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Thank you Jan Thomas for this excellent interview and introduction to members of the Pastel Society of the West Coast, which I recently joined while attending #PACE15, the Plein Air Convention in Monterey, CA. As it is only available by email, I am republishing the interview here, with Jan’s permission. I’ve added information about the Pastel Society from their website at the end .

Featured Artist: Marsha Connell.
The Pastel Society of the West Coast, E-Blast

Across from Mendocino Art Center, I dream of what might take place in these studios . . . the camera would show them in their richly dark brown grey wood.

 Featured Artist

 Marsha Connell

My paintings are about the spirit of place. Painting on location, en plein air,
 I observe the place: mood, shapes, color, and spatial relationships.
 I reflect on how the sense of place affects my own interior landscape.
 I am attentive to nuances of color and value, but do not require fidelity to local color; expressive color often feels more true. Watching, listening, trusting intuition and gesture, infuse my painterly representation with an abstract sensibility.
–Marsha Connell

Taking back roads to Occidental, I was smitten with a hillside of wildflowers and waving grasses, changing colors and shapes in the wind, like rising and falling music.

When looking at one of Marsha Connell’s expressionist paintings, in both pastel and oil, one can almost see the dancer that she is moving across the surface leaving behind rhythmic nuances of gesture and color.

A plein air painter, Marsha developed a deep connection to the land as a child. Her grandfather, Samuel Riss, a farmer in upstate New York, was also an artist who influenced Marsha’s love of drawing and encouraged her to pursue her craft with diligence and courage. Today, she has shelves of sketchbooks saved from years of sketching outdoors, filled with energetic drawings of landscapes. She says these drawings are dialogs with nature, creating an attachment to the living world, and birthing paintings that portray mood and feeling. Her plein air forays always include sufficient time to roam and to do as many sketches as necessary to get a sense of connection with a place. When she begins to paint, this energy is translated directly to her surface; rarely does she start with an initial drawing. Instead, she relishes the immediacy of putting pigment to paper with a “get it before it’s gone” intensity. Her colors are “responsive to nature”, but she relies on intuition to provide what she feels the painting needs.

Marsha’s first and ongoing love in painting is pastel, for its natural connection to drawing, the immediacy of pure color, the shimmer of its layering, and the convenience of carrying into the landscape. Her natural voice in pastel comes through in her oil and watercolor paintings, especially in the soft edges, visible brush strokes like drawing, and scumbled color over color.

A mile hike to an overlook of Mendocino's Big River distilled on the spot and in memory in the studio to this shimmering many layered pastel.

Marsha is a long-time Adjunct Professor of Art at Santa Rosa Junior College and also teaches workshops throughout the year. Her goals as a teacher are to offer people tools and working processes that give them comfort and confidence to explore and create with joy. She supports people in finding their own context and path and their authenticity as artists. While she is happy to demonstrate technique and supplies, she also offers a broader artistic scope, introducing students to the work of other artists, current and past, and inviting dialog that stimulates creativity and expression. She encourages students to take advantage of the workshop setting to try new things, to approach many subjects courageously, and to allow their paintings to be unfinished works in progress.

Connell_Pastel_1_L9K1438E-Mail                               River Passage, 16″ x 20″ – Pastel

Artists at any level seeking to energize their work, or refine their artistic direction, or to simply learn how to use pastels, will want to checkout “Lively Pastels: A Bridge Between Drawing and Painting,” a workshop that Marsha is offering in Mendocino, California, July 31 – August 2, 2015 at the Mendocino Art Center. A charming seaside village, Mendocino offers a wealth of inspiring painting venues: quaint cottages, lush gardens, dramatic bluffs and, of course, the ocean, all within walking distance of the Art Center. Marsha has led workshops and given presentations in many California venues, and also in Mexico, New Mexico, Oregon, New York, Tennessee, Alaska, and France. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group shows regionally and internationally. More information about the pastel workshop can be found at www.mendocinoartcenter.org/Summer15/Connell.html

I sit near cliff edges, awaiting moments of sudden illumination. What emerges on the page is a distillation of moments, and an invention, a response to an often fleeting rush of feeling and visual event.

Marsha will be a celebrity artist, and give pastel painting demonstrations, for the Mendocino Art Center’s Mendocino Open Paint Out, September 7-12, 2015.


 Submitted by Jan Thomas

Want to be a Featured Artist on the eBlast? In an effort to get to know you, PSWC will feature a member artist every month in the eBlast. If you would like to be the featured artist in the newsletter, submit your name, telephone number and a photo of your recent work to president@pwcs.ws You will be directed to the website, click on Contact.

Pastel Society of the West Coast
P.O. Box 4518 · Stockton, CA 95204-0518

Welcome to the Pastel Society of the West Coast

About Pastel Society of the West Coast

PSWC was organized in 1984 to promote pastel artists and the soft pastel medium.

We offer opportunities for pastel artists through “pastels only” exhibitions in

Highlighted itemMembership, International Open Shows
Highlighted itemInformative demonstrations by recognized pastel artists.

An emailed Newsletter for pastel artists is included with PSWC membership and all pastelists are invited to join. Pastel workshops, classes, exhibitions and pastel related editorial articles can be found in the newsletter.

PSWC members are from all around the US from New York to California.

The Pastel Society of the West Coast is incorporated as a non-profit organization. The PSWC is run completely by volunteer Board Members and others.

Pastel Society of the West Coast | 7251 Baldwin Dam Road | Folsom | CA | 95630