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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!

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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!


Thursday, April 29, 2021

Do You Have a Magic Mat?

        'Desert Oasis'                11x14              pastel            ©Karen Margulis     available on Etsy  $295

 Am I done yet?  It's one of the most difficult things about painting. How do we know when we are finished? Overworking is all too easy. You may have heard the saying that it takes a group of artists to paint a at the easel and the others to say when it is time to stop.

What happens when we are alone in our studios?  How can we tell if the painting is finished? First, is is very important to step back frequently.  But what do we look for when we step back? How will that help us determine when the painting is done?

Everyone needs a simple and inexpensive tool that I like to call The Magic Mat.

The Magic Mat is simply a plain black mat. I had my framer friend cut them to fit the standard sizes from 5x7 up to 16x20. I use the mats when I am in the end stages of my painting. The black mat allows me to evaluate the painting. It eliminates the clutter on my board and draws my eye into the painting.  Richard McKinley uses black tape around a painting which does the same thing and is much more portable. The mats are great to have on hand in the studio. I also have a cream linen mat with a silver fillet that I also like to use. (shown in photo) 

The mats are magic because very often they allow us to see that a painting is closer to being finished than we thought. They prevent us from fiddling and overworking. Viewing a painting with a magic mat makes easier to see what needs to be done or changed. Sometimes it is nothing at all! 

I used the Magic Mat when finishing my latest Paint Along on Patreon. It really helped me make the necessary finishing marks without covering up the interesting oil stain underpainting. 

Advance Notice: If you subscribe to this blog please note that the Feedburner subscription service will end in July! I am working on my new website which will include a new blog as well as links to this one. You can visit the website now and sign up for RSS blog notification and my new newsletter. The website will not have email notification ability but I will be sending out biweekly newsletters with the blog post links. More details coming soon.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Time for Another Box of Terry Ludwig Pastels!

    'Step into Summer'                   9x12             pastel             ©Karen Margulis        available $265

It has been two years since I curated a set of pastels for Terry Ludwig Pastels. The set was released in the summer but I spent the spring choosing and testing the set to make sure it was comprehensive and versatile. It is called the Floral Landscape set but I have since used the set with success on many subjects. It truly is an all purpose set of pastels!   

This month we are focusing on painting wildflowers in the landscape over in my Patreon group. I used the Floral Landscape set for my most recent step by step demo. This is one of my favorite scenes. It doesn't exist anymore. Years ago the highway median near my family in North Carolina was covered in wildflowers every summer. Now it is just grass. I am happy that I have photos and memories and can create paintings that bring back the memories! 

Here is a chart that shows the simple steps I take to paint a meadow filled with wildflowers. Below that I am sharing photos of the Floral Landscape set. The poster shows you the reasoning behind my choices!


If you would like to see more details of the Terry Ludwig pastel set click here:

Have you joined my Patreon group? It is just $4 a month for a complete and ongoing pastel and painting course!

Advance Notice: If you subscribe to this blog please note that the Feedburner subscription service will end in July! I am working on my new website which will include a new blog as well as links to this one. You can visit the website now and sign up for RSS blog notification and my new newsletter. The website will not have email notification ability but I will be sending out biweekly newsletters with the blog post links. More details coming soon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Planning and Executing a Wildflower Painting

   'A Walk Through the Roses'               18x24        pastel        ©Karen Margulis      available $575

Last evening I had the pleasure of doing a zoom presentation and demo for the Lake County Art League. I love sharing the wonderful world of pastels with a group of artists who may not have experience with the medium. I love to share my passion for this vibrant and luminous medium. During the meeting I  shared some pastel basics and then did an 18x24 demo painting. I'd like to share my planning board and finished painting with you. 

I always like to begin a big painting with a plan. This helps me avoid the frustration that can often occur when I try to wing it! My plan includes doing a small value thumbnail that will be my road map for starting the painting. I also take some time to select the pastels for the painting. I like to use a limited palette. I will often do a small color study to try out my pastel palette selection. I also decide what type of underpainting and underpainting colors.

For this demo painting I decided to keep it simple and I used my Terry Ludwig Floral landscape set with a few Nupastels and a few Schmincke half sticks for the finishing marks. I did use the harder Nupastels for the initial block in. I used a piece of dark gray Murano pastel paper by Daler Rowney. This is inexpensive paper with a texture that some may or may not like. I do like the effect the texture gives to the painting. 

Here is a photo of the painting at the end of the demo time. The meeting was over and I needed some time away from the painting to decide on the final marks. I will put the finished painting underneath so you can see both together. Can you see what I added to the painting?


Saturday, April 17, 2021

New YouTube Video Demo: Try A Crazy Underpainting!


'Under the Summer Sun'              10x16         pastel       ©Karen Margulis        available $350

Today I went a little crazy and painted on an oil stain underpainting with leftover paint. The end result was a field of sunflowers! Watch me get from the crazy underpainting to the finished field in this video demo. I also answer a question about underpaintings and how to decide what technique and colors to use. Hint: There is no right or wrong answer!

I hope you enjoy the video and please feel free to share the link with your artist friends! 


Below is a photo of the underpainting. I used leftover oil paint that I thinned with odorless mineral spirits (gamsol) There was no plan other than to use up the paint! 

I used my set of Terry Ludwig pastels (Floral Landscape) and some Schmincke pastels for the finishing touches.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Don't Forget to Put Down the Darks!

          'Seaside Wonder'                   8x10               pastel         ©Karen Margulis      available $255

I discovered one of the keys to a successful meadow painting. I love to paint fields of wildflowers but they often looked unnatural. The flowers looked like an afterthought....something my granddaughter might paint. (actually my grands are excellent little artists!) The flowers looked spotty and disjointed. They looked like they were floating on top of the grass. I figured out what I needed to do and I don't have that problem anymore!

My wildflower meadows needed some dirt....or soil to hold the flowers in place. I needed to put the dirt in first and then add the grasses and flowers. It actually makes sense. The green stuff needs the soil to grow! So now I block in a pathway of dark value in the underpainting. I gradually cover up this dark value 'dirt' but enough of the dark is visible to provide the much needed grounding for the flowers and grasses. 

Below is an illustration of the power of dirt. The painting on the left does not have the dark value pathway underneath the green stuff. The painting on the right began with a dark pathway which is still visible. Which painting looks more natural? 

NOTE: I call the dark pathway a foundation pathway and I discuss in in more detail over on my Patreon group. We are painting wildflowers this month and I 'd love for you to join us!


Tuesday, April 06, 2021

When Your Final Marks Matter

       'Summer Light'                    9x12                    pastel                 ©Karen Margulis         $265

I thought I was finished! I had a piece of Uart Dark sanded paper and knew it would be perfect for a new daisy painting. I love how light values and bright colors pop on the dark paper. I also enjoy how easily the pastel glides on the sanded surface. I wasn't disappointed. I painted the daisies and experimented with using a variety of marks. It was fun. I thought I was finished and moved on to another painting.

But something bothered me when I saw the painting on my extra easel where I had moved it. It seemed kind of blah. Sure the white petals popped against the dark paper but I felt like something was missing. The painting needed some warmth. It needed some sunshine. It also needed more depth. And finally it needed some purple!

I put the painting back on the easel and pulled out the 120 Schmincke half sticks I am using this month and made some marks. I was very thoughtful about these finishing marks. I added some warmer greens to the foliage and stems. I added a warmer light yellow to the white petals. I added warmer and darker yellows to the flower centers. I was happier but something was still missing. 

I pulled out two violet pastels and added hints of purple wildflowers. No they were not in my reference photo but the painting was calling for some purple so I obliged. Now I am happy!  Be sure to slow down at the end of a painting and make some thoughtful finishing marks. It can make a big difference!

Look at the two paintings together. Can you see where I added marks?

You can see a video demo of this painting over on my Patreon group.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Join Me for a Month of Wildflowers!

     'Summer Dreams'                   8x10              pastel          ©Karen Margulis          $255 on Etsy

I have been in a bit of a slump. I have been painting but not with the usual excitement and joy. When this happens it helps to either take a break or paint something that I truly love! I have done both. We went camping twice last month and we have another trip planned for later this week. We are testing our equipment for a month long adventure this summer. More on that to come!

I also spent time this week painting the subject that always gives me joy.....wildflowers! I have missed painting them. It is always fun to see what time away form a subject will bring to my paintings. I plan to experiment this month and try new things with my flowers. Some might work and some may be a failure but I am excited to try them and that is what is important!

I hope you will consider joining me this month in my Patreon group for some fun demos and lessons on painting wildflowers. I know many of you are already patrons and I thank you for your support! This is a good month to give it a try if you want to paint wildflowers. Remember it is just a $4 or $6 pledge and you can cancel at any time. Here is a preview of this month's content:

Welcome to a new month of inspiration and painting instruction and fun! This month we will be putting our last three months of bootcamp to work. We will apply value, color and composition to paint believable, natural landscapes with wildflowers. I will be sharing my strategies for painting beautiful flowers in the landscape both close up and as a part of the landscape.  It is the perfect subject because we don't have to be perfect to paint something as wild and free as wildflowers! Prepare to let go and have fun!

The month I am working with a set of 120 Schminke half stick pastels. I am testing several half stick sets this year. They are a great way to boost your pastel collection!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

New Video Demo Release: Does Paper Color Matter?

There really is no right or wrong. When it comes to choosing paper color every choice will give you a different result. No one result is the 'correct' choice. However we can make better choices. We can choose the paper color that will better help us express our concept for the painting. 

It helps if you know what you hope to express with your painting. Ask yourself before you start....what mood do I want? What are the weather conditions? How do I want the viewer to feel?

Then choose colors that will help create the feeling you want. We are experimenting with paper color over on my Patreon group. This yellow wildflower painting was one of my recent demos. I painted the same subject with the same palette of pastels on two different paper colors. The left side is blue Canson paper and the right side is a dull orange piece.  Can you see the difference the paper color can make?

I am releasing a video demo I made last year for my Patreon group. I recently was asked how to choose paper color...does the color of the paper we use mater? The answer is yes! Head over to my YouTube channel to watch the demo. Be sure to hit the like button and subscribe to my channel. Click on the notifications bell to be notified when a new video is released!


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Tips for Working on a Textured Surface with Pastels

      'Begin Again'                   8x10                 pastel              ©Karen Margulis       available $255

I love working on homemade boards but I don't love how they can eat up my pastels. I know I could apply the grit with a sponge brush for a smoother surface but I like the rough and random texture created by a stiff brush. I can be frustrating working on a rough surface but I have some tips to help!

I made my board by brushing on some clear gesso that I had tinted with medium brown acrylic paint. I used a stiff hardware store brush and made random brushstrokes on my 8x10 piece of mat board. Clear gesso has a slight grittiness. If you want an even rougher surface you can add powdered pumice to the gesso. 

  • To give myself a head start I do an alcohol wash underpainting to establish the value masses as well as a bit of color. The alcohol did not effect the surface. This underpainting allows me to start the pastel painting with a base in place. That is less surface that I need to cover with pastels. 

  • Next I use hard pastels to block in the same areas. I use dark blues for the trees and some reds and oranges for the foreground. At this point it was obvious that the pastels were not covering the surface completely. The pastel marks were not filling in the grooves of the gesso brushstrokes. This is where it can get frustrating! 

  • I take a piece of pipe foam insulation and rub in this first layer of hard pastel. That is the secret!This pushes the pastel into the grooves making the subsequent layers go on more easily. Less pastel is needed and the softer pastels will not be shredded! Below is a photo of this first layer once it is rubbed into the surface. 

I am now ready to continue layering the layers of softer pastel. I am using Terry Ludwig pastels for this painting. In the photo below you can see the texture of the original brushstrokes. I don't want to fight this texture! I want to embrace it. 

In this  step I use a black Nupastel to paint some of the branches of theses early spring trees. Some are bare and some have only a hint of foliage and flowers. I also block in a suggested pathway through the foreground. This will be covered with grass and flowers but it will hold the foreground together. 

I was still struggling a bit with the texture in the sky. I felt like it was fighting for attention with the foreground and trees. Everything was so busy!  I decided to blend in the sky making it solid and quiet. Now the texture is not visible in the sky.
TIP: You can also use some sandpaper and sand areas smooth. This gives you more control over the amount of texture in certain areas of the painting. 

Below is the finished painting. I really enjoy the texture in the foreground. It helped to make a potentially boring area more interesting! I am happy that I had the tools I needed to work with the texture and embrace it!


Friday, March 19, 2021

How to Make Your Palm Trees Glow

       Seaside Sunset                   12x9          pastel                   ©Karen Margulis        available $265

I was captivated by the light! We were walking in a small seaside park on a paved trail. It wasn't my kind of park since it was quite manicured with neatly mowed grass. I prefer wild and weedy!  But I couldn't ignore the light of the setting sun. It even made the shaved shrubbery beautiful. I noticed a collection of palm trees that were glowing with warm sunlight. I took a photo for future inspiration.

I decided to paint the trees but I needed to first eliminate the clutter. There was a big condo building behind the trees. It wasn't important to my story. I was interested in capturing the glow! I did two things to make this happen:

  •  I began the painting with a warm underpainting. I chose 3 values of red and did an alcohol wash n Luxarchival paper. The warm red will help to establish the warm colors in the sunlit trunks. It also serves to unify the entire painting as well as make the greens more vibrant!

  • The red underpainting gave me a head start but it was my pastel selection that made the glow as intense as I remembered. I used a very limited palette. See the color swatches below. They were selected from my Terry Ludwig Floral Landscape set. Notice there are mostly cool colors....blues and greens. There are a few warm colors and this contrast of warm and cool helped to promote the glow. 
  • TIP: Using warmer and more intense colors in the sunlit area made the trees glow. If I had used lighter value colors the effect would not be as strong. 

 You can see a complete photo demo of these palm trees over on my Patreon Page:

Friday, March 12, 2021

New Video Demo Release: Using a Tunnel Composition and Listening to your Painting

Today I am releasing a new video demo! The video begins with a focus on creating a tunnel composition but my painting started to talk to me. Do I listen to it? Click on the link below to watch and  find out! 

Here is a photo of the underpainting stage. I used Nupastels and rubbing alcohol for a wet wash.  I used a warm and cool underpainting to help create a strong feeling of light and shadows. The painting is 9x12 on Uart sanded paper. 

Here is my reference photo. I took some liberties with the photo with my main goal to simplify all of the foliage! 

 Be sure to give the video a thumbs up click the bell  for video updates. I would love for you to subscribe to my Youtube channel!

Monday, March 08, 2021

Value Underpainting Made Simple!


   'Southern Beauty'                      14x20                 pastel                ©Karen Margulis       available $400

I was browsing for art supplies online after filling my cart with some needed tape and fixative. I like to browse to see what might be new and interesting. I came across some sample sets of Rembrandt pastels. I don't know if they are a new product but I had not seen them packaged this way. They offered several color families and each set included five pastels arranged by value from dark to light. Best of all they were affordable at $5.97 a set! I ordered several sets. 

I was excited by my find because I thought they would be perfect for value underpainting. I don't typically use Rembrandt pastels because I find them a bit to hard for my liking but they would be perfect for both wet and dry underpainting! It also takes the guesswork out of choosing pastels by value. 

Find these Rembrandt sample sets here:

I used the Burnt Sienna set for an underpainting for my latest Florida inspired painting. The warm tones gave just enough interest for my very green landscape. I did a dry underpainting because I was working on Daler Rowney Murano unsanded paper. (another great value). I do think that the dark in the set might not be dark enough for every subject but that is an easy adjustment!

If you would like to see the complete demo head over to my Patreon group. It is today's step by step demo. It is just $4 a month to join and you can cancel at anytime so I invite you to check it out!

Monday, March 01, 2021

What Does a Butterfly Have to do with Composition?

'Winter Wildflowers'              8x10           pastel           ©Karen Margulis      available $250

I haven't been able to paint as much as I would like lately. We went on a camping trip and stumbled on another project. More details to come this week but it has been keeping us very busy! So it felt great to paint again this weekend. I started with a 3 hour livestream presentation and demo for the Arkansas Pastel Society and ended with creating some videos for my Patreon group. Of course I selected one of my Florida camping photos for inspiration. I was pleasantly surprised to see some wildflowers clinging to the dunes in February! They became my first painting subject of the month.

This month on Patreon we are focused on composition. It is our Composition Bootcamp month and I am excited to share some of my ideas for creating stronger composition. I came up with an interesting way to remind us what we need to consider as we design and can we keep the viewer engaged and moving through the painting? I will be sharing tips this month but here is a visual.....

Imagine a butterfly flitting through your landscape painting. You need to give your butterfly places to rest...interesting areas to explore before moving on to the next interesting resting place. Can you imagine that? (if you are a patron be sure to watch the video today for a reminder)

In my wildflower painting I designed the painting to have strong dark shapes under the grass to gently direct the eye through the painting. I placed the flowers in such a way that a butterfly (or the viewer of your painting) hav a way to move through the painting by resting on some interesting areas. 

Join us on Patreon fro much more on composition this month!