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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Mountain Memories from State Number Four!

'Mountain Memories'                10x8             pastel                ©Karen Margulis
available in my Etsy shop  $155
I have painted this scene so many times. But I finally got it the way I remembered it! This is state number four in my Paint our Beautiful World Challenge.  The state is North Carolina and here is the story.

Years ago my very dear artist friend and I went on a getaway to the mountains of Western North Carolina. We just wanted to spend some time wandering around the countryside with no goal other than take some photos for future paintings. We didn't have a particular place to visit and we didn't have a map. We just set out each morning and followed the rambling country roads.

One morning we took a road that led us to the most amazing meadow. I think this was the moment I discovered my muse......although it would be several years before I would fully embrace my attraction to fields of wildflowers and weeds! We stopped the car and got out for photos. The meadow stretched out before us with the mountains as a cool blue backdrop to the riot of color. The field was filled with Queen Annes Lace and clover and the bees and butterflies were just as happy as we were!

I returned from this trip inspired to try my hand at capturing that magical meadow. One of my early attempts actually won an award in the Southeastern Pastel Society Exhibition back in 2009. It still hangs in my studio.

I have painted many other versions of this place from even more detailed to abstracted but haven't quite captured the moment the way I remembered it. Until today. I look forward to revisiting this meadow in fixture paintings. It never gets boring!

Monday, March 30, 2020

State Three is Utah! Watch the Video Demo!

'Our Beautiful Desert'                    11x14                 pastel                ©Karen Margulis
available for sale in my Etsy shop 

My project continues. The third state painting is Utah! This time we turned the camera on and made a video set to music. I hope you enjoy watching a few minutes of desert zen! Please feel free to share with your friends! Click on the link below to go to my YouTube channel.

I worked from a small photo and small color study

Our first visit to Utah was back in the 90's . Our kids were 9 and 6 and we went on a grand circle tour of the southwest planned and executed by me! This was before the internet so I spent a year planning the details. I took out travel books and guides from the library and wrote to potential hotels and attractions for brochures.  The planning was almost as much fun as the trip.....almost. The trip was an adventure of a lifetime. We visited most National parks in Utah and Arizona as well as some memorable stops in western Colorado. I was not painting back then but I was very much into photography. I took slides on this trip so I don't have photos to paint from. (I am looking into getting them scanned)

Fortunately I made several trips to the Southwest once I began painting including the trip that inspired today's painting. I had been painting with pastels for a couple of months when Michael and I took a getaway trip to Moab, Utah. I had done some research and found an artist who was working in pastel. He was also a photography guide. We took a tour and he brought us to same amazingly beautiful off the beaten path places. He also gave us a tour of his studio which fueled my excitement for pastel! I came home from that trip inspired and encouraged to master pastel!

The pastels I used were the Red Rock collection of Terry Ludwig pastels

I used a few extra pastels for the underpainting and final touches

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Art Play Activity Guide Week Three: It's MINI Week!

Are you looking for some inspiration and direction in your studio? This week I am sharing my third installment of my Art Play Activity Guide. Even if one idea gives you a spark and gets you painting it is worth it! I know having suggested painting starters has helped me take my mind off the world events and I hope these ideas do the same for you!

download link to PDF:

I am calling this week Mini Week and it is more than just painting small artist trading card paintings. If you follow along I promise you will be well on your way to starting a helpful daily painting habit! Scroll down for some tips on getting started!

Here is some information on putting together your own mini pastel kit!

I'm calling it the Mini Mini. It is the smallest pastel kit I have ever put together. Everything I need to paint fits in a zippered pouch measuring just 8 inches long by 4 1/2 inches tall. I wasn't going to bring pastels at all on my upcoming adventure. (more on this trip in my next post!)  

I was trying to pack light. I was only planning on bringing a small sketchbook. No pastels. The more I thought about it the more I started to panic. No pastels for 2 weeks! What if I had free time and really wanted to paint and not just sketch? Would I regret not having any pastels? 

If you have followed me then you know I always bring pastels on a trip and I have downsized and have a great compact set up. (link here to see this set up)  But frankly I didn't want to deal with even that set up on a long haul trip. But in the end I was feeling pressure to bring some pastels. 

Introducing the Mini Mini! I wanted a very small pouch that I could fit into my daypack or even my purse. I will only be painting mini pastels 2.5x3.5 so even the paper fits in the pouch.  Have a look att the photo above to see what I have in the kit.

  • Pastels: I started with the Cretacolor starts set of 12 pastels. These pastels look like Nupastels but they actually are a bit softer. I planned to use the basic colors in this set and modify with black and white. It would require some thoughtful layering to create new optical blends. After testing I decided to break a few of the pastels and substitute my gavotte Nupastels. See photo below. Basically I added a duller version of some of the bright colors and my favorite Price Blue 305. (I thought about putting a bunch of Nupastels in a small container but everything was too thick for my zippered pouch!)
  • A pencil
  • A drawing board. I am using a thin hard board by Ampersand meant for oil or acrylic. It is hard, the perfect size and rigid. It won't bend like a piece of foam core would. I am using tiny binder clips to attach my paper to the board. This eliminates the need for tape. 
  • Paper: I cut some sanded paper scraps into 2.5x3.5 pieces. I put them in a plastic snack baggie. I love this size baggie that I get at Target. 
  • A business card size watercolor set. This set is tiny but mighty! With such a limited pastel palette I thought I would extend my possibilities with a watercolor underpainting! A friend gifted this set to me but I have seen them on Etsy.
  • A Water brush. This brush from Caran d'ache is hollow so you can fill it with water for the watercolor underpainting on the go. I also have a tiny jar lid from room service jam jar that I can use for water if needed. 
  • Clear Bags from to use for the finished paintings. 
  • A tiny pack of wipes. This pack only has 10 tips but I can save , wash and reuse them if needed.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Painting Our Beautiful World Project: Georgia

'Georgia on my Mind'                 10x8               pastel           ©Karen Margulis
available $165
Painting number two finished today. I am excited about my Painting our Beautiful World project. The US map I have is too big for the studio wall but I mounted it to a board  and have it leaning up against some easels. I am planning on putting a small photo of each painting on the map in the corresponding state.

Today I chose to paint my own state of Georgia. I have lived here for 31 years. In the same house. I live in the suburbs of Atlanta and despite the shopping centers and many highways we fortunately still have beautiful landscapes. I often say I live in the land of green. Trees, lawns and shrubs are everywhere. Because the terrain is hilly we don't have many places with a clear view of the sky. Sometimes it feels like I live in a tunnel of green. It really is a good thing that I like green!

 I also live just a short drive from the North Georgia mountains. It is an easy drive to the cool mountains and many streams. They are especially welcome  during the heat of the summer. It is in the eighties here today and I can feel the cool mountain stream calling to me. I can hear the gentle trickle of water and smell the mossy stones. It was refreshing to paint this Georgia mountain stream on this very warm day in my studio.

About this painting: I recycled a piece of Pastelmat paper. It was an older demo of a black and white painting. I brushed some clear gesso with random brushstrokes and the result was a lightly textured surface that hinted at the value structure of my mountain stream.

Reusing an old black and white painting

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Painting Our Beautiful World Project : Nantucket Island

'Nantucket Summer'             9x12             pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available in my Etsy shop $175
I came up with an idea yesterday. We were cleaning out a closet and found two huge maps. One was a map of the world and the other of the United States. I spent some time looking over the maps reminiscing about the beautiful places I have visited. I have painted many of them over the years. It occurred to be that it would be wonderful to do a painting from every state and every country I have visited.  It would be be a fun project to do during this time of hibernation! I will call this the 'Painting our Beautiful World Project'

Today I share my first beautiful place. They will be in no order of preference and some may fit in with my art play activities such as this one.  This is Nantucket Island. I love this place and it shares a part of my heart, soul and history. My grandfather was born and raised on Nantucket and I was able to trace our family (the Taylors) back to the original settlers of the island.  We were able to visit several years ago and meet with a cousin also born and raised on the island. It was a strange feeling.....I felt like I had been there many times....I knew the streets. It was all so familiar.  I need to return.

About this painting: It was supposed to be my monochromatic painting with my favorite color. But I couldn't stop at turquoise and I added color. I did manage to let some of the underpainting peek through. I'll try for the monochromatic painting another time.  The painting is on White Wallis sanded paper with some clear gesso on the land part of the painting for texture. I used Terry Ludwig pastels and some Nupastels. 

The turquoise underpainting

A close up

Thursday, March 26, 2020

How to Paint a Spring Flowering Tree: New Video

'Dogwoods on Display'                 12x9               pastel               ©Karen Margulis
available $150
 I had a busy day in the studio! I was inspired to paint some dogwood trees since we are in the midst of spring blooms here in Atlanta. I thought it would make a good video demo subject. Click on the link below to see the video. Feel free to share with your artist friends!


After lunch I did an Instagram Live interview with the Red Rock Pastel Society. I will share the link when it is posted. It was fun to show my studio and answer some good questions. Thanks Dasha for the interview opportunity.  And now I am going to paint something inspired by my Art Play activity guide.

Enjoy the demo!!

Starting the demo

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Do You Turn Off Technology?

'Wild at Heart'                  12x9            pastel              ©Karen Margulis
ask me about availability 

This little post from the archives has important advice for us when choosing subject matter. I find myself drawn to the weedy places whenever I go! And that is just fine! Enjoy the post!

Paint what you love. Paint what you know. These are words I heard many times while at the 1st Annual Plein Air convention. I love this advice. While there is a time to stretch yourself and learn new subject matter and techniques, it is also important to reflect and understand what subjects really speak to you. It is true that you will often do your best work when you are painting things that speak to you. You just need to figure out what these things are.

When I am outside looking for something to paint or photograph, I find myself looking down more than I look up at the 'Big View'. I love the big view...I love wide open spaces. But I find I am always drawn to the things on the ground. It is the wildflowers that speak loudly to me. I have discovered that I enjoy painting the more intimate details of the landscape. I don't fight it. I make sure that I make time to paint what I love. At the convention I painted the Big View but I also found some wildflowers that called out to be painted! Read on for a bit of advice from Clyde Aspevig.

Do you know what subjects speak loudly to you? Have you found your truth? I would like to leave you with this piece of advice given to us by Clyde Aspevig at the Plein Air Convention. Clyde suggested that we turn off technology every once in awhile and find a way to have a moment of complete isolation. "You have to start thinking and the answers will come".
UPDATE: When I was on my Alaska cruise last summer  we had phone service in some places but on our stops in Canada. I was forced to be without technology and it truly allowed us to be in the moment and soak in the scenery. We took time to hike and to slow down and really observe. I was drawn to this abandoned field filled with late summer flowers. I had to paint them! Subscribe to Painting My World by Karen Margulis by Email

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Art Play Activity: Do a Monochromatic Painting with your Least Favorite Color

'Feeling the Warmth'                 7.5 x 10                pastel                   ©Karen Margulis
available $150
Today my challenge was to paint something in a monochromatic color ......but it had to be my LEAST favorite color. The hardest part of the challenge was to choose the color. I like all colors! As I looked at my big box of pastels I realized that my least used pastel was the orange family. Most of my orange pastels were hardly touched except for the lighter values. So orange it was.

I began the painting gray sanded paper with a black wet wash. I used Art Graf pigment squares and water. I thought that using black would be neutral but give me a good value roadmap.

Black Art Graf Underpainting
As I painted I realized why my orange pastels were not used very much. Orange in the landscape is great as spice or under green but a bit overwhelming in large amounts.  I wasn't thrilled with the painting. It was just too warm. There was no relief. Here is the painting at that stage of overwhelming orange.

So I cheated. I took out a blue pastel and used it to cool off some areas in the painting. I scumbled some blue over the distant trees and in the shadows of the grass. I added a few blue shapes in the grass to suggest flowers in the shadows.  You can see the difference a little bit of cool does to an overly warm painting.

TIP: Equal is boring in a painting. Having all of one thing such as temperature is boring. Having equal proportions of something is boring. Try for unequal amount for the most compelling painting. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Two New Video Demos for You! Clouds and Poppies

'Evening Peace'                11x15                 pastel                  ©Karen Margulis
available $175
 I have several painting projects in the works! Keeping busy in the studio keeps me grounded. I am happy to share two new video demo options.  The first demo is a sunset skyscape. I painted this for my Patreon group since we are working on skies and clouds. I am making it open to the public so you can get an idea of what Patreon looks like. You don't have to join to watch but we sure would love to have you join our community! Click on the link below to see the video. Scroll down for your other video option.

I used the Red Rock set of Terry Ludwig pastels for my sunset painting

'Dancing Queens'           12x9            pastel
I painted these poppies on black Uart sanded paper. Click on the link below to watch the demo on YouTube. The Magic of Mark Making !

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Art Play Activity Guide Download WEEK TWO

It was a busy week. I have enough projects on my list to last a long time but without some kind of list and schedule I would be lost!  I enjoyed trying the challenges on my Art Play Activity Guide but I admit I couldn't get to them all! So this week I am giving five daily prompts instead of seven. I hope you will join me and give them a try! Feel free to share them on the Patreon community page if you are a patron or tag me on Facebook or Instagram!

The first challenge is to paint using a monochromatic color scheme using your FAVORITE color. Here is a blog post from the archives for more information on this activity:

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. 

1. Working with one color helps the value challenged.  If you have trouble simplifying a busy scene into a few values often adding color choices to the mix makes it even harder.  Working with one color takes color out of the equation so that you can concentrate on getting the values correct.

2. Working with one color helps you become intimate with the color.  Not only is it easier to see value within one color it is also easy to judge color temperature.....putting a cool yellow next to a warm one makes the difference between them more clear. Is one closer to orange? Is one closer to blue or green? It is easy to see when they are together.

3. Working with one color is manageable.  Sometimes it is nice to keep things simple. Pick a color, any color and forget about all of the pastels in your boxes. Keep it simple and concentrate on your values or your composition or your strokes and mark-making. Give yourself one less thing to worry about!

Check out the video demo of this painting on my Youtube channel.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Black and White Challenge! Art Play Activities

'Cherry Blossom I'.      6x6            pastel               ©Karen Margulis
available $75

'Cherry Blossom II'                  5x7                 pastel               ©Karen Margulis
available $75
I have a cherry tree grove in my yard and it is in its full glory this week. I have dreamed about having a cherry grove ever since I saw a photo in a Southern Living magazine. When the two huge pine trees in the front yard succumbed to pine beetles it was my opportunity. We planted 4 cheery trees......little sticks really. But they grew....and they grew and I think we now have a called cherry trees in the neighborhood! The birds have done a good job spending the love and we have three other volunteer cherry trees. I also have a huge weeping cherry tree in my back yard. Did I say I love cherry blossoms???

So it was about time that I painted them! I used them for my black and white challenge but I do need to paint them in color next. The top painting is on black Strathmore artists card paper using just black and white pastels.  The bottom painting is 5x7 and is on white Pastelmat. I did a wet underpainting with black Art Graf pigment squares. Here is a photo of the underpainting. I didn't add much pastel to the background.

The wet underpainting using black Art Graf on Pastelmat

Friday, March 20, 2020

New Video Demo on YouTube: Painting Zen in my Studio

'Morning Sun'                9x12                  pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available on Etsy 

I have a pile of photos from my travels that are in my Must Paint list. Now is the time to visit them and revisit some of these special places of peace and beauty. We decided to let the camera roll while I painted so this video demo is set to music rather than being a step by step narration. I hope you enjoy this format. And please feel free to share with your friends! Click on the link to see the video on YouTube.

My reference photo

I used my Floral Landscape set of Terry Ludwig pastels and some Nupastels

The painting at the end of the video.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Painting Rocks with a Black and White Underpainting

'On the Rocks'               12x9                pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available on Etsy $225
The assignment to myself was to work only in black and white. I began the painting with a wet wash using black Art Graf pigment block on white paper.  I enjoyed doing the wash and the resulting underpainting but I decided to cheat a little and use color. I don't like to cheat so I will be doing my black and white exercises with another subject tomorrow!

Have a look at the underpainting below. I do believe the black and white value underpainting provided a strong foundation for my rocks. That is what rocks need. I didn't want potato rocks or soft mushy rocks. The rich darks gave me the structure and foundation for my pastel strokes. I followed the contours of the rock planes with the side of my pastels. After establishing the planes I finished the rocks by adding the light areas and some greenery. The finale step was to add some linear marks with a black Nupastel. That was fun!

My black and white underpainting done with black Art Graf and water

If you are looking for ideas for your studio time have a look at my Art Play Activity Guide. Maybe some of the ideas will jumpstart your next painting!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Watch Me Paint on Facebook Live Stream Video

'Simple Times'                       9x12              pastel                   ©Karen Margulis
available $175
What does one do when hibernating in the studio all day? I had finished my work in the morning and planned to paint something fun in the afternoon. Why not stream it to Facebook?! I haven't done a FB live stream in over a year due to a crazy schedule but today seemed like a good day.

Painting is calming. It helps me take my mind off of these serious and concerning times. I hope that by sharing a live stream painting session it will be a little respite for you as well!

You can see the video through my Facebook page. Just go to

I painted from a photo I took on a summer trip to Ireland. I spent the day sitting amongst the flowered covered dunes. It was heaven! This view has inspired several paintings and it was a pleasure to share with you on Facebook.

I hope to do more live streaming both on Facebook and YouTube. We were just experimenting today so there was no announcement. Going forward I will announce a live stream on FB and Instagram. All videos will be available to view after the stream if you miss them!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Art Play Activity: Paint with Black and White Only

'Into the Marsh'                10x10              pastel        Karen Margulis
available $125
Are you playing along with me? As we hibernate many of us now have time to retreat into their studios or art space. But if you are anything like me I am a bit lost without some direction. I like to give myself assignments and projects. I am sharing my Art Play Activity Guide with you and I hope you will join me!

The theme for this week is SIMPLIFY. In any medium we can't simplify much more than to limit our palette to just black and white. Not only is it a breath if fresh air to limit our palette.....we learn so much about value by working in black and white.

The assignment was to choose a favorite photo or successful painting and use it to inspire a black and white version. I selected this painting. It is a favorite for a reason which I will disclose soon. I pulled out a few pure black and white pastels. I selected pastel pencils and hard and soft pastels. I didn't choose any gray pastels. I made mixtures of grays by layering the black and white pastels. 

Share your painting on my Patreon group or on social media and use hashtag #artplay

My original 9x12 painting I used for my inspiration

I ONLY used black and white pastels.....Nupastels, soft pastels and pastel pencils

I am planning to create a weekly guide to the art activities I will work on. Each week I will have a theme. I will expand on each activity on my blog and over on my Patreon group where I will encourage patrons to share their work.

The suggested activity for today is to organize one thing in your studio. I find that if I limit it to one thing I am not overwhelmed! Make a list of things that need attention in your studio. Tackle this list with baby steps. If you haven't cleaned your pastels recently this week would be a great time to tackle this important chore.  Here is a blog post and video I shared last year with cleaning tips:

Please share this post and guide with your artist friends. All activities can be done with the medium of your choice! Share your work online and use the hashtag #artplay