Archive for November, 2016


The soft stroke of pastel

Posted on Nov 26 2016 | By

Delicate medium gaining momentum in art world

What goes around comes around. Perhaps the old chestnut best capsulizes the rise, fall and reemergence of an art form executed in the softest and subtlest of mediums.

The unique painting form bloomed in popularity in the early 1700s only to fall out of favor a century later. Today, an increasing number of artists are opening pastel boxes and bringing art boards and textured paper to life with a rainbow of subtle hues.

Art lovers couldn’t be happier.

Fauquier County is fortunate to have a “Duet in Pastel” gracing art shows and homes with this unique art: Jan Settle and Kathleen Willingham.

The artists met six years ago and became fast friends centered on their love of pastel painting. “We both really like this medium. It’s one of our favorites.

“Even though I work in oil and Jan works in acrylic we like to work together in pastel,” Kathleen Willingham said.

The artists bring the sum of their lives to the palette. Settle and Willingham both love the out-of-doors, gardens and animal life. As a result, their work is centered on landscapes.

Willingham is a lifelong resident of Fauquier County and still lives here. Settle grew up in Culpeper and lives in Rappahannock County. The lush, rolling Virginia Piedmont serves as inspiration for both artists.

Pastel painting has not been considered a primary art form over the last century but today there is a growing movement to again embrace the delicate art.

Pastels are made by mixing dry pigment with some chalk and binders to produce a thick paste and then formed into sticks. The end product is called a stick not chalk.

It is a dry medium—as opposed to oil and acrylic—but not called a drawing but rather a painting. The technique creates a sparkle on the art board because the sticks contain granules. The artist has 100 or more color choices at her command to deftly create hues and shades that contribute depth to the finished work.

“There are a large array of colors available in pastels. Unlike oil where you mix colors to achieve a new color, with pastels you have sticks that you layer, develop texture and smooth and blend together,” Kathleen Willingham said. “We usually work on a sanded surface like fine sandpaper because it holds the pigments.”

The finished works are typically mounted under glass but not touching the art. The framing technique prevents deterioration from hazards such as humidity, mildew and smudging. The art is as physically sensitive as it is visually.

Team pastel
Like their art, Settle and Willingham have blended talent and friendship to sponsor a variety of art shows. Perhaps one of the most notable shows was held at Fauquier Hospital in spring 2016. Over 40 paintings graced the halls of the hospital inducing a calm atmosphere while lowering blood pressures for patients and visitors alike. Could a painting a day keep the doctor away?

The artists’ works are usually rendered in 12” x 18” framed pieces and sell for $400 to $600.

“Art and color are the driving forces in my life. My desire is to interpret nature in a way that respects what I feel about the beauty of the earth,” Jan Willingham said.

Jan Settle says, “I grew up on a farm. When I paint I use either remembered images of that life, my imagination, working on site or a using a photograph. I want to explain how I feel about those images through my art.”

Both artists have websites. Visit Jan Settle at and Kathleen Willingham at to see  their art and learn where their next shows will be held.


Published in the Fall 2016 edition of inFauquier magazine.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES