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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!


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!