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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

An Easy Way to Paint More Natural Grasses with Pastel

            'Moody Marsh'                 8x10           pastel                 ©Karen Margulis               sold

I never get tired of painting the many moods of a marsh. I love it because it lets me play with painting grass. I LOVE to paint grasses.

Grass can be a challenge and can make or break a painting. Grass that is painted too stiff, thick or regular can not only look unnatural it can create a visual barrier. The eye of the viewer can't get past this 'fence' of grass. The trick to painterly natural looking grass is to paint with BROKEN LINES. 

There are several techniques for painting broken lines but all involve a light touch. You can use a hard pastel and let it dance on the paper skipping and then laying down color. You can roll the tip of a round pastel and you can use one of my favorite techniques: Press and Release a square pastel. 

To create the grasses n my painting I used all of these techniques. I used the press and release for the darker grasses. You need a square pastel. Of course I prefer Terry Ludwig pastels. They are the perfect blend of from softness and intense color. All you do I place the pastel on the sharp edge and press into the paper and lift the pastel back up. You will be left with a broken line and broken lines look more natural than a stiff solid line!

This painting is this week's step by step demo over on my Patreon group. Join us to follow along!


Sunday, October 25, 2020

New Grandbaby is Here!

   'Autumn Comes to the River II'                9x12                pastel                ©KarenMargulis   

                                                                       available $175

Wow! Where did this week go? I looked at the blog and realized it has been a week since I last posted. I do have an excuse though! A week ago we welcomed our newest granddaughter to the family! Maya Rose joins big sisters Bri and Nora. Everyone is healthy and happy and we are thrilled to be the grandparents of six wonderful children!  Now I need to try to get a photo with everyone in it!!

I am back to the easel this week wrapping up my river series and getting ready for another month of fun on Patreon. Sneak peek....we will be adding structures to the landscape! 

Here are a couple of photos. Nora was so excited to hold the baby! I try to make the blog about art but I do plan do occasionally sprinkle photos of what is happening in my world other than painting!

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Using Art Graf for Autumn Landscape Paintings

     'Autumn by the Pond'              8x10             pastel         ©Karen Margulis     available $175

I am on a roll with my fall landscape series. I decided to pull out my primary color Art Graf pigment blocks and they have been perfect for these autumn landscapes. They gave me a vibrant start which I can use for both sunny days and moody misty days. It is easy to subdue the vibrant colors with pastel layers if needed. 

Below is a photo of the underpainting. I applied the Art Graf and wet it with a brush and water. I find that water makes them more intense than alcohol! I did draw into the wet underpainting with a hard pastel to place the tree trunks. 

If you are intrigued by these Art Graf squares you can find more information here on my blog. I have written several posts and shared demos using Art Graf. Go directly to the blog and look for the search box on the right. Search for Art Graf to show all of the related posts!


This month on Patreon we are focused on painting atmospheric conditions such as fog, mist and rain. Join us for the fun!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Lunchtime Demo: Mist on the River!


   'Autumn Comes to the River'                11x14              pastel         ©Karen Margulis     available $225

Yesterday I had the pleasure of doing a Facebook Live video demo for the Booth Western Art Museum. It was part of their 'Art for Lunch' series. I decided to do an autumn landscape inspired by my recent camping trip along the Tallulah River in North Georgia.  You can watch the demo by clicking on the link below:


I began the painting with a wet underpainting using Art Graf pigment blocks on Uart sanded paper. I love the interesting drips I got. I did end up covering them all up! I made another underpainting so I. will see how another version turns pout!

Here is the palette of pastels I used. They are mostly Terry Ludwig pastels with a few Diane Townsend soft form. I have been using this same palette for a series of river paintings. It makes it easy to have a preselected palette and use them for several paintings. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

What is the Secret for Painting a Misty Landscape?

  'Morning on the River'                  13x8            pastel            ©Karen Margulis     available $175
Spending the week camping next to the river was amazing. I came home so inspired and I came home filled with information to help me pant from he photos I took. Spending time in my chair observing the many moods of the river was so helpful. I especially loved observing the morning mist rising from the river and shrouding the trees. How could I capture this fleeting condition?

It is actually quite simple. I am sharing demos and tips all month over on my Patreon group but I'll share a simple tip here......choose neutrals.  On a misty or foggy or hazy day the colors are not as vibrant. When they are shrouded by a mist they are neutralized. The exception are objects up close. In this case the soft light of an overcast sky makes the colors clear and vibrant. Photographers love to take macro shots on overcast days. 

Have a look at the palette of pastels I selected for today's painting. I have  four piles of grayed down neutral colors. There is a variety of values from dark to light. The lightest pastels will be used for the sky and for the mist. 

For more tips join me on Patreon!

Friday, October 09, 2020

New YouTube Video: How to Paint a Moody Misty Landscape

           'Misty River'                       9x12               pastel              ©Karen Margulis     available $175

Last week we spent a wonderful 5 days camping on the river. The weather was perfect and the view was inspiring. I took many photos. I decided to paint from one of the morning misty photos of our view for a YouTube video demo. We are focusing on how to paint fog, mist and haze over in my Patreon group so I am in the mood for moody!  Click on the link below to watch the demo:

I used Art Graf blocks in the primary colors to create a vibrant wet underpainting. I am starting with bold vibrant colors so I can then tone them down to get the moody feeling in the landscape. 

Here is the palette of [astels I used. They are primarily Terry Ludwig pastels with a few Diane Twonsedn soft form thrown it. 


Tuesday, October 06, 2020

How to Paint Mist, Fog and Haze in Pastel

            'Summer Mist'             9x12              pastel              ©Karen Margulis.    available $175  

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. 

Join me this month over in my Patreon group to explore these ideas in detail. You can see this painting come to life in a video demo. It is just $4 for the month to access these posts and so much more. 

                                                           The pastels I used for this demo

Friday, October 02, 2020

A Simple Way to Make a Photo Collage

I wanted to simple way to see my monthly progress. I had recommitted myself to daily painting this year and I was on a roll. I had paintings all over the studio! I had to store them and put them away but I wanted a way to see my progress. One great way to see daily painting progress is to hang them up in the studio.  Another way is to see them the form of a photo collage.

It is always a good thing to take some time to review the work you do over the course of a few weeks. It helps you to see what you did well and what you might need to work on. One way to do this is to physically set out your paintings ....line them up against a wall and study them. Take notes. Is there a common thread that runs through all of them? Is there something that you are doing consistently well...or not so well?

Ideally, this evaluation should be done every few months. There is a simple way to do this instead of taking the paintings out physically.....create a digital collage. I discovered a very easy to use collage maker online and it is FREE called 

All you do is upload the photos you want, choose your layout and either auto fill or drag your photos where you want them in the layout. Simple. The collage can be saved as a jpg and can be used in many ways...make cards, Facebook banners, promotions of all kinds. It is also an excellent way to see a collection of your work all in one place! 

I am sharing a collage of some of the still life paintings I did last month on Patreon. Join us!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Paint What You Don't Love

             'Still Life with Pears'                      11x14                 ©Karen Margulis         available $165

It was an interesting month. I ventured into uncharted territory and it was a challenge. It was still life month with my Patreon group. I had long promised it but put it off. I am a landscape painter. I usually avoid the still life. Not because I don't like them but because they are a struggle. I know that to overcome learning curves one needs to practice so I should be doing more work with the still life and not less but I just never make the time for them.

I always give the advice to paint what you love. It is easier to paint with expression when you have a strong emotional connection to your subject. When I am painting my favorite subjects I get into the zone more readily. I paint from my heart. But when I am faced with a subject that doesn't interest me as much it is much more difficult to connect and have success.  But sometimes we need to push past this and consider challenging subjects as exercises to help us grow as artists. I did this during the month of September and it feels great! I learned some things about painting the still life and I am excited to do more. It was a month that pushed me and I needed that!

Next month on Patreon I am back to my comfort zone and we will be focused on painting the moody landscape! Consider joining us for the fun!

                                                                    close up of the pears

Friday, September 25, 2020

Using My Reconstituted Pastels

                                 'In the Pink'            12x9            pastel          ©Karen Margulis

                                                            available in my Etsy shop $165 

I don't know why I was so stubborn. I cleaned out my big pastel box two years ago and promised I would make pastels from the bits and pieces I collected. Two years have passed and no pastel making video! I put it off because I thought it would be too messy and time consuming. I didn't want to bother. Why did I wait!!?? I finally decided to jump in and make some pastels from my old bits and pieces and I am now addicted!  It wasn't hard at all. It wasn't even as messy as I had imagined. ...and the results were wonderful. I couldn't wait to paint with my 'new' pastels!

To be clear I didn't make pastels from scratch. That is another process. All I did was reconsitiute the pastel pieces I already had. All you need is a way to crush the broken pastels or pieces into dust and some distilled water. I used a mortar and pestle but you can use a plastic bag and rolling pin. You can easily find directions online or watch my video on my Patreon Page but the process is simple. Slowly add some distilled water to your dust and mix it into a dough. You need dough like pastry and not cream. Form the dough into a desired shape. I rolled mine and cut pieces with a palette knife. Let the pastels dry for 2-3 days before using. That's it!

I made some greens and I love the colors! I decided to use them for a bouquet of flowers. The greens are perfect for the foliage. I have some great ideas for other special pastels and I will share them soon!

Join us on Patreon! We are sharing our pastel results and the paintings we are doing with our reconstituted pastels.

                                                       I love these 'new' green pastels!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Take a Painting Break by Painting Something You Love

                 'Lost in the Weeds'                       10x13                 pastel             ©Karen Margulis                                                                               available in my Etsy shop $175                                                                       

After a month out of my comfort zone  it was time to get back into the weeds! I had fun pushing myself to paint the still life. It is a great month so far on Patreon with so much wonderful work being shared by the group. As the month draws to a close I just wanted to paint some tangled weeds and let go!  This is a great way to work and grow. Spending time with the unfamiliar helps you do a better job with the familiar.

I decided to use an older watercolor underpainting for my tangled scene. The underpainting had similar shapes found in my new reference photos and was filled with rich darks. This dark would form the foundation for the composition and would hold all the details in place. In a field or meadow I like to think of this dark block in as the DIRT. The dirt holds onto the roots and prevents the grasses and flowers from floating.

I enjoyed letting go and responding to this painting intuitively building the layers and layers of dirt, grass and flowers. It is so liberating to paint things that are not perfect and don't have to be perfect to look good. I'll take a patch of weeds anyway over a vase or pitcher of flowers. It is a great learning experience to change gears but it always feels good to come home. 

a closer look

Using a watercolor underpainting 


Monday, September 21, 2020

Have You Seen The PSA 2020 Enduring Brilliance Exhibition?

One of the things that helps me grow as an artist is to study the work of those with more experience and whose work inspired me. There is no better way to see what is happening in the world of pastel then to see the annual Pastel Society of America's exhibition. Usually held in New York City, this year it is all online. I am thrilled to share that one of my paintings was accepted into the exhibition and received and award! (more on this below)  Please follow the links so that you can enjoy this wonderful exhibition in the comfort of your home!

Pastel Society of America 2020: Enduring Brilliance at The Butler Institute Online 
This exhibition, drawn from The Pastel Society of America’s annual fall exhibition, features works by some of the nation’s premier pastel painters. The Pastel Society of America (PSA) is the oldest organization of its kind in the nation. A primary mandate of the PSA is to provide a forum for the exhibition of works by the most accomplished pastel artists in the United States and abroad. Since 1972, the PSA Annual Exhibition: Enduring Brilliance!, held at the National Arts Club in New York City, has been the premier event for pastel artists worldwide.

To see the entire exhibition click here: 

To see all of the accepted paintings in the Butler Institute follow this link:…/pastel-society-of-america-2020-end…/

To see a slide show of the award winning paintings click on the following link. I enjoyed 'flipping' through this virtual catalog! 

Here is a closer look at my accepted painting. 'Morning at the Pond'. It is 9x12.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Don't Throw Out That Painting! Do A BIG FIX!

                            'Take Away the Blues'                14x11          pastel         ©Karen Margulis

                                                              available in my Etsy shop: $165

I know the frustration of a dud. I have had more failed paintings than successful ones. I know how it feels to be dejected and to think that I have just wasted precious paper and supplies. Very early on in my painting journey I decided to change my mindset. If I was going to get better at this painting thing I knew I needed to practice....a lot. That meant many bad paintings before perhaps a few good ones emerged from the dust! It also meant that I couldn't hoard my supplies. I needed to use them. Having pastels get smaller became a sign that I was on the right track rather than cringeworthy! I also decided that I wasn't afraid to use my 'good' sanded papers because I could always repurpose the paper if the painting was a dud. 

So over the years the bad paintings piled up....literally piled up in a box (or three!) I have a lot of failed paintings waiting to be reused. From time to time I will pull a piece out from the pile and do what I now call a 'Big Fix'.  I will either try to rescue the original painting armed with new knowledge and experience or I will wipe off the painting and start with something new. 

I have shared the different ways I repurpose paper here on the blog. For today's painting I used the easy method of a light alcohol wash. I took an older failed bird nest painting and brushed on a very light wash of rubbing alcohol. I did not brush off the pastel first but it was not very thick. I did like the original underpainting which had some interesting drips so I didn't want to cover it all up. I just wanted to restore the tooth of the paper and tone it with the colors in the nest painting. The results are in the photo below. 

Now I needed to decide what this new underpainting could be. I was working on the still life for my Patreon group so I looked through my reference photos and found the perfect candidate.....a vase of blue hydrangeas! All I needed to do was to turn my paper to portrait format and the flowers were already there! I loved the out of focus background and it would be just the thing to set off the flowers!

I began with a light pastel pencil drawing of the new subject. and I was ready to paint!  I thoroughly enjoyed incorporating the remnants of the old painting into my new one! Another Big Fix is in the books!

Don't allow yourself to feel frustrated by the duds! They are markers on the road to your success. Don't throw them away. Save them for another day!


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Lesson in Seeing: Look Behind You

           'Just Around the Bend'               9x12             pastel            ©Karen Margulis   available $165

  Before I started painting my hobby was photography. While my kids were small it was an easy way to get in touch with my creative side. Back then we learned on a manual camera with slide film. It was not very forgiving. You didn't want to just keep taking photos in hopes of getting a good one like we can now  with digital. You had to plan. You had to anticipate. You also had to be lucky sometimes.  I am glad for this lesson in patience. It was also a lesson in learning how to see. I learned how to see the light. These lessons served me well as I transitioned into painting.  I was reminded by an important lesson this weekend. 

We were on our maiden camping trip with our new camper Joy. (More on this soon) It was a quick weekend trip to test the camper's systems. It was a mostly overcast weekend so when sunset time rolled around we weren't very hopeful. We decided to take a walk....just in case. We were rewarded for our efforts.....almost. We could see a glimmer of fiery light through the trees but we couldn't get close enough. We decided to hop in the car and drive around the bend. We were on a lake with many fingers of land so it was hard to know which way to go. 

We drove a few miles and it just got darker. No sunset. Then we rounded the bend and there it was....a fiery sunset up close and personal. We stopped and I took lots of photos and then I remembered the lesson I learned in my photography days and later reinforced by Stan Sperlak in his wonderful workshops.....ALWAYS LOOK BEHIND YOU. Don't forget to turn around and see what is happening behind you. It is often just as spectacular or interesting then what is in front of you. In this case it was. The formally 'brown' tree trunks were glowing orange from the setting sun. It was mesmerizing and it inspired my first painting from our camping adventures.

I began the painting with a black and orange wet wash on gray MingArt sanded paper. 9x12. Here is one of the photos I took of the view behind me!


Monday, September 14, 2020

Exploring the Still Life on Pastelmat Paper

'In the Kitchen II'              12x9            pastel            ©Karen Margulis

I had a scrap piece of orange Pastelmat already attached to a board so I decided to use it for todays painting.  As soon as I touched pastel to paper I remembered just how unique this surface is. It is soft and velvety  and the pastels go on oh so smooth. I just feels nice. It is a pleasure to work on. I don't use Pan Pastels but I understand it is a perfect match for the pans. Here are some things I noticed:

  • The paper accepted both hard and soft pastel equally well. And as I said before, it feels good....the pastels just glide on.
  • I found I had more success when I made bold and direct strokes. The paper does take several layers but I found that the marks want to stay in place rather than be blended. (this is a good thing if you tend to over blend)
  • I was able to use fixative with success. I decided midway through the painting to change color scheme so after a little fixative I could add more pastel. However some spots got too slick from fixative and I could get pastel on top.
  • I didn't use a wet underpainting today but I do remember that while the paper takes a wet underpainting, the cellulose fibers seem to suck in the wet. You tend not to get the drips and blooms like you get with other papers.
PASTELMAT® is a premium card surface (360gsm / 170lb) specially developed for pastelists. Its unique velvety surface, made from a fine coating of cellulose fibers, has the ability to grab and hold multiple layers of even the softest pastels.
PASTELMAT® significantly reduces the need for fixative, which means that colors remain vibrant and fresh once applied. It has the added bonus of being gentle on both fingers and blending tools. It is acid free and lightfast.
PASTELMAT® is ideal for use with all dry media - pastel sticks, PanPastel, pencils and charcoal. It is also water resistant which means that it can be used with wet media – such as acrylics and watercolor for washes and mixed media techniques.
Overall I do like Pastelmat. I always forget just how much I enjoy it. I would like to get some more to see what else I can discover. Do you use Pastelmat? I welcome your thoughts!

 Here are two links to other posts I wrote about Pastelmat paper:

Six Reasons to try Pastelmat

Pastelmat Review

We are exploring the still life over on my Patreon group. You can see this apple painting as a step by step demo! Just $4 for the monthly pledge.