Jerry Balcom, “The Bend,” 2011, pastel, 11 x 13 in., collection of the artist, plein air

Some of the artists featured in PleinAir magazine are primarily interested in telling stories with their plein air paintings, others want to capture fleeting moments of delight, and still others try to synthesize the most essential aspects of being in nature. Jerry Balcom’s motivation is much simpler and more direct: He wants to share the visual delights he discovers outdoors.

Jerry Balcom, “Solitude,” 2009, pastel, 22 x 30 in., private collection, studio based on plein air

“I try to begin each piece by remembering the sounds, scents, and feelings of the location I paint,” he affirms. “I’m fascinated with the emotional power of color and have learned how a strong composition, a clearly defined value scheme, and an attention to edges can contribute to a successful painting. The intensity and complexity of the color scheme is what grabs my heart, and I want viewers of my paintings to have their hearts grabbed in a similar way.”

Jerry Balcom, “Ditchlight,” 2008, pastel, 20 x 14 in., collection of the artist, plein air

Breaking down the specific ways that Balcom “grabs viewers’ hearts,” it is obvious that he uses the diagonal thrust of a river, highway, path, or row of plants to bring observers directly into his landscapes from the front edge of the rectangular picture, then shows them a way to travel through and out of the painting. Just look at the number of times he uses those diagonal lines suggested by bodies of water, highways, dirt roads, and rows of flowers.

Another key aspect of Balcom’s creative process is the way he works with pastels to establish a sense of light, a rich painting surface, and an emotional connection between himself and the location. He selects the site very carefully so he has both the abstract elements needed for an effective composition and an identifiable scene to which he has an emotional connection.

“My hope is that my work strikes a chord of remembrance in the viewer,” the artist says. “When people see my paintings, I’d like them to feel the sunshine on their backs, hear the birds on the wind, or smell the first summer rain on a dry field.”

Learn more about plein air artist Jerry Balcom here. 

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