While she typically works with oil paints, Penn Township artist Rita Haldeman found herself drawn to soft pastels, made up of pigments, water and a small amount of chalk or of artificial binder.

“Pastels have the most beautiful luminosity and vibrant color,” she said. “They create new colors in a different way, laying the color down with pastel sticks on textured paper.”

One of Haldeman’s pieces, “Acadia,” is on display through April 8 at the Pittsburgh Pastel Artists League’s “Pure Color” exhibit at the North Hills Art Center.

Haldeman began painting as a child and earned an art degree in the 1970s at Penn State. She has worked as a graphic designer and for the past two decades has worked with the Artists in Residence Program at Southern Alleghenies Art Museums.

“Acadia” represents Haldeman’s love of traveling to New England, where she experimented with “en plein air” painting, creating natural landscapes with the added challenge of constantly changing sunlight and shade.

“I went to Maine with some art league friends, where we painted outdoors as much as we could,” Haldeman said. “These members really inspire me and teach me. As we paint the same landscape or seascape next to each other, it’s fascinating to see how different each final work is.

Haldeman got this inspiration from watching the young Southern Alleghenies summer camp students she taught.

“I make sure we go out every day and do little pastel sky studies,” she said. “We don’t take for granted that the sky is blue, the clouds are white. What are the shades of blue there?

Haldeman said his young students were excited to learn.

“I tell them to have fun and use their imaginations,” she said. “I’m always amazed at the solutions they come up with.”

The “Pure Color” exhibition will include Haldeman and 24 other member artists showing more than 60 works, with subjects ranging from portraiture to animals to landscapes and more.

And while she enjoys sharing her work, Haldeman said teaching art and inspiring creativity is what she enjoys most.

“Helping someone look at something in a different way or taking the time to try something new is always a good thing,” she said.

The North Hills Art Center is located at 3432 Babcock Blvd., Ross Township. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more on Haldeman’s art, see RitaHaldeman.com.

Patrick Varine is an editor at Tribune-Review. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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