Saturday, May 19, 2012

Inside the Process: an Interview with Lyn Asselta

Watercolor under-painting

Last week we discovered the expressive pastel paintings of 
Lyn Asselta.

Lyn is the president and founder of 
First Coast Pastel Society and was the featured artist of A Brush with Nature at the Jacksonville Arboretum.

Arboretum Path, pastel on paper, ©2012 Lynn Asselta

Lyn's pastel painting workshop at the Jacksonville Arboretum was fun for all the participants. Lyn was so busy encouraging her students that her own painting waited to be completed until after the event. 

Today, we'll look at her finished painting and ask Lyn some questions about her motivations, her background, and her process.

Hello Lyn!
Since you are one of my favorite painters and a master of plein air painting in pastel, I'd love to find out more about you and your work. Thanks for answering some
questions for us.

What was the catalyst for becoming an artist and a teacher? 
Lyn: I think I've always wanted to be an artist, but I also wanted to share that with other people. So, I started out as an elementary school art teacher and then gradually transitioned into teaching workshops for adults.  I love being able to watch someone get excited about learning to paint or draw.

Has pastel always been your medium of choice? 
Lyn: I've worked with a lot of different mediums in the past.  I started out as a calligrapher, then did a little residential drafting, I created large, intricately-designed gourd vessels with pine-needle basketry for about 10 years, and then finally pulled my old pastel box out of the studio closet and discovered sanded paper...that was the beginning of it for me!

Why do you work outdoors?  
Lyn: Honestly, I work outdoors because I love it there.  There is nothing quite like standing next to my easel, hearing the birds and the wind in the trees or the water swooshing up against the shore.  It's peaceful, and I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be when I'm out there.

What location has been your favorite and why? 
Lyn: As for a favorite place, it's hard to say.  I recently took a trip to Zion National Park and fell in love with those enormous mountains, but every time I see a new place I tend to fall in love with it, so maybe the answer is wherever I happen to be!

What do you hope your students learn from you? 
Lyn: I hope my students learn to be excited about pastels and painting.  To me, it's the excitement that is the most important thing.  Whenever I teach, the very best thing for me is the look of excitement on a student's face when they've done something they thought they couldn't do, or when they love what they've painted.

Are you ever fully satisfied with your work? How do you know when you're finished? 
Lyn: Every so often I finish a painting and I'm totally happy with it.  But, more often than not, I continue to wonder if there is anything else I need to do to really make it special.  As a painter, I'm ridiculously critical of my own work. Sometimes I will go back and work on a painting after I think it's "finished". Other times I will stack it against the wall and hope that I feel differently about it a few months later.  I'm pretty particular about what I feel is good enough to go into a frame.

Knowing when to finish a painting is tricky.  With every single painting, there is a time that I realize I've begun to work more slowly and deliberately.  The marks aren't as spontaneous anymore and I realize I'm starting to evaluate every stroke.  I've learned to pay attention at this point.  When I start to slow down, I know that I'm quickly coming to the point where one more mark could disturb the integrity of the whole painting.  So, I try to stop before I make that one final mark.   

Thank you so much for this peek into the mind of an artist.

Note: In comparing the watercolor under-painting (done in complementary colors) with the finished painting, notice that Lyn allows the under-painting to show, not fully covering it. This makes the colors sparkle next to one another.
Using watercolors for the under-painting simplifies the process and dries almost immediately, so the pastel layer can be added.  


  1. Thanks for the inspired interview Jaimie. I agree with Lyn that the best part of teaching is watching someone's face light up with a spark of excitement - whether from learning a new technique or just enjoying the creative process.

    And it's really interesting to see the Lyn's underpainting along with her finished piece. They are so different!

  2. The 'aha' moment that you see on your student's face is the joy of teaching, isn't it?

    Glad you enjoyed your visit, Frances. Come back any time!


  3. Great interview Jaime and I looove your new blog format, it's great! Thanks for interviewing Lyn, her work is gorgeous and it's nice to get some more insight into the person behind the work.

  4. I'm learning blogging from the best: ArtBizCoach.
    I thought you'd enjoy seeing an interview with Lyn.
    You're next!

  5. This is a great interview Jaime. I am particularly drawn to the discussion around knowing when a painting is finished. I often find this the most challenging part of the process. I totally get what Lyn means when she talks about one more brush stroke and the possibility of losing the feel of the work. Brilliant stuff. Thanks for posting.

    1. Knowing when to quit is a tricky thing, isn't it? I had a painting professor that I relied on to tell me when I was done and often it was when I thought I was about halfway there!
      But he was always right. I have to do that for myself now and Lyn's thoughts about when you start to slow done being when you should start thinking about stopping were a good reminder.

  6. I found your blog through ArtBizCoach's list of people who joined the blog workshop. I saw you were local so I had to check in! I'm so glad I did. We need to get together and paint sometime! Also Jacksonville local.


    1. Hi Jess,
      Glad you found me! What side of town do you live on?
      I love to go painting - let's meet up.

  7. I was cruising around the Art Biz blog and found your blog.I like it. I'm another Florida artist and new to blogging. Glad I found you.

  8. Hi Theresa,

    It looks like we have lots in common. I'm an adjunct professor too at Florida State College at Jacksonville. Working part time gives me freedom, so I love my job.What do you teach?

    Thanks for stopping by - come back soon!