Five Questions for Pastelist Liz Kenyon

Pastelist Liz Kenyon will be found here at the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops from June 18-24 teaching her workshop, Loose and Vibrant Soft Pastel Painting. As we look forward to the fairer temperatures and greener landscape that awaits Upstate New York that month, Liz was kind enough to tell us a little bit more about her approach to art with our annual instructor interview series.

Q: What do you want your work to do?
LK: Everything! I want my work to result in award winning student art! I want my soft pastel paintings to be loose and vibrant with luminous colors, for the surface texture to be remarkable, for it’s creation to be ‘hands on,’ to layer the soft dry pigment with my fingers so directly that a viewer can hear my work breathing, for my work to be demanding and fund, and for my work with pastels to make my job as a teacher easy.

Q: How has your style changed over the years?
LK: The adage ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ can apply to be because I’ve unfolded new fun methods of expressing and teaching color. I have developed a lighter touch; less pastel dust is falling onto my easel. My process of applying color has also advanced; instead of layering or glazing with a single stick, I paint with two or three pastels in order to create more transparency and pulsing passages. With curiosity as my guide, I’ve been exploring alternative subject matter like ‘silly selfies’ and eggshell set ups.

Q: How do you come up with a profitable pricing structure for your pieces?
LK: In this economy, I am happy to sell and support myself. In pricing my work I consider a list of things; 

  1. artist’s fee, myself
  2. professional framing under non-reflective glass
  3. studio maintenance, materials and supplies, commissions, shipping, and advertising
  4. size of the piece
  5. the buyer, is it a new customer, a repeat customer, one of my students, or a family member

Q: Do you have a motto?
LK: “Believe in myself and relax.” I use my motto whenever I see outstanding paintings in galleries or websites; I pause and ask myself if the artwork speaks to me and why. I use my motto when I’m deciding whether to enter a juried show or taking a workshop, to avoid questioning my own abilities and to avoid comparing my work to other artists, whenever I need to relax, to remind me there’s a buyer for my art, to remember that taking a workshop can be super fun and inspirational. My motto also changes to fit the circumstances.

Q: Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?
LK: I just completed teaching a four week class at the Scottsdale Artist School in Scottsdale, AZ. I am exhibiting at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum from February 18-April 18 – this is a juried show and I was awarded the second place prize. I am also exhibiting in a National Juried Show in Sedona, AZ from April 18-29, sponsored by the Arizona Pastel Artist Association. 

Learn more about Liz’s workshop with us here.
Learn more about Liz on her website.

Smear, Scumble, Glaze and Paint with Liz Kenyon

It is always a fun and colorful week when Liz Kenyon is here to teach a pastel workshop. She has everyone working on projects with vibrant, shiny, and yummy subjects. Everyone created an amazing array of paintings. Each one a step up from the last. This photo is of Liz’s demo. IMG 3281
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IMG 3282 It was quite colorful outside around the grounds, too. As the climatis on the flowering fence are starting to put on their annual display. IMG 3287
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Interview with Liz Kenyon, Pastel Painting Instructor

Liz Kenyon teaches a very popular Pastel class demonstrating techniques for creating the most alluring textures and subjects. She returns to the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops at a beautiful time of year, May 31 to June 6, 2015 to teach her Pastel Still Life 5-day Workshop.


Pears on Stage


How long have you been teaching and what got you started teaching?

During a recession in the 1990’s I was compelled to expand my freelance career by applying for a job teaching illustration and graphic design to eighteen year-old artists. The commercial art field was in a downward spiral, the computer was about to change everything, and my students were more interested in graffiti and tattoos than advertising. My job had become challenging and stressful.


Things took a different turn in 2000 when I fell in love with soft pastels. I found I was experiencing a whole new world of self expression and personal success. My enthusiasm for the medium produced peer recognition and fulfilling teaching opportunities with artists like myself and I haven’t looked back since.


What is your favorite part about teaching?

Teaching enables me to live with purpose and authenticity. The creative process is not always a bed of roses. I often feel let down as I expect a painting to look better than how it seems to be working out. However, experience tells me it will work out if I just keep moving forward. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, my expectations end up being surpassed — teaching then allows me to share that kind of success with others. I find a little encouragement and some pointers can both guide a beginner and advance a seasoned pastelist. By instructing, I can help in the struggle and share in the victory of the creative process.


What would you tell your prospective students are three best reasons for taking a workshop?

I have trouble going into a workshop without a few goals — it feels like going on a tour without a guide — I might miss things that would make a difference in my life experience. A workshop is like a trip, you should be changed by it and your life enriched:

1) Experience is the best part of doing art and a class needs to enhance that by developing a new attitude and boosting your inner creative dialog.

2) Learning new techniques and improving your work habits comes not only through instruction, but by sharing the space with other artists. 

3) Coming to an awareness of how your art speaks to people — what questions to ask yourself, how to create richer “color” (or a reflection of the world you see).


What are you currently working on in your own art?

I am focusing on making art, not just pretty pictures. It is more fulfilling to express a mood; a sense of light; a temperature and a tactile surface quality with the pastel medium. I search for iconic subject matter to draw out a sense of warm familiarity and use the interaction of color and pattern to stimulate interest. For me, exploring the soft edges and illuminating qualities of color is what gives pastel painting its voice.


My subject matter at this time is: reflective and familiar ceramic pots, sunlit pitchers, creamy cheesecake, succulent strawberries, pears and apples — fertile forms. In addition: Cirque du soleil atmospheres with French macaroon cookies and intimate teacup moments.


Cheezy CakeWhere is your art currently being exhibited?

I prefer one-woman shows, but because of my busy teaching schedule right now, I am primarily donating my work for causes rather than putting together shows. I’ve been featured in fundraising events such as: Scottsdale Artist School, Free Arts for Abused and Homeless Children Auction, and Veteran’s fundraising benefits. In addition, I am usually in the Arizona Pastel Artist’s Association bi-annual juried shows and signature membership exhibitions. Recently, my work has been exhibited in Boulder Colorado by Mary Williams Fine Arts as well as showing in the Scottsdale Exhibition Gallery and Celebration of Fine Art gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.


What hints would you give to artists looking for gallery representation?

Artists looking to show in galleries must first understand their market. Find galleries that carry similar styles to your own work. Enter competitions, both locally and online. Publish regionally and locally online and in print. Maintain a website, no prices, talk it over with prospective clients one-on-one. Blog, do a weekly Facebook update, try a “painting a day” online exhibit. Advertise in art magazines. A learning curve I was surprised to face was being aware of the type of framing that a particular gallery typically uses. Shipping weight can also be an issue. You’ll need patience with gallery sales — clients often need to view work repeatedly before actually purchasing.


Do you sell your work in any online gallery?

Yes, please visit: I maintain this site regularly with new work, listings of workshops, gallery showings, publications, and awards won. I have not only sold my work to online viewers, but have been asked to teach in workshops across the country by schools who saw my workshops and classes described online.


What is your favorite art quote?

“Are you making art or are you making pretty pictures?”


Describe your studio.

I live and work in an historic, mid 20th century glass-fronted condo in central Phoenix. The largest wall of my living room/studio is devoted entirely to glass — floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall. It’s just me and the light. And, because I live surrounded by my work, I am always just a few feet away from being able to grab a stick of pastel and work at my own pace and time. The complex is a draw to artists who enjoy living in the valley, so I often have chats with neighbors and friends, discussing goals and artistic values. My life is very fulfilling.


LizKenyon in HomeStudio

LizKenyon working spaces

Name five of your “can’t do without” tools/products.

— A 4 x 6 inch mid-toned grey paper rectangle with a 3/8 inch circle cut out of the center. I hold

this up to determine the actual temperature and value of a color I’m viewing.

— A large size color wheel.

— “Perfect Color Choices for the Artist” by Michael Wilcox has numerous value and hue color

comparison charts especially finding neutrals.

— 3-4 three-inch metal clamps to attach reference images to my working surface.



Read more of our recent Instructor interviews:

Patti Mollica discusses creating her art, and teaching

An Interview with Kim English, Oil Painter

An Interview with Barbara Nechis, Watercolor Artist

An interview with Hollis Chatelain: Fiber Artist

An Interview with Natalya Aikens: Computer + Stitch = Art Quilt

Ruth Powers: Designing and Sewing for Picture Piecing