Creating Emphasis
International Artist|August - September 2021
Working from dark to light colors, Pamela Hamilton’s pastel paintings feature the smallest and brightest marks at the focal point
Pamela Hamilton

January Thaw, pastels, 10 x 8 (25 x 20 cm)

In January of 2020, we had an unseasonably warm New Year’s Day meeting most of December’s snow. My husband and I booted up and went for a winter walk through a nearby forest preserve where I stopped to take photos of the brilliant blue sky reflecting into the pools of melting snow. I exaggerated the orange in the background trees to complement the strong blue in the foreground and used small abstract marks in various shades directly below the brightest snow to create visual interest.

The twists and turns of my life and career shaped my perspective and technique. As a toddler, I painted the side of my father’s car with house paint and would stick my hands in my mom’s plants and use the soil to paint the walls. I did my first oil painting when I was 14, on my own, with no instruction, using a Sears catalog art supply kit.

At age 18, I attended Chicago’s School of the Art Institute for a year, then left to marry and start a family. Three kids and a divorce later, I returned to school to study graphic design while working several jobs. Eventually, I became art director for a national magazine, mastering production and design. My experiences in life came together in 2012 when I made the leap of faith decision to pursue art full time.

I’ve dabbled in many different mediums but have settled on pastels. I love their vibrancy, portability, and versatility. Sometimes I work quickly and can complete a small pastel painting in a few hours. Other times, I start a piece and work on it off and on for weeks—that’s part of the beauty of pastels—there is no paint or paint mediums drying on a brush if left untouched. That’s not to say I don’t dabble with wet mediums. I love to experiment with different underpainting techniques. I apply anything from watercolor to acrylic inks to alcohol washes. When it comes to composing a piece, my iPhone is my trusted companion, allowing me to capture a scene or idea anytime and anyplace. Living in northern Illinois, the weather is unpredictable and often inclement. I love to paint the landscape from life, but most of the year it’s not feasible. This is where I enlist the photo gallery on my phone to search for photos that speak to me. Then, using the editing tools, I crop and alter images to create a pleasing composition.

Woodside Lake Park, pastels, 24 x 24 (60 x 60 cm) This is an autumnal scene painted from a photo I took while camping near Cleveland, Ohio. I painted it on a piece of Masonite that I primed with pumice gel. I love the textural effect this technique creates. The painting process is basically the same, except I use a generous amount of Sennelier Latour Fixative to better adhere the pastels to the board between layers. I find this surface especially suitable for tree foliage, suggesting movement and sparkle in the trees.

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