Who knows what will happen for Doreen St.John between now and April 23, the start of the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE) in San Diego. But it’s already been a banner year for the PACE faculty member. Why?
“It’s been kind of crazy,” she says. “I keep pinching myself. I keep revising my bio! It seems like it has happened so suddenly, but I’ve been an artist since I could hold a crayon. About three years ago, I wrote down goals, and it all came true. So what are my new goals?”

“Out to Dry,” by Doreen St.John, pastel, 8 x 10 in.

Let’s hit some highlights for the last year or so in St.John’s life. First, she will tell you how she became a Signature Member of the American Impressionist Society by being juried in to the annual exhibition three years in a row. She may mention the notable shows her work has appeared in, but it’s likely St.John will quickly move on to her switch in medium.

“Still Standing,” by Doreen St.John, oil, 16 x 20 in.

“A little less than two years ago, I saw a demo by one of my favorite painters and people, Carol Strock Wasson,” she says. “I took up pastel painting because I was so inspired by it. And quickly, I got a large pastel accepted into the American Impressionist Society show. Then the next year, I got another pastel accepted into the AIS show. I won an award at the Pastel Society of America show. And I won Best Pastel in one of the PleinAir Salon contests. Oh — and I also was accepted into the Oil Painters of America exhibition. All these things were going on in about one year’s time.”

“Reflection,” by Doreen St.John, pastel, 24 x 18 in. Studio piece

And in April, she will take the stage in the Pastel room at PACE and give a demo on this fairly-new-to-her medium. “I filled out the form to be an instructor at the convention, then I forgot about it,” says St.John.” Then I heard from Ali Cruickshank, one of the event’s organizers, and I couldn’t breathe! I couldn’t believe what was happening.”

“Sparkling Creek,” by Doreen St.John, oil, 16 x 12 in.

St.John can work in three media — watercolor, which she has worked in since 1979; oil, which she was encouraged to explore by Robert Genn in 2010; and now pastel. “My watercolors had passages of bright color, but the rest was kind of ‘eh,’” she says. “Pastel is so brilliant and intense. I just love the pigment in it. I think of it as chunks of light. It’s so fun. Watercolor is hard work; I have such admiration for plein air watercolorists. With oil, I love the surface texture you can get, and the variety of edges. You get so much life from the light bouncing off your surface texture. It’s easier for me to keep oils really thin because of my background in watercolor. And with oils, I like that feeling of being in the zone and forgetting about time. There are endless possibilities in oil, so I can work forever trying to master it. You just keep going deeper into your work.”

“Reaching,” by Doreen St.John, pastel, 12 x 16 in.

St.John is looking forward to the Plein Air Convention, and she thinks she knows exactly what she can contribute to the largest gathering of plein air painters in the world. “I can bring hope for other people,” says the artist. “If you have the passion and the perseverance, you can do anything. It’s the passion that really counts. I’ve always — always — thought that I was an artist.” She plans on demonstrating her approach to painting water reflections. “That’s kind of funny, because pastel is a dry media, but I think my background in watercolor sets the stage for this.” St.John says she looks forward to revisiting San Diego. “I loved living there years ago. I love the light, and the ocean. I’m excited about seeing the city again.”

“Port Clyde Shanty,” by Doreen St.John, oil, 16 x 12 in.

It will be the cap to more than a year or so of much hard work and passion bearing fruit. So what’s her new goal, now that so many of hers have come to fruition?

Doreen St.John working on location

“To be really authentic and really express my feelings in my work.”


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