About the Artist

Marsha Thrift

Artist and Teacher



Painting with soft pastels energizes me as I discover and attempt to convey the rich colors and textures that I see in the world around me.  As I work in my painterly, and slightly impressionistic, style, I am intrigued with the way that light falls onto objects, creating patterns of light and dark values,  and the fascinating interplay of warm and cool colors. I strive for each work of art to truly express something insightful within me, not to simply be a copy of what I am seeing. I especially love painting people, animals and plein air landscapes, and I describe my work as “painterly realism.”

As long as I can remember, I have loved to draw and paint. Majoring in art in college and teaching art to children and adults have encouraged me to experiment with almost every medium imaginable — charcoal, pastels, pen and ink, oil, watercolor, acrylic, batik, fabric painting, encaustic, sculpture, collage and mixed media.

After taking a watercolor course my senior year in college, I was hooked and have been completely intrigued with it’s unpredictable surprises. It has challenged me for years and continues to entice me with its numerous possibilities and varied techniques for expression — from painterly bold strokes to dry brush application to loose watery washes.

I began experimenting with pastels while painting several years ago and discovered the joy of working with true vivid color. Ever since I picked up my first “Crayola,” I have loved colors and textures. The direct application of the pure pastel pigment resulting in beautiful velvety color keeps me exploring this medium. I apply the pastel with my favorite of all artist’s tools — my fingers. The contact with the paper and the explosion of color and texture is exhilarating — like no other medium I have used.

When I returned to design school in midlife, I discovered the technique of illustrating with markers and colored pencils — applying colors and values with transparent washes and then intensifying the colors and emphasizing the details with pencils. I have taught art to both children and adults for many years and worked as a graphic designer for 15 years, but the passion of painting continues to lure me. The marker and colored pencil technique led me to experiment with combining watercolor and pastels. It seemed only natural to layer the vivid pastel color over fluid watercolor washes. Occasionally I will add other elements resulting in a mixed media work of art.

As a lover of the outdoors, I’ve recently discovered the joy of plein air painting, which has taken me a step further in my growth as an artist. Painting “on location,” where I truly experience the moment, has sharpened my observation skills and my connection with the subject. Hopefully it helps me portray to the viewer a sense of actually being there.

Although I paint primarily in pastels and consider my somewhat impressionistic style to be “painterly realism,” my curious nature leads me to explore different media, styles and subject matter. I like working in charcoal, conte, pen and ink and especially enjoy the recent pleasure of reconnecting with oil painting and experimenting with collage and abstract expression. In addition to landscapes, I like painting portraits, figures, animals, stilllifes, florals and underwater “scapes.” Common patterns in all my work, regardless of the subject or medium used, include developing and emphasizing my focal point through contrast of color, value, temperature, texture, edges and amount of detail; using colors and textures that harmonize well; and a creating a sense of loose realism with impressionistic strokes of color.

My goal is to “paint from the heart,” to play with the colors and textures, to lose myself in my work and to enjoy the process rather than render a photographically realistic reproduction of the subject. I try to let the painting “paint itself” and evolve on it’s own. I hope that, through my work, others can stop, look, appreciate the beauty of God’s creation and feel my excitement and joy in expressing it.


Piedmont Outdoor Painting Society (POPS)
Winston-Salem, NC (Charter Member)

Portrait Society of America, Inc.
New York, NY

Piedmont Portraits
Winston-Salem, NC (Charter Member)

Muddy River Art Association, Inc.
Clemmons, NC

Salem Art Sisters (SAS)
Winston-Salem, NC


Associated Artists of Winston-Salem (Juried Member)
Winston-Salem, NC


North Carolina Art Education Association (NCAEA)




Private Instruction (drawing, pastels, watercolor and oil)
Winston-Salem, NC (2002-present)

Children's Art Classes in my home, Winston-Salem, NC
(1996-present) (1978 to 1984)

Mona Lisa Art Supply (pastels), Clemmons, NC

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Public Schools
K - 5 Art teacher at several schools presently at

Kimmel Farm Elementary School, Winston-Salem, NC


Mount Tabor High School, Winston-Salem, NC (1984)

Forsyth Country Day School, Lewisville, NC (1972 to 1974)

Biloxi Central Junior High School, Biloxi, MS (1968 to 1969)

Winston-Salem Arts & Crafts Association, Winston-Salem, NC
(1967 to 1968)


Freelance Work, Triad Area, NC (1992-2001)

    * North Carolina Trust Co.
    * Crowder, McChesney & White
    * CB Development Co.
    * Liberty University
    * Competitive Edge Promotions, Inc.
    * Dedicated Professional Resources
    * Horn & Stronach, Inc.
    * Woodbine, Inc.
    * Republic Mortgage Insurance Co.
    * World Medical Mission

Carolina Medicorp (Novanthealth, Forsyth Hospital)
Winston-Salem, NC (1995-2001)

Pike & Cassels Advertising Agency, Inc.
Winston-Salem, NC (1988-94)

Sara Lee Corporation, Winston-Salem, NC(1987-88)



Isenhour Interiors, Winston-Salem, NC (1984-1987)


AAS, Commercial Art & Advertising Design
Guilford Technical Community College, Jamestown, NC (1987)

BA, Applied Art, Converse College, Spartanburg, SC (1967)

Certified Art Instructor, North Carolina and South Carolina Public Schools

Summer Study in Art
George Washington University, Washington, DC (1967)



Marcus Blahove, Daniel Greene, Scott Burdick, Susan Lyon, Steve Childs, Clayton Beck, Paul McCormack, Abbe Rose Cox, Tom Edgerton, Patricia McWilliams, George Thompson, Margaret Dyer


Kitty Wallis, Albert Handell and Louise West, Doug Dawson, Susan Sarback, Diane Johnson, Jack Pardue, Susan Ogilvie, Bob Rohm, Dee Beard-Dean, Elsie Popkin


Zoltan Szabo, William Mangum, Keith Rose, Dorothy Nowell, Judi Wagner, Sterling Edwards, Jeanne Carbonetti, Chuck McLaughlin


About the Artist





Art Classes/Workshops

Portrait Workshops

Photos - Adult Classes

Photos - Children's Classes

Photos - Painting Fun

Photos-Week-Long Art Camp


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