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Creating a world of distinctive landscapes

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Photo by Don Benjamin As afternoon sunlight streams in to her Cedaredge studio, Ginny Wise works on a pastel landscape while the large oil painting on the easel behind her awaits completion.

Looking back to the moment when she first realized she could make it as an artist, Ginny Wise recalled that she had been taking art classes for five years before she framed something and put it in a local show. She won a prize and sold the drawing and she remembered saying to herself, "So -- I can do this!"

Unlike artists who always knew visual art would be their avocation, Ginny studied music at Pennsylvania's Mansfield University and it was some time before her talented fingers would migrate from the key-works of a clarinet to the pastels she now uses to create her distinctive landscapes. After college, Ginny and her husband Jeff were living in Pennsylvania and raising a son and a daughter. Jeff was teaching music at the middle school in Red Lion -- his home town -- and Ginny was keeping track of the children and operating a bookkeeping and accounting service when, at age 32, she began looking for a "just me" activity.

First she tried a watercolor class but found she didn't care for the medium. Then she bought a little box of a dozen pastels and she was hooked. "And it's been pastels ever since," she smiled as she gazed at the works lining the walls of her sunlit studio.

Ginny spends hours working in her studio. Artistic work is a highly personal endeavor but she has consistently found value in networking with other artists. In Pennsylvania she and seven other women formed a critique group that met once a month to share and discuss their work. Eventually the group sought out venues, sent out invitations and mounted art shows. Christened the "Third Tuesday" for their monthly meeting day, the group is still active.

The continuing "Tuesday" group is just one lasting impression that Ginny left in Pennsylvania before relocating to the Western Slope because her work back east also included a stint as a mural assistant. "I stood way up on scaffolding laying in color on a brick wall while the artist stood below guiding my work," she recalled. The two-story-high, 832-square-foot "Farm to Market" mural she helped create can still be seen in York, Pa., directly across from the city's central market.

Attracted by Colorado's scenery, Ginny and Jeff came to Cedaredge in 2011. And four years later -- given her background of collaborating with other artists -- it seemed only natural that she would become involved in the beginning stages of a local cooperative artists' gallery. That gallery became a reality in December 2015 when Grand Mesa Impressionz, Inc. opened its doors in downtown Cedaredge. In Impressionz's early days Ginny served on the board and also co-coordinated the gallery with Gretchen Atkinson. (It was Atkinson and Lindy Palmer who first conceived the idea for the gallery when they worked for the Cedaredge Area Chamber of Commerce.)

Later, desiring to return to her studio work and feeling that Impressionz was ready for new ideas, Ginny left the board and stepped down from her coordinator role. But she continues to support the gallery and she just finished a show at Impressionz as featured artist for the month of November.

Nowadays Ginny has returned to her studio and her love affair with pastels. "However," Ginny confessed as she freed a canvas from a stack of works in progress and mounted the large oil painting on an easel, "You can see that I'm just beginning to branch out."

Experimenting with oils, she first produced a set of still life paintings. It was a risk because, as she explains, "with pastels I know when a work is finished; with oils I have to ask myself, 'Am I done or should I do more?' " The small oil paintings were her first attempts but, when one sold, she gained the confidence to try larger canvases and also to leave her studio and go out into the field and paint, as the French say, "en plein air," in the open air.

To work out of doors means to go outside, set up an easel, fight the wind and weather, battle with insects, and deal with shifting light to paint Mother Nature on her own terms. Ginny prefers to paint outdoors in the early morning (when light is diffused) or in the evening (when long shadows emerge). She has tried plein air painting with both pastels and oils and has sought to capture true colors as well as "pushing" colors to more abstract levels. She has participated in Moab and Escalante Plein Air Festivals and is excited to keep expanding her craft.

Asked to recall the high points of her career, Ginny lists three. She was once invited to be a featured artist at the Philadelphia Art Museum's Sales Gallery. And a few years ago one of her landscapes achieved an honorable mention as one of the best 100 pastels selected by the prestigious artists' trade magazine, The Pastel Journal. Two years ago, she went to Italy for a plein air workshop in Tuscany. The presenter was Boulder/Evergreen artist Elizabeth Mowrey, a prolific artist and author and a master member of the Pastel Society of America. Ginny began to describe the Italian workshop and then she stopped with a laugh, "Imagine that," she smiled, "I went all the way to Italy to take a workshop from someone who lives right here in Colorado."

For more information regarding Ginny and her work, contact her by email: vlwpastel@aol.com.

Photo by Don Benjamin Artist Ginny Wise in her Cedaredge studio
Photo by Don Benjamin An 11x14-inch plein air painting reflecting natural color.
Photo by Don Benjamin Colorful pastels are the tools of Ginny’s trade.
Photo by Don Benjamin An 18x7-inch plein air painting with vibrant colors that reinterpret reality.
Photo by Don Benjamin Adding finishing touches to a pastel work in progress.
Photo by Don Benjamin This 2x4-foot work is one of Ginny’s largest experiments with oil painting.
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