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Friday, January 07, 2022

This is the Year! Learning How to Paint with Oils

It was 2005. I picked up a pastel for the very first time. I had no idea how to use them. I had visions of beautiful paintings in my head but my hand could not get those fat sticks to make the marks I wanted. I began taking classes with a wonderful artist and teacher, Marsha Savage. But I still struggled. It wasn't enough to go to a class.....I needed to practice!  Enter this blog...Painting My World. I began to paint something small every day and blog about my experience. (you can still see this early posts in the archives)

Guess what happened? It worked! The blog became my accountability partner. I felt guilty if I didn't have a painting to post so I painted. The more I painted the more fluent I became with the language of pastel. Painting and blogging became a habit and the work I put into my paintings began to show. My paintings were improving and I was gaining followers to my blog which was an unexpected bonus. 

It is now 2022. I am now a full time artist and teacher of pastel painting. Many of you have followed me over to Patreon where I still post everyday and share my pastel lessons, demos and challenges. This blog has sadly been neglected. There are only so many hours in the day!  But it dawned on me that blogging about my art life has been a tremendous help to me in the past so I need to make time for it. 

Last week I had an idea! One of my goals this year is to become more fluent with oil painting. I have started and stopped a few times over the last few years. I would do a few paintings and then life got in the way and the paints got neglected. This year I want it to be different. I want it to feel just as liberating to paint with oils as it does with pastels. I have the tools. I am taking an online workshop with Scott Christensen. I am missing one ingredient to success.....PRACTICE!  I need to put in the time at the easel and the miles of canvas if I want to get better. Here is my plan:

  • I set up a dedicated easel and table devoted to oils. It has every thing I need to paint efficiently. I don't have to move or clean up this area (photos coming soon) This will be a no excuse oil painting area. It is all there. I have no excuse not to use it!
  • I made a commitment to success by getting new oil painting supplies. I treated myself to some of the finest materials....Rosemary brushes and Vasari oil paints. I know from my experience with pastels that having quality supplies can make a big difference. They are not magic but combined with practice they are worth every penny. 
  • I invested in great instruction. I joined Scott Christensen's Adventure of Painting online course. It is a wonderful resource and not just for oil painters. I am only half way through the course but I look forward to my evening video class with Scott. Investing in instruction does two things....I am learning but I am also motivated to show up because it was not inexpensive :)
  • I am trying to paint a small oil study every day. My goal is every day but I will be satisfied with at least three painting days per week. I am finding that if I start a painting in the morning I can come back to it before dinner when I am caught up with other tasks. 
  • I plan to use this blog once again as an accountability partner. I would like to post more often and share my oil journey with you. I will also share my pastel life and keep you posted on what I am doing!

In upcoming posts I will share my approach to oils as a pastel painter. I can't help but bring this experience to my oil attempts. Below is a photo of the underpainting for the Queen Anne's Lace 8x6 oil. It is thin oil paint. I might do the exact same type of underpainting for a pastel. I am also working with a limited palette which I will share soon. 

 Thank you for being here and for joining me on my journey as I continue to Paint my World!

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

My Top Paintings from 2021

 Today as I sit at my newly cleaned desk and drink my coffee I am feeling reflective.  
Looking back at my Art Year always makes me think about my own personal journey with pastels. When I saw my Instagram Top Nine something became crystal clear. The seeds for my growth as an artist were planted when I first started painting 16 years ago. I didn't  see it then but others did. 

Look at the paintings in the photo above. These paintings got the most interaction on my Instagram account. Do you notice something about them ?  They are Flowers and Meadows. These are things I never dreamed I would paint. When I first started painting, my subject of choice were animals and beach related still life. Never trees or landscapes! But I had the chance to attend a 5 day workshop with Albert Handell because he was in the area (even though I had only been painting for 6 months.) Much of the instruction was over my head. But I learned two very important things. 
  • We can only absorb and understand what we are ready for. I wanted it all right away. I wanted to paint like Albert or even some of the other students. I wanted to understand everything. But I wasn't ready. I needed to understand the basics of value, color, edges, composition...and I needed much practice before some of the more advanced concepts within those basics became clear. Fortunately I wasn't defeated. Instead I was motivated and energized to put in the time at the easel to master the basics. I am still learning but I am happy to say that it definitely got easier and those AHA moments were so sweet when they came.

  • Paint the Things You Love. When I first started painting, I painted animals and still life. I love animals but I didn't really like painting them! Back to the Handell the end of the workshop we had an individual critique. We could share work done at home and at the workshop which was plain air in North Georgia (trees)  Albert looked at my work and very bluntly told me I should stop painting 'Ducks and shells'. He pointed to my plein air woodland paintings from the workshop and told me to concentrate on this type of subject.....trees, woods, nature.  I left the workshop indignant. How dare he tell me what to paint!  But I noticed that  as the time went on I was drawn more and more to the landscape. I enjoyed painting them and my work got better. I had another AHA moment about subject matter at a workshop years later with Stan Sperlak. That is when I embraced painting 'weeds'.  Looking back I realize that both Albert and Stan were right and they saw things in my work that I didn't passion for the landscape which translated into stronger paintings. Our choice of subjects matter!Paint what you are passionate about so that you own authentic voice can emerge!

I am looking forward to an exciting new year filled with creative pursuits and sharing. Look for this blog to follow my new journey with oil painting. I am feeling a bit like I did in my early days of pastel and this blog is what helped me stay the course! 

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

How About Starting the New Year with a 20 Minute Painting?

    'In a Violet Mood'             8x10           pastel        ©Karen Margulis            available on Etsy 

It’s time to ease into 2022 with a simple pastel painting. It is fun to let go and just respond to a simple scene with your pastels without overthinking and overworking. In this video I set a timer for 20 minutes and work with a preselected tray of pastels leftover from another painting.  

Click on the link below to watch the video on my YouTube channel


Enjoy the demo and join me in my Patreon group for much more! SUPPLY LIST 1. Uart sanded paper 8x10 toned with thinned liquid acrylic 2. Nupastels 3. Terry Ludwig Pastels with a few Diane Townsend soft form pastels. 4. Blair very low odor workable fixative

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

How to Paint Lights that Actually Glow! New Youtube Demo

         'Zoo Lights'                     8x10              pastel             ©Karen Margulis      available on Etsy  $265

There is something magical about lights in a nocturne painting. The warm colors of the lights against the cool blues of the sky are captivating. But how can we paint lights that look like they are actually glowing. In this demo I will paint a nocturne with some holiday lights and I will share tips for helping the lights to look like they are turned on. We will turn on the lights in just a few simple steps! Enjoy the demo and join me in my Patreon group for an expanded lesson! SUPPLY LIST 1. LuxArchival sanded paper 8x10 2. Liquitex Clear Gesso tinted with Daler Rowney acrylic inks 3. Terry Ludwig Pastels with a few Diane Townsend soft form pastels. 4. Bamboo skewer for creating texture 5. Blair Very Low Odor workable fixative

Click on the link below to watch the video!


Here are a few of the pastels I used for the demo. I began with duller more neutral reds and oranges and finished with much more intense color!

Join us on Patreon for more painting instruction!

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Last Sale Days with New Paintings Added!


It is a common complaint. Finding something to paint is a stumbling block for many. Before I give my two cents on this topic I will share a wonderful quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."
 This quote strikes a chord with me as I am always reminding myself and my students that beauty is everywhere. We should be able to find something that touches us and inspires us wherever we look. We have to approach our search for inspiration with the mindset that there is beauty in everything. We only need to be open to really SEE it. It isn't enough to just look around us. We need to feel the beauty and be sensitive to it. This is something I am thankful for.

I don't use beautiful and perfect reference photos for my paintings. I use small and dark photos. (bad photos) This allows me to pull out the beauty that I see inside of my mind and put it into the painting. I have discovered that  bad photos lead to my best paintings. My favorite places to paint are not the most spectacular. They possess a quiet and simple beauty that speaks to me because I am open to them.

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection  I make a list of the things I am thankful for. One of them is the gift of a sensitive eye. I try to see beauty in the ordinary and share it with others. What are you thankful for as an artist? 

I'd love to share my vision with you through my paintings! Select paintings are available at 50% discount in my Etsy shop. You can see them all here:

Monday, November 22, 2021

Try a Very Unusual Background for your Next Painting

I wanted to give the illusion of a bank of oyster shells behind my snowy egret painting. I could have just painted them in but I had an idea that I needed to try! How could I get more texture in my background? I put on my 'what if' hat and came up with an idea. What if I tore pastel paper and added small pieces to the background to create a rough textured surface?  What if I used clear gesso as the glue to hold it all together and to provide a sanded surface for the pastel application? Would it work?

Yes it worked even better than I imagined! I tore gray Shizen paper which is a soft handmade paper....perfect for this technique. I worked in small areas at a time spreading some clear gesso on a Pastelbord. I added the paper pieces and painted over them with more clear gesso. The clear gesso goes on milky but dries clear. It allowed me to see the gray paper but still have some tooth for pastel. 

You can see in the photo how the added pastel over the bumpy background enhances the effect. I covered the surface completely with pastel so the painting is considered a pastel painting and not a mixed media collage. I will be thinking of ways to try this again!

Friday, November 19, 2021

Does Color Really Get the Glory? New YouTube Video!


Color is everything. Or is it?  Most of us are drawn to pastels because of the wonderful array of colors. They are all there in front of us. We don't have to mix them to see the possibilities. We want them all and we never have enough.  But color can also be our downfall.  You've heard it before:

Color gets the Glory but Value does the work.

If we don't get the values correct then all the colors in your box will not make the painting better. In fact the more colors we add to try to fix the painting the more we risk making mud.  Value studies are good. Value block- ins are helpful. Lots of practice seeing value is important. I have a great exercise to try. Why not try limiting your palette?

I love painting with ONE COLOR....a Monochromatic color scheme.  I pick a color and allow myself to use a full value range of that color. I give myself permission to use both warm and cool versions of my color. This gives me quite a few choices. 

In this video I chose purple for my color. I wanted to paint a subject that isn't usually all purple. Didi it work?  Click on the link video to watch!


Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Give the Gift of Original Art...50% Saving Starts Today!

It is a month of giving thanks! I am grateful for my life as an artist. It is truly a joy to paint everyday and share my work with others. I couldn't do it without your support. I am thankful for all of you who take time to read my posts, watch my videos and study with me on Patreon and in person! I also appreciate those who choose to add one of my paintings to their homes.Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

 This month I am offering a 50% savings on selected original pastel paintings. Many of them are the demos I painted this year! Many are my daily paintings and a few are the special paintings I have held back for exhibitions. They are all in need of good homes. I painted them all with joy and I hope that they can give joy to others. 

You can see all of the available paintings at this link in my Etsy shop. The 50% savings has already been applied. 

  • Actually I have two fun additions to the event.  You can add this 10x8 painting to your collection. Everyone who purchases a painting during the month of November will be entered. The winner will be selected at the end of the month. Be sure to read the story of this painting. It really deserves a good home!

  • Bonus paintings! I will include a mystery small original painting in the first 20 orders! (sold out)

    Here are a few of the paintings that are offered in this year's Thank You Event:

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Paint Trees.......Not Leaves! New YouTube Demo

         'Autumn Holiday'                8x10               pastel               ©Karen Margulis      available $265

I have a problem when I paint trees.....I go overboard with the leaves!  I start to put in a few leaves and I have so much fun that before I know it my tree is covered in dots of leaf shapes! And dotty equals spotty which is something we want to avoid.  In this video I share some tips that help me overcome the problem of too many leaves. Click on the link below to watch the video on my YouTube channel.

One of the tips I share is that I like to start my tree paintings with big simple shapes of one value. I used a simple alcohol wash underpainting with local colors. It gave me a good foundation for the rest of my painting. Here is a closer look at the underpainting. 

I used an assortment of soft pastels including Terry Ludwig and Diane Townsend pastels. For the finishing touches I used a few Sennelier half sticks from the Paris set. 

Are you a Patreon Insider? When I release a video to my YouTube channel I always share a bonus lesson and expanded commentary for my Patreon Insiders. I'd love for you to join us!


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Trying Oils Again! Here is What I am Doing

       Summer Aspens'                  6x8           oil on panel             ©Karen Margulis       available

It has been in the back of my mind. I have not acted on it. There is so much I want to do and there never seems to be enough time but this time I am going to follow through!  Over the last few years I have wanted to expand my art knowledge and get more comfortable working with oil painting. I have tried occasionally to start an oil painting habit but it never lasted more than a few weeks. This time I am committed to following through. I know that being fluent on more than one medium is helpful. I want to feel as comfortable with oils as I do with pastel and I know this will take work!

Here is what I am doing to help me be more successful this time around!

  • I am taking an online course with Scott Christensen. He has created a wonderful and comprehensive online course. You can work on at your own pace. The video lesson are broken into small chunks form 5-30 minutes each. These are easy to fit into a busy schedule. Spending money on a course is definitely worth it and it is very motivating!
  • I have invested in better supplies. I know from my experience with pastels that materials do make a difference. I splurged and purchased the Vasari paints and Rosemary brushes that Scott recommends. If anything I am motivated to use them because they were not cheap! (they are wonderful though) 
  • I set up a dedicated space in my studio for oils. In the past I didn't have a dedicated space so I needed to clean up after each painting session. I know that supplies need to be available and easy to access and clean up or they will not be used....excuses will be made!  I am fortunate to have a big studio space so there was no excuse not to set up an easel and table dedicated to oils. 
  • I am keeping it simple. I am starting with a limited palette of blue, red, yellow and white. Scott uses a warm and cool of each and I have them but I will work with just the three for now. I have to ease into mixing paint!

  • I am using pastel studies to help me ease into oils. My plan is to paint a small 6x8 study at least three times a week. More is better but three is doable. I am preparing value thumbnails and plans for paintings during my non studio time so I will have a stockpile of ideas. I am taking the extra step of doing a small pastel study. This is helpful because it allows me to work out my colors. All I have to do is figure out how to mix them!
I just started this journey and have two oils finished. The best part is I woke up today excited to get into the studio for my next painting! I love learning new things!  

                                                     5x7 pastel study for my oil painting

The plan and the painting

                    Here is a closeup of my tree trunks. I do love the ability to get thick texture with paint!

I will share my progress from time to time here and on my social media. @karenmargulis. What do you do to help you stick to a painting goal?

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Tips for Painting Fog and Mist in the Landscape

Painting mist, fog and haze is fun! It is an illusion and you have the tools to make it happen! I love to paint the moody landscape. There is nothing like a beautiful sunny day but I am drawn to the quiet of a misty moody landscape. But how do we create this feeling of mist or fog or haze in a painting? Do we need special pastels? Certain colors? The answer is no. We just need to use the tools we have for any landscape.....we need to master the creation of depth and understand value keys. There is also a certain mark making technique that works well for creating these weather conditions.  In this previous Patron Insider only video I share my techniques for making a landscape misty and moody! Follow the link below to watch the demo!


Sunday, September 26, 2021

It's Recycle Day in the Studio! Video Demo!

                'Delight'              14x11             pastel                ©Karen Margulis       available $325

I know what it is like to struggle with a painting. I know it sometimes seems like the only thing left to do is tear it up and throw it away! I have had those paintings where I never want to see them again! But I also don't like to pastel perfectly good paper especially the more expensive sanded papers. So I save the duds in a box and take them out occasionally for a mass recycling day.

In my latest video I share a very simple way to recycle sanded paper that can get rid of the bad and give rise to something new and exciting! All you need is some rubbing alcohol and a brush.
Click on the link below to watch the video. 


Here is the recycled paper. It was a scrap piece of paper I used for a demo. It was a mess but the paper was too good to throw away. 

 Do you prefer to throw away your duds or do you recycle them? How do you like to recycle you papers? 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Three Tips for Painting Water: New Video Release!

This week I am sharing a video I made for my Patreon Insiders back in 2019. We spent two months exploring water and in this intro video I share 3 simple tips to help your paintings that include water look natural and believable.  The first tip I share is to always keep the water straight and level. Watch the video to see why and to see this marsh painting unfold! Click on the link below to watch the video. 

By the way if you are already a Patreon Insider you may have seen this video. I will be sharing a post with some extra commentary later this week!  It is always good to rewatch demos after you have gained more experience!

        I used some pastel pencils to add some of the finishing grasses! Do you use pastel pencils?

Friday, September 17, 2021

Add Some Bling to Your Paintings!

    "Golden Summer'                    8x10              pastel            ©Karen Margulis     available $265 

This month I am exploring unusual underpaintings. One of my challenges is to take the same scene and paint it each week using a different underpainting technique. I had fun with this variation! Here is what I tried:

  • I repurposed an older painting done on LuxArchival paper by brushing on some Liquitex Clear gesso. This turned the pastel into a muddy gray brown. I left the original light blue sky and used my brush to push the mud color into the shape of my mountains. 
  • I liked the effect of the muddy color and the random brushstrokes but I have done this technique before and wanted to add something extra!
  • I did a scan of my art supply shelves and found a bottle of gold powder by Schmincke. The powder is meant to be wet with water and brushed into watercolor paintings but I wanted to see how I could use it for my underpainting. 
  • I sprinkled some of the powder on top of my still wet gessoed paper. The powder stuck to the gesso and was so shimmery and interesting!
  • Everything dried and the gold powder remained secure and stayed shiny. I was ready to paint on it. 
The finished underpainting was exciting! The texture of the gesso gave me enough tooth to layer as much pastel as I wanted.  I made sure to use a light enough touch so some of the gold shimmer would show through the pastel layers. I love this effect and will be sure to try it again....perhaps in my next video demo!


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Which is Better...Water or Alcohol Wash? New Video!

     'Mountain Joy'                8x10               pastel             ©Karen Margulis        $275

When it works it really works! It is a bit unpredictable but that is part of the excitement. Anytime that pastel is washed with a liquid it creates a whole new wonderful world! The dry pastel turns into paint and interesting things can happen. I love the possibilities!

Pastel can be liquified with any liquid. Water is an easy choice and I use it often. I also love to use rubbing alcohol and odorless mineral spirits. So which is better? It is a personal preference but I give the edge to rubbing alcohol.

  •  Rubbing alcohol dries a bit faster than water. Since it quickly evaporates it doesn't sit on the paper leading to less chance of buckling.
  • Rubbing alcohol can create some interesting spider web-like drips. Click on the photos below to see them closer. The results are unpredictable so I am always excited when I get some good runs like I did here. When I get some interesting drips it becomes my goal to allow as much of this underpainting as possible to show in the finished painting.

Tips for an alcohol wash: You need to use a surface that can get wet. Most sanded papers will work even when unmounted. Some artists prefer Pastelbord by Ampersand which is a board and will not warp or buckle. I use 70% alcohol which has a lower flashpoint than the 90%. Using harder pastels work best. The softer the pastel the gummier the results. If you do use a softer pastel be sure to use a very light touch.

If you are looking for a paper that will not buckle when wet have a look at my new YouTube video!

Be sure to leave me a comment and like and subscribe to my channel if you have not done so. Click on the notification bell so you will be notified when a new video is released. Subscribing to my channel is free!