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These 5 Pastel Paintings Will Take Your Breath Away

Take a look at the paintings that took the highest honors in the 22nd Annual Pastel 100 Competition

Our Boat by Javad Soleimanpour

As you encounter these award-winning paintings from this year’s Pastel 100 competition, you’ll note the impressive level of technical achievement. What quickly becomes apparent, however, is the presence of powerful expressive qualities, as well. Dramatic and heartwarming, intriguing and personal, these are images that become more enthralling the longer you spend looking.

Here, we celebrate the five top award-winners and their breathtaking work. See more of their stories, and the remaining 95 exceptional pastels, in the Spring 2021 issue of Pastel Journal. Altogether, these 100 works exemplify — in the most remarkable ways — not only what artists can achieve in the medium, but also how paintings can affect those of us who have the pleasure of viewing them. Enjoy!

Pastel Journal Founder’s Award in Memory of Maggie Price

Our Boat by Javad Soleimanpour

In his prizewinning pastel, Turkish artist Javad Soleimanpour combines all the right ingredients — strong composition, spectacular light, and delicious color — to serve up a glorious feast for the eyes. Our Boat presents a resplendently luminous scene in which a finely built sailboat sits at anchor in front of a grand and inviting villa.

For juror Tony Allain, the artist delivered successfully on all the necessary criteria for a winning painting; this includes solid draftsmanship and composition, effective communication and handling of color and light, and general skill in the medium. “The proportions and rendering of the boat holds our interest as we see the light bouncing off the structure and reflected in the water,” says Allain. “Our eyes then move on to the buildings and surrounding foliage where again the juxtaposition of color and light, as well as the muted hillside, create the perfect backdrop.”

“I believe that any artist who has a strong technique and is well-informed will express himself eventually. Each painting will be personal — and unique,” Soleimanpour says.

About the Artist

Javad Soleimanpour was born in Tebriz, Iran, in 1965 and is now a Turkish citizen living in Istanbul. His first exhibition was in 1978. Since 1998, the Seven Art Gallery, in Istanbul, has organized many exhibitions of his work. Currently president of the Pastel Society of Turkey, he’s an active teacher and promoter of the pastel medium. Among his many accomplishments, the artist was commissioned to paint all of the presidents of Turkey. These works are currently on display in the country’s presidential complex. Soleimanpour’s first success in the Pastel 100 came in 2009, when he took first place in the Landscape & Interior category.

Heart and Cuddle (pastel, 47 1/5 x 25 3/5) by ShiLei He

Pastel Journal Award of Excellence

Heart and Cuddle by ShiLei He

In Heart and Cuddle, ShiLei He’s rendering of a grandfather and grandson is an impressive technical achievement. But it’s the painting’s tender mood that captures and holds our attention.

“The message of faith and love is clear and captivating in this touching study of human relationships,” says Carol Peebles. The Portrait & Figure category juror admired the artist’s ability to evoke mood and emotional resonance. “The environment draws us in, compelling us to consider the ceremony and its suggestion of passage to the next generation,” Peebles says. “The muted palette lends itself well to the quiet mood, while the drawing and painting skills leave us with the convincing warmth of their embrace.”

The artist was especially pleased with the depth he was able to achieve in the textures of the figures’ hair and the mottled surface of the Buddha. If he were able to revisit this subject, however, he says he’d push himself to capture the texture of the clothing in greater detail.

“This work is about affection, belief, trust and, most of all, great love — in all its different forms,” He says.

About the Artist

ShiLei He

ShiLei He, of Shanghai, China, studied at the Shanghai Publishing and Printing College and works as a graphic artist. He devotes his spare time to his painting.

Ordinary Lunch (pastel, 14×24) by Yael Maimon

Richeson Pastel Gold Award

Ordinary Lunch by Yael Maimon

In Ordinary Lunch, Yael Maimon was deliberate in her use of orange tones to create an atmosphere of calm warmth. “Years ago, we had Jerusalem stone bricks all around the house,” she recalls. “They’ve since been replaced by ordinary ones. I always loved the warm colors and tones of the old bricks, so I wanted to recreate that all-warm scene I remembered. I thought it could be fun to work out a color scheme for a piece that included a brick ground of the orange color family, an orange cat, and an orange bowl.”

These warm areas are complemented by the cool turquoises and blues of the wall in the background. The painting is about the quiet peace of an ordinary day. But there’s also interest in how the color, light, and shapes interact. Animal & Wildlife juror Rita Kirkman noted that the piece has “very interesting compositional lines and use of space. The fresh and bold application suits the transient scene. The artist’s use of color and shape to lose edges of what would traditionally be the subjects (the cats) is daring and enhances the abstract.”

About the Artist

Israeli artist Yael Maimon is best known for her Cats painting series. She finds it both fun and challenging to try to capture feline facial expressions, gestures, and body language on canvas or paper. Maimon enjoys painting in a variety of media, including oil, pastel, acrylic, watercolor and mixed media. In addition to her Cats series, Maimon works on a figurative series called Once Upon a Time and a still-life series, Pastry. Although grounded in realism, Maimon’s paintings are often impressionist in nature. Her artwork, which has gained international recognition, is in many private collections and has been featured in collective art exhibitions in Israel.

Self-Portrait (pastel, 25×19) by Simone Bingemer

Richeson Pastel Silver Award

Self Portrait by Simone Bingemer

Simone Bingemer’s Self Portrait, winner of the Richeson Pastel Silver Award, is the first self-portrait she ever made. The artist has been practicing as a portraitist in Cologne, Germany, for decades. She won the Grand Prize for a portrait in the Pastel 100 competition in 2015. But she had never acted as her own subject — until now.

Bingemer’s motivation to create a self-portrait was mundane. She wanted an image for her website that would represent her better than a photograph could. Thus began a project of self-discovery that brought together family relationships across four generations. In the painting, Bingemer gazes calmly at us, as if lost in thought or listening intently, engrossed in a conversation. Behind her is an image of an artwork that was originally painted by her grandfather, Georg Meistermann (1911–1990). He was a renowned German artist of his era.

The expressionist image he painted of a woman and child shows Bingemer as a baby with her mother. With its bright, fantastic colors, flat surfaces, and sharp geometric lines, it contrasts with the softly and precisely modeled depiction of Bingemer in the present.

“In the end, a portrait always shows the viewer a secret that keeps renewing itself,” Bingemer says.

About the Artist

Simone Bingemer is the third generation in a family of renowned artists. At 16, she became the youngest pupil ever to enroll at the Art Academy of Cologne, in Germany. After graduating in 1975, she worked as an illustrator across Europe. In 1995 Bingemer refocused her profession entirely on portrait painting. Her ability to create “not just portraits but also pictures” has won her much recognition both in Europe and abroad. Among numerous nominations and prizes, she was awarded first prize in the portrait category of an international pastels competition in 2001. Bingemer lives with her three children in Cologne, where she also has her studio.

My Other World 2 (pastel, 24×30) by Peter Seltzer

Richeson Pastel Bronze Award

My Other World 2 by Peter Seltzer

This year’s winner of the Richeson Pastel Bronze award is no rookie to his craft. In fact, Peter Seltzer, of Woodbury, Conn., has won a number of Pastel 100 awards in the past. His winning pastel piece this year is an ode to the other half of his work — his oil pieces. Seltzer explains that he created the piece, My Other World 2, to underscore that half of his oeuvre are oil paintings. He calls it “an externalized inspiration.” The featured still life, done in pastel, depicts the tools he uses for his oil works. These tools are a large part of his identity as an artist.

Still Life & Floral juror, Robert K. Carsten, highlights Seltzer’s impressive variety of texture and tone. “Portraying the tools of another medium, this pastel painting features a thought-provoking, yet playful arrangement of colors and shapes in an artfully arranged composition. The artist boldly positions a floral depiction at upper left, while well-placed saturated colors, background illumination and the shadow at far right all act in counterpoint. Indeed the painting is masterfully composed and painted!”

“At the finish, when the painting stands before me as a reality, even after years of doing this and even with my understanding of the hundreds of decisions that go into it, it still seems like magic,” Seltzer says.

About the Artist

Peter Seltzer is a Master Pastelist with the Pastel Society of America and holds Master Circle status with the International Association of Pastel Societies. He has garnered more than 100 awards internationally. His numerous exhibition venues include the Butler Museum of American
Art (Ohio), the New Britain Museum of American Art (Conn.), the Noyes Museum of Art (N.J.) and, in New York City, the National Arts Club, the National Academy of Design and the Salmagundi Club. His work is part of the permanent collections of the Butler Institute of American Art, the New Britain Museum of American Art, Harvard University and Connecticut’s New Haven Paint and Clay 100+ year collection.

Check out the Spring 2021 issue of Pastel Journal to learn even more about each artist’s story and creative process — and to see the remaining 95 exceptional pastels. 

If you’re interested in submitting your work to one of our upcoming art competitions, take a look at the entry guidelines here.

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