Friday, June 5, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 14

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on July 10th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 19

Gallery Los Olivos showcases plein-air and studio paintings from local pastel artists


There are plenty of external antagonists for Santa Barbara-based artist Kris Buck to consider before she sets out on one of her plein-air adventures—but a disruptive phone call isn’t one of them.

Temple of bloom
Gallery Los Olivos presents Summer Bloom, a new pastel exhibit featuring plein-air and studio paintings by Kris Buck and Deborah Breedon, through Wednesday, July 31. The gallery is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 2920 Grand Ave., Los Olivos. Call (805) 688-7517 or visit for more info.

Summer Bloom, a new pastel exhibit at Gallery Los Olivos, features both plein-air and studio paintings from local pastelists Kris Buck and Deborah Breedon.

“The cellphone is silent. There are no distractions except whatever Mother Nature throws our way—bugs, snakes, wind, fog, heat, cold, gopher holes, etc.,” Buck told the Sun. “I’ve always preferred plein-air painting because I’m out in nature, painting with friends and focused on the moment.”

One of these friends is fellow plein-air artist Deborah Breedon, who also resides on the Central Coast. Both painters are also currently members of the Pastel Society of the West Coast, as well as the Pastel Society of America. Last month, Buck and Breedon attended the International Association of Pastel Societies Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico—a biennial event where pastelists from around the world gather to share styles and techniques through demos and workshops.

The two painters’ latest local team-up though is a duo show, Summer Bloom, at Gallery Los Olivos. This pastel exhibit features both plein-air and studio paintings and runs through Wednesday, July 31. The selected pieces range from broad landscapes to intimate renderings of succulents and other plant life.

Lompoc-based artist Deborah Breedon creates landscapes of areas throughout the Central Coast, including the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

“A lot of the paintings are in celebration of the pouring rain we had earlier this year, bringing us an abundant spring and spectacular summer,” Breedon said, explaining the show’s title and summer theme. “Kris and I have painted in many areas of Santa Barbara County, and we both look for similar attributes in the landscape that will capture the moment.”

“Although Deborah lives in Lompoc and I live in Santa Barbara, we get together to paint as often as we can,” Buck said. “Our paintings often share the same view but with different perspectives.”

When it comes to pastel paintings (the two artists’ mutual medium of choice), Buck and Breedon both use an underpainting technique. Buck appreciates the method for the improvisation it tends to inspire, she explained, and described the union between watercolor and pastels as a matrimony of sorts.

“Pastel artists approach their paintings in different ways, but I’ve embraced the marriage of a watercolor underpainting with the pastel applied on top,” Buck said. “I love the underpainting part because it’s loose, transparent. It quickly sets up the painting and unexpected things can happen, like drips and drops, which I can respond to.”

Santa Barbara-based artist Kris Buck painted Sunflowers on location during a field study in France.

“Sometimes the underpainting can take me in a totally different direction, and I like that,” she continued. “I try to capture and interpret the mood of the moment and not just copy the scene—a camera can do that. I want the viewer to want to be in that scene.”

For Breedon, the under-painting process starts after an initial sketch and the decision is made whether to use watercolor, oil stain, or ink pencils.

“Most of my paintings start with a thumbnail sketch, identifying darks and lights—so important for plein-air—and the big shapes,” Breedon said.

The Lompoc-based artist taught pastels and other painting courses at Santa Barbara City College for more than a decade before segueing into teaching private workshops and lessons. The medium became her niche during college, she said, while shifting between oils, acrylics, and pastels.

“Pastels give you more freedom to explore techniques and paint outdoors, avoiding the downside of having to bring so much on site and clean up using oils and acrylics,” Breedon said. “With pastels, setup and take-down are minimal.”

Featured paintings of the Summer Bloom exhibit range from broad landscapes to intimate renderings of succulents and other plant life.

Buck also advocates for the low-maintenance of pastels when it comes to outdoor painting, one of the traits that initially attracted her to the medium. The artist first realized how accessible and convenient pastels are during a plein-air event at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, 17 years ago.

“A young man was painting near me, sitting on the ground with a cigar box filled with pastels,” Buck said. “I noticed how quickly he could capture the scene with this dry medium and pack up.

“Plus,” she added. “The color saturation was incredible.” 

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is cruisin’ for a bloomin.’ Reach him at

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