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Art comes in many forms, styles, and media. Among the latter, one often overlooked, despite its long and significant history, is pastel.

This form, using pigment sticks about the thickness of a fat Sharpie, lends itself to every kind of subject -- portraits, landscapes, still lifes and even abstracts.

Currently, a selection of some 20 works by local artists working in this medium is on display through July 31 in Grove Family Library, 101 Ragged Edge Road South. The hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mondays and Tuesdays, 9 to 5 Wednesdays and Fridays, noon to 8 p.m. Thursdays and 9 to 3 Saturdays.

The show highlights Council for the Arts' students who have learned this technique under the tutelage of teacher Laurie McKelvie.

"The students are at all different levels," McKelvie said, "many have never seen pastels before."

McKelvie is an impassioned convert to this medium. She previously worked in oils, but once she tried pastels, "I put down my brush" and she has never looked back. She described the attraction as three-fold: "There is no drawing time, the colors make your mouth water and you see the results right away."

Pastels date back to no less than Leonardo da Vinci, who learned it from a French artist. Since that time, it has entered the canon of techniques many famous artists have explored, such as Edgar Degas, whose delicate ballerinas lend themselves to this form; American-born James McNeill Whistler of the famous mother; and the Columbian Fernando Botero, creator of the very chubby figures. In fact, Degas is said to have used this medium exclusively in his later years, perhaps as inspired by its versatility as is McKelvie.

A former high school art teacher, McKelvie has a two-hour class in pastels at 9:30 a.m. Thursdays in the Council for the Arts, 159 S. Main St. The class averages about 10 students, a comfortable level for interaction.

"Many of the students have never worked in pastel before," she said, "so this is an opportunity for them to extend their range." They work with those fat sticks and a paper made of dried vegetable flakes. "But, she cautions, "don't let it get wet or it will dissolve."

For more information about the art show, contact Council for the Arts at 717-264-6683 or visit www.councilforthearts.net.

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