An Interview with Ann Oram for Pastel Journal, America

Polignano (pastel with mixed media, 44x46)Oram’s work is influenced by several 19th- and 20th- century artists. As a native of Scotland, she’s fully aware of the Scottish Colourists such as Samuel Peploe (1871-1935), Francis Cadell (1883-1937) and Leslie Hunter (1877-1931). She’s also a fan of English artist John Piper (1903-1992), who similarly combined delicate line over blocks of color and employed wax resist in some of his works. Another revered artist is French painter Raoul Dufy (1877-1953), who used line and color to create a delightfully light and pleasurable vision.

Oram also has sought inspiration through travel. She and her husband, photographer David Cemery, have elected to live in several locations throughout Europe while exhibiting regularly in Scotland and London. “Travel has definitely been a good thing,” says the artist, “although it’s been a tough option at times. We’ve taken chances over the years and embraced different parts of Europe. It’s been great to pull us out of a conservative city like Edinburgh and experience another side of life. How do other people live? What do they see and find interesting and beautiful? We’ve also had the opportunity to look at work in international collections and, more importantly, to meet new people.” the foreground to soft swatches of color in the blooms. Sections of the background have been softened and blurred, while details of stalks and leaves have been described with precise, sensi-tive lines.

Oram takes a similar approach in Delphinium and Cow Parsley (on page 48), in which she uses swatches of pastel in the final stages to create thick lights on some of the blossoms. “My paint-ings tend to begin and end with pastels,” she says. She uses pastel dramatically in Polignano (opposite), where the sea on the left is achieved by washing in various blue pigments using sponge and brush. The tide marks left by the drying edges of the layers create a feel of watery ocean without the requirement of painstaking rendering. The rocks on the right of the painting show inventive use of wax resist to create texture and depth. Wax candle marks made early in the process make subsequent layers appear broken, varied and rock-like. Throughout the work, a lively drawn line floats over looser, more active paint, creating a dialogue between acute observation and the power of suggestion and substitution.

In all of her works, the artist is careful to maintain a balance between loose suggestion and precise description. “If you say too much, you can kill off a work,” she says. “You have to leave the viewers some room to discover things for themselves.” As for the final impact of her paintings, Oram says, “My feeling is that one should just respond to a painting. There’s no uniform way of doing this. It may be a subject matter or a color combination that appeals to the viewer. It’s so individual. If I make someone feel happier about this wonderful planet we live on, I’d be chuffed!” Oram has every right to claim success in this; her work presents a world that’s splendid, open, rich and brimming with beauty.

Field Edge With Wild Flowers and Yellow Sky (diptych; pastel with mixed media, 30x44)

Author: JOHN A. PARKS ( is an artist, an author and a member of the faculty at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.