Hey! It’s time for another guest post. Whoo hoo! And I was thinking it was time to move to the still life as subject. With this thought came berries in glass and unmade beds….namely the work of this month’s guest, Jeri Greenberg!

I’ve featured Jeri’s work three times in my monthly roundups. The first was a landscape in November 2014, the second was an interesting still life in June 2016 (check it out!), and the third an interior with figure in January 2017. (Just click on the dates to see the work.)

I’m delighted to have Jeri Greenberg as a guest on the HowToPastel blog this month!!

Don’t know her work? Here’s a teaser 🙂

Jeri Greenberg, "Tea For One," 2020, Ludwigs/NuPastels, 14x16 in. Available
Jeri Greenberg, “Tea For One,” 2020, Ludwigs/NuPastels, 14×16 in. Available

Before handing the blog over to Jeri, here’s a wee bit about her.

Jeri Greenberg Bio

Jeri Greenberg started drawing and painting at a very early age. She went to Art&Design High School and Parsons School of Design, both in New York City. She worked in the fashion industry before moving to advertising. She’s been a working pastelist for over 10 years and a teacher for five. She has two grown sons and a cat named Sophie. You can see more of her work here

And now, here’s Jeri to tell you about her journey and how she ended up loving still lifes!


What a lovely surprise to be asked by Gail to write this month’s blog post. Like most of you, I read these monthly blogs and gobble up the info I get from other artists. 

Being a working artist, for the most part, consists of a lot of alone time, just you reflecting on your drawings, ideas, works in progress, and the dreaded “is it finished?” stage. Through social media, I’ve been introduced to, and become friends with, those I thought of as Masters, Mentors, and Pastel Idols. Yes, I’ve considered myself a groupie to a few of them, pestering them with questions and the like. And without exception, every artist I have encountered has been a kind human being. That’s what I strive for in my classes, and am grateful that the feedback I get is (usually) “you’re so kind and supportive to each of us.” Don’t tell my kids, they’ll roll their eyes.

Jeri Greenberg, "Counter Culture," 2020, various pastel brands, 14x16 in. Sold.
Jeri Greenberg, “Counter Culture,” 2020, various pastel brands, 14×16 in. Sold.

My Story

I came to paint with pastels long after a career as a fashion illustrator for New York newspapers and trade rags like WWD, where you worked quickly and in black, grey and white. Back in the late 70s & early 80s it was a real and marvelous profession, which was phased out when the newspapers found photography a lot cheaper than paying staff illustrators. (The advent of the internet got the last laugh on newspapers I guess.) Out of necessity, I transitioned into advertising. I stopped working full time when I had my second son, tried unsuccessfully to be Martha Stewart with a perfect home, was unhappy, went back to art classes, found wonderful pastel teachers, got happy, and went to work.

Painting figures has always been my first love. My earliest memory I have is drawing and copying the women in the magazines laying around my home. Seeing the Sunday New York Times with their full page department store ads of ladies in their newest fashions lovingly drawn in ink washes or charcoal, I KNEW this was what I wanted to do, needed to do. And you could do it as a job? Holy Smokes! Figure drawing was then and is still my comfort zone. 

Jeri Greenberg, "Hanging Out," 2020, Ludwigs/Nupastels, 14x9 in. Sold.
Jeri Greenberg, “Hanging Out,” 2020, Ludwigs/Nupastels, 14×9 in. Sold.

Still Life Painting

So, how did I end up not only painting still lifes but loving them? Well, they are portable for the most part, they usually do what you want, and sometimes you can “eat your models” as my husband teases.

But truly, I love making the ”ordinary EXTRAordinary.” It may seem strange to some but I find personalities in the pieces I use for my setups. I think my apples talk to each other. I see stories in the layouts, ie “what happened here?” “what is going on?” “who’s in charge of this gathering?”

Jeri Greenberg, "Social Distancing," 2020, Richeson/Nupastels, 9x12 in.
Jeri Greenberg, “Social Distancing,” 2020, Richeson/Nupastels, 9×12 in.

Pastels have given me a medium that works with my sense of urgency. Many times I know right away if what I see in my imagination is actually working on the paper. (I am my hardest critic.) My work is obviously very far from photorealism, as there is no way I could sit and paint every little detail and nuance. My brain doesn’t work that way. I love big mark-making. I love seeing the artist’s hand on the paper and I hope viewers of my work enjoy that as well. Most times I work my pastels larger than an area should be and then go back and cut out what I feel is extraneous, like a sculptor removing what’s unnecessary. 

Jeri Greenberg, "Lemons In Green Bowl," 2016, Unison, Nupastels, 9x12 in. Sold.
Jeri Greenberg, “Lemons In Green Bowl,” 2016, Unison, Nupastels, 9×12 in. Sold.

I found that I like exploring new ways to see the same item. I guess the painting that started the real still life journey for me was Lemons In A Green Bowl. My husband and older son and I were having breakfast in a restaurant “down the shore” in New Jersey. We were having a conversation that wasn’t going as planned. I zoned out and was playing with the “still life” of the lemons that came with my tea. I took a photo of it with my brand-y new iPhone. It later became the first still life painting I entered into competitions and won awards for, and it sold right away to the owners of the restaurant. I subsequently painted that scene a few more times, each time a bit differently.  The ”last” version is in a gallery in North Carolina now.

Jeri Greenberg, "Lemons In Blue Bowl," 2019, Unison/Nupastels, 9x13 in. Sold.
Jeri Greenberg, “Lemons In Blue Bowl,” 2019, Unison/Nupastels, 9×13 in. Sold.

The next still life that meant something to me, in terms of moving me forward in my career and vision, was Berries In A Glass. That painting exploded out of me for some reason. It was shown at  IAPS, PSA, and other important shows. It sort of re-launched the teaching aspect of my career, as so many people wanted to come to a demo of me painting glass. I still have no idea why and how this painting happened. I’m just happy it did. I wouldn’t sell it for a long time, though this year I finally decided to let it go. It was time. 

Jeri Greenberg, "Berries In Glass," 2017/8, Unison/Nupastels, 10x14in. Sold.
Jeri Greenberg, “Berries In Glass,” 2017/8, Unison/Nupastels, 10x14in. Sold.

I painted a few more versions of glass with berries, or cherries, or some other fruit. Each one makes me happy. If I stop to think about why, it might ruin it for me, so I just let it be. Why do I love painting apples or lemons? They don’t have faces, so they can’t have personalities? But I think they do. I think each little mark or quirk on them makes them unique and different. I used to think being different was a negative. Now I love being different. Different is special. By the way, it took years for me to get to that sentence. 

Jeri Greenberg, "Down Cherry Lane," 2018, Unison/Nupastels, 10x14 in. Sold.
Jeri Greenberg, “Down Cherry Lane,” 2018, Unison/Nupastels, 10×14 in. Sold.

I don’t consider myself a floral painter.There are sooooo many artists who paint flowers that can stop me in my tracks. When I do paint flowers, I try to paint them as almost secondary to the vase and especially to the shadows that they cast. Shadows and negative space are another passion of mine. My painting Glass and Shadows proves that point. The word flower isn’t even in the title!

Jeri Greenberg, "Glass And Shadows," 2019, Ludwigs/Richeson, 16x12 in. Sold.
Jeri Greenberg, “Glass And Shadows,” 2019, Ludwigs/Richeson, 16×12 in. Sold.

I’ve painted ribbons, bows, boxes wrapped in bows. Each one is a bit different. Each one has its purpose. 

Jeri Greenberg, "Unexpected Surprise," 2019, Nupastels/Richeson, 14x16 in. Available.
Jeri Greenberg, “Unexpected Surprise,” 2019, Nupastels/Richeson, 14×16 in. Available.

Teacups are another favorite of mine to paint. I’ve painted so many that even I think, oh no, not again. But then I turn it a different way or place it with a different friend and I am off to the races…Two teacups together are 2 friends chatting. Three are a party. 

Jeri Greenberg, "Tea For Three," 2020, Ludwigs/Richeson/Nupastels, 9x12in. Available.
Jeri Greenberg, “Tea For Three,” 2020, Ludwigs/Richeson/Nupastels, 9x12in. Available.

Don’t Let The Blues Get To You is an example of “you’re taking a photo of what?” I loved painting this one. Having time to kill before a movie, my husband and I stopped to get coffee and this pile of teal blue cups was just sitting there, fresh out of the steam cleaner and glistening. (Remember going to see a movie? Pre-Pandemic!) I snapped a few photos (and the sullen millennial behind the counter probably thought this woman’s a nutcase). It too is a painting that has served me well, and actually was purchased by a very good friend who felt drawn to it. 

Jeri Greenberg, "Don’t Let The Blues Get To You," 2020, Ludwigs/Richeson/Nupastels, 14x16 in. Sold.
Jeri Greenberg, “Don’t Let The Blues Get To You,” 2020, Ludwigs/Richeson/Nupastels, 14×16 in. Sold.

Let me take you through the progress of Sew What.

Starting off on dark paper, I knew where I wanted the star of the show to be situated, centerfront. The measuring tape draped around her shoulders and pointing down and off the page. Probably breaking every rule of “Don’t point off the page, don’t put things in the center….”

Jeri Greenberg, The start of "Sew What."
Jeri Greenberg, The start of “Sew What”

Once I was happy with Miss Pincushion, I was able to concentrate more on the curves of the tape and suggest the inch markers. I was drawn to the dark graphic shadows the images made. There are only two main characters so their shadows were quite important.

Jeri Greenberg, "Sew What" progress
Jeri Greenberg, “Sew What” progress

The colors were stuck in the mid-ugly stage, so I needed to kick up the red with some purple shadows and hot pink light marks. The multicolored straight pins added a bit of pizzazz.  I started playing with the white table linen but obviously I went to warm and then too cool.

Jeri Greenberg, "Sew What," close to finishing
Jeri Greenberg, “Sew What,” close to finishing

I decided to tone it down but stick with a warmer ground color. The yellow of the tape was casting yellowish glows underneath and I thought, “why not?” but to keep interest in the red/purple family, I signed my name in purple.

Jeri Greenberg, "Sew What," 2020, Richeson/Nupastels, 12x10in. Sold
Jeri Greenberg, “Sew What,” 2020, Richeson/Nupastels, 12x10in. Sold

My Bed Journey

About 3-4 years ago, I started on what I now call my “bed journey.” Being someone who always loves painting fabrics, folds, textures, and shadows I wondered where I could find all those things without hiring a model?  Ahhh….bed linens. With or without a model sleeping in them, the wrinkles and folds of bed linens called to me. 

One day in my bedroom in New Jersey I was reading in the corner chair and looked up to find the sun’s rays casting these warm pink colors across the bed and the walls, and casting cool grey shadows behind the headboard and lamps. I took some quick photos and knew I would paint it immediately. That painting, Sunday, 5:30pm, hung in many exhibits in NYC.

Jeri Greenberg, "Sunday, 5:30pm," 2017, Unison/Ludwigs/Nupastels, 20x14 in. Sold.
Jeri Greenberg, “Sunday, 5:30pm,” 2017, Unison/Ludwigs/Nupastels, 20×14 in. Sold.

I painted many different beds after that. Most meant something to me. One was at a hotel in Chicago. (We were staying there while in the city to see my son graduate from the Navy Boot Camp.) The linens were all white, as were the walls, towels, carpet etc. Weird and stark but it made an interesting painting. 

Another was a daybed at a good friend’s house, filled with lacy pillows and shams. All of a sudden people wanted me to paint their beds, as if it were a portrait. I tried, but I needed to feel what I was painting, so that didn’t last long. 

The one painting that most people know is Moving On/Change Is Good. This painting won the Silver award in the Pastel 100 a few years ago. This painting had “a lot of hands in it” I like to say: Everyone who saw it while it was being painted had something to say about it. I had to block all those voices out.

Jeri Greenberg, "Moving On/Change Is Good," 2018, various pastels, 24x16 in. NFS
Jeri Greenberg, “Moving On/Change Is Good,” 2018, various pastels, 24×16 in. NFS

This was my mother-in-law’s bed. There is a suitcase on it because we are packing her home up and she was moving to a nursing facility. It was sad, emotional, and we were in “let’s get the job done” mode and not ready for the feels. I was looking at the bed, at the angle it’s painted, the suitcase is there, and the sun was streaming through the slats of her window blinds. The room was so dark and sad and yet all this light from above was coming in and playing games with the colors of the linens. I knew I had to paint it. When I showed her the painting and subsequent accolades, she laughed and couldn’t understand the fuss being made over her bed. I miss her. 

The last version of a bed that I’ve painted recently was Green Blankets, 11am. It’s actually in my bedroom with Moving On hanging on the wall.

Jeri Greenberg, "Green Blankets 11AM," 2020, Ludwigs/Nupastels, 14x18 in. Sold.
Jeri Greenberg, “Green Blankets 11AM,” 2020, Ludwigs/Nupastels, 14×18 in. Sold.

In closing, let me say this, if you feel drawn to paint something, just do it. For YEARS I thought I had to paint landscapes because THAT’S WHAT A REAL PAINTER PAINTS. I beat myself up because my trees looked sickly and my skies looked ominous. And don’t get me started on my waves. Now I know I’m good at what I’m good at, and I can be a student of all the other genres I may like to try. I still take workshops with other artists. I’ll never paint the way they do, nor do I want to. But it’s fascinating and fun to grow and experiment and push the envelope a bit. But I’ll always come back to figures, fabrics, and fruit!


I don’t know about you but I’m ready to go paint beds! Or what about setting up a still life with fruit and glass?!

Jeri and I would LOVE to hear from you so do leave a comment with your thoughts, questions, and observations!!

Until next time,

~ Gail

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71 thoughts on “Jeri Greenberg – On Loving Still Life”

  1. Wow, Jeri! Kudos a plenty to you,

    This particular blog w/ great paintings presented, experiences relayed, along w/ cautionary advice shared —- speaks to me. I feel I’m traveling in a parallel universe w/just about every one of the tugs, pushes & even selection of informal, appealing subject matter (maybe one change — made up beds w/ just slight turn down here n there🤣) which you highlighted in your journey thus far (of course, minus the exposure w/n NYC institutes of art and your successful career w/n newspaper illustrations,etc.😉). Also huge, note-able difference being… you are well on your way (well-deserved). And, for me, in the area of pastel painting accomplishments/productivity, I feel I am just gearing up in a new art medium phase w/n my tri-core career.😉However, after reading this —- I sense a bit of a burn in my painting fingertips to just get on with it. Be bold!
    Thank you Jeri and thank you Gail for the connect.

    1. Hah hah LOVED your comment Maryeileen!! So much energy and passion and humour bounding through your words (and emojis!). Be bold girl!!! Let us know how you get on!!

      1. This is wonderful to hear Pat!! It’s wonderful to be inspired to go places we haven’t been before in our art-making adventure!
        Look forward to seeing you in the 31-in-31 Challenge 🙂

  2. So enjoyed Jeri’s article. The way she shared her pathway to painting the subjects she really is drawn to was so interesting and resonated with me. Her glass painting is outstanding, but the unexpected subjects like rumpled beds are my favourites – really amazing.

  3. Jeri is an amazing artist who has given me a love for pastels. Her instruction and encouragement have been a lasting gift to me. Thank you for sharing her story and process here.

    1. Dianne that’s sooooooo wonderful to hear!!
      I LOVE hosting these amazing guests and having them write the blog allows their voice to come through. I feel priveleged to have them all collected here!

  4. Thanks Jeri and Gail for such a great blog!
    Jeri’s work always stands out in the pastel community, not just the edgy subject matter, but she projects her whole personality with her exciting mark making. It’s great to read the backstory and encouraged me to perhaps look closer to home for inspiration too… I’m also going to see what my fruit are getting up to in my kitchen!

    1. Ahh Gareth, thanks for the chuckle at the end. And for your exuberant comment.
      You are so right about Jeri’s personality coming through her work!
      (And Gareth, I hope you notice the comment below…)

    2. you are very kind Gareth, and you know its a mutual admiration society here! Make sure your fruit are behaving, but don’t worry I’ve no desire to paint the sea, you keep mastering those for us to see!

  5. I absolutely love Jeri’s still lifes! Her use of those delicious limited palettes on a dark support create so much atmosphere. Inspirational! Thanks for introducing me to this beautiful work.

  6. Really enjoyed this…..! Mostly enjoyed hearing how and why she paints certain things…..which I find fascinating. I tend to see things that just hit me somehow…..and someone will say, “Why do you want to paint that….?” My favorites were the last two, “Moving On” and “Green Blankets 11AM”. Moving on really displays the emotion of the moment…..and the light play is terrific!! Thanks, Jeri and Gail…

  7. “My work is obviously very far from photorealism, as there is no way I could sit and paint every little detail and nuance. My brain doesn’t work that way. I love big mark-making. I love seeing the artist’s hand on the paper and I hope viewers of my work enjoy that as well. Most times I work my pastels larger than an area should be and then go back and cut out what I feel is extraneous, like a sculptor removing what’s unnecessary.”

    This part of the article really spoke to me. I so admire realism, but I am not emotionally or physically designed to paint the level of detail required. I’ve done it, but didn’t enjoy it. It is best that the viewer bring something to the work besides admiration for accuracy. What to leave out? What to put in? Why will the viewer bother to look twice? You do this so well, from bed clothes to cherries. Many thanks for your article. I found it fascinating.

    1. Andrea, I love how you quoted the chunk of Jeri’s post that really spoke to you! And yes, we can admire work that is say photorealism but know our own artistic inclinations don’t lean that way. And of course, the opposite is true!

  8. I’ve loved Jeri’s paintings for a long while, and so recently, when I got a chance to take her classes through Zoom, I jumped at the chance. The pandemic has given me some amazing opportunities to learn from my favorite artists without having to travel! We explored still life, figures and portraits in her class. Some subjects were definitely out of my comfort zone, but with her encouragement as well as her critiques, she helped me bring my paintings to a successful conclusion. Thanks so much Jeri!! I love your art, as well as your self-deprecating humor, and your wonderful encouragement as you teach us to do our best. Thanks, Gail, for featuring Jeri this week!

  9. I was encouraged to read that other artists don’t find landscapes as inspiring to paint. I have tried many of them and usually I feel discouraged by the outcome. Going back to objects or people is where I shine, so I plan on focusing on that.

    1. Rebecca, I’m so glad you “got” the idea of painting what speaks to you from Jeri’s post! I’ll look forward to seeing your work on these subjects.

  10. Wow. What an eye opener.
    Thank you, Jeri. First, I’m a Jersey Girl too, South Jersey born and bred, but I’m an Oregonian now, and loving it.
    I love your work. I am absolutely tickled that your subjects are just plain stuff. I checked out the work that Gail posted from years gone by, and I checked out your website.
    Who would ever think to open the refrigerator door and paint what lurks within? I have not been a fan of still life, it has always seemed so contrived to me, but your blog has given me a multitude of ideas for future paintings. Fun for winter – indoor plein aire.

    1. Love that this was an eyeopener Liz! I used to feel the same way about still life but then I realised that it could be so much more than contrived gatherings of objects. Now I love painting ordinary things 🙂
      And I smiled at the idea of indoor plein air painting – I guess that’s what we do when we set up on location in the kitchen…or the bedroom…or the dining room…

    2. thanks so much…The fridge came to me because i was sooooo bored, and looking for interesting shapes to paint. now this painting will be in a movie!

  11. Love her nuances with color and often using the unusual in her palette.
    The mark making is beautiful and I love how Jeri often leaves the dark paper showing through to accentuate those marks.
    and then there is the light!
    Really enjoyed this blog post and her mother in law’s bed is one of my very favorite pastel pieces!

  12. Jeri, this is a wonderful article! Knew your paintings are amazing, but you also have writing chops! I am so fortunate to live in your newly adopted home in NC. I’ve loved the classes with you – both in person and not. Your instruction and enouragement has been just what was needed this year. Not only do you share with us your approach to painting, but also the thought behind your unique vision and skill for capturing the beauty of moments in time. Thank you.
    Gail, thank you for featuring Jeri. I can see why you have featured her 3 times. I’m so glad to discover your blog!

  13. This was a great blog and your work is great! Now I feel inspired to try still life. I’m currently doing landscapes, have attempted city-scapes but my buildings all look like ice cream melting in the sun (so wobbly). Your comment on not needing to do every detail spoke to me. Maybe I’ll give it another go with my wobbly building. 🙂

    Question, do you free hand your subject to the support or do you transfer image from a photo with transfer paper

  14. I really enjoyed this blog post with guest pastelist Jeri Greenberg. The freedom of her mark making and her color choices are wonderful. In a world where photo realism seems to garner the most accolades, she stays true to herself. It was inspiring to read her thoughts on painting what she loves rather than what is expected. Thank you for introducing her, Gail, and thank you Jeri for sharing your work!

  15. Jerry, i absolutely love your work when I see it on HTP. I promised myself that I’ll take one of your workshops – live – once this horrid covid stuff is behind us. For now I’ll enjoy your posts!

  16. You were MY unexpected surprise today. Two years ago I finally made the time to become the artist I knew I could become. Since then I have carved out time to paint and been a rabid student of art. I’ve attended classes, watched countless videos, devoured books and sketched and painted, A LOT. Mostly, it feels like a struggle with intermittent moments of glory (but I can’t stop!) Just now I was reviewing notes in hopes of finding that elusive “secret” and ran across notes taken from a past HowToPastel.com blog. A few clicks later and I’m reading your entry. Of all my paintings, my favorites are mostly vignettes that painted themselves (just having fun I say to myself), but I spend most of my time working REALLY hard to paint landscapes. Your work is stunning and I loved your story, but the last paragraph was a jaw dropping moment for me. This weekend I’m putting away all those landscapes-in-progress (for now…) and painting only what I love. I hope we meet some day so I can give you a big hug! ( – :

    1. Love this warm response to Jeri’s post Wendy. And how WONDERFUL for a blog post to be soooo transformative! And YES!! paint what YOU love!!

      (And I have to also say I was chuffed that you actually have notes from the HTP blog. Fabulous.)

    2. Thank you! lovely comments make me happy. I still try my hand at trees and the big landscape then shake my head and say….why? Lol I’d love a hug in the future, I miss hugs! I miss real life classes. Right now come take an online class!

  17. Insightful and inspiring!

    I’m still very new to pastels [and art in general], and am loving reading through the archived articles. There is so much to learn, and yet one of the biggest things is the generosity of the contributors to the journal for their willingness to share their knowledge and vulnerabilities. Well done Jeri for sharing, and Gail you are awesome!

    1. 😁 Thank you so much Julie!!
      And I LOVE that you are digging through all the valuable and inspiring contributions – a treasure trove of generosity indeed!!

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Gail Sibley

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My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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