Jean Hirons

Jean Hirons
The Passage Gallery
Winter Light: Pastels by Jean Hirons
October 12, 2019 – December 23, 2019
Reception: October 19, 2019 2-4pm

Artist’s Statement

I am a landscape painter who works exclusively in the beautiful medium of soft pastel. I have been working in pastel for over twenty years and am also a teacher and author of a well-received book on pastel painting.

I consider myself to be a ‘painterly realist’. Solid compositions, harmonious color that sings, and light-filled applications of pastel are what characterize my work. My paintings are professionally framed with museum glass. Visitors to my studio often think, on first impression, that my paintings are oils.

I have lived in the Washington, DC area since 1976, but grew up on the coast of Massachusetts, near Cape Cod. As a result, many of my paintings feature coastal scenes from New England or the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Since 2015, I have been painting cityscapes from DC, including the alleys of Capitol Hill and the C&O Canal in Georgetown. I love painting buildings in the landscape, whether New England houses, rural barns, or cityscapes. In the city paintings, I particularly love the abstract shapes that are produced by reflections and shadows.

I am a colorist, frequently working from black and white photos, and supplying my own color. I seek subtle palettes of harmonious color, preferring the cooler hues. I also prefer complex layers of color, beginning most paintings with an underpainting and adding many layers of pastel.


I am passionate about my paintings and my love of pastel and the landscape. For years I painted on site, but I now prefer painting in my studio at Artists and Makers in Rockville. Painting inside allows me to bring more thought and study to each painting, improving the process and the resulting work.

I maintain a website with paintings from recent years, as well as a blog in which I describe my process and challenges, for the benefit of other artists. I am a teacher at heart and love sharing with others.


Jean Hirons is a native of New England, who has been painting exclusively in soft pastel since 1994.  After receiving a BA in art from Marietta College in Ohio (1970), she pursued a career in library science, earning her masters in 1973 from the University of Rhode Island.  She moved to the Washington, DC area in 1976 and worked at the Library of Congress as a writer and international program coordinator from 1983-2003.  During her tenure there she received several awards from the American Library Association and earned the Library of Congress’s Distinguished Librarianship Award.

Jean returned to art in 1983, taking classes at the Corcoran and Torpedo Factory.  Her early work was in colored pencil and lithography.  Since 1994, she has worked exclusively in pastel.  She learned pastel from many of the leading plein air landscape artists in the US.  After her retirement, she was able to pursue her other love of teaching at the Rockville Campus of Montgomery College, where she was an adjunct faculty member.  During this time, Jean worked on a book based on her teachings that she published in 2012: Finding Your Style in Pastel.  It has been very popular with pastel artists and has even won an award from an Indy book publisher.

Jean’s passion is for the landscape, particularly buildings in the landscape.  She began by painting New England houses and rural farms.  Since 2015, she has focused on various areas of Washington, DC: Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Chinatown, and Dupont Circle,  finding this subject matter both challenging and satisfying.  Composition is always the starting point in any of her paintings and she often looks for abstract shapes.  For color, she may use what she sees but, more often, uses color from her imagination.  She wants color to be real enough, but not necessarily what was there!  Jean also loves complex, broken color and finds pastel to be a perfect medium for achieving this effect.

Jean was a member of the Waverly Street Gallery in Bethesda from 2004-2015.  In 2013, she took a public studio at what was then Capitol Arts Network, which later became part of Artists and Makers.  She does all of her painting and teaching at this location and enjoys having more interaction with visitors during openings.

Over the years, Jean has won many awards and joined various pastel societies.  She is a signature member of the Pastel Society of America and is in the Master Circle of the International Association of Pastel Societies.  She also holds signature membership in the Pastel Painters’ Society of Cape Cod and the Maryland Pastel Society, serving as president of the latter from 2007-2009.

Visit Jean’s website at  and her blog at