Master pastelist Elizabeth Mowry will be on stage at the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE) in Monterey, California, in April, but she won’t be teaching painting. She’ll be talking about something equally important. 

“Lavender Fields,” by Elizabeth Mowry, pastel, 7 x 10 in.

What do most artists want? To progress in their development. It’s important to paint a lot of paintings—nothing replaces practice, trial and error, doggedness. But if you don’t scrutinize your paintings to figure out what works and what doesn’t, a lot of time can be wasted. Mowry knows this, so she will be talking about critiquing one’s own work.

“Tree Study,” by Elizabeth Mowry, pastel, 12 x 16 in.

According to Mowry, it isn’t just about casting a critical eye over one’s work. It’s about having a realistic view of where one is as an artist, and working from there. “It’s fine to look at Richard Schmid’s work and see what he can do … and then I will realize that I’ll never achieve that in my lifetime,” Mowry says with a laugh. “But if I look at my own work—line up five recent paintings from my favorite to my least favorite—then I am comparing my work to my skillset. I’m not trying to compare myself to a well-known artist who does such beautiful work. I can aspire to that, but in order to improve my own work I have to toil within my framework.”

“Sunset,” by Elizabeth Mowry, pastel, 7 x 15 in.

Mowry will present on Thursday, the last morning of the convention, and she’ll take the audience through her own critiquing process. She’ll line up five of her pieces from favorite to least favorite and explain her thinking as she critiques them. “The first step in improving as a painter is explaining the weakest areas, and that’s where the critique comes in,” she says. “My self-critique is a five-step process. First, I tell what I like about my favorite, and what I wish were better in my least favorite piece. The whole process takes less than an hour, and I’ve gotten so much feedback on how it has helped people so much.”

“Above the Lot Valley,” by Elizabeth Mowry, pastel, 10 x 12 in.

“The goal is to learn how to make good paintings better,” says Mowry.

“California Poppies,” by Elizabeth Mowry, pastel, 6 x 10 in.

Mowry will be onsite at the Plein Air Convention & Expo, which will be held April 13-17 in Monterey, California. Last year, more than 700 artists basked in the perfect weather and learned from 70 instructors. This year, organizers expect even more participants. Learn more here.


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