“I wish to paint the joy I feel by being in places I love, trying to capture the colors of light and the spirit of stone and water.”
Michael Gaudreau, a Signature member of the Pastel Society of America and MAPAPA, is a painter and teacher (retired) residing in Bel Air, Md. Michael received his Bachelor’s degree in Art Education from Towson University in 1974 and his Master’s degree from Parsons School of Design, NYC in 1981. He has been on the faculty of The John Carroll School teaching Art from 1974 to 2020. His paintings have won awards from the Pastel Society of America, Hudson Valley Art Assoc., Southeast, Northeast, and Maryland Pastel Societies, as well as the Maryland Federation of Art.
I am drawn to the landscape as a subject not only for the artistic challenges, but for the memories evoked from chosen places and the sense of joy it gives me by just being there.
I have been a painter for many years, primarily in oils, with a focus on the landscape. I still paint in oil but my first love, ever since elementary school, was always drawing. I rediscovered this love some years ago when I took a pastel workshop for teachers. I found something extremely exciting and liberating about touching the surface of the paper with a piece of solid color, building up surfaces and taking away, scumbling colors and letting under layers show through, and overseeing a vast choice of pastels in a tray. I found great freedom in letting my hand drag those wonderful soft pastels across a colored, sanded surface. The pastel artist paints with almost pure pigment with no mixing or mediums. I think only stained glass can claim to be closer to painting light itself.
I grew up around water and woods and I find myself at peace when I can totally immerse myself in studying light and shadow and surprising bursts of color in the rural landscape. I am drawn especially to the quality of light in the early morning and dusk in these places and how it transforms and illuminates ordinary things, like rocks or buildings, and turns them into something extraordinary. When I look for subjects to paint, I seek that “moment of light” on the side of a white building or on the forest floor as I listen to the sound of water and wind. But peaceful does not always mean easy. Painters know that it can be hard work capturing the emotional response they want. Light is always moving. Decisions are constantly being made in plein air as well as studio painting. So how do I keep that outdoor energy in studio work? I need to ask myself, “How realistic do I want it to be? Why am I painting this subject? What is this painting about? What kind of marks am I making?” And even, “What colors do I see in that white cloud?” or “What color is that shadow?” I often like to compare the act painting to fishing. Sometimes you catch the fish and sometimes it gets away but what is important is being out there. Even when I work from reference photos and sketches it still brings me back to the moment I was standing by that stream or on that mountain. That is the feeling I hope to convey in my work.