progress 3 - 18x24in
Anna Wainright, work in progress 3 – 18x24in


Then I thought,  What if it was 12 x 24 inches.

Anna Wainright, work in progress 4 - 12 x 24 in
Anna Wainright, work in progress 4 – 12 x 24 in


I often put a frame around it to see how it’s working as a composition.

Then I work on it and maybe try a smaller size.


Anna Wainright, work in progress 5
Anna Wainright, work in progress 5 -12 x 16 in
Anna Wainright, work in progress 6
Anna Wainright, work in progress 6 – 12 x 16 in
Anna Wainright, work in progress 7 - 12x16 in
Anna Wainright, work in progress 7 – 12×16 in
Anna Wainright, work in progress 8 - 12 x16 in
Anna Wainright, work in progress 8 – 12 x16 in


Then back to 12 x 24 in

Anna Wainright, work in progress 9 - 12 x 24 in
Anna Wainright, work in progress 9 – 12 x 24 in


And finally…

Anna Wainright, "Last Light," 2014, pastel on paper, 12 x 18 in
Anna Wainright, “Last Light,” 2014, pastel on paper, 12 x 18 in


Using Photo References

I see those first paintings, as my under-paintings. While building those colors and that place, I become personally involved in the painting. They are built within that paper. I think this represents much of what happens in my process. They just went somewhere else. By else I mean, my mind and my hand made marks and colors and they became a place. Probably somewhere from my memory, but they came out of themselves.

That’s not to say that all of my paintings are done this way, but many are. Some-times I am happily surprised that it went the way I planned, or at least hoped, early on. Most of my paintings are started from some photo reference. Some place or some captured light. Some may just look more like the original reference than others.


Anna Wainright Photo reference for "Evening's Last"
Photo reference for “Evening’s Last”
Anna Wainright, "Evening's Last," 2015, pastel on paper, 12 x 18 in, Private Collection
Anna Wainright, “Evening’s Last,” 2015, pastel on paper, 12 x 18 in, Private Collection


Photo reference for "Night Comes"
Photo reference for “Night Comes”
Anna Wainright, "Night Comes," 2015, pastel, 9 x 12 in, Private Collection
Anna Wainright, “Night Comes,” 2015, pastel on paper, 9 x 12 in, Private Collection


Having A Purpose And Moving Beyond Fear

I think as an artist, I always ask myself a few important questions. Why do I do this? Am I any good? What style am I? What is my goal? Am I relevant? Every December I set goals for the upcoming year. What do I want to accomplish? Which shows do I want to enter? How am I doing as an artist?

Then I start painting with a purpose. I need to get something done for this, or I need to get something done for that. This is a lot of pressure, but it is also a great motivator. Don’t get me wrong, at this point in my life, I am finally doing what I want to do. But, this is an anxious time too. I wonder, I question, I fret. There is a huge amount of self-doubt, and fear. What if I can’t keep painting decent paintings? What if no one buys my work? What if they don’t like my work anymore? What if, What if? Fear.

Usually, the first few months of the year, I am painting in fear. I am afraid that I am going to disappoint. Disappoint my galleries, disappoint my clients, and worst of all disappoint myself, and stop painting.

Then, I will have a day where I have reached a goal, finished something, and I can paint without fear. Wow, how nice that is. I allow myself to fail. I allow myself to try a new subject. I allow myself to try a new technique. I allow myself to paint something “not like my usual work.” (“Not like my usual work”, something I hear sometimes. And, I think, really? Isn’t everything I do, my work?) Can’t I do something different? And then it hits me. I am not working a job I hate anymore. I don’t have to please everyone else. I just need to please me. Because, while working in fear, I stop enjoying painting, and the work often reflects that. And, in the end, those pieces are not usually my strongest work. And in the end, when I paint without fear, I love my work.


Anna Wainright, "Untitled," 2016, pastel on paper, 9 x 12 in
Anna Wainright, “Untitled,” 2016, pastel on paper, 9 x 12 in



Wow, thanks Anna!!! What an extraordinary journey through the evolution of “Last Light”

We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment and tell us what surprised you, what pleased you, what was a new to you.


Until next time,

~ Gail


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16 thoughts on “Anna Wainright And Her Evocative Landscapes”

  1. As a lover of animals and a painter of animals Anna’s cow portrait really appealed to me, she has such character and the typical curiosity of a cow. Even when I’m doing landscapes or seascapes I always have to include some kind of animal life.
    Thank you Gail, I enjoy your monthly newsletters. The videos are helpful and your monthly picks are fascinating.

    1. Mary-Anne, thanks for commenting. I love how the cow is right there to surprise a reader at the end. And it’s a great example of how as an artist we should refuse to be boxed into a certain genre, a certain way of doing things.
      So glad you are enjoying the blog and videos 🙂

  2. Really appreciated Anna’s your honesty in the last paragraph, the fear factor and daring to “switch it up” and paint something different every so often. It is very helpful to see, through your blogs, that very accomplished artists that we admire experience some of the same feelings, doubts and frustrations.

    1. I love that part about the fear factor too, especially as it comes at the end and is the final reward for reading the whole post. So thank you!
      And yes, it’s always something to hear that those we admire go through the same kinds of ups and downs as we do!

  3. I can SO relate to the “fears” Anna described!! I’ve been fortunate in the two years I have been painting to have enjoyed great success, but I have stopped painting in the first part of this year due to sheer panic. I even have questioned my ability. It’s like Anna echoed my sentiments – once I stop worrying about what I might need to paint to satisfy the desires of others, I am FREE again. I recently had the epiphany that I should paint what I want to paint, and then it will all flow. I love how loosely Anna can paint, and her interpretations of the landscapes. My technique is realism, because that’s all I really know how to do. Anna has inspired me to try a more relaxed technique, and not worry about the perfection of imitation. Thank you so much for this great article!

    1. You are sooooo welcome Tiffany. And thank you for taking the time to share your own story about your painting journey. I’m happy that Anna has inspired you. Let us know how you get on!

      1. Patricia, great question! It doesn’t always work! With this painting there was just enough left to hold the light layer of color hat remained. This was probably Wallis paper, my favorite, though I am not sure. But, many a painting has not survived the ordeal.

  4. Hello Anna and Gail, what a great read! A double treat, I love Gail’s blog and I love Anna’s work. Reading about her process echoes a lot of my struggles, puts words to vague feelings of discontent. The transitional piece had me saying ‘wow!’ At 2, 4, 6 and 8, any of those were fine, intriguing paintings – then there was the final version, stunning! And mysterious, like that half time before we sleep, a glimpse of something seen but not clear. It was all just brilliant, thanks Anna for sharing! You are one of my painting heroes. Xx

    1. Hi Julie, thanks so much for chiming in here with your appreciation of Anna’s work. I agree with you about the transitional paintings – I kept thinking, “Oh that looks good’ and then it would change again! I love how you describe that piece of Anna’s as being like that time in-between waking and sleeping. That’s it indeed!!

  5. Thank you for this beautiful blog about A. J. Wainwright. I was aware of her work through the Artful Deposit gallery in Bordentown, NJ, but it is so nice to get to know more about her in this way.

  6. I have never tried pastels and wouldn’t know how to start but have long admired AJ’s work and had no idea that her primary medium is pastels. I guess I need to start looking into it on utube or something. I am in a similar situation as when she started in that I work full time, etc., etc, and am self teaching. Beautiful work she does!

    1. Hi John, thank you for leaving your comment! I too am a great admirer of AJ’s work and am delighted that she agreed to be a guest here.

      Working full time always makes things trickier but hopefully you can allot some regular time to your art-making. Make this time about YOU!

      I’m wondering if it’s through a search for AJ’s work that you found yourself here? Welcome to the HowToPastel blog! I’m always open to questions so fire away. 😁

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