2019 Workshop Schedule coming this week!
Visit my Patreon Page for more painting instruction. New Paint-Along Videos coming!

Friday, January 18, 2019

New Painting Demo Video Released!


'Island Time'         8x10        pastel        ©Karen Margulis
sold

It is an inevitable result of painting. Pastels wear down. They break. We are left with bits and pieces of once favorite colors. My big studio box is filled with these tiny pieces. I can't bear to part with them. But they are really too small to use. Or are they?

Don't throw them out! Bits and Pieces of pastel can be used. We can always crush them and make new pastels. I have not done this but it is on my list of things to try. I use my pastel bits in two ways. I save them for my tiny travel kits.  I also put them in my 'spice jars'.

My collection of pastel spices
Every painting needs some spice. I consider spices the small finishing touches. Those bits of eye candy that help lead the viewer through the painting. Little spots of color that the viewer can savor. Spices can also be small areas of texture from a heavier application of pastel. Little bits and pieces of pastel are the perfect size to make these small spicy marks.

When my pastels get too small to hold comfortably I put them in little containers. I like to use plastic baby food containers. They are small, can stack and allow quick and easy access to the pastels. Any color can be used as spices. It depends on the painting. If you are organized you can keep colors separated. I am not that organized so I tend to have a mix of colors in my spice containers. I choose the spice color by scanning my containers and choosing the color that I think will work. 

My color choices are mostly intuitive but if I am not sure of the right spice color I will use a color wheel. See my post on choosing spice colors here.

The photo below shows the painting at the end of the video demo I did for my Patreon page. This is before I added the spices. Can you see what I added?


The video has now been released to my Youtube channel. You can watch it here:https://youtu.be/dg8Tdhg9MkY  Be sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel for more videos and Patreon for the latest videos and instruction.


Before the final spices

Thursday, January 17, 2019

What Can You do with Your Pastel Bits and Pieces?

'The Height of Summer'           8x10              pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available $155

 It is an inevitable result of painting. Pastels wear down. They break. We are left with bits and pieces of once favorite colors. My big studio box is filled with these tiny pieces. I can't bear to part with them. But they are really too small to use. Or are they?


Don't throw them out! Bits and Pieces of pastel can be used. We can always crush them and make new pastels. I have not done this but it is on my list of things to try. I use my pastel bits in two ways. I save them for my tiny travel kits.  I also put them in my 'spice jars'.

A few of my Spice Jars
Every painting needs some spice. I consider spices the small finishing touches. Those bits of eye candy that help lead the viewer through the painting. Little spots of color that the viewer can savor. Spices can also be small areas of texture from a heavier application of pastel. Little bits and pieces of pastel are the perfect size to make these small spicy marks.


Before Redoing the painting and adding some punch!

When my pastels get too small to hold comfortably I put them in little containers. I like to use plastic baby food containers. They are small, can stack and allow quick and easy access to the pastels. Any color can be used as spices. It depends on the painting. If you are organized you can keep colors separated. I am not that organized so I tend to have a mix of colors in my spice containers. I choose the spice color by scanning my containers and choosing the color that I think will work. 

My color choices are mostly intuitive but if I am not sure of the right spice color I will use a color wheel. See my post on choosing spice colors here.

Since I just cleaned my big studio box I have replenished my spice jars! Let''s add some spice to our paintings!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

New Workshop in New Jersey in April!




'Serenity'                 8x10                 ©Karen Margulis
available $160
 This is where it all began! I had been painting with pastels for about a year when I discovered the work of Stan Sperlak. I loved the paintings I saw on his website and noticed he was having a workshop near Atlantic City, NJ.  I had a friend in the area and decided to make  a dual purpose trip.....visit my friend and take Stan's workshop. It was one of the best art things I ever did. I learned so much in that workshop and convinced my friends to go the following year to Stan's Goshen NJ farm for another workshop. They were also converted. Since those early days I have taken three more workshops with Stan including a painter's Passport trip to Iceland. I also had the honor of team teaching with Stan in Normandy, France.

And now I am excited to share that I will be going back to New Jersey this April to teach at the Goshen School of Art. Check out the Facebook page to see photos of this wonderful and inspiring place! This beautiful place has inspired so many of my paintings! https://www.facebook.com/The-Goshen-School-of-Art-1659995084245536/

I hope you will consider joining me for this workshop. The theme of the workshop is "Expressive Pastels'. It is a studio workshop. I will be sharing tips and techniques for painting more expressive paintings with several demos, lessons, handouts and help at the easel.  If you have been wanting to loosen up and paint with passion and more expression this is the workshop experience for you!

April 12-14 KAREN MARGULIS!!!
The Goshen School of Art welcomes a long-time friend and past participant who is returning now as a nationally respected teacher, blogger and artist in the ways of creativity in pastel. This class is sure to fill quickly. As always, a Thursday night demo and reception then three full days! $475
Email: sperlakpastelworkshops@gmail.com to sign up, then print and send in registration



Beginning the painting by simply blocking in the darks.




Monday, January 14, 2019

Daily Painting Tips for Busy Artists

'Beautiful Interlude'              5x7               pastel                ©Karen Margulis
available $95

It's that time of year. Many of us are making the commitment to paint more often in 2019. I have been a Daily Painter since 2006 and I can say it is the best habit I ever developed. I try to paint every day but sometimes life does intervene and painting takes a back seat. But for the most part I have streamlined my painting practice routine so that I can manage some time in the studio most days that I am in town.

Over on my Patreon Page we are exploring the habit of more frequent painting. Today I am sharing the video demo of the painting above 'Beautiful Interlude'.  If you haven't joined my page, I have some Daily Painting tips I'd like to share here:

  • Keep paintings small 6x8 and 5x7 are ideal sizes 
  • Keep them quick. Set a timer for 15-20 minutes
  • Keep supplies set up even if it is just a small set that is easy to access. Precut your paper and select a variety of reference photos.
  • Simplify! start with a few big simple shapes.
  • Create a roadmap of values....decide what is mostly dark, light and mid value.
  • Choose the area of interest and put the most clarity in this area
  • Leave some mystery....don't put in every detail. The time limit helps.
  • When the timer goes off STOP. Paint another one if you still have time but don't fiddle with the first painting. It is a warm up study!
  • Evaluate the painting and decide on 3 marks to finish. place those mark and call it done!




My reference photo


I used only Terry Ludwig pastels for today's painting 

There are still openings in my IAPS Demo! I hope you will consider adding it to your schedule. Even if wildflowers aren't your thing I will be sharing tips and techniques that you will be able to apply to any landscape! www.iapspastel.org




Sunday, January 13, 2019

Key Benefits of Painting the Same Subject

'Garden of Delights'          10x8           pastel           ©Karen Margulis
I don't ever worry about running out of things to paint. Inspiration can be found everywhere. In fact it is often difficult to settle down and pick something from the 33,000 photos in my photo files. Even though I have plenty of choices  I find I am drawn to some of the same images again and again. Some images just seem to speak more loudly than others. I listen!

I remind myself that is is OK to paint something more than once. In fact it is a good thing. Often we resist the urge to paint from the same reference more than once. Maybe we feel we need to try new subjects. After all once we have 'done' it what is left to learn?  There is plenty to learn!


  • Painting something more than once helps us become intimate with our subject. The more comfortable we are the more we are able to take risks.
  • Familiarity leads to more expression. Once we know our subject we have more success with making changes to our references. We can be more intuitive because we are already familiar with the scene.
  • Painting something more than once allows us to explore other solutions. We can try new techniques, change paper size and/or orientation, change the point of view. The sky is the limit!
  • We learn more because we aren't starting from scratch. We don't need to reinvent the wheel....only improve it!
I was asked recently if I had painted pink coneflowers before. That led me to search thorough my paintings and quickly found several purple coneflowers and one pink. So the answer is Yes!  But each time I revisit this favorite motif I challenge myself to create something new. I enjoy the freedom that this old friend gives me to explore and discover new interpretations.

While we are on the subject of painting my favorite motifs,  I am working on preparations for my Wildflower demo for the upcoming IAPS convention. I do have some new openings for my  demo. It is not too late to register! There are plenty of open demos. And if you are already registered you can add sessions now. Be sure to check the IAPS website to see all of the openings. You can add classes online by going to your registration record:

HOW TO REGISTER OR ADD DEMOS TO YOUR REGISTRATION

Here is the link to the convention registration page.http://iapspastel.org/conv19_register.php
Follow the directions to register or add to your schedule. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Make Sure You do this after painting!


'Dreams of Summers Past'                 9x12                 pastel                     ©Karen Margulis
available $225

They will stay clean! That is my commitment. I spent hours cleaning and organizing my pastels and it is such a pleasure to be greeted by a box of colors I can actually see. 
But now I want to be sure they stay clean. Sure I can wipe them as I paint which is what I try to do. But inevitably they get filthy! It gets so bad that I can't tell what color or value some of them are.

Not any more!  I got a great tip from a fellow artist who used the same cornmeal method to clean her pastels but she takes it a step further. She keeps a bowl of cornmeal in her studio (tightly sealed to deter critters) After each painting or every few paintings with the same palette she puts the pastels she used into the bowl and swished them around until they are clean. THEN she puts them back into her studio box. Brilliant! Thank you!

I took her advice and cleaned my working palette after a few paintings. They were then ready to go back into the big box ready for the next painting session!  I love this idea!



Dirty pastels after using them for a couple of paintings 

Throw them into a bowl of cornmeal, gently toss them.

And voila.....clean pastels!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Learn How to Critique Your Work

'Undiscovered Beauty'.     16x9            pastel            ©Karen Margulis
available $175
 It seems like such a challenging thing to do. How do we know if a painting is truly finished? How do we know what to do if it isn't finished?  I recently heard a quote that really made me think.

" You can't paint better than you know" Dan Young

Sometimes we feel like we need to know everything about painting all at once. We want to have all the answers and know exactly what every painting needs. But it doesn't always happen. We have to have the experience, knowledge and practice to figure out the answers. And that takes time. But there is something we can do.... we can ask the right questions! Knowing what we should look for when finishing a painting is a good first step!

The painting above is an example of time and practice helping me discover the right answers. I painted it a few years ago and I was happy with the original painting. But I pulled it out the other day and it was just  'nice'.  There was no punch. There was no real visual journey for the viewer. But now, several years later I not only knew the questions....I knew the answers! I put the painting back on the easel and made some adjustments. Unfortunately I forgot to take  a photo of the original version of the painting But it was quite monotonous.


  • I asked myself if I had created a visual journey for the viewer.  Were there pathways or areas of contrast for the viewer to follow?
  • I asked if there was a visual connection between the ground and the sky or did I have two separate paintings?
  • I asked if there was anything distracting that took the eye in the wrong place?
I had some questions to help me critique what I had done and I set about making the adjustments. I added more clarity and punch (contrast) in some of the flowers . I added spice marks (contrast) to pull the eye further into the painting. I made adjustments to the sky and corrected the problem areas. Having the right questions gave me a direction to follow! Time and experience gave me possible answers!

What is happening on Patreon? NEW!! MEMBER CRITIQUE. I have added a new monthly feature on my Patreon Page. Each month I will give an in depth critique of a member's painting. Each month we will also explore tools we can use to become better at evaluating our own work.  Check out my page and see the Video Demo of the adjustments I made to this painting.



Thursday, January 10, 2019

Art Lesson from my Hair Stylist


'Go Against the Flow'            8x10                pastel               ©Karen Margulis
available $155

Art advice can come from the most unusual places. And it might not even be art advice rather some tidbit that you can apply to your paintings. I got one of these tidbits during my last haircut. My stylist (who is a great artist both with hair and paint) was telling me to dry my hair against the way it wants to go first....then to style it in the direction you want it. It gives the hair lift and tames the cowlicks.  This advice came in hand while I was painting today!

I was making all of my marks go in one direction. Everything was flowing to the left. It looked like the grasses were in a fierce wind blowing all in the same direction. That wasn't the effect I wanted at all! I wanted the feeling f a calm say with maybe a gentle breeze. I needed to break up the directional thrust to the left. I needed to paint the grasses in the opposite direction to tame them down! Just like my hair. 

I attacked the grasses again and made marks going to the right. As I did that the grasses began to straighten up and look more natural and soft and breezy. I needed to pay attention to the direction of my marks and make them varied.....a little in one direction and then back in the other direction. It was good hair styling advice that also worked for taming grass in a pastel painting!

Below I have posted a few behind the scenes photos of the painting. You can see that it began as an older demo that wasn't working. I brushed off a layer or so pf pastel to give more tooth and painted the meadow on top of the old painting.






Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Tips for Working on a Homemade Surface



'Homeward Bound'             9x12                 pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available $165
I enjoy working on a homemade surface. Sometimes my pastels don't enjoy it though. If the texture is too rough it eats up the pastels too quickly. It can be difficult to get the type of mark you want when the ridges grab the pastel. But when mastered, texture can make a pastel painting even more interesting. I used half of a textured paper for the painting 'Homeward Bound'. I kept the sky smooth so that I could paint a smooth and quiet sky. I wanted texture for the trees and grasses.


I just released a video that was made available for one of my Patreon units on pastel surfaces. In the video I paint a wheat filed and share more tips for success on a textured ground. Click on the link under the painting to see the video on YouTube. Be sure to like and share and subscribe to my channel! I appreciate the love! 




Link to Video:



Link to blog article about making a textured surface:
http://kemstudios.blogspot.com/2018/07/making-your-own-pastel-surfaces.html

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Why Do You Paint?

'Summer in Provence'              8x10                 pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available $155
I paint because I must. I paint because I feel compelled to express myself with colors and shapes. I paint because I enjoy creating something from nothing. It is satisfying.  It's so easy to loose sight of why we paint. We often get caught up in self doubt and worry that we aren't good enough to be painters. We fret over our work, picking it apart, wondering if we will ever paint as good as we'd like.

Here is some food for thought. I came across this quote from James McNeill Whistler. It is a great piece of advice.


"We look at a painting to know the painter. It's his company we are after, not his skill"
                                                                                                                    James McNeill Whistler

Think about why you paint. Is it to create a technically perfect picture? Or is it to express yourself, to create a picture that shares a part of you and how you feel about the subject? Sure it is nice to have command of technique....to understand and use color, value,drawing, composition and do it well. But all the technical skill will come with time and practice.

With time and practice we all improve and grow. We can learn the basics and with hard work we will get better. What can't be taught is how to feel. How to paint with emotion. That has to come from within. As you paint, keep this in mind. Paint with feeling and enjoy the process. The skill will come and your paintings will truly be your own.


Thank you Marsha Savage for the food for thought today.

Monday, January 07, 2019

What Can You Do When Your Underpainting Paper Buckles?


'Easy Breezy'             8x10             pastel           ©Karen Margulis
available $155
 It happens. If you are going to do a wet underpainting on unmounted paper it may very well buckle or develop waves. I work on unmounted UArt paper often. And MOST of the time when I do a wet underpainting the paper remains perfectly flat. The key is not to allow the paper to get overly saturated. A light wash with water or rubbing alcohol is usually fine and the paper stays flat.

Sometimes I get carried away with the underpainting. It is just too much fun! Take today's watercolor underpainting. I applied wet drippy washes of watercolor.  I even went back with a thinner brush to add more layers of watercolor. I went too far  and I saw my paper start to form waves as it dried. It was getting bumpy. Bumpy paper isn't good for pastels because you cannot get a good smooth uninterupted mark. Sometimes small waves will flatten out themselves as the paper dries.

But sometimes I need to take extra measures. The easiest way to flatten buckled and wavy paper is to place it under some heavy books. I have some great art books that fit the bill. Wait until the paper is dry and then place the book or books on top making sure all is flat and level. Check in an hour if you are in a hurry but I often just leave it under the books overnight. It will be flat and ready for pastel!


A heavy book comes to the rescue!

The finished underpainting 


Terry Ludwig pastels used for this painting
If you still have trouble with bumpy paper of don't want to have to wait for books to do the job, consider using mounted paper ( I like the boards from Uart and Pastel Premier) I will be sharing information on mounting your own paper soon.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Do You Have a Magic Pin?


'Back to the Country'               8x10              pastel             ©Karen Margulis
available $150
I had an idea for today's painting. What if I used the same 'sunset' palette I had been using for the last two paintings for a totally unrelated scene. ? Could I adapt the palette? How many more colors would I need to add?  So I selected a reference photo from my trip to Ireland. I will be going back to Ireland in the fall via a cruise with my mom so I am reigniting my love for this landscape in anticipation of the trip.

I started the painting by blocking in the box shapes with four values of a deep salmon. You can see my reference and value thumbnail in the photo below.

Step One: The block in
I began layering with the oranges and violets of my original palette which made a great 'dirt' base for the greens to come. Below you can see the two layers coming together.

Step Two: The first layers
The painting was working but there was a problem with the distant hillside. It was too solid and boring. I didn't want to add more 'stuff' because it was too far in the distance. But I needed to find a way to make it more interesting. Then I remembered that I had a Magic Pin.

Distant hillside is too boring
Stan Sperlak gave these pins to artists at his workshops and I treasure mine. Actually I bout my own box of pins. They come in handy! The pin is just a steel push pin with a bit longer tip. It works great when you want to remove tiny areas of pastel. Think of it as a tool to do scratch art. It is a precision tool. Use it to straighten horizons or add grass marks. For today's painting I used the pin to scrape linear marks in the hillside to reveal the dirt underneath.  It was a subtle effect but it served to break up the boring green shape.


Scraping with a Magic Pin adds needed texture and relief form boring!
Stan will be opening registration soon for classes at his Goshen School of Art in Goshen NJ. I am very excited to share that I will be teaching a 3 day workshop at the school in April. Registration will open January 10 Details to follow . www.stansperlak.com

Friday, January 04, 2019

What I am Listening to in the Studio

'Serenity Comes'                  9x12                pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available $165

Talk radio isn't going to make me a better artist.  But it is what I usually listen to while I am in the studio.  I think partly because it can be a long and lonely day in the studio and sometimes it is nice to hear adult conversation.  But I was at a loss this month when the regular radio lineup changed. I had lost my friendly radio voices. What was I going to listen to?


Music?  I love music and listen to music when I am painting something big or important like a commission. My choice in music changes and I often pick something that suits the mood of the painting.  But when I am puttering around the studio I prefer talk.



This week I re-stumbled on my new love.....Art Podcasts!  I know you are thinking I must have been hiding under a rock. I didn't realize there was such a treasure trove of art talk podcasts out there.  I have listened to 6 so far this week and it has been the best discovery. Not only do I get to hear adult conversation....it is conversation among artists. I listened to a wonderful interview with Quang Ho and the Evolution of Seeing and had to stop and take notes!  Even if I played it more than once I'm sure I will learn something else. Here is the link to this show 



I plan to listen to as many podcasts as I can before I am caught up. Even if I am busy painting or doing other tasks, it will benefit me to hear art related information. And they are fun!  I'm so excited!



Here are the three websites that offer art podcasts that I have found. If you know of others I'd love to learn more!





The Aftermath
Painting Notes:  9x12 on Wallis warm mist sanded paper and Terry Ludwig pastels.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

How To Clean and Organize Pastels


'A World Away'                 9x12                pastel               ©Karen Margulis
available $165

What a pleasure to paint today. I had a box of clean and organized pastels to work with. It was very satisfying even though I dreaded the cleanup process. I had so much dread that I put off cleaning my pastels for 3 years! As a result I was painting with small bits and pieces of pastels even though I had replacements in boxes....somewhere!  It was time to get organized!

I am sharing some photos of the clean up process but I made a video while cleaning. You can see the video on my YouTube channel here. https://youtu.be/5ytNrP6l1i4 Be sure to like and follow :)


Click here to see the video on YouTube


The finished box. 

A box of Nupastels and a rolling cart of extra pastels. The overflow!

All my extra Terry Ludwig pastels from sets I had broken up.
I still keep special TL sets in their original boxes and use them separately.

Work in progress. I am emptying the big studio box

I pulled out the smaller pieces of pastel.
I will use them for smaller paintings.

Three years of daily painting leads to small pastels!

Even smaller bits went into these containers.
I will make pastels with these bits soon.

All clean!


My Heilman box collection (some given to me and some awarded.)
I still need to go through these boxes and clean the plain air /workshop pastels.

I used cornmeal to clean the pastels. This is the cornmeal at the end of the clean up.

I hope you enjoyed the look at the pastel clean up. Let me know if you have any questions after you watch the video!

Painting notes: Painted on Pastelmat with my clean pastels! (Terry Ludwig and Diane Townsend)