PleinAir Salon -
The still life painting "From the Hearth" (10" x 18") by Barbara S. Groff won the "Best Pastel" category for the April 2020 PleinAir Salon

Congratulations to Barbara S. Groff (, whose still life painting has been recognized in the PleinAir Salon, an art competition with many categories in which to enter your art. Here’s what she had to say about winning the “Best Pastel” award:

The Inspiration Behind My Award-Winning Pastel Still Life

My neighboring town was celebrating its 300th year anniversary and I was invited to participate in a two-person exhibit at their Arts Center. Every month for the entire year they had planned a special exhibit and the theme of the show I was to partake in evolved around the Victorian era.

Often I include antiques in my paintings; some are family heirlooms, some are borrowed or bought. The chair of the art committee, being familiar with my work, thought my paintings would be an excellent fit. At her suggestion, I visited the local museum, which was a nineteenth century historic home. While browsing for treasures I came across an old iron kettle on the hearth of the fireplace. Immediately I envisioned it with a branch of bittersweet for my concept, “From the Hearth.”

The museum’s curator graciously allowed me to borrow this and several other objects—enough to create three new signature paintings for the exhibit.

My Still Life Painting Process in a Nutshell

My technique involves the building up of several fine layers of pastel until a patina-like quality is reached, creating a depth and richness to the colors. The look is akin to a patina on old wooden furniture that has become evident after years of wear. This process requires patience, but the end result is aesthetically pleasing.

My preferred working surface is white, archival sanded paper for pastel. Once my drawing is complete and transferred to my paper the process begins. I utilize a variety of pastel sticks for the base colors and for building details and the fine layers, I use pastel pencils. I rarely begin with a watercolor or value underpainting before applying my pastels.

Why I Entered the PleinAir Salon

It was encouraging to see several of my fellow pastel artists’ work on the PleinAir Salon website and a few who had won “Best Pastel” in the art competition. Some of these artists I knew personally, and I knew many others through social media. “From the Hearth” already had a few awards to its credit before I decided to enter.

Years ago, when I was early into competing, I was told that when you’ve got a winner to run with it and I’ve taken that advice ever since. I also remembered reading about an artist who had entered the PeinAir Salon competition on multiple occasions with the same painting, and whose perseverance won him the Grand Prize.

Through experience I’ve learned that repetition brings recognition, so I thought, why not give this a try? Whether you win or not, it’s another opportunity to show your work and be seen by numerous people.

Additional Still Life Paintings by Barbara S. Groff

Contemporary still life paintings
“Frayed by Time,” by Barbara S. Groff, Pastel, 14” x 14”
Contemporary still life paintings
“Floral Essence” by Barbara S. Groff, Pastel, 6” x 9”
Contemporary still life paintings
“China Blues” by Barbara S. Groff, Pastel, 16” x 16”
Contemporary still life paintings
“Thread to the Past” by Barbara S. Groff, Pastel, 12” x 17”
Contemporary still life paintings
“Memories of a Friend” by Barbara S. Groff, Pastel, 14” x 14”

About the PleinAir Salon:

In the spirit of the French Salon created by the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, this annual online art competition, with 11 monthly cycles, leading to the annual Salon Grand Prize winners, is designed to stimulate artistic growth through competition. The competition rewards artists with over $33,000 in cash prizes and exposure of their work, with the winning painting featured on the cover of PleinAir Magazine.

Winners in each monthly competition may receive recognition and exposure through PleinAir Magazine’s print magazine, e-newsletters, websites, and social media. Winners of each competition will also be entered into the annual competition. The 12th Annual Awards will be presented live at the Plein Air Convention & Expo in May 2023.

The next round of the PleinAir Salon has begun so hurry, as this competition ends on the last day of the month. Enter your best art in the PleinAir Salon here.

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