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Style Magazine

Spotlight On Auburn's Paul Harman: Pastel Artist

After retiring from a career in law enforcement and studying for a year under the late artist Reif Erickson, Auburn resident Paul Harman became enamored with pastels. Currently a signature artist with the Pastel Society of the West Coast (PSWC) and member of North Auburn Artists, Harman creates realistic, light-filled landscapes and seascapes, along with vibrant paintings of animals. “I love the beauty of nature we have at our doorstep, and the places I travel to,” shares Harman. “Capturing [it] fills my senses and makes me happy.”

Paul Harman working on his latest pastel artwork.


HLN: how did you develop your artistic skills over the years?
PH: I drew things around me: trees, rocks, birds, deer, and even pictures from historical photos. In high school art classes, I stayed with realism and wouldn’t paint the modern art the teacher was pushing. I read books on drawing and painting and eventually began using watercolor and then oils. I was basically self-taught and would always carry a drawing pad and pencils with me when I went on vacations.
HLN: How did you discover your passion for pastels? 
PH: After my wife, Cindy, gifted me lessons for my birthday with distinguished pastel artist Reif Erickson, my passion for the medium began. Those lessons opened the door to a bright, tactile medium that’s both a [form of] drawing and painting. I no longer needed to wait for anything to dry and could continue to work on a painting while my creative inspirations flowed.

Early Evening on the Stagecoach Trail


HLN: You often create scenes in plein air. What do you enjoy about that particular technique?
PH: Plein air painting teaches how the sun affects your subject. You learn to paint quickly to catch the moment, because the sun will get brighter as the day goes by and colors will change and look washed out. Clouds could also come rolling in and change the whole look of the scene. Additionally, you learn to be less detailed and eliminate things that detract from a view or move them to give a better-balanced composition.
HLN: Where are your favorite places to travel for inspiration?
PH: I love painting the rocky shores and quiet beaches of our beautiful California coastline. The sea air and sound of the surf is incredibly relaxing, and the views are inspiring. I also love going to the Sierra and Hope Valley, which has been an inspiration for a number of paintings.   

Photos of Paul Harman by Dante Fontana