“Do you have to go?”, Tobi Clement, pastel on paper, 11 × 14 inches. (Courtesy of Millicent Rogers Museum)

Pastel is the only art form that combines painting and drawing.

These stick mixtures of powdered pigment and binder can produce designs as well as oil-like paintings.

The Millicent Rogers Museum hosts the 30th Annual National Exhibition of Pastel Paintings through September 21. The exhibition features 116 paintings, 66 of which are on view at the museum, and the entirety is available online at pastelsnm.org. Works include landscapes, portraits, imagined scenes and more.

Although the majority of artists come from New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Texas, some international artists come from as far away as China.

“This is one of the most renowned national exhibits in the country,” said exhibit chair and exhibiting artist Nicholas Tesluk.

Most pastel artists cringe at the word “chalk,” a common confusion, he said.

“Chalk is made of gypsum. It has ephemeral colors. If you took powder paint from oil or watercolor, that’s exactly the same thing pastels are made of. You can get bright or subdued colors.

Albuquerque artist Sarah Blumenschein is a regular on the show. She has been working in pastel for twenty years.

“I have four children,” she explained. “I wanted to start painting and pastels are much easier than oils with children; you can just leave it.

She worked at Intel.

“I started in college majoring in art, but switched to engineering because I was worried about not having a job,” she said.

After giving birth to her third child, she stopped working and started taking pastel workshops.

His piece “Sunflowers on My Rock Wall” began with a photograph.

“I do a lot of flowers,” she says, “and especially sunflowers. They are so happy.

“I was getting tired of putting something up in my studio, so I thought I’d take it out. It was the sunflowers and sunshine idea.

Blumenschein also exhibits his work at the Weems Gallery. In September, she will participate in the Pastel Society of America exhibition in New York.

In “Master Artisans”, Tesluk captured a bowl of intricately decorated Ukrainian eggs.

“I’ve been an artist for 30 years,” said the Edgewood artist. “I started in oil. In the 90s, I switched to pastel. With oil paint, you should expect it to dry in the dark. With pastels, it’s exactly the same” he started.

He painted the eggs as a tribute to his Ukrainian grandmother, who brought them for Easter celebrations.

“It’s part of my heritage,” he said. “I thought I could only imitate what these artists do. Many of them are made by peasant women.

Marilyn Drake graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and owned her own graphic design business.

“I’ve always done art or something art-related,” the Albuquerque resident said.

After moving to New Mexico in 1994, Drake continued her graphic design work but felt drawn to fine art. She opted for pastels because they were quick.

“I just fell in love with working with pastel,” she said. “I love the combination of being able to draw and paint simultaneously.”

The sailor portrait “He saw the sea” emerged from a weekly drawing group.

“He had been in the US Navy and he came in his sailor suit, his uniform,” Drake said. “I love the sailor hat and scarf.”

Drake also creates plein air (exterior) landscapes.

“I hadn’t drawn characters since I was in school majoring in fashion illustration and advertising design,” she said.

Drake is a signature member of the Pastel Society of New Mexico, which means she has accrued points by being accepted into national exhibitions. She has shown her work in the Masterworks New Mexico exhibition, the New Mexico Art League, and the New Mexico State Fair.


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