Luminous Landscapes in Pastel | Meet an Artist with a Passion for Light

Loriann Signori is an artist friend of mine who brings an unbridled amount of energy and passion to her pastel and oil landscape paintings. A self-described painter of luminosity, Loriann divides her time between studying the landscape with small plein air paintings that provide color notes and interpreting them back in the studio for her larger paintings. Landscape may be her chosen genre, but she says it is not why she paints. It is about color and feeling. “Color is my tool, my love, and my nemesis as I attempt to paint the beauty of the ordinary,” she says.

Subtle Grandeur (pastel) by Loriann Signori


The Possibilities of Color: Having the chance to interact with artists over a long period of time, as I have with Loriann, is a gift. It provides a window into their working habits and a better feeling for what motivates them to paint. Loriann and I first painted together seven years ago and have reconnected every year since. This has allowed me to witness the depth of her artistic growth first-hand. Her motivation to capture the essence of light finds her up before sunrise; often having painted two studies before the rest of us in our painting group have set up our easels. Her plein air break occurs midday when the light is flat. Evenings find her hard at work again.

When she is back in the studio following one of these plein air outings, she develops more small color studies that are offshoots from the original paintings. As she describes it, “These new pieces work to help me understand the possibilities of color. Like a writer composing a poem, the colors are my words, and when I rearrange these words I hear/see a different experience.” The plein air and studio studies become the foundation–a starting point for her studio work. Instead of recording a place, she wants to communicate the poetic essence of the landscape through color luminosity. Pastel and oil provide the perfect media for this translation, allowing her to start with an underpainting that establishes a foundation for subsequent thin layers of pigment. Additional scraping, rubbing or sanding of the painting surface may be utilized to heighten the appearance of translucency.

Pastel Painting Techniques for Luminous Effects: Loriann has experimented with most pastel brands but has recently gravitated to using the softest sticks, such as Terry Ludwig Pastels. This is in part due to a technique she developed that utilizes 300 lb. hot-press watercolor paper as her pastel surface. She roughens the paper with sandpaper to open surface tooth and rubs pastel in as an underpainting. She then drifts layers of pastels, similar to how an oil painter glazes, to create luminous effects. Additional scrubbing with sandpaper can be done to expose under-tones of color or to correct a passage.

Dusk on the Bridge (pastel) by Loriann Signori

Listening to the Painting: By frequently returning to a location and working in series around a theme, Loriann has developed a pastel painting style that is deeply rooted in discipline and dedication to craft. Her secret, though, lies in this statement, “I find that after all my planning I must always surrender some measure of control and pursue the unanticipated. The painting speaks and I respond.”

For more information on Loriann’s work, please visit:


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