Roller, Letitia

Originally a designer and a weaver of tapestries, I turned to pastels because the medium is more immediate and direct way of working. When traveling various places I would draw in sketchbooks and found I loved making marks and recording what I saw. Gradually this progressed from intensive sketchbook works to pages and panels that were much larger. Pastels seemed to be the perfect medium to make a transition to color, as it is a dry medium as are pencil and charcoal. It is the combination of the use of color and drawing that has brought me to my present-day works that are visible on this web site.

Sometimes I work in plein air and sometimes from photographs that I have taken. There is a great deal to be said and observed from working with changing light and weather conditions. This sharpens the skill of observation when working outside as opposed to working from a photo. That said, the work from my photos prompts me into thinking about a particular place, the quality of light, atmosphere. The pastel painting becomes an amalgamation quite changed from the original photo. It is a luxury to be able to switch between the two methods.

Pastels come in many forms. They are made from the same pigments used in watercolor and oil paints. Pastels are in various hardnesses from very soft to hard. The softer the pastel the less binder there is in the stick of color. The binder used in pastels is usually gum tragacanth. The softer the pastel stick, the more pigment that is left onto the surface. The word is originally derived from the Italian “pastello”. Degas used pastels for his famous ballerinas and landscape paintings. Renoir, Redon, Delacroix and Cassatt, to name a few, all used pastels for many of their works.

I use only archival paper, sometimes mounted on a foam board. Often I underpaint with watercolor or gouache to prepare the surface. Pastels are a versatile and exciting medium because of the many possibilities they present to me.

I was born and grew up in Chicago, a city that presented me with a rich source of visual information. All my foundation courses were taken at the Bauhaus-driven Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually I received my undergraduate degree at Illinois State University and my graduate degree at Northern Illinois University. Post-graduate work was taken at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum in the area of scientific illustration. Art work experiences included Italy, Poland, India and Austria. Teaching various art courses at The Ohio State University and Morton East and West High Schools near Chicago rounded out the work experience. Presently I am happily living in Santa Fe and concentrating on my art works.

Additional work may be seen at