Our Featured Artist Cathyann Burgess Working with Pastels en Plein Air

by Sue Dolamore
“It matters little what I paint. It matters much that I paint. A certain glance, attitude, light or mood communicates with me strong enough to get me motivated to speak back. Then I go to my studio and pick up chalk or brush. It is there at the easel where I find contentment, simple yet abundant with memories and moments I wish to record.” C.L.Burgess

Cathyann Burgess is a native of Brooklyn, NYC. She was an artist from day one, which was activated and supported by the rich environment of her family life and the City in which she lived. Her father was loving, passionate and creative man who encouraged and supported Cathyann’s natural artistry. Surrounded by art, including works of the great Masters in the museums of New York City, her passion for painting was ignited and she began early in life to practice and study. These efforts paid off and she went on to study further. She holds a MSEd in Art from SUNY College at Buffalo, NY. After College she went on to teach art in many settings for 25 years. She retired from teaching and set some goals for this next phase of her life as an artist:

To paint daily, showing and selling work as long as she is able
To increase her patronage by saying “yes” to opportunities to share her work
To continue to compete in regional and national venues
To serve on art committees and organizations

Cathyann also loves to teach and continues to offer workshops. Her teaching style reflects her belief that continued study, practice and attention to high standards of quality will result in excellence. If you are interested her workshops, please mention this to her on Tuesday and she will be able to notify you when the time comes.

Early experiences of the masterworks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, such as Picasso’s Guernica had a strong impact. While Artists of influence are many for Cathyanne, she clearly has some favorites in Edgar Degas, Sorolla, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Robert Henri, Manet, Twatchman and Caravaggio.

Among today’s artists, Cathyann has studied with Nelson Shanks, Daniel Greene, Matthew Mancini, and Randall Sexton.

Contemporary pastel artists that she likes include: Wolf Kahn, Elizabeth Mowry, Richard McKinley, Sally Strand, Casey Klahn, Marla Bagetta and many more!

Pastels have been Cathyanne’s preferred medium of late and feel she feels that she has “come home” with them. With them she explores the environment en plein air, trying out new effects and ideas in the studio. Subjects of interest to her are many especially the landscape and figures and her beloved birds, but “really it matters more that she paints rather than what she paints. Process is where she finds peace as well as exhilaration. Of late, she has been revisiting abstract expressionism through mixed media, including pastels

Cathyann uses many soft pastels. Soft Pastel is pure pigment held to gather with a bit of gum arabic and water formed into a stick about 1/2 inch by 1.5 inches or so.
The brands that she uses include: Terry Ludwig, Diane Townsend, Rembrandt and Great American.
The surface she uses is a sanded one, preferring Uart or Premier brands and Ampersand Pastel Board. The only other tools she uses are blending stumps, and sometimes alcohol or water to make a wash underpainting.

Among the benefits of using pastels over other mediums, Cathyann finds that they already have all the values needed so there is no time spent mixing. She considers it the perfect medium for plein air. She can work fast, small and plenty

What Cathyann says about why she paints:

“Painting from life reveals the whole truth, which is why I believe it is the best way to perceive and interpret subject matter.

This is what I want to tell you. I can’t not paint. I love to move colors around with pastels, brush and palette knife, brayer etc. I love the challenge of orchestrating a blank canvas in to a symphony of color.

I am just fascinated with the colors, moods and sounds of my North Carolina surroundings. The ordinary, quiet moments of daily living are often filled with common things that I find quite lovely. The Blue Ridge mountains, that Carolina Blue sky, birds, trees, weather all fill my artwork in pastels, and oils. The cold wax abstractions of the landscape in NC is a new series I am working on at present.

Raising this simple and abundant life to the sacred, which is evident to me, is what my oil, pastel, acrylic painting is “about”. I want the viewer to breathe a sigh of joy or relief when viewing my work or living with it. I believe that this fast and often violent world needs more of the beautiful and this is what I offer: my sense of wonder at the beauty in each day that I live. I want to share the things that delight me with you. It is that simple.”

Recommended Resources and References:

Cathyann’s website:







Asheville Gallery of Art,
82 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC.


Appalachian Pastel Society
A group for pastel artists in WNC. Cathyann is the program chair and brings in 3 to 4 artists workshops each year. They also have paint outs and exhibitions. They love having new members.

Recommended Books:
The Landscape Paintings of Richard McKinley: Selected Works in Oil and Pastel by Richard McKinley


Recommended Videos and Online classes from Marla Baguette: http://www.landscapepaintinglessons.com/