Arts & Culture

Morro Bay artist wins best of show in Pastel USA 2014

Diann Johnston’s pastel painting of a tangled pile of beach kelp has a photorealistic quality to it.
Diann Johnston’s pastel painting of a tangled pile of beach kelp has a photorealistic quality to it.

An international pastel art exhibit in Morro Bay — Pastel USA 2014 — has drawn more than 400 submissions from as far away as Spain. Only about 100 were selected for hanging.

What’s most notable, however, is that the Pastel Society of the West Coast, which is hosting this open juried exhibit, selected one work as best of show, one artist whose style and skill rose above the rest, and the artist selected was the Central Coast’s own Diann Johnston.

“A ... wonderful surprise for us is that a Morro Bay artist has won best of show,” said Flo Bartell of the Morro Bay Art Association. “Her piece is spectacular.”

Johnston’s pastel painting is photorealistic but with a soft quality that blends blues, browns, oranges and blacks into a slithering pile of beached kelp.

Another local exhibit worth seeing — this one featuring thick oils — is the vibrant modern impressionist art of Erin Hanson at Paso Robles’ Studios on the Park. Her landscapes have chunky textures filled with unexpected colors — lavender trees and pumpkin-orange fields. She says she is inspired by her love of the outdoors.

“Rock-climbing brought me back to my artist roots, and my love for the outdoors is boldly expressed in my oils,” Hanson wrote in her artist’s statement. “Some might consider the desert to be drab and colorless with white granite rocks and scraggly trees, but I love to capture the moments when early-morning light peeks through and lights everything up in sherbets, lavenders and ice cream colors. I want others to experience the drama and excitement of the landscape like I do.”

When Hanson left the desert and landed in Southern California, she found herself captivated by the Central Coast.

In February, in a question-andanswer on California Desert Art’s website, she said, “When I moved back to Southern California and experienced the rolling hills of Paso Robles, I was immediately grabbed by the entirely different landscape and color scheme I spent a week driving around the back country roads between Paso Robles and Cambria, taking thousands of photos of oak trees, hill shadows, and curving horizon lines. When I returned home ready to paint, I naturally applied everything I had learned painting rocks and desert buttes to painting oak trees and rolling hills. I treat an oak like a rather fluffy rock, but with the same angular planes and sharp contrasts”

Hanson’s show is her third at Studios on the Park and contains 30 pieces.

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