During The Pandemic: A Conversation with Jeanne Rosier Smith, CM

Written by: Francesca Sinnott

Pictured Above: Super Soaker, pastel on paper, 16”x 36”

 

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Pictured: Jeanne Rosier Smith, CM

Imagine trying to capture with pastels the movement of a wave while painting en plein air. To do so requires hours and hours of practice so that the work becomes intuitive. It takes a great artist like Copley Master and pastel artist Jeanne Rosier Smith to achieve that.  Jeanne grew up spending summers by the sea on the Maryland Shore, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and the Jersey Shore. Her reverence and respect for the ocean and nature is evident in her stunning seascapes and landscapes. Jeanne is the first Copley artist I’ve met with dusty fingertips as she waves at me through Zoom, “I love pastels because the colors are rich and the gratification is immediate.” After taking a class with renowned pastel artist, Rhoda Yanow (2016 Pastel Society Hall of Fame), Jeanne discovered pastels suited her. “I think in color and love to draw. I didn’t have to mix colors anymore. It was freeing!”

In 2006 Jeanne moved to Massachusetts, becoming part of a small artist collaborative. Several of the artists, who were Co|So members, urged her to apply. “I have valued my relationship with Co|So as it has helped me gain visibility and connect with other artists.” In September 2019, before Covid-19 shut things down, Jeanne was chosen for Co|So’s month long artist residency in Cape Ann. Jeanne described this experience as “the icing on the cake”. The Charles Family Residency Program provided her a place to live and studio space.  For the first time she could observe and study the ocean at different times of the day, in all weather conditions, including the ferocity of two hurricanes. Jeanne set a goal: “to plein air paint three times a week”. She smiles at me triumphantly. “I’ve never worked so hard in my life.” In 28 days she made 27 paintings. “I am a very production oriented studio painter where I can work quickly from photographs and memory. In plein air painting, the results are less predictable because it’s impossible to control all the elements. This was a total immersion and a luxury. I loved watching the ocean in the moonlight, then in the early morning light. Capturing wave movement is quite a challenge but I got better the more I practiced. This daily observation exercised my muscle memory, so that I intuitively understood the mechanics of the waves, saw shapes, sensed the light and colors, and worried less about the end result being precious.”

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Pictured: Energy Shot, pastel on paper, 9”x 12” (plein air)

During the pandemic Jeanne has explored new landscapes encompassing woodland scenes from the gorgeous conservation land around her home in Sudbury. “From my hikes, I have captured sunlight filtered through the snowy branches of the trees. It is not dissimilar from the intricate patterns and texture of light in the movement of waves. Like the waves, the trees are large shapes underneath that form the under painting, but overlaying that is the lacey intricate white stuff."

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Pictured: Sunlit Woods, pastel on paper, 8” x 16”

Jeanne has two paintings in the Co|So Small Works: Tapestry.

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Pictured: Boston on Ice, pastel on paper, 12” x 13.5”

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Pictured: Half Dozen Oysters, pastel on paper, 12” x 12”

Her diptych, a beautiful cloud study, will be in the upcoming Co|So Members Show beginning March 4th. More work is on her website and instagram: jeannerosiersmith.

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Pictured: Light Show, pastel on paper, 16” x 32”

Jeanne was an adjunct college professor of English for many years having received a PhD, while she was juggling a family.  All the while she took courses in fine art. She eventually realized (1998) she could make a living from her painting and left teaching for portrait painting. For the past 20 years she has taught pastel classes. During the pandemic, the workshops that Jeanne was scheduled to teach were cancelled or postponed.  The happy outcome is “I’m now focusing almost entirely on my painting and Covid helped push me in that direction more quickly.”

A solo show (May 2020) was cancelled, however the silver lining occurred during her preparation. “I looked more closely at my old photographs and zoomed in on smaller sections of the waves leading to more abstraction.”

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Pictured: Joyful Dance, pastel on paper, 32” x 40”

Upon first glance, Jeanne’s pastels look like oils. The advent of textured, sanded pastel papers has been a “game changer” for pastel artists.  The textured surfaces allow for greater depth of color, rich impasto strokes and a painterly result. The first layer is applied in dry pastel washed down with alcohol to create a rich pigmented under painting.  She then adds strokes of dry pastel to layer and give depth. “To create a new color, you just drag one color over another on paper. You don’t need to wait for it to dry and can use a dry brush to remove it.  Once under glass, pastel is the most resilient and most stable of any medium, because it is closest to pure pigment, made with just a bit of binder and a water to form a paste (hence the name) and rolled into sticks.”

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Pictured: Swept Away, pastel on paper, 20” x 40”

“Especially now, I’m finding nature renews the senses, refreshes the mind, and gives me hope and joy. Nature’s beauty and our connection to it inspire my painting, and the sea most of all continues to draw me.  Constant change in light, tides, winds, and the rhythm of the seasons also promise the infinite.  I love pastel in particular because the rich, pure pigments allow vibrations of color and visual mixing impossible to capture in any other medium.  Every day I feel lucky to be able to dedicate myself to this work, and this extra time, though not without its challenges, has also been a gift.”