The artistry behind the work of Pam Newell is simply artistic brilliance. Her paintings capture the essence of simple, beautiful objects and landscapes in a way that we see with our eyes, but seldom are able to capture with a photograph or to adequately describe with words.

The teal blue teacup, peonies bursting from a vase, roses with their stems seen through a water-filled vase and a copper African kettle seem to be exactly as the eye remembers. The longer I stare at one of her still life paintings, the less I recall that it’s a painting and not the actual objects set before me.

Modest, humble and gracious, Newell says that we live in an artistic vortex in Indiana. “There is so much talent here,” says Newell. “Hamilton County alone has a wealth of artists with incredible abilities.” Newell attended the University of Massachusetts where she studied two-dimensional design and art education.

Being completely unfamiliar with the process of painting with oil and pastels, an informative lesson on the supplies was in order: “Pastel is very immediate and has gorgeous luminous color. It’s pure pigment,” explains Newell, “which is the same pigment in oil, only in pastel it’s held together with a binder.” The word pastel comes from the word paste — not a reference to light colors. Stretched canvas isn’t a preferred surface for Newell. She prefers linen as a painting surface, mostly glued to boards, smoothed and prepped for beautiful possibilities.

A student of Newell’s, Julie McCullough, enrolled in Newell’s class at the Indianapolis Art Center. McCullough, who hadn’t touched her brushes since college, credits Newell for her heartfelt encouragement and instruction, leading her to a place that she hadn’t thought possible to go as a painter. “I believe we get caught up in everyday life and when things begin to calm down, we wish to reach for something within us. Pam has brought that out in me, and I can honestly say she has been one of the best mentors,” states McCullough. The praise for Newell is consistent from her students. “When you leave her workshop, you feel like she has elevated your self-confidence and you are ready to go home and try many of her suggestions,” says fellow student Audrey Fiet.

Newell, who works from home along with her husband, Bruce, who occupies another office in their home, used mostly pastels when their children were young. “I could leave the pastel on the easel and come back to it later, and with little children, the interruptions were frequent,” says Newell. Once she had the luxury of longer, more focused time at her craft, she went back to mostly oils. “I have transitioned to about 70 percent oil paintings,” says Newell, “but I love both media, for different reasons.” Oil is an ideal medium for still lifes, which are the bulk of Newell’s work right now.

On occasion, Newell, like other artists, will paint “en plein air.” This simply refers to painting outside in the elements. When Newell paints outside, she paints almost exclusively in oils, which are easier for her to set up. She indicated that the setup with pastels is heavier and she found that she spent a great amount of time looking in the grass for them. Newell donated two paintings to the Ambassador House, both in pastel, and one was done en plein air on-site.

As a member of several artists associations, such as the Indiana Artists Club founded by T.C. Steele and other notable artists in 1917, Brown County Art Guild, Hoosier Salon, Hamilton County Artists Association and Indiana Artisans, to name a few, Newell has gotten to know many amazing artists around the state. “What never ceases to amaze me is the deep pool of talent here,” says Newell. “We are all mutually respectful and supportive of one another.”

When asked about plein air sites in Indiana, Newell responds, “There is beauty all around. You just need to know where to look. And sometimes it’s right outside your door, with the proper lighting. The only requirement is opening our eyes and our minds.”

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