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My current series “Head in the Clouds” prominently features skyscapes.  Some of these are a literal interpretation, others are imagined based on harmonious color schemes or a whimsical variation of clouds.  Skies seemed a natural choice for me to focus on as a body of work. I can still hear my mother’s voice in my head saying “Melissa, pay attention to where your walking” as I gazed up at the clouds.  I have always loved their soft edges and many layers and subtle color variations of warm and cool tones.  I feel I have been studying them my whole life.  This is what I hope to convey to the viewer of this series. – Melissa Saulsbury, pastel artist


PH: What inspired you to become an artist?
MS: Honestly I think I was born one! I have taken different paths in my life and being an artist is always what never leaves me and what I always come back to. It’s in my DNA.

PH: How did you decide pastels would be your medium?
MS: I used to swoon over the open displays of pastels in the local art store. On a whim I bought a set to try and played around with them for awhile. Eventually I found a pastel class in town and eventually they became my only medium. I fell in love with their immediacy and impulsivity. My paintings are typically completed in a single painting session to complete the artistic statement. The rest is history, as they say. Pastels to me are like shoes to most women- you can never have too many!

PH: When you sit in front of a blank canvas, how do you get started?
MS: It usually depends on my mood! I always have a subject in mind and paint from my own reference photos. The underpainting color will start off my plan. If I’m planning on a very neutral, subdued landscape then sometimes I will start with a hot pink or yellow underpainting to brighten things up and make it sparkle. I usually am working a series and will tend to stick with that for 6 months or so.

PH: If you could add a pastel color to your palette, what would it be?
MS: Periwinkle. It’s impossible to find this shade in pastels! It is essential for painting clouds and it seems every pastel I choose is either too blue, too gray, or too purple. I usually end up layering to achieve this color.

PH: Pick a superpower, be invisible or fly?
MS: Be invisible. 2 reasons- 1: I’m afraid of heights. 2: Who wouldn’t want to lurk around and casually observe what’s happening?

PH: Who is your favorite artist?
MS: I’m most inspired by contemporary pastel artists. Thanks to the internet I have learned so much through studying their work and following their progress on social media. I’m a member of the Pastel Society of America and am in the company of seriously talented artists. Right now I’m really loving the works of Kim Lordier and Lyn Asselta. Margaret Dyer is also a long time favorite.

PH: What was the last gift you gave someone?
MS: My sister’s birthday was a few weeks ago. I made her dinner and gave her the gift of time, which every mother of young children appreciates.

PH:  Name a cherished childhood memory.
MS:  There are so many it’s hard to choose! Summer weekends at the lake, baseball games with my dad, shopping and “breakfast for dinner”with my mom.

PH:  Tell us about a funny thing that has happened to you recently.
MS: My boyfriend is the king of “gotcha” and “dad jokes”. So undoubtedly it was one of these although I can’t recall specifically.

PH:  What is your dream vacation?
MS:  Really just anywhere warm with a pretty sunset, spending time doing things I love like yoga or being outside or having a new adventure.

PH:  What is your favorite genre of music?
MS:  Yacht rock! I went to see the Legwarmer’s (80’s band) recently and it was amazing.

PH:  What kind of ice cream best describes your personality?
MS:  Salted caramel. It’s just the best of both worlds.

Photography by Tasha Tolliver


Melissa Saulsbury is Richmond, Virginia-based landscape artist specializing in the pastel medium. She focuses on dynamic compositions which convey the atmospheric perspective and have a strong pattern of light. In the studio she enjoys converting her plein air studies into original interpretations of familiar subjects.

Melissa has a B.S. in Business Management from Virginia Tech and is an associate member of the Pastel Society of America, Mid-Atlantic Pastel Society and American Impressionist Society.

Recent Exhibits:


Mid Atlantic Pastel Society Annual Members exhibit, 2nd Place

Capital One corporate show


IAPS 30th International Juried Exhibit, Albuquerque, NM

Maryland Pastel Society “Shades of Pastel” Rockville, MD

Pastel Society of North Carolina “Pure Color” Online Exhibit

BuyRVAArt monthly exhibit “Through the Window”


Southeastern Pastel Society 17th International Juried Exhibit

Melissa Saulsbury, pastel artist, series “Head in the Clouds” is featured at Palette Richmond September 2018 and available for purchase. Feel free to call or email to inquire about specific pieces, or to take art hope for approval.

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