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As an art student I had enjoyed using oil pastel, although the quality available to me at the time was poor and I tended to use it only for sketching. In and around 2008 I was struck by the work of George Shipperley, an Aurora, Illinois, artist who had taken the art of oil pastel to a new level. I was particularly excited by how oil pastels could be layered leaving specs of color from a previous layer that created a feast for the eye. The power and interaction of color that Johannes Itten had written about in his book The Art of Color published in 1961 was all possible with oil pastels, I could not wait to try this improved medium.
Color had always excited me especially after a childhood illness had damaged my eyesight. At one point everything looked grey and washed out, but after a second surgery in 1985 my ability to see color was restored in full glory. Which is why the color intensity of oil pastels particularly caught my attention, the possibilities they opened for my own body of work seemed endless. I could hardly contain my enthusiasm as ideas for many new paintings popped into my head. So I took a class with George and learnt all about Holbein and Sennelier brands of oil pastels, scratching and scoring the substrate, using Liquin to emulsify the pastel, how to layer, blend and burnish, and to scrape the surface of my work with a razor.
I spent many frustrating hours working with this medium and eventually mastered these new techniques and discovered many more, most importantly for me I learnt patience. Oil pastels cannot be rushed, these layers need time to cure and harden between applications. So I was forced to have a number of paintings on the go at one time. During the curing process I would often sit, contemplate and evaluate what I was doing and think about my own style of working and subject matter. Oil pastels have made me a better artist and have allowed my style to develop. I am still excited and amazed by the possibilities they offer, and I look forward to years of discovery and growth with this medium. I will be forever grateful to George Shipperley for sharing his oil pastel knowledge, encouraging me to be bold and pioneering with my work, and for being such a generous mentor along with David Hettinger and Dreama Kattenbracker who have always encouraged me to be myself.