Kathy Beekman’s pastel paintings on display at Cogswell Gallery in Vail Saturday | VailDaily.com

Kathy Beekman’s pastel paintings on display at Cogswell Gallery in Vail Saturday

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyKathy Beekman knew she wanted to be an artist when she was 4 years old, she said. New paintings by Beekman are on display at Cogswell Gallery in Vail. The gallery is hosting a reception Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m.

Stare at one of Kathy Beekman’s pastel paintings for long enough and you’ll feel at peace. The uncluttered landscapes, combined with contrasting warm and cool colors, draws the viewer into the canvas. It’s hard not to yearn for a time machine to transport you to the field where there’s just a big sky, a rolling sea of grassy plains and a lone brick-red barn in the distance.

“All of us are so accustomed to the constant barrage of media that flashes in front of us that when you first encounter one of Kathy’s pastels, you can’t help but feel an immediate sense of calm,” said Steven DeWitt, Cogswell Gallery director. “Instead of feeling overwhelmed, the artist’s compositions and choice of color evokes the feeling I get when I’m most content.”

That’s precisely the effect Beekman is searching for with her work, she said.

“The way the clouds make you feel when they are tall and white with a hint of purple, the way you long for a quiet pink sunset, the feeling of wet grass beneath your feet,” Beekman said. “These are the kinds of things that inspire me to paint, things that make you long for whatever it is that makes you feel deeply. I try to capture these deep feelings with my use of color, line, and shape. I try to evoke a powerful sense of intimacy and peacefulness.”

New paintings by the pastel artist are on display at Cogswell Gallery. The gallery will host a reception from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday. The artist will not be present.

The gallery has been showing Beekman’s work since 2006, DeWitt said.

“This summer we saw a huge interest in the collection we had hanging,” he said. “The new work that came in for this show is some of the best I’ve seen since we started showing her at Cogswell Gallery. I’m really excited to see people’s reactions.”

Pastel paints are notoriously difficult to work with. Even Beekman admits it isn’t the easiest medium.

“Painting with pastels is tricky business,” she said. “One little rain drop or a gust of wind and my pastel paintings can be destroyed.”

That’s why she spends most of her time working in the studio, safe from weather’s whims. She takes plenty of reference photos of various places she visits ” Italy, France, Montana, Ohio, New Mexico, Indiana ” to look at later for inspiration.

“Perhaps it’s the clouds, the starkness of the landscape, or the color of the grasses that strike me,” she said. “I stare at the photos for a while and they inspire me to paint.”

Even though they’re fickle, pastels positives far outweight the negatives for Beekman. The color are rich, she doesn’t have to wait for them to dry and she can stop in the middle of a painting and come back later to finish it, Beekman said. She can also use her fingers to create her images.

“Using my fingers and really getting dirty (and) into my work, is what I think I like best about the medium,” Beekman said.

Visitors to Cogswell Gallery have been especially drawn to Beekman’s work lately, DeWitt said. Nearly every day someone comments about her paintings. That’s likely helped by how they’re presented ” the 37-year-old artist mounts her pastels on bright white mattes and completes the look with a black wooden frame. The final effect is dramatic.

“The contrast between the vibrancy and rich color saturation of her pastels against a stark white background helps in the overall impact of the artist’s work,” DeWitt said.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.

What: Kathy Beekman art opening

Where: Cogswell Gallery, 223 Gore Creek Drive, Vail

When: Saturday, 2 to 5 p.m.

More information: 970-476-1769

Read more about Kathy Beekman on her blog “A day in the life of an artist,” at http://kathybeekman.wordpress.com.

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