Laurie Basham is a pastel artist who enjoys capturing the beauty of color found in light and shadow, whether it’s a landscape, figure or still-life. She loves spending time plein-air painting, but is also inspired by her travels around the country. When she can’t be outside, she will be found working in her studio using her own reference photos of her grandchildren or painting still lifes of freshly cut flowers.
A native of Rockville Maryland, Laurie received her Degree in Art Education from the University of Maryland in 1985. After an award winning career as an Art Educator in Howard County Maryland, she retired in 2019. Since retirement, Laurie has been enjoying being a full time artist and has received awards in several plein-air competitions, as well as acceptance into several national and international shows. Laurie received the Portrait/Figure Award in The Pastel Society of the Southwest’s 39th National Juried Exhibition as well as a Member’s Choice Award at the Piedmont Pastel Society’s 2020 Member’s Show. In 2021 Laurie received the Pastel Painters of Cape Cod Award in the Maryland Pastel Society’s Symphony in Pastel Juried Members Show as well as a Juror’s Exceptional Merit Award in the Left Coast Pastel Painters Society’s International Show.
Laurie is a signature member of the Maryland Pastel Society, where she serves (remotely) on the board from her new home in Clemmons, North Carolina. She is also a new member of the Southeastern Pastel Society and the Piedmont Pastel Society, where she is currently serving as Acting President.
Laurie’s style has changed a bit over the years. At the beginning of her career in pastel painting, she worked very detailed, taking days to complete a piece. Now, after being inspired by the MPS guest demonstrations by Tony Allain and Gail Piazza, her works are completed in just a few hours. Using Tony’s quick sharpie sketch technique, then an under-painting using pan pastels, her work has become more spontaneous. Sometimes the under-paintings just need a few touches of pastel sticks for her to feel the piece is complete. She has been experimenting with various surfaces to see which surface works best for her new technique, with favorites being Uart (dark) and Sennelier La Carte.
Since I can remember I have loved to draw. My parents encouraged this love and I found the attention for my efforts lifted my spirit. During my middle school and high school days, my art was a refuge for my insecurities. I picked up my first pastel in my junior year and it became my favorite way to express myself – pure, immediate satisfaction.
During the many years to come as an art educator, the medium was still my go to. I made sure I purchased good quality pastels and paper for my students, many who also shared my love for the dusty colors. Over the years the pull to work on my own was hit or miss. Needing the push of a workshop or class to get in my studio or outside with an easel. My fear of not being good enough, and comparing myself to other artists, blocked the door to what used to be my safe place. After making the decision to put my fear behind me and simply relish in the process, I finally realized what my soul had been trying to tell me all along. That painting and making art is how I can find inner peace.
Painting to me is pure mindfulness. I imagine I am bringing both the past and the future together and into each mark I make. When I make art, I go to a place where I am focused and intent on capturing the beauty of the world around me. I feel a serene connection to whatever I am painting. I am there. To me, the process is pure joy. Although I am drawing on my knowledge of art theory and techniques, I feel the presence of something beyond myself. My intuition speaks to me and I find myself choosing a color or making a mark without fear or worry. This, to me, painting is the highest form of meditation and helps me feel aligned with God.
My process, whether it is from life or a reference image, often starts without any preliminary sketches. The image needs to move or intrigue me in some way- the colors, the mood, or the impact of light or the unusual vantage-point. I begin each painting with a drawing in gray permanent marker, and then I make corrections and fill in the darkest parts with black marker. Using pan pastel, I fill in the lightest areas to see how the composition is working. I continue to fill in the mid-tones with pan pastel and assorted sticks. Although I am true to the likeness of my subject, my instinct and intuition guide my color choices and marks more than the image. After my initial forms are made, I respond more to the painting itself and the interactions of the colors and values on the paper before me. My goal is to bring forth the emotion that initially drew me to the subject. Every painting I make is both a personal learning experience and an expression of my love for the beauty of the little moments of my life.