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Drawing national attention – local artist featured in national publication

Pastel artist Bobbie McKibbin at work in her Drawn West Studio near Stevensville. McKibbin is known primarily for her landscapes. She draws from experience but uses a photograph to help remind her of the view. But in the end, having been there is the basis of the drawing. “If it was cold, you’ve got to render that in the drawing too,” she said. Michael Howell photo.

By Michael Howell

Local pastel artist Bobbie McKibbin of Drawn West Studio was recently featured on the cover of Pastel Journal, a nationally circulated art magazine devoted to work in pastel that is published six times a year out of Blue Ash, Ohio. Each issue usually highlights three to four artists working in the pastel medium. The magazine lists workshops and competitive exhibitions and new products for the pastel artist.

McKibbin said that she was first contacted last July by the magazine’s editor, Anne Havener. That contact led to a one and a half hour interview by freelance writer Michelle Taute from Cincinnati, Ohio. McKibbin also forwarded over thirty images of her work to the magazine’s editorial board. One of McKibbin’s own favorite drawings, entitled “Backyard”, was chosen to grace the front cover of the magazine and a total of eight images of her work were published along with the article.

“I was particularly proud and happy that my work ‘Backyard’ was chosen to be featured on the cover,” said McKibbin. “It is one of my all-time favorite drawings.”

“Backyard”, a pastel drawing of McKibbin’s snow covered backyard near Stevensville, was included in the 2005 exhibition titled “Drawn West” which was shown at Grinnell College in Iowa and at the Missoula Art Museum.

Three of the eight images chosen to accompany the magazine article, “Marsh”, “Sandhills” and “Badlands”, are included in the current exhibition at River’s Mist Gallery in Stevensville. Additional works are also currently on display at The Frame Shop and Gallery in Hamilton.

Despite teaching art for 31 years at Grinnell College, drawing with pastels remains a learning experience, says McKibbin. She works from nature and nature has a way of continually challenging her in her efforts to render that experience in pastel on paper, she said.

In the case of her “Backyard” experience, the most significant challenge turned out to be rendering a path through the snow that her dogs had created, said McKibbin. It’s a little bit like trying to render something that’s not there, a depression or a hollow. In reality the depression is created by taking something away. But in the world of art it is created by adding something, by making a mark. The trick is putting marks on paper that, in a sense, disappear, giving the impression of space, a hollow, a depression, in this case a path cut deeply into a field of snow.

“What I found out almost immediately,” McKibbin said, “was that I couldn’t do it. It simply failed.” As a result she scratched it out with a razor blade and tried again.

“I failed again,” she said. “It looked like marks on top of the snow.” So she scratched it out and started over… and failed again. What we see in the finished work, she said, is probably the fourth or fifth version of the path.

“Artists should always push themselves beyond their limits,” said McKibbin. “They should take a technical problem that is presenting difficulties and push themselves until they get it right. That keeps it exciting, but taxing, and a little scary.”

McKibbin, who primarily does landscapes, works out of her Drawn West Studio located west of Stevensville and may be reached at 777-3226.

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