By Irene Ruddock
Lana Ballot, a signature member of the Pastel Society of America is known for her stunning seascapes and coastal scenes, one of which just won first place (‘Grateful’) in The Art Guild of Port Washington Juried Exhibition “America.” Here, she shares her views on her art with us.
What is your heritage and how has it affected your art?
I was born in Siberia, Russia, but most of my childhood was spent in Kyrgyzstan, in the south of the former Soviet Union. We lived near a resort area with a large beautiful lake (the second largest mountain lake in the world), beaches and distant mountain views. I remember watching how the lake changes colors depending on the weather, or how the setting sun colors the mountain peaks golden and pink. There I started paying close attention to colors in nature and I’m sure that’s why now, as an artist, I’m so attracted to landscape and seascape as my main subjects.
Where did you study?
It was clear since I was a child that I had some artistic ability, but there were no art schools where we lived. After I came to the United States, I felt that I was given a chance to start over and do what I really love. I enrolled as a studio arts major at Stony Brook and spent years immersed in drawing, painting and learning art history.
Why do you prefer to work with pastels?
Pastels are a perfect medium that fits so well in a contemporary lifestyle — it does not require much space or use of any toxic solvents and it’s very portable, which makes it perfect for painting outdoors. Pastels are made of pure powdered pigment that is held together with very little binder, so they have the highest color concentration than any other artist’ medium. The colors in paintings made with pastels will stay brilliant and fresh for centuries!
Where do you teach?
I was fortunate to have been invited to join the group of talented artists teaching at The Atelier at Flowerfield in St. James. Currently, I offer two classes — a studio Pastel Painting class on Tuesday evenings and a Plein Air with Pastels class on Friday mornings. In addition to these ongoing classes, I teach workshops that are usually focused on a specific subject, like Painting Seascapes with Pastels from Aug. 18 to 20. This June, I’m teaching a week-long Plein Air workshop in Tuscany, Italy — a dream destination for a landscape painter!
Tell me about your Tuscany workshop. Can people still sign up for it?
Yes, there’s still time to sign up. This is a painting vacation from June 17 to 24. The group will be staying in a villa in Tuscany, near the beautiful town of Cortona, the filming location for the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun.” Learning in a relaxed atmosphere in a gorgeous setting, while enjoying Italian food and wine will be a wonderful experience.
Do you have a favorite place to paint on Long Island?
Smith Point Beach in Shirley and Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai are my go-to places for seascapes and coastal subjects. It does not matter how many times I’ve walked through the dunes or by the water, I’ll find something new and exciting, because the light is never quite the same. I’m also fortunate to live near the beautiful village of Stony Brook, where I’ve painted in different seasons and weather, and where I’m bringing my plein air students during this spring semester.
Why do you like painting en plein air?
There’s no substitute for learning about color for a landscape artist than to paint outside en plein air. Besides, it’s just great to be immersed in my subject, with all senses engaged.
Who is your favorite artist?
[John Singer] Sargent is one of the biggest influences on my work for his sense of color and expressive brushwork.
If you had to choose one word to describe your art, what would that be?
Color! That is what most people would mention when they speak about my work. It’s also the brilliant color that is found in, and is so special about, my preferred painting medium — pastels.
Where can we see your work and learn more about your teaching and the workshops?
Visit my website at www.lanaballot.com or call me at 262-347-1176. You may also register for my classes or workshops at The Atelier in St. James by calling 631-250-9009 or by visiting their website, www.atelieratflowerfield.org.