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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

From Plein Air to Studio: An Important Tip

     'A River Runs Through It'              9x12          pastel on board           ©Karen Margulis.      $275

There is something special about plein air studies. Even if they aren't perfect frame worthy- paintings, they are an authentic response to a  place and time. The colors and values in a plein air study are a reflection of what we experience in real life. These studies often have a freshness that can be difficult to duplicate in a studio painting. But when we use a plein air painting as inspiration for a studio piece it can often be a frustrating experience. 

I have a suggestion for a more successful studio painting.  Don't try to copy your plein air painting. Don't make it a goal to recreate the same exact painting. Instead use it for inspiration. Choose something you like about the study and expand on that idea. Then choose a completely different technique/paper/underpainting for your studio painting. 

I selected one of my favorite plein air studies from my June trip for a studio painting. I was tempted to select the same paper and even take out the same set of pastels I used for the study. But then I realized I was trying to copy the study rather than interpret it in a new way!  I changed direction and took out a 9x12 white Pastelbord. I did a bright and colorful watercolor underpainting. It gave me something different yet interesting to respond to. The finished studio painting was inspired by the study yet had a different feel. Choosing a different technique and surface made all the difference!

Here are some photos of the 5x7 plein air study and a photo of the location. Below is the finished watercolor underpainting. The study is on Wallis Belgian mist paper (leftover stash) and the underpainting is on white Pastelbord with Pelikan watercolors. 


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Try This Fun Challenge!

     'After the Rain'              9x12            pastel           ©Karen Margulis         available $275

Have you ever painted a pastel painting with hard pastels only? If you have been painting with pastels for awhile then you probably have started a good collection of pastels. Most of us desire the softer pastels but we often begin our pastel journey with a set of the less expensive harder pastels such as Nupastels or even Rembrandts. But hard pastels can be just as much fun to use as the softer ones and you can certainly use them for the entire painting process. 

This week I challenged myself to paint using a set of 24 Nupastels. It was for my Patreon Monday demo and I was almost successful! I got about 98% of the painting finished with just these 24 hard pastels. In the end I did have to pull out some soft pastel for the finishing marks....but not because the hard pastels weren't good enough. It was only because the set of 24 had limited neutrals and I needed them to tone down the grasses!  Here is a photo of the set I used. Patreon members can access the full demo.


  • Choose the largest set you can afford. You need to have a good range of values from dark to light as well as a range of need some of the duller neutrals as well as the pure intense colors. You can modify colors by layering but it is nice to have a larger variety to begin with. 

  • Plan to remove any labels and break bigger sticks in half. You want to be able to use the pastels both on the side as well as the tips. Removing labels will allow you to paint and draw! Also Nupastels are too long for me so I like to break them in half so I can have more control. 

  • Choose the right paper. Hard pastels have more binder and less pigment so they tend to be more successful on sanded paper which grabs onto the pastel better. I do use them on all paper types but sanded papers will be less frustrating especially for beginners. 

  • I like to keep my hard pastels separate from the softer ones. I have a box of assorted hard pastels that I will use for underpaintings and finishing detail marks. I don't keep them in any kind of order. It is nice to have this little box available!

Below is the demo painting before I added a few marks with some softer Terry Ludwig pastels. You can see that the grasses and dirt were a bit too bright and artificial. I needed some neutrals to tone them down a bit!


If you have any hard pastels, challenge yourself to use ONLY the hard pastels for an entire painting. If you can't make note of what you were missing. Perhaps you can fill in your hard pastel collection for future paintings!

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Two Must Have Pastel Sets!

        'Marsh Moods'                     8x10              pastel              ©Karen Margulis     available on Etsy $255

I am home from an amazing camping adventure and back in the studio! We spent a month traveling around the western US and while I didn't paint as often as I planned I came home with thousands of reference photos! I will be inspired by these photos and memories for years to come!  

One of the first paintings I did since I have been home was not inspired by the trip but rather a photo I took in the South Carolina Low Country. I selected this scene because it was the perfect subject to demo for our Patreon topic this month....Foregrounds, Transitions and Depth! Painting a marsh teaches us so many landscape lessons. One of them is how to create the illusion of depth. One thing we can do to create depth is to have more clarity and detail in the foreground to middle ground and use less detail as the landscape recedes.  How can we do this?

If you know me then you know my go- to pastels are Terry Ludwig pastels. I couldn't paint without them! But one of the wonderful things about pastels is the ability we have to layer hard and soft pastels even of different brands. Lately I have been incorporating both harder sticks (Nupastels) and super soft pastels (Sennelier and Schmincke half sticks) into my paintings for the finishing marks. 

                                    This is the Sennelier half stick Paris set and 24 Nupastels set

Both of these extra sets give me the flexibility to make a variety of marks. The hard pastels allow me to make thinner linear marks which are perfect for grasses. They are also great blending tools. (look in my sky to see how my linear marks blended the sky colors) The super soft Sennelier sticks are great for thicker textural marks. The brighter more intense colors make the perfect spices! Below is a close up of my foreground detail. 

 Have you considered joining my Patreon group or returning to us? This month we are focused on foregrounds, transitions and depth. The low $4 monthly pledge gives you access to almost 4 years of content!  I appreciate your support!

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Great News about this Blog!!

     'Sunshine in the Mountains'                9x12               pastel          ©Karen Margulis    available on Etsy 

If you've been getting Painting my World blog posts through e-mail, you might notice that something has changed with your email updates!

I am no longer using Feedburner to let you know of new posts.   Feedburner has been deactivated by Google. I have been requesting that you sign up for my new website. My intention was to start posting new blog content on my new website. The only problem is the new website does not allow for email notification of new posts! I am planning on consolidating posts into a monthly newsletter. I will still be doing this and I still would love for you to sign up for these newsletters on my new website at However I found a new service to provide email updates on THIS blog. So for the time being I will post to both blogs.

The new service is  

You may get an email to confirm your subscription. Please be sure to confirm that you wish to still receive this blog via email.  Once you confirm, you can go to the settings on the site to let it know how you want to receive the email.  The default is the email heading or snippet, once a day.  But you can also get summary posts, the full article, or just read it at rather than getting an e-mail.  

Please note that the free version of Follow it will have ads at the bottom of the email.   So, if you'd prefer to see the blog without the ads, etc., you can just bookmark my blog site and check it weekly. I am trying to post at least twice a week. 

I look forward to sharing with you both here on Painting my World and through my website blog! 

Friday, July 02, 2021

Revisiting the Watercolor Underpainting with a New Tool!

'Serenade by the Sea'                11x15           pastel            ©Karen Margulis       available $295

I have a love hate relationship with watercolor underpaintings. I love the effects when I am successful preserving the underpainting but I have sometimes struggled with paper buckling if I get it too saturated. Not any more! I have been using LuxArchival sanded paper for the past fe months and I am fan! It is a white sanded surface with just the right amount of grit. The best thing about it is that is does not buckle or wave no matter how much liquid I use. It is not even mounted paper! The white paper is perfect to showcase the transparency and luminosity of the watercolor. You can read more about LuxArchival paper here: 

Enjoy this post from the archives which tackles the other issue with watercolor underpaintings: 
It is elusive....that wonderful peek of watercolor under a thin veil of pastel. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes it doesn't go as planned. But I remind myself that the creation of a watercolor underpainting will influence the direction of my painting even if I completely cover it with pastel.

Still, that thought doesn't stop me from trying! I always approach a watercolor underpainting with the intent to allow a lot of it to show through the pastel layers. I want the wonderful drips, blooms and mingling of the paint to do much of the work.  But once I start layering pastel I often go farther than I wanted. Many a painting gets completely covered with pastel much to my dissappointment. How much pastel is too much? It is a personal preference. I love the contrast between the transparent watercolor and the opaque pastel so I want some of the watercolor to show. I've discovered some tips....

It is all about restraint. Work slowly and deliberately. Think about every pastel mark.

Here are some things I do to help me preserve the underpainting:

  • After the watercolor is dry I spend a few minutes evaluating it. Is there any area I love and want to be sure to save? Do I like the colors? Make note of these areas.
      • When I am ready to add pastel I begin by choosing colors and values that closely match the underpainting. I apply a VERY light layer so that I can hardly see the pastel. I will change color and value very gradually....small areas with a light touch. 
      • If I like the passage with this thin veil of pastel I will leave it and move on. In this way I don't get too heavy too quickly. I remind myself that it is OK to let the paper/underpainting show.
      • I find I most often overwork the pastel application  when I get too thick too fast. I then feel the need to keep adding heavier layers all over the painting. When I keep a light touch and work slowly I have more success.

       This painting is the Paint Along for my Patreon group this month. Head over to Patreon to check it out. There is a $4 pledge to access the content but it is a great value!!

      Tuesday, June 29, 2021

      A Simple Way to Start a Painting

             'Summer Sun'                9x12             pastel            ©Karen Margulis         available $285

      I like things simple.  Simple landscapes with big simple shapes.  But every once in awhile I am drawn to something that isn't really simple. Sometimes they are downright complicated. I would love to paint these complicated scenes but I am usually intimidated.  Usually when I dive into it I can usually work it out and simplify things but it takes me awhile to work up the courage.

      I need to remind myself of the exercise of Upside Down Painting.  It really works!

      You may have done some version of upside down painting at some point. Maybe you make it a regular practice. I have done it myself as an exercise a few times but forgot how effective it really is. It really does help you get an accurate drawing and painting of a complex scene.  Here is why:

      • Turning your reference photo upside down causes your brain to disconnect which helps you see the scene as a collection of shapes, colors and values rather than things. When you look at something and try to draw it...your brain wants to label it and give you the shortcut of symbol for that thing. The symbol isn't usually as interesting as the actual thing!  We need to disconnect the thinking brain so we can SEE better.
      • Make sure you don't try to figure out and label what you are looking at in your upside down photo. Describe things by shape, value and color as you block them in. For example: You aren't painting white are painting a whitish shape with some blue middle values on one side.
      • Keep the photo upside down for as long as you can...the longer the better the results. For this painting I blocked in the whole painting with one layer of pastel before I turned the photo and painting right side up.

      I was skeptical that it would work but I was determined to give it a try. My block in done with the photo upside down  didn't look promising. But when I turned it right side up I was pleasantly surprised! The painting actually looked like a truck with flowers.  I only needed to make a few small corrections and then develop the painting to my satisfaction.

      I will remember to use this exercise more often!  If you have something  complex you have been wanting to paint but putting off.....turn it upside down and get started!

      Don't forget that the email notifications for this blog stop next week! Be sure to visit my website and sign up for my newsletter and RSS feed. I will be positing new blog articles on my website blog!

      Sunday, June 20, 2021

      Experience one of my Paint Along Videos!

      Welcome! I have been creating monthly Paint Along videos on my Patreon Page since 2017. The Paint Alongs are comprised of four video demos in which I break down the painting process from the planning stage to finishing touches. The goal is to simplify and slow down the pastel painting process. This allows artists of all levels to benefit. 

      I am now making some of these Paint Along videos available to you as one complete video for free on YouTube. You can purchase a PDF booklet to accompany this video in my Etsy shop. This PDF booklet contains supporting photos and expanded information.

      Usually the videos on my YouTube channel are under 30 minutes. This doesn't give me time to expand on each important step to my process. The Patreon Paint Along series allows me to slow down and spend time on each stage of the painting process. They have been a fun part of my silver tier on Patreon and I am excited to share one of my favorites with you.



      **Note that this video is all four parts of a monthly Patreon Paint Along series all in ONE NEW VIDEO. You will see all four parts combined together.**

      If you enjoyed this Paint Along video consider joining us on Patreon for much more!

      Thursday, June 10, 2021

      Painting a Complex Scene: They are Just Shapes!

                'Wildwood Days'               14x11           pastel             ©Karen Margulis    available $400 

      I have had a photo of this busy boardwalk scene for years. I wanted to paint it but it was intimidating. But when I was going through my box of older reference photos I came across a blurred photo of this same scene. I had forgotten that it was my go-to method for tarting a painting! It worked then so why not try it again! 

      I put the blurry photo up on the easel and blocked in the big simple shapes. I was reminded again that everything is just a shape! I could tackle the complex by breaking them down into simple shapes and removing the names I attached to them. The blurry photo helped me do this. (squinting does the same thing!)

      Once I had the main shapes of local color blocked in I took out the unfiltered photo to continue the painting. I decided to keep the painting somewhat abstract without a lot of fine detail but if you desire more detail it is till helpful to start simple and gradually refine your painting. 

      Below is a closeup photo. You can see that the painting is just a collection of shapes!

      You can see the video demo of this painting if you are a Patreon member. Consider joining us for just $4 for a month.

          remember that the email subscriptions to this blog stop in July! I will be blogging on my new website. Join me there and sign up for updates!

      Thursday, June 03, 2021

      Tips for Painting Sunflowers!


                    'A Little Sunshine'             12x9           pastel           ©Karen Margulis      available $285

      I love painting sunflowers! I decided to paint sunflowers for the first Patreon demo of the month! I am using one of my older reference photos.It was a fun reminder that  I didn't always have success with yellow flowers. They looked washed out and bring. I couldn't seem to get them to glow! I have been  through several sunflower kicks and once painted nothing but sunflowers for a month! I have some tips to share to help with getting vibrant yellow flowers!

      1.  Working with Yellow.  I find that yellow is a difficult color to work with in pastels.  It seems as though only the softest, most intensely pigmented sticks will make the thick juicy marks that I crave. I struggle to get my yellows vibrant and not muddy.

      TIP:  I always try to give yellow a boost....if I know my petals will be yellow I will underpaint or block in the flowers with some yellow. 

      2.  Building Up Petal Color.  Sunflower petals are not just bright yellow.  Observe them carefully and you will see oranges, reds, ochres and many variations of these warm colors.  I always like to decide what is the darkest color I see in the petals and lay in this color first. Often I start with a burnt orange and gradually add layers of color getting progressively to the brighter and more intense yellows.

      TIP:  When you get to the final layers of yellow I like to mix a warm and a cool yellow. Also avoid using pale yellow (yellow with a lot of white) This will give you washed out flowers.

      3. Petal Shapes.  If you have ever painted a flower and it looks like a child did it you are not alone!  This is probably the biggest challenge we have in painting flowers. Try as we might, our flowers seem to morph into the childhood symbols we have for a flower (you know, the daisy with a yellow center surrounded by perfect even white petals)  I'll address this in a future post!

      TIP: To avoid this you need to turn off your auto pilot and look carefully at your flower reference.  The petals are rarely perfect.....vary the shapes and sizes and positioning and you will have a more interesting and natural flower.

      Head over to Patreon to see the video demo! It is just $4 for the month!


      I'd love for you to visit my new website and I invite you to sign up for my email newsletter. Once on the website you will see the link for both my new blog and the blog archive for Painting my World. My plan is to post a couple of times a week on both blogs. Eventually all new posts will only be on the new blog. If you receive email notifications for this blog please note that they stop in July. I don't want to lose you so be sure to sign up on the new website and blog!

      You can subscribe to the new blog by RSS feed. There is no way to get email notifications for new posts but I am planning to send an email newsletter with blog post links for those who don't use RSS feed readers. So be sure to join the email list!

             Here is the website link:

      Saturday, May 29, 2021

      Our 2021 Summer Adventure! Follow Along!

      It has been a year in the works but it is almost time! Michael and I will be taking our camper 'Firefly' on a month long adventure and we couldn't be more excited!  I made this video to share Firefly with you, tell you about the trip and show you the art supplies I am bringing. 

      IMPORTANT NOTE FOR PATREON MEMBERS:  Patreon allows me to schedule content so I have been busy creating videos and lessons to share during June while we are away. You won't even know I am gone! There may be days when we are off the grid and not able to check in on emails. My goal is to find a spot where I can check in once a day. This means I may not get back to you and answers questions as quickly as I usually do. If it is a technical question about Patreon be sure to use their help desk located when you click on your profile photo. I promise that I will be monitoring the group and will answer questions as soon as I can!

      Here is Firefly. She is a 2017 Flagstaff E-Pro 14fk travel trailer with a full kitchen and wet bath!

      Here is a photo of our route. We wanted to visit some of our favorite places but with our camper this time around. We planned the route last May and made all of the campground reservations even before we had a camper! It was hard to choose the route as there are so many wonderful places to see. One month is just not enough!  Next summer we are planning a Southwest trip to include the IAPS pastel convention in Albuquerque. 

      Here is a photo of the art supplies I am bringing. It all fits in a small plastic crate which I will keep in the car. I can throw whatever I want to work with in my day pack.I want to have options but I don't want to bring the studio with me! (Patreon members can see a video of my plans!

      So that is the plan! We are planning to make some videos while we are on our adventure. I will be sharing them when we return home. If you want to follow along in real time I will be posting photos to my Instagram and Facebook accounts. I'd love for you to follow along!

      My Instagram:  @karenmargulis

      Firefly's Instagram: @campingwithfirefly

      My Facebook @karenmargulis

      Friday, May 28, 2021

      Introducing my New Website and Blog!

      I started painting in 2005 and I have not had an official website until now!  I am pleased to share it with you today and share important news about this blogspot blog. 

      When I started painting in 2005 I also started a simple blog on this blogger platform. I called it Painting my World. The blog was more like an online diary where I documented my art journey. I never expected anyone to read it but they did and eventually it led me to opportunities for selling and exhibiting my work. As I grew as an artist and started teaching the blog became a platform for sharing what I was learning about painting and pastels.  All of this content is still available here!

      I never felt the need to have an official website as the blog was my promotional tool and it was free!  The only thing I changed  after a few years was to purchase my domain name and replaced the cumbersome blogspot address with my new domain name. 

      Fast forward to 2020. I knew that my blog was becoming outdated and I either needed to update the look or look into getting an official website that would include a gallery of my work and an integrated blog. I wanted it to be simple and I knew I didn't want to start from scratch.I didn't have the technical knowledge for that! I had heard great things about the FASO (Fine Art Studio Online) website platform for artists. I also knew many of my artist friends and artists whom I admired that used the platform. I made the decision to go with FASO. 

      I worked on the website from time to time over the last year but I never shared it. I was waiting until I felt it was ready for primetime! It still is a work in progress but Blogger made the decision for me. They will no longer be offering the ability for blog readers to follow by email starting in July. I will have to start over with building followers so I might as well do it on the new website!

      I'd love for you to visit my new website and I invite you to sign up for my email newsletter. Once on the website you will see the link for both my new blog and the blog archive for Painting my World. My plan is to post a couple of times a week on both blogs. Eventually all new posts will only be on the new blog. If you receive email notifications for this blog please note that they stop in July. I don't want to lose you so be sure to sign up on the new website and blog!

      You can subscribe to the new blog by RSS feed. There is no way to get email notifications for new posts but I am planning to send an email newsletter with blog post links for those who don't use RSS feed readers. So be sure to join the email list!

             Here is the website link:


      Video Demo with Tips for Daily Painting!

      Do you prep your coffee at night so that it ready faster in the morning? It is one of the things many of us do to streamline our morning routine. What if you had a way to streamline your painting routine so that you could paint more often and more efficiently? 

      This past month on Patreon we explored the importance of making the act of painting a more frequent part of your routine. Painting more frequently is one of the most important things you can do to take your art to the next matter where you are in your art journey. 

      I just released one of my older Patreon videos. I have over 300 videos  on my Patreon Page! I hope you enjoy this one! Click on the link below to watch the video. 


      In this video I share a few strategies for creating a frequent painting habit.....I use the term Daily Painting with the understanding that not everyone can or wants to paint every day. The idea is to incorporate Small Simple Studies into your routine. These small studies give you that all important 'miles of paper' we need to grow as a painter. Think of them as a musician practicing scales or a tennis player practicing the serve.....the practice helps us perform!

      I am sharing the finished demo painting. It is 5x7 on Uart 400. I consider it an SSS .....small simple study!

      Monday, May 24, 2021

      New Video Release: Painting People with Pastel!

                      'Time for Ice cream'                6x6                 pastel                ©Karen Margulis 

      I was looking back at what I was painting this time last year and saw that it was 'people month' in my Patreon group! That was a fun month and I need to revisit the subject again. I still have so many photos of interesting people!  Here is the link to the video. I'd love for you to have a look at the video. Your likes and comments are appreciated!


      Here is the blog post I wrote about the video last year:

      I have a pile of photos of interesting people. When I travelled I would always sneak some quick candid photos of interesting people. My good friend and wonderful Artist Marsha Savage calls them characters! As a professional People Watcher  I am drawn to these characters. I wonder about their stories. What are they doing? Who are they with? Where are they going? I always have my camera ready to take a quick incognito shot!

      I have collected these photos but rarely paint from them. I needed a push to get started so I made 'People Paintings' a part of this month's Patreon focus. There is nothing like a good assignment to get me excited! The first painting in my new series is this 8x8 pastel on MingArt pastel paper. I pulled out my box of random Girault pastels. They were the perfect size, shape and consistency for my people.

      I started with this trio at the cafe's ice cream counter in Avignon France. I was sitting under an umbrella on a very hot summer day enjoying my own ice cream cone when these three approached the counter. I decided that they were grandparents on an outing with their granddaughter and had stopped for the obligatory ice cream cone!

       IMPORTANT REMINDER: THIS BLOG IS BEING RETIRED IN JULY. I am now blogging on my new website This blog can still be accessed but new content will be posted on the new blog. Feedburner manages the subscriptions to this blog and will stop in July. If you are getting email notifications note the they will end in July. I am looking into another subscription service but I would like to eventually phase out this blog and post only through my website blog. 

      Head to my new website and sign up for RSS feed and my email newsletter.

      Wednesday, May 05, 2021

      What 10 minutes can do for your Painting

         'Spring is in the Air'              9x12             pastel             ©Karen Margulis         available $255

      It is Fast and Furious Month over in my Patreon group. I love doing small quick response paintings. I call them studies. I set a timer for 10 minutes and paint without a plan. It is a great warm up and it is very liberating. Yes we need to learn the basics.....value, composition, color theory, edges, depth.....but we also need time at the easel to allow the information to become second nature. Quick studies help with our painting practice. Anything that is fun will encourage us to paint more often!

      So 10 minutes at the easel is very valuable. But 10 more minutes on the clock will help even more! I did a 10 minute demo for the group. The painting below is where I stopped. It has good bones but it needs more refinement. It is a study. I could move on and perhaps use it to inspire a larger work....or I could evaluate the painting to decide what it need and then set the timer for another 10 minutes. And that is what I did. 

      I was able to see what areas needed clarity. What kind of visual journey did I give the viewer? Where do I need to put areas of clarity , contrast or detail?  Below is the painting at 10 minutes followed by the painting after 10 additional minutes. Can you see where I made adjustments?  

      10 minutes to a study and another 10 for a finish! Give it a try and see what happens!

          This blog will be archived in July! Be sure to visit my new website and blog and sign up for email notifications/ and RSS feed notifications!


      Saturday, May 01, 2021

      New YouTube Video Demo: 20 Minute Daisies!

                            'Daisy Surprise'                   8x10               pastel            ©Karen Margulis

      It is Fast & Furious Month over in my Patreon group. We are painting small quick response studies so we can put in more FUN practice time at the easel. I will be sharing several patron only demos this month in our group but I wanted to make a quick video for my YouTube channel so you can see what Fast & Furious is all about! Click on the link below to watch the video. I would love for you to like, comment and subscribe to  my channel. Your participation helps my channel grow!  I hope you enjoy this demo....there is a little surprise....coneflowers become daisies!


      I used the Terry Ludwig Floral Landscape set of pastels. I curated this set and I love to use them for flowers and so much more! 

      Here is a close up of my daisies. I had fun with the variety of marks! Pastel makes it so easy to have a variety of marks!