When Tina Moore retired from teaching over three years ago, she turned to her life-long hobby of painting.
Since then, she has spent almost every moment in her living room-turned-art studio in Stockton, poised with different colored Sennelier pastels and Wallis paper, a professional grade sandpaper for pastel artists.
On this day, she perches near a window, letting the summer sunlight envelop her. Rays frame her soft blonde bob and porcelain complexion, as she gazes at the painting in front of her. She is working on a portrait of a dark-haired young girl, trying to capture a measure of shyness in her expression. It is portraits like these as well as pictures of animals - horses, elephants, tigers, even her three-year-old golden Labrador Monty - which have defined her work.
In April of this year, three of her paintings - "Retriever," a painting of Monty retrieving a stick from the river, "William," a natural portrait of a young teenager, and "Alone," a contemplative portrait of a dreadlocked man - were included in "The Pastel Journal's Best Art of 2005" issue, out of 4,000 entries received. The paintings were also part of The Pastel Journals exhibit, "Pastels 100," an annual show featuring the best pastel paintings in the country.
"I was very surprised. Extremely surprised," said Moore, who had entered the competition once before and was rejected. "People from around the country have called and e-mailed me saying how much they loved my dog."
For this painter, it's become a second career, a second chance, which continues to blossom after retirement.
A start with coloring books
Tina Moore grew up in the same Stockton home, where she and her husband currently reside. As a child, she had a natural ability and an interest in art.
"It started with coloring books," she said. "And I had some good art teachers."
After graduating from Lodi High School, she attended Stephens College in Missouri for two years, the University of Hawaii and the University of the Pacific, where she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in fine art and a minor in psychology.
Following graduation, she began teaching - everything from high school art ("It didn't work. I was too young," she said) to leading special education classes for blind and visually impaired students, which she did the last 10 years of her career.
By teaching these special education classes, she had less take-home work to do and more time to devote to her hobby of painting. It was in those last 10 years that she became more serious about her artwork, getting comfortable with pastels, her favorite medium, which is still regarded somewhat as a black sheep in art circles.
"Pastels are not as respected as oils. Not by the public and the galleries. People will buy oil over pastel any day," she sighed.
And then there's the dust factor with pastels (she recently purchased a surgical mask to avoid breathing in too much cadmium, which make up the bulk of these slim sticks of pigment) and the fact that her fingertips are almost always a dirty shade of coal ("Some of that stuff washes off, but not all of it," she said). Pastels also naturally look muted behind glass and Moore works hard to compensate for that.
But the joy she gleans from the pastel medium more than makes up for these inconveniences.
"I love the colors," she beamed. "They're warm. There are such beautiful pinks and you can do so much with it."
For her, the painting process is simple. She takes photographs of whatever captures her imagination and then uses them as a guide for her paintings. Her strengths with pastels, she said, are in capturing warmth and light in her subjects.
She's also had time to venture into the realm of oil painting, which can still leave her daunted. In particular, the time element - the short amount of time she has to place color onto the canvas before it dries - continues to challenge her.
"When it's down, you're done," Moore said. "Especially in this heat."
But she has come a long way from her early days as an oil painter. Every once in a while, she brings into the room one of her first oil paintings. It's a framed picture of a smudgy, chocolate-faced cowboy sitting upon a horse, his face shaded by a stetson. The color, she says emphatically, is all wrong.
"It's ugly," she said, without mincing words. "But it's a good reminder."
Landing in the right place
These days, she is finishing the last two new paintings for her solo show at the Knowlton Gallery, which opens on Friday. The little girl portrait is in its final stages and she needs to complete her portrait of a striking young woman, which is currently just a floating head on canvas.
The show entitled "Moore Views" will feature about 14 different pastel and oil pieces, including "Quiet Moments," piece featuring two snow-white horses and "Retriever," which was honored by The Pastel Journal.
For Robin Knowlton, owner of the Knowlton Gallery, Moore was a natural choice for a solo show.
"She's a beautiful pastel artist," Knowlton said. "She is strong in both pastels and oils, but her pastels are absolutely stunning and she has a really good reputation in the Valley."
As for next month, Moore is curator for the Haggin Museum show, "54th Stockton Art League Exhibition," which features two of her works.
See it!WHAT: "Moore Views," a solo show for Tina Moore
WHEN: Through the month of August, with an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday
WHERE: Knowlton Gallery, 115 S. School St. #14
INFORMATION: 368-5123 or http://www.tinamoore.com">http://www.tinamoore.com
She also keeps busy with her commissioned work (including projects for Kaiser Permanente, Porsche Club of America and the University of the Pacific), as well as in her role as secretary and vice-president on the board of the Pastel Society of the West Coast.
Being included in the Pastel Journal has helped open some doors for her, but she contends that the art world is still very fickle. She wouldn't want to be an artist for a living. She's glad that retirement has led her here.
"You might be good for awhile, but then the public loses interest," she said. "In my case, in my old age, getting really into art, it's a bad time because there are so many good artists. You just have to land in the right place."
But for now, this place suits her just fine.
For more information, visit http://www.tinamoore.com">http://www.tinamoore.com.
A primer on pastelsA BRIEF HISTORY OF PASTELS: During the 18th century the medium became fashionable for portrait painting, used in a mixed technique with gouache. Famous artists of the time were de la Tour and Jean Etienne Liotard. Pastel is still sometimes combined with other materials in a mixed media painting, but it is not easily compatible with oil paint. Edgar Degas was a most prolific user of pastel and its champion. His protégé, Mary Cassatt, introduced pastel to her friends in Philadelphia and Washington, and thus to the USA.
HOW ARE PASTELS MADE? Pigments are ground into a paste with water and a gum binder and then rolled or pressed into sticks - the name "pastel" is derived from the Italian pastello meaning "little bread roll."
HOW ARE PASTELS USED? A pastel is made by letting the sticks move over an abrasive ground, leaving color on the grain of the paper, sandboard, canvas, etc. When fully covered with pastel, the work is called a pastel painting; when not, a pastel sketch or drawing. Pastel paintings, being made with a medium that has the highest pigment concentration of all, reflect light without darkening refraction, allowing for very saturated colors.
WHAT ARE PASTELS MADE OF? Pastel crayons or sticks, consist of pure pigment combined with an inert binder, such as gum arabic, gum tragacanth, or methyl cellulose. Often a chalk or gypsum component is present.
FAMOUS PASTEL ARTISTS: Maurice Quentin de la Tour, Rosalba Carriera, Edgar Degas, Larry Blovits, Wende Caporale, Tim Gaydos, Daniel Greene, Wolf Kahn, Albert Handell and Madlyn-Ann C. Woolwich