Artist profile - Sheila Goodman

Abbotsbury Gardens by Sheila Goodman

Abbotsbury Gardens by Sheila Goodman - Credit: Archant

Ringwood pastels artist Sheila Goodman is inspired by her local beauty spots in Hampshire

Sheila Goodman

Sheila Goodman - Credit: Archant

If, like me, you typecast pastels as being the poor relation among the wealth of vibrant acrylics, traditional oils and other mediums available to artists, then here’s your opportunity to learn from my misjudgement.

Just spend a few minutes studying Sheila Goodman’s landscapes and we’ll soon be on the same page. Now, don’t you intuit how the depth and atmosphere she captures, the sunlight, trees and water, breathe life into your senses? Can’t you almost hear the lapping of water, feel a summer breeze caress your skin, smell the morning dew? So, yes, I am now a convert to pastels. Not only that, I’m also marvelling at the serendipitous occasion which eventually led to a portfolio of stunning images.

“Back in the 1990s,” Sheila recalls from her Ringwood home of 30 years, “I wanted to take some drawing equipment with me on holiday and found an old box of pastels. They were awful but a travelling kit of colour. When I returned I investigated pastels a lot more, bought some good ones and never looked back.”

Previously devoted to oils, the qualities and convenience of pastels make perfect sense to Sheila who is devoted to the dry pigments, pressed into sticks, which have been popular with artists since the 18th century.

Pines at Holkham Beach by Sheila Goodman

Pines at Holkham Beach by Sheila Goodman - Credit: Archant

“Not only do I like opaque media but pastels are also quick to use. I can stop and start any time I wish with no clearing up and I love the way I can draw with them, although I feel my work is a painting rather than a drawing. I’m layering colour, applied thickly or thinly, all the time. A lot of rough papers will take many, many layers and that is what I prefer.”

Although art, and landscapes, were favourite subjects throughout school, Sheila’s choice to study Graphics at college indicates a common sense attitude which recognised the need to earn a living. She recalls with contentment the following years working with design teams illustrating leaflets for graphics companies, before going freelance until the easing off of her day time job coincided with selling her artwork. Balancing the two for a number of years, she fulfilled her ambition to become a full time artist in the 1990s.

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Overlooking her garden, Sheila’s base is a west-facing purpose built studio. Here, stacks of paintings and art materials, a standing easel and tables overflowing with pastels are bathed in plenty of natural light. She finds no difficulty in sticking to a regular 9am-6pm creative routine and describes the process behind each image.

“I like to sketch a subject if I can using Caran d’Ache water soluble crayons, which are handy to carry around. By sketching, I get into my mind what I might aim for. Then I think about the size, and the type of paper as well. There’s such a lot to choose from these days and paper can change the look of a painting.”

Evening on the Watermeadows by Sheila Goodman

Evening on the Watermeadows by Sheila Goodman - Credit: Archant

Beginning with an under painting, Sheila lightly draws up each landscape in pastel. A yearning to include lots of detail dictates larger images. On the other hand, smaller scale pieces fit a need to be concise and abstract.

A regular exhibitor at London’s Mall Galleries, this lifelong creative, who is a member of The Society of Women Artists and The Pastel Society, appreciates the validation that selling her work brings. And though the pandemic crisis has, at the time of writing, halted any exhibition planning for later this year, the lockdown seems to have affected her little.

“My lifestyle hasn’t changed that much. I’m solitary and work on my own all day.”

Thinking back to her earlier compositions, I ask how Sheila’s style has evolved since moving to her adopted county.

“Ringwood is a lovely place; it’s great to be able to get to forest or beaches. Initially when I started to use pastels I was very impressionistic, having studied the Impressionists at college. But I’ve always enjoyed learning and want to progress my work,” she concludes before adding, “I’m not always satisfied with the end result, which can mean changing the image. I try to be succinct and would like to abstract more without losing the essence of the landscape.’’

These landscapes are so intoxicating I’m helplessly drawn into them to the point that I almost forget about the interview. But, finally, still in awe of what is achievable with pastels, I enquire about Sheila’s ambitions. The response is delightfully down to earth.

“To keep improving. If that stops, there’s no point in painting.”

Such an honest and canny self summary proves that this artist knows what she wants. And knows her medium.

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