Maryland Pastel Society newsletter


Jean Hirons

Jean Hirons

Antietam Barns, 14 X 17

 I came to art as a second career, but it's always been part of my life.  As a child I used to draw pictures of the New Hampshire mountains from my grandmother's black and white day books.  I ended up majoring in fine art in college after realizing that I'd flunk out if I continued as a biology major!  However, when I graduated, I knew that I had to find something that would give me an income.

That something was library science. I worked at the local university and attended the University of Rhode Island's library school part time, attaining my masters degree in 1973. After moving to the Washington, D.C. area with my first husband, I landed a job with the federal government in the Government Printing Office.  During my time at GPO I learned how satisfying it was to have a job in which I could serve a much broader constituency than one library.  From 1983 to 2003, I worked at the Library of Congress with an international program for the cataloging of serials and periodicals, which I headed in the last ten years.  During that time, I wrote the two major instructional guides for serials catalogers, began an international training program, and led the revision of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Code to include rules for the cataloging of websites and electronic journals.  All of these activities were important to me and expressions of my need for creativity.

Spring Song, 16 X 20
mps 279
But also in 1983, I separated from my husband and began taking art classes at the Corcoran.  I progressed to the Art League School at the Torpedo Factory, and in 2001 I took my first professional pastel workshop with Richard McDaniel.  Doing art—first colored pencil and lithography, later pastel—became increasingly important to me.  I had had little encouragement as a child or as a new wife and it was only when I was once again single that I could really take art seriously.

I am a realist and I knew that my early work was dreadful!  I hated the idea of being an amateur.  But the more I worked, the better I got. I started having shows at my church in 1988 and realized that I could sell my work! Finally, in 2003, the Library of Congress offered an early retirement option. By that time I knew that what I most wanted from life was to become the best pastel artist I could be.  So I took it and I've never regretted it.

A Morning Walk in Connemara, 18 X 24

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But timing is everything!  In early 2004, I was admitted to a gallery in Bethesda. And then Janet Jenson, former MPS president and adjunct professor of pastel at Montgomery College, announced she was moving to South Dakota. I took over her position in fall 2005 and greatly enjoy being able to teach what I love.  

Since 2001, I've taken workshops with many of the finest pastel artists in the country—Handell, Pardue, McKinley, Dawson, Mowry, Rohm, and Ogilvie.  It's been enlightening, exhilarating, and confusing! After using many surfaces and styles, finally this summer I've come to terms with myself and I've developed a technique, style, surface, and subject matter that I think uniquely fits me.  Also rewarding to me is that after years of painting my home town of Mattapoisett, MA, I'm now represented in a gallery there and next year will have a show and give a workshop in the area.  

The Maryland Pastel Society has been a key ingredient to my development as an artist.  In 1999, I was the featured artist at the Library of Congress's annual employee's art show and I wrote that one of my main desires was to become a member of MPS.  I joined the next year as a full member.  I knew the minute I entered my first meeting that this was the place for me. And it always has been.

Connemara Flow, 18 X 24

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In 2005, I joined the board as Vice President and also became a workshop co-leader with Joyce Lister. I became president last October and have greatly enjoyed the challenges and privilege of leading this wonderful Society.    

My love of pastel continues. It's the only medium I use and will probably ever use. I bought some oil paints this summer to play with, but I've decided they are best used as an underpainting for pastel! I love the ability to work with my hands, to produce varied textures and rich surfaces, and to know that when I apply a color it won't change. More importantly, it is the medium in which I have been able to reach my full potential as an artist.  

Jean Hirons' show New Pastels will be on view at Waverly Street Gallery  in Bethesda from October 7-Nov. 8. You can see her work and the show online at: