John Vistaunet 3

Stepping In (pastel, 36×24)
by John Vistaunet was a finalist in the Portrait/Figure category of the 23rd Annual Art Competition.

Background in art: “I started drawing as a kid. Two years of high school art classes made me think of it as art. I received my first oil paints as a sophomore. After two quarters (c. 1969) as an art major in college, I moved away from representational into abstract work. Then I dropped out of college. I continued on my own, pursuing both abstract and representational/photorealist work, and painted off-and-on over the years. Any technique involved is being constantly learned (and forgotten and relearned) as I go.”

Medium and genres: “I work in both oils and pastel, with a focus on figures, primarily nudes. I’ve never done a painting I ‘knew’ how to do, and there is no set process; the specifics vary a great deal from one painting to the next. Although I go to life drawing sessions, I’m primarily a studio painter. I work from a combination of photo references (taken without regard to ‘background’ either in my studio or, weather permitting, outdoors), actual objects and imagination. Strong and interesting poses are the starting point from which a painting develops. Elements are added, altered or deleted, and the composition is worked out and mocked up in Photoshop before cutting paper or stretching canvas.""

"I use as wide a variety of pastels as I can afford and logistically manage. The oil palette varies with what I’m working on, and I continue to experiment. I like La Carte paper, but have begun using Wallis museum paper to allow use of water media, specifically gouache for the white border, as I did for the first time in Stepping In."

Difficulties with this painting: “I knew blending the sky would be messy so I did it first. It got so out of hand, the original drawing was obliterated and nearly the entire paper surface covered by blue chalk. I thought I’d have to throw it out and start over, but managed to scrub off enough excess chalk to redraw and complete it. My favorite part? Probably the color variety in the ‘white’ dress.”

What inspired this painting: “The initial inspiration for Stepping In came from the model during an outdoor photo session in which she suggested that she could pretend to be stepping into a pond or something and I could just make up the pond later. I opted to skip the imaginary pond and present a more ambiguous situation in which she is stepping into the viewer’s space and the viewer gets to make up the rest of the story.”

To see more of Vistaunet’s work, visit

You may also like these articles: