Remember your pet in style - with a pastel portrait
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Remember your pet in style – with a pastel portrait by Mandy Roeing

Walking by Mandy Roeing’s booth at Normal’s Sugar Creek Arts Festival earlier this summer, it was hard to ignore the stunning beach landscapes.

No, the pieces weren’t done on vacation or simply from photographs; they harken back to over a decade of life in North Carolina, where the love of pastel painting began for the Central Illinois native.

Sure enough, there are seascapes on display at Roeing’s home in Downs, which she shares with her husband Jason and their two young daughters Kahlan and Jordan.

Panning over to another corner, a landlocked scene more familiar to CI residents catches the eye, with a cluster of trees and lush green grass. While the paintings differ in hue, they each have a take on a light-filled and realistic skyscape that often involves many hours, techniques and colors that draw the eye in to a seemingly never-ending horizon — and thanks to the location of her home-based studio, sometimes all she has to do for inspiration is to look out her window.

“I have always found being surrounded by nature’s beauty to be both soothing and invigorating,” she says in her artist’s statement. “I love the effect it has on me and enjoy translating those emotions through color, light, and form into a permanent work of art to share with others. ”

Thanks to the long expanse of corn fields, she says that she enjoys painting with pastels the “big” sky that stretches from horizon to horizon in Central Illinois. But her work in the medium actually began with animals. Her most intimate portrait, which hangs in her home, is that of her own cat, “Miss Moppet,” that has since passed away.

It all started back when Roeing worked at an animal hospital while studying art at the University of North Carolina. She found herself one day drawing one of the patients, and others remarked at how stunning the likeness was. Her classroom work was in drawing and printmaking, but never one to enjoy picking up a paint brush, she began to use pastels and has perfected her craft since her graduation with a BFA in studio art in 2004.

Roeing says pastel is a versatile medium, and through various pigments, hard and soft pastels, and paper types, many different effects can be captured.

She often has more than one piece going at a time in her home studio, and the day Central Illinois Buzz visited, a lovable dog portrait sat in the line-up as she had a landscape painting in the works.

Animal portrait by Mandy Roeing 3

Since Roeing accepts commissions via her website, much of her pet portrait work is done remotely, but she says it’s helpful to be able to interact with the animal, in addition to having photos to refer to. Doing memorial portraits remotely can be challenging, in that it limits the personality she can capture in the work.

“I don’t want to say I want to make people cry, but capturing the person’s relationship with the pet is important,” she says, adding that the key is getting the animal’s eyes and expression just right.

When she is not in her studio, she can often be found teaching pastel painting at the McLean County Arts Center in nearby Bloomington. She’s also taught courses at the Schnuck’s community room in Bloomington where she has had a classical theme featuring Italian music and wines.

Then there are the art fairs. Most recently, she worked on one of her dog portraits at Bloomington’s Dog Days street fest. And in addition to Sugar Creek, she’s also a fixture at Normal’s Spring Bloom Arts Festival and the Washington Arts Festival in Washington, Illinois.

Roeing is an active member of the Illinois Prairie Pastel Society and a past president of the Pastel Society of NC. She is represented by Main Gallery 404 in Bloomington and Botanica Flowers and Gifts in Greensboro, NC. Her work can be found in numerous private collections.

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Susan Barreto

Written by Susan Barreto

Susan is an award-winning journalist who has worked for a number of regional and global publications. Much of her career has been covering the global finance industry for publications published by Crains, Reuters and Euromoney/Institutional Investor. She also interned and later freelanced for Rockford Magazine as well as the Northwestern Illinois Farmer newspaper.

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