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”

Other categories for this art competition include Best Building, Best Drawing and Sketches, and many more! Visit to view the complete list.

Why should a contemporary realist enter the PleinAir Salon?

Because this art contest is created by PleinAir magazine, which features not only plein air paintings, but also studio paintings, all types of paintings are eligible and do not need to have been completed in plein air, but should originate from a plein air study or plein air experience. As we know, many studio paintings start with plein air sketches. Our interest is in rewarding great paintings.

PleinAir Salon art competition

The PleinAir Salon awards $27,000 in CASH each year! Learn more at, and enter your best work for your chance to win this art competition. Enter now – the next deadline is coming soon!

Enter Now

If you’ve never entered, it only takes a couple of minutes to create your own account. Once you do that, just upload the images of your best work and select the categories you wish to enter – very manageable to do!

All of our awards are CASH, with the grand prize winner getting called up on stage at the Convention & Expo to claim their check for $15,000. That grand prize winner will also have their winning painting featured on the cover of PleinAir magazine (can it get any better?).

There are smaller cash awards, too, and you can find out all about them here. Remember, even if a previous judge did not select your painting, our current judge just might find it to be a winner!

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