Pastel Pointers | Artists and Their Public

Twilight is an interesting time of day to paint. It lasts for only a short amount of time. When not finessed properly, it can become cliché, looking more like a postcard than a fine art painting. Not being a person that has been drawn to painting this specific time of day, I found it especially challenging. The impetus for the painting, As the Night Music Began, shown here, which was the second painting in a series done from a vantage point on a hillside overlooking the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon, was the Britt Music Festival of Jacksonville, Oregon.



Peter Britt had been a pioneer photographer of the gold rush town of Jacksonville. He was a renaissance man who photographed Crater Lake for the first time, which eventually became a National Park, and ultimately built a Victorian home surrounded by elaborate gardens on a hillside overlooking the town of Jacksonville. After a devastating fire claimed the house, the land remained unused until it was converted into an open-air music festival. First as a venue for a month long community based classical music festival, it has subsequently developed into a world-class music and performing arts venue that draws performers and audiences from around the world with performances throughout the summer.

When first approached by the Britt Music Festival board of directors to do a pastel painting for use as a music poster image, I instantly knew what I wanted to do. With their permission, I was granted access to the grounds for several evenings so that I could do a plein air painting depicting the view from the hillside during the same time period as the performances usually began. That plein air painting lead to two studio renditions, the one pictured here. and a slightly larger painting of the same view with hints of structures peaking through the foreground trees. When it came time for the board to select the painting, I gave them the option of any of the three. While they commented that any one would have been acceptable, they choose the painting with the hints of buildings showing through the trees. When I inquired as to why, their response was that everyone would recognize the structures, making it the most desirable.

While I liked all three of the paintings, otherwise I would not have offered them for consideration, it was As the Night Music Began (14×16, studio pastel on a homemade surface) that I felt best captured the lighting and mood of twilight as it fell across the valley and over the volcanic Mount McLoughilin to the east. The lesson I came away with is one we all need to remember: The majority of the public buys artwork for subject matter. Most artists, on the other hand, look beyond the objects portrayed to that elusive something that makes it art.




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