A life-changing medical diagnosis inspired artist Carol Strock Wasson to launch an artistic career creating dramatic pastel landscapes. See more by visiting her website.
Art is very much like life—a journey with twists and turns in unexpected ways causing you to end up in the place you thought you would never go.
I never intended to be an artist; after all, as my parents said, “How can you support yourself?” I was happily attending college following a career path towards Chemical Engineering when I suddenly became very ill and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
With that twist in the road, my life changed dramatically and my “artistic self” took over. I feel fortunate to still be painting after living with diabetes for forty-five years.
Growth for an artist is a slow process that takes many years of learning and developing. I first started painting plein air before it was popular and I would often be out by myself along the side of the road. The experience taught me about color, value, shape and design.
Most of all, however, it taught me about light—specifically, how to capture and express the feel of it. Being out in the open air seeing, hearing and painting the color of the light made me feel a part of landscape, as if I belonged in this world. My paintings are deeply rooted in the environment and reflect the rural area I live in.
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My typical process begins with small plein air color notes—simply notes of color that capture the feel of the light. I have found that pastel is the perfect medium for this process.
In the studio I like to do larger paintings based more on composition and design. I do not try to copy the plein air sketch, but I use it as a starting point.
Although I paint with oil, I primarily work with pastel as I find it is the best medium for me to work with. It is versatile and allows me the ability to adapt it to and use it with any underpainting or overpainting I choose; whether watercolor, oil, acrylic, monoprint or collage. It is a medium with endless possibilities.
People often confuse pastels with chalk—that is a grave word to say to a pastelist. Saying chalk to me will usually get you the pastel speech, “Pastel is pure pigment held together with a binder; you cannot get any purer than that. Pastel will never crack or fade. Pastels painted in the 17th century are still as fresh as the day they were painted.”
Many people think that pastel is delicate and dainty—not in my world! I use brayers, sticks, razors, brushes, and anything I can think to use when painting with pastel—it has never disappointed me. My artistic journey has taken me to many places. It’s funny to think that it all started with diabetes!
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