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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Simplifying a Complicated Landscape

'The Way Through the Woods'           9x12           pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $165
 This is another landscape that I have been wanting to paint. But it was too complicated. I avoided it. Every time I leafed through my stacks of photos it would call to me. But I put it aside. Too many trees and much too busy. Today I decided that it was high time to paint it. All I really needed to do was simplify it. Simple right?

Well it turns out that it wasn't as complicated as I thought. All I really needed to do was look at the big picture. Instead of counting every tree trunk, branch and twig and instead of painting every individual leaf I looked at these things as simplified shapes. I painted with the side of my pastel for as long as I could so that I could make broad flat strokes.

I began the painting on a piece of Wallis seconds (I still have a stash) I used hard pastels to block in the simple shapes that made up my forest scene. I Indicated the darkest shapes of the tree trunks, the lightest shapes which was the peeks of sky and the large areas of fall foliage and grass with some yellow and green. I rubbed in this layer with a piece of pipe insulation foam. This step gave me an immediate simplified roadmap to follow. Just seeing all of the details as simple shapes helped me get stated on what had been a daunting reference.

Blocking in the big shapes
Just think of your block-in or first layers of the painting as a flattened simplified collection of related shapes. It is almost as if I took my finished painting and put it thorough a machine that squeezed out the details and left me with simple flattened shapes.

Once I had this simple block-in it was much easier to gradually add smaller and smaller marks on top of the flat shapes. These smaller marks of different colors and values allowed me to have control over the level of detail I wanted.


At the halfway point
I could have added more leaves and branches and twigs but I wanted to leave something to the viewer's imagination. I wanted the viewer to fill in the blanks. Starting flat and simple was the key!


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tips for Preserving an Oil Stain Underpainting


'October is Calling'           11x14        pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $175
Have you ever done a really cool underpainting and then proceed to cover it up completely? Have you ever applied your pastel so thick that you can't even remember what type of underpainting you did?  Take heart if this has happened to you. It happens to me more than I like. I try to preserve an underpainting but it takes a huge amount of RESTRAINT. And that is something I don't always have.

Here are a few tips I have discovered that make it easier to keep some of the underpainting visible: 
  • Slow down after you have a light layer of pastel over your painting. Decide where your focus is and develop the focal areas.
  • Use a VERY LIGHT touch when applying pastel...whisper. You want to be able to see the colors and layers underneath so whisper on a thin veil of pastel. One thin layer t a time.
  • Match the colors and values of the underpainting so you don't make drastic changes too soon. Make gradual changes rather than abrupt changes. Sneak up on the painting!
  • Step back at least every 10 minute. This will help you slow down and be more deliberate about the marks you make. 



The very first pastel layers

 I have gotten better at restraint and slowing down. Both are important to preserving an underpainting. Do you want to get better at keeping an underpainting visible? I just posted a new video on Patreon that shows you how I add pastel to this painting. I will also be sharing my step by step thought process for the finish. I'm sharing some tips here on the blog but I'd love for you to check out the much expanded content on the Patreon page. It is the blog on steroids!
www.patreon.com/karenmargulis  Just $4 a month and you can cancel at anytime.


The painting at the end of the demo video

Close up.....look at how lightly I apply my pastel layers

Monday, September 17, 2018

Have You Tried the New Terry Ludwig Pastel Set Yet?

'Along the River's Edge'          9x12          pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $165
 I have been patiently waiting to try my new pastel set. I know I don't need any more pastels but I do have a duty to try them so I can share with you! (sounds good to me) Fortunately I did win a Terry Ludwig award this spring so I used my gift certificate to purchase the newest set from Terry Ludwig....The Red Rocks Landscape set. Here is a description from the website www.terryludwig.com

From The Garden of the Gods to the Ridgebacks, this set was inspired by the majestic Colorado red rocks to capture the vibrancy of the landscape.  This 60 piece set includes all new colors and was designed as a stand-alone for the artist to work straight from the box to capture water, land and sky.  This set was released, July, 2018.

I am sure it will be perfect for red rock country but I can tell that it will be good for a lot more landscape settings. Over the next few weeks I will be working with this set exclusively as much as possible to test my theory. Of course I will be reporting my experience with the set here. I am also planning to take the set to my upcoming workshop in New Mexico so I want to be familiar with these all new colors!

Terry Ludwig Red Rocks Landscape Set

I made my color chart and even laminated it!
 I selected a photo from my workshop in Pecos New Mexico last fall for my first trial painting. I found the set to be very useful for the subtle autumn colors near the Pecos River. It was lacking a deep dark such as the Terry Ludwig eggplant so I had to supplement from my regular studio box. Remember that these are all new colors! I also needed a brighter, warmer intense yellow for the big yellow trees.  I will be making notes of the extra colors I use. Of course it all depends on where and what you are painting but overall I enjoyed the colors in this set.

So far I am very excited about the new set. Of course what's not to like about a new box of Terry Ludwig pastels?!

The early layers before adding the light!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Power of Suggestion in Painting

'Lowcountry Magic'            9x12            pastel           ©Karen Margulis
available $175
I have wanted to paint this for several years. Ever since I took the photo one gorgeous morning in the South Carolina Lowcountry, I've kept it near the top of my reference photos pile. But I was intimidated. It had too many trees and too many trees equals too many leaves! I loved the colors and the mood and I loved the trees.....I just wasn't sure how to tackle them.

I have been painting more trees lately though so it was time to tackle this one. I have figured out ways to suggest the details in trees rather than try to paint every leaf. I had this photo as one of the choices in a recent workshop artist choice demo. Of course it was the photo the artists selected! So I tackled it on stage in front of a group of artists! At the end of the demo time I was satisfied but felt I could have been a bit less fussy.

"Suggest and let the viewer do the rest"

So I brushed off much of the pastel from the painting and wet the rest down with some leftover gamsol. This fixed the pastel into place and gave me a simplified roadmap to follow.

Underpainting ready for fresh pastel after a Turpenoid wash
  The 'fixed in place' pastel layer allowed me to rebuild the layers of color in the trees. I alternated layers of pastel with a light spray of workable fixative. This gave me another fixed layer and the pastel glided over the bottom layers leaving the suggestion of small leaves. Look at the photo below and you can see that I didn't have to paint single leaves yet the trees look like they are full of foliage!

At the finish of the painting I added a few small marks to indicate single leaf shapes. Our eye sees those leaves and fills in the blanks. We now can believe that this leaf belongs to an entire tree full of leaves. That is the power of suggestion. Harness it when you paint!

close up
We will be spending the month of November exploring trees in detail over on my Patreon page! Join us! www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

Friday, September 14, 2018

Stopping at the Underpainting

'Beneath it All'             6x8            pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $150
I had a little underpainting party the other day. Just me. I turned up the music and just made underpaintings with some leftover oil paint. I didn't have a plan for any of the underpaintings. For a couple of them I had some ideas from my imagination....lavender fields, aspen trees... for others I just painted shapes and colors. When I ran out of paint I was still on a roll. I didn't want to stop!

I had another idea. What if I used the rest of my Gamsol to wet down some old unfinished pastel paintings? I pulled out a couple of 6x8 pieces of Uart that I had used for some quick flower demos. I used my brush and the Gamsol and wet down the pastel letting it drip.

You can see the underpaintings in the photo below. Look at the board on the right....these are the 6x8 OMS (odorless mineral spirits) wash underpaintings. I was intrigued by the results of the OMS wash.

A collection of oil stain underpaintings waiting for pastel
In fact I was so intrigued that I wasn't sure I wanted to cover it up with pastel! Every once in awhile you get an underpainting that stands on its own as an interesting painting.....usually an abstract but still it works as a finished painting. I am usually very quick to add the pastel to my underpaintings. Even if I have an interesting abstract U/P I never leave them alone.

This time I decided to leave this underpainting alone. I didn't want to rush into adding pastel so I set it aside for a couple of days . When I pulled it out again i gave myself permission to leave it as an abstract. To make it an 'official' pastel I needed to use 80% dry pastel. I did this by adding a light layer of pastel matching exactly the color and value of the colors of the underpaintings. The painting at the top of the page is the result.

Have you ever stopped at the underpainting? Were ever you tempted to leave an underpainitng alone?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A New Spin on an Familiar Motif.....Oil Stain Underpainting


'She Dances Through My Dreams'       9x12        pastel      ©Karen Margulis
available $225
I was excited by this underpainting! I did an oil stain which is a very intense and vibrant way to do an underpainitng for pastels. I was using up some extra oil paint after my video demo. I didn't use a reference photo but I had a general idea that I wanted to try a lavender field with the oil stain. So this underpainitng was pulled from my Provence trip memory bank!  I think having painted several versions of the Provence lavender fields helped me have a vision for this underpainting.

The oil stain underpainting....look at the cool spider webbies!
I used only three colors of oil paint for this underpainting....alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow medium and ultramarine blue. I worked on a piece of Uart unmounted paper. You never know what you will get with an oil stain so I was very happy with the interesting spider webbies that developed! Click on the photo to enlarge.

Close up of the pastel over the oil
Once the underpainting was dry I was ready to paint. I pulled out two photos from my Provence trip to help me develop the painting. My goal was to try hard to allow parts of the spider webs and drips to show thought the pastel. A very light touch over the lavender was the key!

The finished painting 
*** See the step by step photo demo of this painting over on my Patreon page this week! **

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

My Largest Pastel Paintings EVER! Tips for Painting LARGE


'Forest Dreams'      each 60 x 18       pastel          ©Karen Margulis

I was excited when I heard the commission request. I couldn't even imagine painting as large as the sizes requested but I couldn't wait to try!  The request was for five paintings that measured 60 inches wide /tall. Three would be a triptych and would need to flow together. Each of these would be 18 inches wide and 60 inches tall! The other two would be 36 inches tall by 60 inches wide.

I did some research and some math and decided on a roll of Uart sanded paper in the 500 grit. The roll would allow me to get those 60 inch pieces with some paper left over to spare. The request was for pastel on archival paper and they were to be unmounted and unframed. Fortunately I wouldn't need to frame them! I could concentrate on the fun of painting large.

The first thing I did after my small studies were approved was to prepare the paper. The Uart paper comes on a tight roll so I needed to cut my paper to size and let it relax and flatten or at least start to uncurl. I used a ruler, pencil and sharp scissors to cut the paper. I used books to keep the paper flat and spread out while I measured and cut.

Cutting Uart paper from a roll using books to flatten the curl
The next thing I did was to IMMEDIATELY tape the paper to prepared foamcore boards. I had ordered a box of large 32x40 foamcore boards and used packing tape to make boards slightly larger than each painting size.  I taped each piece of paper using white artist tape using the hinge method. I used a tape hinge every few inches so the paper was flat and secure to the foamcore. After all paper was attached I placed the boards in a pile under some very heavy art books. I left them this way for a week.

I am very happy to report that the paper stayed flat and never tried to curl away from the tape even once the books were removed and while I worked on the paintings.

Taping the paper to large pieces of foamcore using hinged artist tape

Once the commission was approved I ordered some new pastels for the project. I like to use Mount Vision pastels when I paint super large. They are great pastels....a generous size pastel that is soft yet firm. They go a long way. (after 5 60 inch paintings I didn't use up a single pastel!) I looked at what I had on hand and chose around 20 pastels open stock to fill in the gaps.  I set out my palette in a couple of butcher trays. I used the same palette give or take a few for all 5 paintings.

I did use some Nupastels for the initial underpainting and I pulled out some Terry Ludwig pastels for some of the finishing touches.

My pastel palette for all of the commissions.....mostly Mount Vision pastels
The next step was to figure out how I would arrange the boards for the painting process. Fortunately I have a large studio and several metal easels. The boards were too tall to work on the easels so I leaned them up against the easels. I taped a box to each easel mast to make the surface touching the painting board flush. I used a box under each board to catch the falling pastel dust and protect my floor. I clipped each study next to each painting so I could see my reference. I used the approved small pastel studies as my reference.

I was now finally ready to paint! I decided to do a dry wash underpainting to cover up the light tone of the paper. I used a variety of Nupastels to create a rough value underpainting. I used warm colors to give me a head start on the warm spring day and to give relief to the greens to come.  I rubbed in the first layer with pieces of pipe insulation foam. This gave me a good foundation on which to build the paintings with the softer pastels. I didn't want to do a wet underpainting because I didn't want to risk having the paper buckle or wave.

The underpainting stage....a dry wash with Nupastels and pipe insulation foam
The Layering process......
For the next step I decided to work on all three paintings at the same time. This way I could be sure to have them flow together. Using my limited preselected palette also helped. I put on some music LOUD music so I could get into the paintings. It was a very physical painting process with a lot of up and down....squats! For these paintings I played the soundtrack for the movie 'The Theory of Everything'.

I began by reinforcing the darks in the tree trunks with a variety of dark values. I painted all of the tree trunks before moving on. Next I wanted to paint all of the soft out of focus backgrounds. I started with the painting the left. I began at the bottom with the shadows and grass and worked my way up into the painting using a variety of similar value pastels.

Somehow I ended up finishing the whole tree. I wanted to see how it would all come together. Once I was satisfied I went on to paint the two remaining paintings working on them at the same time.

All three in the studio. I used boxes on the floor to catch the dust



Below are some close ups. You can se how I made large marks to represent the flowers and leaves. They are very much suggested and not detailed. I fond it very interesting to scale up and to retain the impressionistic feeling of my studies. One flower mark on the large painting was the same size as a tree in a smaller painting!

As I painted I constantly moved back to view the paintings from a distance. Luckily I have enough space in my studio! It was important to step back a lot to see how everything was coming together.

close up detail

close up of the bottom part of a painting
So What did I learn from working on these large paintings? 

  • UArt paper on a roll was better than the last time I tried it. It seemed more relaxed and I was able to get it to lay flat. I think cutting the paper and taping it down right away followed by heavy books really helped. 
  • Using a combination of harder pastels for the underpainting and Mount Vision pastels for the book of the layering was a cost effective way to paint large. I saved my softer Terry Ludwig pastels for some of the final layers and finishing touches.
  • Doing a dry underpainting helped give me a good foundation. I had to use less of the more expensive softer pastels. *if I was using mounted paper I would have done a wet wash*
  • Working from pastel painting studies helped me stay loose and painterly. I wasn't tempted to put in details of a photograph. 
  • Painting to loud music that was majestic and upbeat allowed me to feel the movement that I needed. I wanted to paint large and expressive marks. It was much like a dance! So much fun!

All three together

See Behind the Scenes videos on my Patreon page! I take you behind the scenes and discuss this project in a 2 part video series. This series is a new addition to my Patreon page. A few times each month I will take you behind the scenes in my studio! Give Patreon a try for just $4 a month
www.Patreon.com/karenmargulis

Monday, September 10, 2018

I Never Thought I had a Chance.....on entering an IAPS exhibition


'Before the First Snow'        10x 8      pastel      ©Karen Margulis
available unframed $450
The time to enter is now! The deadline to enter the International Association of Pastel Society's webshow is September 15th.  I always seem to wait until the last minute to enter. Thoughts run through my head like...... I don't really have any painting good enough to enter or What if I paint something worthy after I've entered? or I never get anything accepted so why bother?

I shared reasons for everyone to enter a juried exhibition last week. If that wasn't enough to convince you let me share a quick story. Have a look at the photo below. This is my painting hanging at the IAPS exhibition held during the last convention. It was a great honor and felt good. But there was a time a few years ago when I didn't think I would ever have a chance to get in an IAPS show. (or any show for that matter)


I've been painting with pastels since 2005. I started from scratch. I didn't know anything about pastels or painting concepts. But I had a dream. I had goals. I wanted to get better. So I worked hard. I took classes and workshops and I read everything I could about painting. And I practiced. Every day. I had this little thought in my head that one day I would like to paint something as good as the paintings I saw in Pastel Journal and the IAPS and PSA shows. .....But I never thought I had a chance to get a painting in one of those shows!

Until a friend reminded me.....you can't possibly get in if you don't enter. Of course! So I entered one of the IAPS shows. I didn't get in. But the fear was gone. I didn't lose anything but a few dollars and a moment of disappointment. I felt like I joined the club and entering a juried exhibition wasn't so bad after all. So I entered the next one. No luck. I entered the next one and BINGO! I had a painting accepted. Hard work and persistence paid off.

During the next few years I continued to enter with varied success. Eventually I accumulated enough points to achieve Master Circle status. But there were definite ups and downs along the way!

My painting along with the story about my inspiration
I share this story because there was a time not all that long ago that I thought I never had a chance. But I shook off the fear and doubt and kept trying. If one of your dreams or goals is to have a painting accepted into an IAPS show. Now is the time! Remember you have to enter to have a chance.

Follow this link to get the details for entering the IAPS webshow: http://www.iapspastel.org/exiaps_upcoming.php




Saturday, September 08, 2018

Can You Do an Underpainting Over Clear Gesso?

'Beauty at my Doorstep'          14x11          pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $225
 The paint was flying today! I finished a Patreon demo video showing an oil stain underpainting and I had quite a bit of oil paint leftover. I always put out too much! When I do oil underpaintings I always like to do several at once. I want to take advantage of the materials once I have the paint out and poured the Gamsol. Then I only have one clean up session! So I hunted around the studio looking for paper that I could repurpose with some oil paint!

I found a piece of Uart paper that had a fresh coat of clear gesso. I was remaking an unfinished demo. I wanted the texture of the clear gesso. I was left with a gray textured piece of paper. Would I be able to add some thin oil paint to this paper? It was already dry so I thought I would give it a try.

The dried clear gesso piece of Uart
 I  have been asked if it is possible to apply clear gesso over paper and then do a wet underpainting. The concern was that the gesso and texture would dissolve. It seems reasonable....getting something wet with alcohol or odorless mineral spirits might change the texture or the gesso. But then if you think about it gesso is used to prime boards and canvas before painting with oils and acrylics.....so it should be fine.

I used some of the extra oil paint and thinned it to the consistency of tea before creating my underpainting. It worked just fine. The paper retained it's texture and the oil paint did its drippy thing! The overall effect was a bit dull because of the dark paper. I find that the oil stain underpaintings look better on light or white surfaces.

So the answer to the question is YES. It works just fine to combine underpainting techniques. Just be sure to wait until the coat of clear gesso is completely dry before adding your underpainting medium.

After painting with thinned oil paint

close up detail
JOIN US ON PATREON!
This month we are continuing our exploration of underpainting techniques. This week I will be sharing part one of my 2 part video series on how to do an oil stain underpainting. Join and cancel at any time! Just $4 a month www.patreon.com/karenmargulis


Friday, September 07, 2018

You Have to Enter to Ride! 4 Reasons to Enter a Juried Exhibition



'Late Afternoon Show'          24x36          pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $500
You have to enter to ride! And now is the best time of your life to do it. (nod to Disney's Carousel of Progress) The world of juried exhibitions can be a bit of a roller coaster ride. There are many ups and downs and many highs and lows.  But entering juried shows has helped make me a better artist!

A few years ago I entered an International juried exhibition.  I entered what I felt was my best work at the time. I picked some of my personal favorites. But you just never know what will resonate with the juror. My top favorite was not accepted but two others were! I am always prepared for rejection. That way I am not quite as disappointed if I don't get a painting accepted. And I have discovered over time that when you don't get through one door....there is another one waiting for you....the ups and downs of being an artist. So I keep trying even when things don't go my way.

Don't let the fear of rejection stop you from trying!  There is a lot to be gained from entering juried exhibitions.  Entering shows has helped me become a better artist!  How?

  • It motivates me and gives me a goal...a reason to work hard and paint enough so that my work continues to grow. The first year I began painting I went to the SPS exhibition. I was inspired and awed at the wonderful pastel work. I decided I would work hard to get better and eventually get in that show. It wasn't my only goal but it was a big one...and it helped push me to paint everyday.(I did get in that next show)
  • It validates  me as an artist. Some of us don't need validation. But some of us find it helpful. If we are recognized by our peers and have someone say we painted well....it helps motivate us to do more. Even if you don't have your work accepted just going through the process makes it all real. 
  • It helps me get out and meet other artists.  Art can be a lonely business. I love my alone time in the studio but I enjoy sharing with other artists. Joining art groups and entering shows gets me out of the studio and has allowed me to meet the most amazing people.
  • It makes me stronger....whether accepted or not ...entering a show and going through the process puts me on that roller coaster.  I have learned to adjust and deal with the ups and downs and how to make the best of the ride. Just remember you have to enter to ride! 



These are the two paintings that were accepted. The winter painting was awarded second place. It definitely was worth entering the show!


ARE YOU READY TO RIDE? NOW IS THE BEST TIME! ENTER THE 2018 IAPS WEBSHOW!
The 33rd Juried Exhibition of the International Association of Pastel Societies will be exhibited on the IAPS website. This is an online show so no work needs to be shipped! The deadline to enter is September 15th so enter now! The prospectus is available on the IAPS website www.iapspastel.org
Remember you can't have a painting accepted if you don't enter!

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

How to Prepare for an Art Workshop



'Summer by the Seaside'           9x12        pastel        ©Karen Margulis
currently on exhibit at the PSA Enduring Brilliance exhibition

I Wonder What if..... this is the attitude I adopt when painting. It is what I encourage artists in my workshops to do as well. Believing that it is only paper free us to experiment and play and in turn we learn.  I can't wait for my fall workshops. I have three workshops planned with openings left in my team teaching workshop with Nancy Nowak in the Atlanta, GA area! Here are the details. Email me for more information or to register.



I thought I would share some ideas to help you prepare for your next art workshop. These are all tips I have learned as a student. I love being the student!

- Know the instructor. Read books, watch videos read reviews ....any information put out by your instructor. Knowing some of their teachings in advance will give you the opportunity to hear it again....live and in person.

-Know how to work any new equipment. Practice with new easels and boxes so that you feel confident and son't waste precious time struggling with equipment. I just did this last night with an umbrella a rarely use. I don't want to look like a 'newbie' at the convention!

-Don't bring the kitchen sink! Take time to consolidate your supplies. Often workshops are in tight quarters and you may have to share space with others. It is tiring and frustrating dealing with packing and unpacking and packing multiple boxes of pastels. Take time to organize and consolidate. If it is a plein air workshop it is even more important to consolidate supplies. You need to be able to carry your gear as well as set up and take down quickly. You never know when you might need to!

-Know where you are going! Consult maps and get directions. Allow for traffic. Make sure you allow extra time to arrive and get set up before the workshop begins. If you are rushed and harried you will be starting on the wrong foot.

- Don't forget to put your 'what if' hat on. Remember you are taking a workshop to learn something new. It isn't a show or a contest to see who can paint the best. It is about putting yourself in learning mode. No matter how much or little experience you may have remember that everyone is in the same place......they came to the workshop to learn.

- Be open to try new things without worrying about doing it right or wrong.  And be sure to TRY new techniques. If you fall back into your comfort zone you won't have the opportunity to grow and learn what the instructor has to offer.


Looking Ahead to 2019
I have a limited workshop schedule  for 2019. I will be teaching a workshop in Leesburg, Florida on February 20 & 21, 2019 for the Pastel Society of Central Florida. Here is the link:http://pastelsocietyofcentralflorida.com/workshops/karen-margulis-expressive-pastels-loosen-up-and-add-some-spice-to-your-paintings

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Three Tips for Dealing with Green


'The Earth Turned'           9x12         pastel          ©Karen Margulis
available $165


I seem to be on a green kick. Everything I want to paint is green! I like green and I like to paint landscapes with a lot of green but it can definitely be a challenge. I was looking back at my past blog posts about green and came across this old tidbit. It was a good reminder for me and I thought it would be a good one to share!  I used all three tips when painting today's green landscape.

These are some of the top things I think about when I paint the Green Stuff:

  • The further back you go in the landscape the less strokes you need. This reminds me to utilize the principles of aerial perspective...less detail, contrast, cooler and lighter.
  • Start with a lump of clay and carve your tree or bush using the background color. Add 'clay' to build volume by layering pastel to depict believable light (rather than lots of random leaves)
  • Orange is the Secret of Green and Violet is the Friend....a favorite tip for painting green that I learned from Richard McKinley. Make your greens more interesting with this tip.


Just released to my Youtube Channel!
video demo on painting lively greens 

Monday, September 03, 2018

Check Out This Painting Transformation!

'Summer Song'         8x10         pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $150
I was looking for a project. I have been enjoying adding texture to Ampersand Pastelbord but I had already used up my stash. I had also repurposed all of the older paintings on Pastelbord in my discard pile. Or so I thought! I was very excited when I came across an older Queen Annes Lace painting done on Pastelbord. It actually was a rework but it really wasn't working. It was the perfect candidate for texture!

The original painting on Ampersand Pastelbord
I took out an old stiff bristle brush and my Liquitex clear gesso. I used the gesso straight from the bottle without diluting it. I didn't brush off the old pastel. Instead I allowed the gesso to mix with the pastel to form a thick paste. It turned the pastel into a putty color which was a nice neutral middle value tone. I left some of the blue sky showing thinking that I would just redo the flowers.

Taking it to the next level.
The wet pastel was which so it occurred to me that I could drag my brush handle through the pastel to create linear marks. Again I was thinking that these marks would be great to suggest the texture of grasses and stems. When this underpainting dried the rich handle left deep grooves. It would be interesting to see what would happen when I added pastel.

After applying clear gesso with a brush and using the handle for texture
Once the wet pastel dried I evaluated it for potential paintings. I changed my mind about redoing the flowers and chose a meadow scene. The texture worked wonders for the meadow! I am really enjoying this exploration of texture and I think I need to order some more Paselbord.

You can see a step by step demo of this painting this week on my patreon page. www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Three Reasons to Paint a Series

'Magic in Late Afternoon'         11x14       pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $195
I am knee deep in lavender! I am reliving my experience this summer in Provence and it continues to inspire more lavender paintings. I found this post from my archives that fits in well with what I am doing in the studio lately. Enjoy!

A collective groan came from my students when I told them we would be painting from the same reference photo for the next four weeks.  "We will be working on a series"  I told them.  "It will be fun and exciting and you will learn a lot! "

I do understand the groans though. Some artists don't like to work from the same reference or even subject. Once it has been painted it has been done.  It is a valuable exercise and well worth the time and effort.

A painting series can be many things but the paintings in the series all need to have some common thread among them.  It can be a common technique or color palette or maybe the same subject done on different mediums. 

So what are the benefits of doing a series?  I will share three reasons below. I'd love for you to comment and add to the discussion!


The underpainting is an alcohol wash which was covered with clear gesso for texture 


1. Painting a series helps you understand your subject.  When you work with the same subject over and over you become intimate or friends with it.  By studying your subject and painting it more than once you are better able to interpret it on a higher level. You move beyond copying what you see as you become more familiar with the subject.

 2. Painting a series pushes you out of your comfort zone without it being scary! When you paint a subject many times you have to work hard at making each new painting unique yet still retain the connection to the series. You have to try new ideas, techniques, colors, etc.  It isn't as intimidating though because you are so comfortable with the subject. You have already figured out the issues with the subject now you are free to play!

3. Painting a series makes you a more confident artist. This is because you are painting more. You are painting more because you have a direction. You have a goal. You don't have to fear the blank paper because you already know how to paint your subject. You've done it already!  The more you paint the more confident you will feel. It is a wonderful feeling!



click for close up of detail