Some painters wow you with their use of colour. Others evoke an emotional response through their work. My guest this month manages to do both at the same time. Artist Loriann Signori uses the luscious vibrant colour of soft pastels to their full effect, creating luminous spaces that elicit feelings of deep pleasure. When I look at Loriann’s paintings, I think, This is why we love soft pastels.

Although Loriann Signori has been on my to-ask list for some time, I just hadn’t gotten around to it. Then a couple of months ago, I was scrolling through Instagram and bam! there was a surprise. Loriann’s work appeared but it wasn’t a landscape-inspired painting which is the type of work I’m used to seeing from this artist. Rather, it was a colourful interpretation of a hydrangea flower in a vase. Whoa! This was an unexpected and delightful shift. I was so excited that, at that moment, I messaged Loriann asking her to be a guest on HowToPastel. And happily, she responded with a Yes!

Don’t know her work? Take a look!

Loriann Signori, "Last Moment of Light," pastel on prepared paper, 8 x 8in. Sold
Loriann Signori, “Last Moment of Light,” pastel on prepared paper, 8 x 8in. Sold

Before I hand you over to Loriann Signori, here’s a bit about her.

Loriann Signori Bio

Loriann Signori is a painter of luminosity. Her work is based in traditional methods and defined by colorist tendencies yet her aims and methods undergo continual transformation. One thing stays consistent: the paintings are, essentially, an emotional interpretation of time and place.

She received her BFA from Swain School of Design and MFA at American University but the real work began outdoors and in the studio. Loriann’s talent has been showcased in prestigious galleries and museums throughout the United States. Her work is included in private and corporate collections in the US and internationally. Currently, she is represented by Warm Springs Gallery in Warm Springs VA. Loriann is a teacher and mentor of the pastel medium. Find more info on her website

And now, here’s Loriann to share her thought on the creative process of her work.


Risk-taking is my topic. That is, risk-taking for an artist.

If you think about it, each day we enter the studio we take a risk. Who knows what will happen? 

The act of creating is essentially a kind of magic. We have the power to transform a blank surface into a mystery for the soul. In order to do this and keep the excitement of a good relationship, we need to take chances. We honor the concept and then we need to throw ourselves into a state of disequilibrium. 

Loriann Signori, "Storm Break," pastel on prepared paper, 12 x 8 in. Available
Loriann Signori, “Storm Break,” pastel on prepared paper, 12 x 8 in. Available. This was completed two weeks ago when I was at Ocracoke, one of my favorite places to paint. This particular painting was a struggle. It kept becoming descriptive rather than felt. I needed to work through the process of construction and destruction countless times. Finally, it happened. It’s strange how I know it’s done. At that moment the pastel surface will seem to repel my hand that holds the pastel. The painting always knows better than I do.

I paint in order to quiet myself into the “not-knowing” and hopefully discover something I didn’t know. 

I feel that as artists we need to be comfortable with the state of constant change. The longer I paint, the more I don’t want to know “how” to do something or have a technique upon which I rely to create my work. Predictability is a killer of excitement. Instead, change has been my lesson. 

Loriann Signori, "Lady in Waiting," pastel on prepared paper, 11 x 11in. Available
Loriann Signori, “Lady in Waiting,” pastel on prepared paper, 11 x 11in. Available

A disequilibrium is what can make surprises happen. Each day is a new adventure into wonder and what I consider serious play. This play is investigative. What will happen if I…….? 

Loriann Signori, "Red Hot Marsh," pastel on prepared paper, 24 x 11 in. Available
Loriann Signori, “Red Hot Marsh,” pastel on prepared paper, 24 x 11 in. Available

Given this, it might seem strange that I paint landscapes and still-lifes. It has all been done before. 

This motif isn’t avant-garde in any way. To me, the pleasure is in the risk-taking. It does not mean that I am seeking novelty in my subject or methods…. No, no, no. A successful day at the easel is one that I astonish myself. It’s a gamble each day to approach the old with new eyes. It is the forward movement into not knowing that is my risk.

Through my paintings, I attempt to stimulate a dialogue with nature and beauty. 

Loriann Signori, "Exquisitely Complicated," pastel on prepared paper, 10 x 7in. Available
Loriann Signori, “Exquisitely Complicated,” pastel on prepared paper, 10 x 7in. Available

Recently I have moved forward, or maybe it’s side-wards. The hydrangeas on my kitchen table whispered to me. They had an ethereal beauty, a song.

Loriann Signori, "Summer Moment," pastel on prepared paper, 6 x 6 in. Available
Loriann Signori, “Summer Moment,” pastel on prepared paper, 6 x 6 in. Available

I began painting one after another.


Loriann Signori, "Hydrangea with Golden Morning Light," pastel, 18 x 16in. Available
Loriann Signori, “Hydrangea with Golden Morning Light,” pastel, 18 x 16in. Available

Success started to come when the hydrangeas began to lose their thingness and become the spirit of light and color in summer. By reducing description and exploring the painting’s inner space, I can find the feeling of endless possibility and possibly, the infinite.

Loriann Signori, Violet Hydrangea," pastel on prepared paper
Loriann Signori, Violet Hydrangea,” pastel on prepared paper, 9 x 8 1/4 in.

We, as painters, realize that the real magic happens when the conversation is between the artist and the painting. That’s a very special space. 

My heart has a strong longing to be surprised. 

Loriann Signori, "Silver Lake Dressed in Gold," pastel on prepared paper, 11 x 11 in. Available
Loriann Signori, “Silver Lake Dressed in Gold,” pastel on prepared paper, 11 x 11 in. Available


Sigh. A big delicious yummy sigh. Aren’t those paintings something to sink into? Such light. Such sumptuous colour. Such texture supporting the strokes of pastel on top.

What about you? What are your thoughts and feelings about this work by Loriann Signori? You know we’d LOVE to hear from you so please do leave a comment!

Until next time,

~ Gail

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52 thoughts on “Loriann Signori On Risk-Taking”

      1. Hi Audrey, I agree with you – Loriann’s work does show off the incredible potential of pastels!! And you are so welcome. It’s a privilege to have her work and words on HowToPastel!

  1. I love the way that luminous color and texture come together as the spirit of a scene or object. I would like to know how Loriann prepares her papers (or maybe I just need to experiment!). Thanks to you both.

      1. Hi Urszula and thank you for your comment. It’s the layers and the goop that make the texture. For goop, I use fixative, gesso, marble dust and art spectrum pastel ground. cheers, Loriann

  2. Beautiful! Love the freeness of the paintings. I wasn’t sure what she meant by prepared paper. And some of the paintings were very textured. Was wondering how she achieved that.

    1. Hi Tami, glad you enjoy the freeness of Loriann’s work.
      I mentioned below that I believe Loriann prepares her paper either with gesso and marble dust or with a clear gesso. I’ll ask Loriann to give a fuller answer!

      1. Loriann’s work is stunning!!!! I am so glad you introduced me to her work in this blog. I am really focusing on color in my own work right now—in search of brighter colors, luminous, colors, etc. so it was a real treat to have this land in my email box. Very inspiring. The textured backgrounds really add additional interest too!

        Here are some questions for Loriann:

        If your general mindset is “I wonder what would happen if” do you pick out the pastels that you want to use before you start the painting so your color palette is predetermined or do you just start the painting and then keep adding the colors that you think the painting needs? Or is it a little bit of both? Do you place any limitations on yourself as far as the number of pastels that you end up using?

        Also, while you work, are you thinking about color theory and the color wheel (complementary colors, analogous colors, etc) or are you following your own gut, testing things out, and not really thinking much about the color basics that everyone gets taught when they first take an art class? I’m guessing again, that your answer might be a little bit of both. Seems like people need to understand some of that foundational stuff before getting comfortable with “I wonder what would happen if.” Personally, I think I’m stuck in between these two mindsets. Ha.

        Guess I just need to keep playing, testing things out, and discovering what happens and if I like it or not.

        1. So glad you find Loriann’s paintings inspiring!! Love that I’ve introduced you to her work Mary.

          And great questions which I will leave Loriann to answer.

          I will add that knowing at least some colour theory is a great foundation to have when painting. As you use and understand it, it all becomes second nature at which point you can work more intuitively. It’s like learning to drive standard – it’s pretty chaotic at first trying to remember all the things to do to make the car move forward smoothly without lurches and stalling. But eventually, with practice, driving with manual shift becomes second nature. Then you can focus on improving your driving as a whole AND can relish the enjoyment of driving itself (rather than worrying about the mechanics of getting the car to move!)!

    1. Yeah! I love that phrase too! Thanks for picking it out Marsha.
      As to your question about paper preparation, it’s a popular one and I’ll ask Loriann if she would go into it a bit.

  3. Enjoyed Loriann’s work with all the bright colors. Hoping to return to that again. But, lately I’m trying to combine soft and oil pastels.

    1. Thanks for popping by Norman. I take it you mean you are hoping to return to using bright colours again?
      I’m intrigued by your process of using soft and oil pastels together!

  4. I LOVE her gorgeous and luminous colors and the dream-like, veiled landscapes. What an inspiration! Thanks Gail, for introducing her to us! (And yes, I would also like to hear about the paper preparation).

  5. Hi Gail,
    I think the luminosity and the nothingness of the strokes are amazing and what colour….. The sheerness of the effects of the lovely bold yet somehow transparent colours is awesome

  6. OMG!!! There are no words (at least I can’t find any). This takes my breath away. This is the essence of painting itself. No details, just such an atmosphere. Such daring to go “out of the box” take risks–and the result is over the top amazing. Thank you Gail for bringing this to us.
    Nancy Malard

    1. Nancy!!! Thank you for your bubbling up expression of delight, barely contained!! And thank you for making the attempt to express, in words, how you feel about Loriann’s work. Such enthusiasm keeps me going!!

  7. Beautiful ethereal creations…. Loriann brings the heart of her subjects into view. Light and lovely. I love her statement, “The longer I paint, the more I don’t want to know “how” to do something.”

  8. I love the luminosity she gets. Must have something to do with how she prepares her paper. “I paint in order to quiet myself into the “not-knowing” and hopefully discover something I didn’t know. I feel that as artists we need to be comfortable with the state of constant change. Predictability is a killer of excitement.’
    Such an exceptional concept! Her work is stunning, ethereal, colorful & so unlike any other pastel painters I’ve seen. Thank you Gail!

    1. Patti you are so welcome. And thank you for sharing your thoughts and pointing to a specific statement Loriann makes that resonates with you! You are right – predictability (and I’d say, formula) is the killer of excitement and, I’ll add, evolution as an artist!

  9. Beautiful writing…beautiful painting…they all come together to create an exceptionally beautiful whole. Thank you for the inspiration! Sharron

  10. Lovely thoughts..I recently started pastel exploration after 30 plus years as a watercolorist…just for that move out of my comfort zone..Love to know how she prepares her papers as that adds to the surprises.

    1. Welcome to soft pastels Susan and I’m glad you found HowToPastel to help you along your journey! Loriann answers the question about paper prep in detail below 😁

  11. Gail I write faster than I think, hence this second shot.
    You have invited many great artists, but this one takes art into a new dimension. We are beyond the mere representation, however well done it may be; we enter the realm of the soul. I doubt many artists reach this point of perfection from the start, and I am wondering how many years it took her to peel off the non-essential, hone her technique, and put it into the expression of what she feels. The point where she could say “Yes. This is it.” Here we have creativity at its finest.
    Once again, thank you for bringing her to us.

    1. Thanks for this second shot Nancy because it’s fabulous! I love your realisation about where Loriann’s work is at – “We enter the realm of the soul.”

      I will put the question regarding time to Loriann.

  12. Online I found this article by Richard McKinley on Loriann’s work. In it she talks about how she uses 300lb hot press watercolor paper, sandpaper and pastel glazes.

    Thanks for your wonderful interviews with fabulous pastel artists!


  13. Hello fellow artists and explorers!

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments and thank you Gail for allowing me to chat about my ideas.
    It seems that most folks had the same question- how do I prepare the surface of my support?
    First, I start with gator board, multimedia art board or Uart. Depending on need I will add layers of gesso, clear and/or white, usually mixed with marble dust or fine pumice (sometimes even glue or gel). That is just the start. Often times these layers are repeated- totally eliminating the painting thus far. I often use a profusion of fixative in the bottom layers. Nothing is precious. So I keep bringing it back to ether and allow it once again to reveal itself. It’s truly about the discovery, not the finished product. I think the most important part for me is to stay in the “wondering state.” Philip Guston (1913- 1980) said, “There is some mysterious process at work here, which I don’t even want to understand.” I am with him on that. 🙂
    I hope that answers your question. I am happy to answer them.
    The Winter issue of Pastel Journal will have an article about my work. Feel free to check that out.

    1. Loriann, thanks so much for your detailed explanation about how you prepare your surface. I know everyone will appreciate it!
      Fascinating that you may add another gesso layer on top of what’s already there.
      And yeah, GREAT quote!!

  14. I like Loriann’s work. Ironically I have a loose version of hydrangeas on my easel at the moment. I have been working on it for a while. She has captured what I am feeling about my painting in her piece. Capturing the essence. She has given me some inspiration on some aspects of my piece. I like her lights and colour choices in all the work she showed in the blog. Can’t wait to get back to the easel to finish my piece!

  15. Just WoW Gail! Change and risk and “approaching the old with new eyes”! I never liked change nor risk and now I feel its a gamble each day to approach the new with old eyes! I feel like everythings new and desire to risk and chance but with old eyes awaiting on 2 more scheduled surgeries. Loriann has an innate sense of color and simplicity…even tho its evident she is dedicated to the techniques of preparing her surfaces. Her journey is inspiring mine and she was very generous to share the details of her preparations. I guess it boils down to for me anyway, just sticking my neck out and not giving a hoot what transpires. Plan to stay in play mode, and be happy in the process.

    1. I’m glad this was a WOW for you Brenda!! It sure will be interesting how things will be/look after your eye ops.

      And yes, it’s just like you say – “ boils down … just sticking [your] neck out and not giving a hoot what transpires. Plan to stay in play mode, and be happy in the process.” (You may want to write that in your studio space or over your easel where you can see it!!!) You got it girl!!

  16. “Given this, it might seem strange that I paint landscapes and still-lifes. It has all been done before.
    This motif isn’t avant-garde in any way. To me, the pleasure is in the risk-taking”

    I appreciate this statement!
    Recently I have been discouraged about doing plein air landscape paintings as there are so many who do it brilliantly and capture a scene perfectly in my mind. I am a good draftsman and can capture a moment BUT to go beyond that is the challenge. I am not an abstract painter, but that said I am trying to capture the most elite of effects: light! That is abstract enough. Loriann has managed to capture light thru vibrant color and let go of form. I wish I could do that. But perhaps that is the only way into not looking like every other painter “in the wild”. One’s style can get in the way of letting loose….it is an awkward transition and full of failure. I am not sure I can get to the other side but I truly wish I could or I just might completely lose my mojo to do plein air pastel painting altogether. Personal style can be the enemy of adventure. Thank you Loriann for your beautiful paintings and your insights!

    1. Leslie, thank you for sharing the struggles you are facing painting en plein air. When we work on location, there’s so much to consider and deal with. For me, I take painting on location as an experience of time as well as a painting opportunity. So I am glad to be painting, to be in the process, no matter what the outcome. And sometimes we end with something we like! And everything else is about learning and being.

      If you want to work towards looseness in your painting, you may want to consider working for a very short time. (Check out one of my blogs on doing that HERE.) Also, work small. And fast. Tape your paper to get two, three, four small pieces from it.

      Your style is evolving as you move towards different aspects of yourself. So try not to beat yourself up. Your voice grows and moves and is YOU!

  17. Inspiring to say the least! I have always felt that the process is the most fun, especially when it changes. In the case of creating art change is good! Like a lot of other comments, I too would love to hear more about the prepared surface that Loriann uses. Thank you! Susan

    1. Glad to hear you are inspired Susan! Loriann did give us a bit more info on the prepared surface in the comments. Have a scroll down near the end.

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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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