Feature Artist: Gretchen Olberding

By Taylor Wilson

Using pastels, acrylic, and watercolor paint, Gretchen Olberding is a talented artist whose work I came across while visiting Against the Wall Gallery and Frame Shop. She is a new member to the Lincoln Artist Guild, but certainly not to the ways of painting.

Gretchen told me her inspiration was nature. In her words, “I love being out there. I like to sit on a log and look at what’s going on around me”. She says many of her paintings are plein air meaning that she does them on site. Painting from what she sees, she looks at the shadows cast and the refracting light upon the landscape. I was drawn to her paintings by her use of intensified colors. Gretchen has many photos from both Arizona, where she lived previously, and from Nebraska, where she lives now. She sometimes doesn’t know what to paint next, so she looks through her many photographs allowing her to come up with something new to paint.

Her favorite medium for the last five to six years has been pastels because they are easy to get out, use, and put away without much of a mess. Gretchen says, “I love using pastels, not only for their ease of cleanup, but because of the vividness of colors they impart. I can layer colors for luminosity.” However, she will revisit other paint media from time to time and keeps four mediums active in her studio which includes pastels, watercolors, oils, and fiber clay. It is not hard for this artist to decide what to use. She uses whatever she is in the mood for and each medium has its own challenges.

“… show people the beauty of our countryside. They will appreciate it, love it, and want to care for it.”

Gretchen Olberding

In Gretchen’s mind, all three of the painting media she uses need an underpainting to start. With pastels, Gretchen uses a variety giving her a multitude of colors. “I use under paintings in a dark color to establish a value structure or to create a vibration of complementary colors with the top layer of color.” The first layer consists of the basic colors she sees in the subject, then she overlays more colors to create the brightness and texture in her finished paintings. She learned that using a spray fixative on pastels darkens them. Therefore, she must compensate for the fixative by using brighter colors or refrain from using fixative and frame the art behind the glass for protection.

She sees art as a lifelong learning process and so far this includes a masters degree in history then continuing her learning about art with thirty to forty workshops, 18 hours of graduate study, and online research. She thought history and art was a strange combination, but I understand them as woven together like strands of string. Gretchen has had the good fortune of becoming a Signature Status artist, which means she has met standards, received awards, and has been accepted into national shows. She has earned Signature Status in the Sonoran Art League of Northern Phoenix, Arizona Pastel Artists Association, and Wickenburg Art Club in Arizona.

It is Gretchen’s mission in life to help people to see the environment for what it is, a wonderful thing that we should all respect and preserve rather than destroy. Her mission is to “show people the beauty of our countryside. They will appreciate it, love it, and want to care for it”.