Lucy Cobos’ pastel work is all sky, limitless.
Portrait of Rachel Pressley

Lucy Cobos graduated with honors from the New England School of Photography and helped establish the first photography department at an NBC-TV affiliate station in Boston. A decade later, she opened her own studio and pursued photography for another 25 years. But as Cobos puts it, “time flew by with the click of a shutter,” and in 2015 she and her husband moved from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Asheville. Eager to try something new, Cobos moved away from photography to become a painter, despite having no previous experience.

barn on wheelbarrows

How did you take the leap?

I had always wanted to paint, so I took a class from Asheville artist Bob Travers, a phenomenal realist wildlife painter, and his advice was, “Paint what you love and the rest will follow.” I love photography and have a library full of photos, so I started painting from those images, and it translated very well into his oil painting lessons. As I gained a better understanding of color values, I started using pastels. I took Bob’s lessons for two years, then a wonderful encaustic lesson with Erin Keane. They are the two most influential artists who have marked my journey here.

Sounds like your move changed your life.

In Asheville, I can learn or try anything – this diverse and wonderful artistic community is like a fine arts school; it’s incredible. I’m a kid in a candy store and I can’t start my day without doing something creative. I feel like I haven’t had my cup of coffee unless I turn on the heat palette [for encaustic work] or break the pastel crayons. I have a lot of growth ahead of me, but if you keep looking, you keep growing.

Glory to

The word pastel usually conjures images of colored Easter eggs, but you use them in black and white.

This is my training in black and white photography. For me, black and white elicits a deep emotional response, and I wanted strong lines and contrast to draw the viewer in and keep them engaged, without the distraction of color – just to a raw state. I used to have thousands of colors of pencils and sticks. Now I only have a handful.

I don’t know of others using pastels like you do.

I think galleries and museums are increasingly accepting pastel as a medium. I love watching people examine them. They are hypnotized. They’ll turn to me and say, “I thought that was a photograph.

At the top

And your encaustics?

In between determining my next big pastel project, I’ll be diving into encaustic. They are my playtime, my recreation, and anything goes. It’s fun to play with a heat gun, torch, and scrapers, and there are some happy accidents. I am currently doing a series with trees. I love the shape of trees in winter when they’re not all decorated with leaves. I think they have more personality.

Do you still sell photographs?

One of my favorite projects was for an advertising agency in Boston, photographing jazz musicians for the Berklee College of Music. They were elite Berklee teachers and Grammy-winning artists – the “Who’s Who” of Boston musicians. I still have people contacting me to buy them.

Lucy Cobos, Asheville, and on Instagram: Cobos’ work is exhibited in the River Arts District at Pink Dog Creative (344 Depot St. Suite 101, and Marquee (36 Foundy St.,


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