Last year, on April 4, 2013, we received the news of the death of artist, teacher, author and mentor Maggie Price (maggiepriceart.com) after a short yet courageous battle with cancer. A year later, we continue to miss Maggie, both as a friend and as an important advocate and teacher of pastel.
Fortunately, we can continue to be touched by Maggie through her paintings. And recently, Maggie’s husband, Bill Canright, shared with me his happy surprise to find 50 yet unseen paintings that Maggie had painted in workshop demonstrations over the years and never unveiled. Here, I’d like to share a few of those pastels as well as the story of discovery in Bill’s own words:
Before her cancer struck at the end of 2012, my wife and I were having a grand time doing as many as 10 pastel workshops—in and out of the country—each year. Maggie would always start a class with a demonstration, working for one hour to an hour-and-a-half on a piece of 16×20- or 18×24-inch pastel board. She would then spend the rest of the day working with students as needed. In the afternoons she would often find a few free minutes, now and then, to continue working on her demo painting. I would be busy working on my own painting, or helping students, paying no attention to what she was doing.
Maggie liked to end classes on time, so she would stop a few minutes before the end of class, wrap her demo in paper, and put it in one of the boxes that held the other blank boards. She always was a fast painter, and often, what she had just tucked away—without my notice—was a beautiful, finished landscape. These wrapped pieces would come home and get stored in an area for unfinished demos. Being at home for relatively short periods, I would be too busy to think about what we had done on the trip.
Maggie would occasionally tell me that she felt she was producing her best work while doing demos, because she didn’t have time to overthink her painting. We talked about offering fewer workshops in 2013, relaxing awhile, and then focusing on working with galleries and other marketing activities, but it was not to be. Maggie died in April of 2013, leaving me with too much grief, too much to do, and not much will to do it. But eventually, when I began to get back on my feet again, one of the first things I did was to begin unwrapping the stacks of what I thought were unfinished demo paintings. I was astonished to discover one pastel treasure after another. In all, I found 50 finished pastel paintings.
Once, back when Maggie was the Editor of The Pastel Journal, she interviewed an artist who worked with pastels on a smooth vellum surface. She asked him how he could do layering on that surface. “Oh, I don’t layer,” he said. “I just make the right mark in the right hue in the right place.” Our reaction was, “Why didn’t we think of that?” In this collection of unframed, mostly unnamed paintings, Maggie’s stunning use of color and assured mark-making show that she had achieved the level of confidence that we had once only joked about. —Bill Canright
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