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New Jersey Artist Embraces Pastels in Their Purest Form

Donna Gratkowski took every art class she could growing up in Sussex County, New Jersey. But she stuffed the paint set from her high school days inside a drawer as an adult when the family dry cleaning business demanded almost all of her time.

Gratkowski only made time for art by helping her two daughters with school projects. Selling the dry cleaning business nearly 11 years ago, Gratkowski rediscovered her original pastel set and her world opened up.

“I pulled it out and just started painting,” she said.

She enrolled in local classes and discovered her affinity for working with pure pigment. The purity of the luminous colors makes for magnificent results. Her online gallery captures the varied colors of autumn trees, the peaceful solace of winter and the sky in all its luster.

Gratkowski’s paintings are breathtakingly beautiful. “I do not use my fingers to blend paints together,” she said. “I am trying to keep that original vibrancy
and that’s what you see when you look at my work. It’s really saturated.”

Gratkowski applies a pastel stick the way one would use a paintbrush. “I’m almost swiping on the pigment and leaving it alone,” she said. “It’s pure. My palette is my entire stock of pastels. I am inspired when I lift the cover off my pastel tray.”

Encouraged by her husband, Craig, Gratkowski began selling her work locally and now shows at all four Rose Squared shows in addition to others in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and for the first time, Massachusetts this year. You can find her booth at the Fall Brookdale Show on Oct. 15-16.

“I really enjoy these shows; the parks are so beautiful,” she said.

Occasionally she paints plein air, but most of the time, Gratkowski creates downstairs in her cozy studio with her cat, Lucky, nearby. The bright space overlooks a lake and is ideal for her favorite subject: nature. Her artwork hangs in her studio so a prospective buyer can see the paintings up close. But her work is best enjoyed up close. Find Gratkowski’s booth at the Rose Squared Fall Brookdale Park show on October 15-16.