Vibrant and detailed, her pastel portraits come alive.
Stephanie Rose Long walks towards a Craftsman tool organizer in her home studio and opens the drawers one after the other. A beautiful array of pastels fill the thin black metal drawers; each hue lying in a mix among others of its kind. Every color imaginable - some barely distinguishable from the next - wait to be used in Stephanie's next masterpiece.
She opens the bottom drawer and shares how each pastel is used right down to the powder, which is mixed and transformed into a new earth tone for the collection. A small tin holds the remaining bits of usable pastels whose lives were spent on the green eyes of a furry feline, or within the dark coat of a majestic mare. "Color is my thing," she says. Glancing past her studio space and into the rest of the house, I can see the impact of beauty and color in her life. Each room is a memorable living gallery for her art.
As a pastel artist, Stephanie uses the joys of her life as muses to create. For the last 15 years, her pastel pieces have been focused on western themes to reflect her days working horses on a ranch. When designing animals like horses, cattle, and buffalo, she layers purples and blues as undertones for their coats, adding intricate details to the forefront and blurring lines further from the eye as the layers are built. Her technique makes finished pieces feel warm and full of spirit.
In addition to pastel portraits, Stephanie's brand Wild Rose Western Art consists of painted purses and beaded jewelry. Using purses made by Coach, Tignanello and Fossil, she designs completely unique accessories for women through a meticulous process to guarantee longevity.
When scouting out new purses to paint, she looks for quality. Each one has to have value and be in excellent condition prior to its transformation. This ensures that the canvas she's working on is worth putting her art and soul into.
First, Stephanie removes the factory surface finish from areas of material that she will paint on. Horses trot across the surface in lively colors as accent designs highlight the curves and corners surrounding the focal points. After three layers of paint and two coats of finish, her accessories are ready to last a lifetime of use. Stephanie herself carries with her a ten year old painted purse which has held up exceptionally well since the day she finished painting it.
Sourced from Kingman Turquoise Mine in Arizona, Stephanie's favorite rocks adorn many of her hand-crafted necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Her color-loving spirit has created an assortment of high-quality jewelry sets that fit in so well with her hand-painted purses and pastel wall art. "There's so much fake turquoise used in jewelry," and that's not her style, says Stephanie. This is why she works hard to ensure that hers is directly from the source; for alluring stones that she's proud to wear and sell.
While her collection of western art has garnered a lot of attention throughout her years as an artist, her life took a turn in the last year and it's soon to be reflected in newer pastel art. Stephanie moved to Tuolumne and started fresh outside of the ranching world she knew for so long. As an artist whose work comes from life around her, she started on a journey to find different things to base her work upon. In her first attempt at working with a new focal point, she created the amazing cat pastel portrait seen in the photo above. Initially, Stephanie worried about how it would turn out, and if she could do something so unique from her other pieces, but as a finished piece it stands out and may be one of her best yet. The adorable cat with a mile-long stare is sure to sell quick and make cat-lovers everywhere yearn for one of their own.
Stephanie is going to continue experimenting with pastels, mimicking textures like those found on the bumpy surfaces of graffiti-sprayed walls to broaden her line of work. Envisioning scenes of trains passing by and the sights between cars, she aims to create a new series on ideas like these.
Starting over has been difficult for Stephanie, but in her art, there is always the hope of experiencing something new. Having lived a life surrounded by horses and traveling to new places since she was 6, settling in the mountains on her own feels strange. She hopes to create new relationships through her art with other artists and community members, and find her place in the Motherlode.
Stephanie Rose Long is a Tuolumne County artist to watch in the coming months and years as she continues to showcase her work in new galleries and dabble with brand new feats of artistry. Currently, her art is showing at the Twain Arte Gallery in Twain Harte, Art on Main in Murphys, and Prestige Gallery in Angels Camp.