Joann Ballinger, the artist and teacher, is accomplished in media ranging from oil to pen and ink but specializes in the one she enjoys most, pastel. With a lifetime of experience, Joann brings a wide range of talent and skills to her painting and teaching. Her paintings cover a wide array of subjects from traditional Impressionist landscapes and seascapes, to portraits of people, animals, and still life. She has focused in recent years on several thematic series, including various studies of the human form from the classic nude to children, seacoasts, and harbors to include the marine environments in and around Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard and rural Connecticut landscapes. What distinguishes this nationally recognized artist is her unique use of a deep, rich palette in pastel, reminiscent of the early American Impressionist school. Joann, however, has made her own mark with her ability to employ an individualized lush palette set within the fleeting light from a particular time of day, a style uniquely her own with an effect few expect from the pastel medium.
Ballinger taught pastel techniques at the Lyman Allen Museum in New London, CT, the Art Cellar in Clinton, CT, and at the Lyme Art Association-- the oldest continuous American art colony-- in Old Lyme, CT. She has held the position of President of the Lyme Art Association, been awarded countless awards and recognitions, and featured in numerous publications-- including an election to Who's Who in Women in America.
Ballinger retired from teaching her pastel class when the pandemic hit, but still helps her students when they reach out to get a little help with a painting. She still monitors a figure class once a week.
“I paint to capture moments and moods in time and space that will never occur again. In our ever changing world, everyone is always hurrying through the seasons to get to the next one without visually appreciating the present. If I can preserve some of the beauty that I see around me, maybe I can give people a second chance to see and experience something they missed the first time, and hopefully, open their hearts to the light and sound in the process.”
An Interview with Joann Ballinger
Why do you do what you do?
I paint because I could not not paint. I have been painting since I was very young. I see paintings everywhere I go.
How do you work?
I paint mostly in my studio. I use reference photos that I take myself and combine that with my plein air experience and, also, my weekly work with the figure. The best paintings are visualized beforehand, they just flow.
What’s your background?
I was accepted into the art program at my high school. It had a very diverse curriculum and required more hours than regular school. It was only one of three high schools in the country with its own museum. After high school, I studied with several accomplished artists.
What role does the artist have in society?
I think to share their unique visions and emotions with people. Art can inspire and heal.
What work do you most enjoy doing?
I enjoy painting in pastel mostly. I love painting a figure or an animal in their surroundings within a landscape. I, also, enjoy painting just a figure.
What themes do you pursue?
Mostly uplifting, there is too much negativity in the world right now.
What’s your favorite artwork?
It is hard to pick out one painting. Some of my favorite paintings are the ones that include my granddaughter and sometimes my daughter. They definitely inspire me.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you.
I recently visited a lavender farm. I was excited by the beautiful colors, light, and the children visiting also. I was surprised that the children were enjoying the lavender fields as much as the adults. I was inspired to paint one of those children mesmerized in the middle of one of those fields.
What is an artistic outlook on life?
Constantly observing. Some people notice the branches on trees and wonder at their arrangement. Those people are probably some sort of visual artist. I imagine performers and musicians notice certain things as well.
What’s your favorite or most inspirational place?
An inspirational place for me was Block Island, Rhode Island. I taught a plein air workshop there twice a year for eleven years. The island has everything I love to paint such as beautiful beaches, rolling fields, gardens, people, and animals. I, also, exhibited in Eisenhauer Gallery there for quite a few years. At one of the shows there, A little girl thought she was in one of my paintings. Because of that, I have had a long friendship with the family and have painted all of their children.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best advice was to just be myself and not worry about others, Just follow your heart.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
It is to continue painting the best paintings I can and sharing them in galleries and shows. Also, to share any information I might have to help other artists.
A Painting's Story with Joann Ballinger
Sunny Afternoon was inspired by a visit to Harkness Memorial Park about 40 minutes from where I live. It is a beautiful old mansion with gardens and rolling fields that take you down to the ocean. I have painted there numerous times over the years and I took my class there, also. The beach is very pretty. I have always loved this spot with the outcropping of rocks and loved the way the water moves around them and, sometimes, over them. There are always people around enjoying this beautiful spot like this girl. The late daylight is a favorite time of day for me and the whole scene needed to be painted.
Peaceful Pasture was inspired by a farm I use to drive by on my way to my classes. I use to see this beautiful pastoral landscape in all kinds of weather and beautiful light. The sheep were so pretty against the colors in the pastures. The problem was it was on a very busy road with no place to pull over. I finally got up the courage to ask the man feeding the sheep if I could take photos. He never invited me onto the property, which would have been wonderful, but I was able to get some pretty good reference material. This was a painting I could see long before I started it.