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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Paint Trees.......Not Leaves! New YouTube Demo

         'Autumn Holiday'                8x10               pastel               ©Karen Margulis      available $265

I have a problem when I paint trees.....I go overboard with the leaves!  I start to put in a few leaves and I have so much fun that before I know it my tree is covered in dots of leaf shapes! And dotty equals spotty which is something we want to avoid.  In this video I share some tips that help me overcome the problem of too many leaves. Click on the link below to watch the video on my YouTube channel.

One of the tips I share is that I like to start my tree paintings with big simple shapes of one value. I used a simple alcohol wash underpainting with local colors. It gave me a good foundation for the rest of my painting. Here is a closer look at the underpainting. 

I used an assortment of soft pastels including Terry Ludwig and Diane Townsend pastels. For the finishing touches I used a few Sennelier half sticks from the Paris set. 

Are you a Patreon Insider? When I release a video to my YouTube channel I always share a bonus lesson and expanded commentary for my Patreon Insiders. I'd love for you to join us!


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Trying Oils Again! Here is What I am Doing

       Summer Aspens'                  6x8           oil on panel             ©Karen Margulis       available

It has been in the back of my mind. I have not acted on it. There is so much I want to do and there never seems to be enough time but this time I am going to follow through!  Over the last few years I have wanted to expand my art knowledge and get more comfortable working with oil painting. I have tried occasionally to start an oil painting habit but it never lasted more than a few weeks. This time I am committed to following through. I know that being fluent on more than one medium is helpful. I want to feel as comfortable with oils as I do with pastel and I know this will take work!

Here is what I am doing to help me be more successful this time around!

  • I am taking an online course with Scott Christensen. He has created a wonderful and comprehensive online course. You can work on at your own pace. The video lesson are broken into small chunks form 5-30 minutes each. These are easy to fit into a busy schedule. Spending money on a course is definitely worth it and it is very motivating!
  • I have invested in better supplies. I know from my experience with pastels that materials do make a difference. I splurged and purchased the Vasari paints and Rosemary brushes that Scott recommends. If anything I am motivated to use them because they were not cheap! (they are wonderful though) 
  • I set up a dedicated space in my studio for oils. In the past I didn't have a dedicated space so I needed to clean up after each painting session. I know that supplies need to be available and easy to access and clean up or they will not be used....excuses will be made!  I am fortunate to have a big studio space so there was no excuse not to set up an easel and table dedicated to oils. 
  • I am keeping it simple. I am starting with a limited palette of blue, red, yellow and white. Scott uses a warm and cool of each and I have them but I will work with just the three for now. I have to ease into mixing paint!

  • I am using pastel studies to help me ease into oils. My plan is to paint a small 6x8 study at least three times a week. More is better but three is doable. I am preparing value thumbnails and plans for paintings during my non studio time so I will have a stockpile of ideas. I am taking the extra step of doing a small pastel study. This is helpful because it allows me to work out my colors. All I have to do is figure out how to mix them!
I just started this journey and have two oils finished. The best part is I woke up today excited to get into the studio for my next painting! I love learning new things!  

                                                     5x7 pastel study for my oil painting

The plan and the painting

                    Here is a closeup of my tree trunks. I do love the ability to get thick texture with paint!

I will share my progress from time to time here and on my social media. @karenmargulis. What do you do to help you stick to a painting goal?

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Tips for Painting Fog and Mist in the Landscape

Painting mist, fog and haze is fun! It is an illusion and you have the tools to make it happen! I love to paint the moody landscape. There is nothing like a beautiful sunny day but I am drawn to the quiet of a misty moody landscape. But how do we create this feeling of mist or fog or haze in a painting? Do we need special pastels? Certain colors? The answer is no. We just need to use the tools we have for any landscape.....we need to master the creation of depth and understand value keys. There is also a certain mark making technique that works well for creating these weather conditions.  In this previous Patron Insider only video I share my techniques for making a landscape misty and moody! Follow the link below to watch the demo!


Sunday, September 26, 2021

It's Recycle Day in the Studio! Video Demo!

                'Delight'              14x11             pastel                ©Karen Margulis       available $325

I know what it is like to struggle with a painting. I know it sometimes seems like the only thing left to do is tear it up and throw it away! I have had those paintings where I never want to see them again! But I also don't like to pastel perfectly good paper especially the more expensive sanded papers. So I save the duds in a box and take them out occasionally for a mass recycling day.

In my latest video I share a very simple way to recycle sanded paper that can get rid of the bad and give rise to something new and exciting! All you need is some rubbing alcohol and a brush.
Click on the link below to watch the video. 


Here is the recycled paper. It was a scrap piece of paper I used for a demo. It was a mess but the paper was too good to throw away. 

 Do you prefer to throw away your duds or do you recycle them? How do you like to recycle you papers? 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Three Tips for Painting Water: New Video Release!

This week I am sharing a video I made for my Patreon Insiders back in 2019. We spent two months exploring water and in this intro video I share 3 simple tips to help your paintings that include water look natural and believable.  The first tip I share is to always keep the water straight and level. Watch the video to see why and to see this marsh painting unfold! Click on the link below to watch the video. 

By the way if you are already a Patreon Insider you may have seen this video. I will be sharing a post with some extra commentary later this week!  It is always good to rewatch demos after you have gained more experience!

        I used some pastel pencils to add some of the finishing grasses! Do you use pastel pencils?

Friday, September 17, 2021

Add Some Bling to Your Paintings!

    "Golden Summer'                    8x10              pastel            ©Karen Margulis     available $265 

This month I am exploring unusual underpaintings. One of my challenges is to take the same scene and paint it each week using a different underpainting technique. I had fun with this variation! Here is what I tried:

  • I repurposed an older painting done on LuxArchival paper by brushing on some Liquitex Clear gesso. This turned the pastel into a muddy gray brown. I left the original light blue sky and used my brush to push the mud color into the shape of my mountains. 
  • I liked the effect of the muddy color and the random brushstrokes but I have done this technique before and wanted to add something extra!
  • I did a scan of my art supply shelves and found a bottle of gold powder by Schmincke. The powder is meant to be wet with water and brushed into watercolor paintings but I wanted to see how I could use it for my underpainting. 
  • I sprinkled some of the powder on top of my still wet gessoed paper. The powder stuck to the gesso and was so shimmery and interesting!
  • Everything dried and the gold powder remained secure and stayed shiny. I was ready to paint on it. 
The finished underpainting was exciting! The texture of the gesso gave me enough tooth to layer as much pastel as I wanted.  I made sure to use a light enough touch so some of the gold shimmer would show through the pastel layers. I love this effect and will be sure to try it again....perhaps in my next video demo!


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Which is Better...Water or Alcohol Wash? New Video!

     'Mountain Joy'                8x10               pastel             ©Karen Margulis        $275

When it works it really works! It is a bit unpredictable but that is part of the excitement. Anytime that pastel is washed with a liquid it creates a whole new wonderful world! The dry pastel turns into paint and interesting things can happen. I love the possibilities!

Pastel can be liquified with any liquid. Water is an easy choice and I use it often. I also love to use rubbing alcohol and odorless mineral spirits. So which is better? It is a personal preference but I give the edge to rubbing alcohol.

  •  Rubbing alcohol dries a bit faster than water. Since it quickly evaporates it doesn't sit on the paper leading to less chance of buckling.
  • Rubbing alcohol can create some interesting spider web-like drips. Click on the photos below to see them closer. The results are unpredictable so I am always excited when I get some good runs like I did here. When I get some interesting drips it becomes my goal to allow as much of this underpainting as possible to show in the finished painting.

Tips for an alcohol wash: You need to use a surface that can get wet. Most sanded papers will work even when unmounted. Some artists prefer Pastelbord by Ampersand which is a board and will not warp or buckle. I use 70% alcohol which has a lower flashpoint than the 90%. Using harder pastels work best. The softer the pastel the gummier the results. If you do use a softer pastel be sure to use a very light touch.

If you are looking for a paper that will not buckle when wet have a look at my new YouTube video!

Be sure to leave me a comment and like and subscribe to my channel if you have not done so. Click on the notification bell so you will be notified when a new video is released. Subscribing to my channel is free!


Sunday, September 05, 2021

How I Solved the Problem of White Paper! New Video Demo


                 'A Moment of Silence'.                 ©Karen Margulis.             pastel               sold

Do you struggle with painting rocks? I spent a month in July 2020 in my Patreon group focused on painting rocks and water. At the end of the month I put it all together and painting a scene with a variety of rocks, cliffs and even some reflections. I am releasing that exclusive Patreon demo to my channel for your enjoyment! This demo is helpful for pastel artists of all levels of experience! Not only do I share my tips for painting rocks and reflections , I show you how you can use plain printmaking paper for pastel painting!

Click on the link to watch the video! You can really help the channel by subscribing, liking and making a comment. It really does help! Thank you in advance!

SUPPLY LIST 1. BFK Rives paper 2. Nupastels hard pastels 3. Terry Ludwig pastels pastels 4. Clear gesso and gray acrylic paint 5. Blair very low odor workable fixative 6. Black foam core support board with black artist tape hinges to attach paper Subscribe to my channel and Patreon Page for more pastel and painting video demos and tips! ▽ Visit my channel 👇: ▽ My Patreon Page 👇 ➞ ▽ My Instagram Link 👇 ➞ ▽ My Daily Painting Blog 👇 ➞

Friday, September 03, 2021

What is the Most Unusual Underpainting You Have Tried?

'Mountain Magic'            8x10           pastel            ©Karen Margulis      available $265

This month I set a challenge for myself. How many unusual underpaintings can I try? I love the mystery and magic of underpaintings  and I often use watercolor or wet my pastel with water or alcohol but I wondered what other unexpected techniques I could try. So I made a list of the media and techniques I want to try and I will use my photos from our June camping adventure for inspiration. 

For my first underpainting explorations I tried two materials and techniques. I began with a wet underpainting using Caran d'Ache Neocolor II water soluble wax crayons. I then shaved some soft pastel bits in the meadow areas. I sprayed these bits of pastel with water which made them drip. Some of the pieces dried as texture on the paper.  The result was an interesting texture with bold vibrant color. 

I felt like a mad scientist in the studio and can't wait to do more explorations!  What is the most unusual underpainting you have done? Share in the comments!

 Join my Patreon group to see the full step by step demo of this painting! You can join for just $4 a month which gives you access to almost four years of content!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

How to Make Your Paintings POP! New Video Demo on YouTube

             'Intrepid'                 16x20              pastel               ©Karen Margulis        available $425


Recently I dd an online mini workshop for the Arkansas Pastel Society. The topic was How to Paint Wildflowers. I did two full demos and started on a third. I did a wet underpainting with Derwent Inktense sticks and water. I finished the demo and made a Youtube video of the process. It is available for all to watch on my YouTube channel!  Click on the link below to watch. 


Can I ask a favor? I would love to grow my YouTube channel and expand my reach!  I would like to offer more videos on YouTube that compliment what I am doing on Patreon. Your engagement with me on YouTube is so helpful. If you have not already done so I invite you to subscribe to the channel and click on the notification bell so that you can get alerts when I release a new video. Your comments on each video are also very helpful!  Thank you very much for your support! 


Thursday, August 26, 2021

New Video Demo Release: Tips for Adding Structures to Your Landscape Paintings

                      'Summer in Alaska'             12x9             pastel           ©Karen Margulis   sold

Did you know I have almost 300 videos available on my Patreon group? Some are lessons but most are complete demos. I also have videos available on my YouTube channel. Most of these videos are unique to the YouTube channel bu occasionally I will share a Patreon demo to YouTube. Today I am sharing one of my favorite paintings from last fall.  Below you will find the link to the video as well as more information about the painting. 

The reference photo for this painting was in my pile for over a year. Ever since I stumbled upon this back alley of an Alaskan town I have been wanting to paint it. There was just something intriguing about the combination of nature and man made. But I was daunted. I don't usually put structures in my paintings and this scene had too many manmade features for my comfort level. But part of growth is to work to overcome challenges and since we were focusing on adding structures over in my Patreon group (November 2020) it was time to give this scene a try!

I had a trick up my sleeve though. I don't know why I don't use this technique more often. Well actually I do. It works best for more complicated subjects. A simple landscape with trees and flowers (my typical subject) doesn't need this helpful tip. What is it? Paint UPSIDE DOWN! Not your body upside down, turn your reference photo upside down!  This trick short circuits your brain and allows you to see shapes rather than specific things.  It seems crazy but it really works!!

Here is my initial block in. I started with the photo upside down and instead of labeling the objects I used art words to describe them. Instead of saying I was painting a white building I told myself I was blocking in a warm light shape that is a triangle.  After the block in I turned the painting right side up and the buildings magically appeared! It was so much fun! Bring on the structures!


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

How to Paint Rain with Pastels

'Let it Rain'              11x14             pastel              ©Karen Margulis       available $295

I am back from a blog break. I didn't intend to be away for so long but one thing after another kept me busy with non-art activities. But I am back on track and I even have a half organized studio! More on that later. Even though family has kept me busy I have still been painting and sharing with my Patreon group. This month our focus is on the sky and clouds. I am sharing demos and tips for painting sunsets and stormy skies! I took some great sky reference photos on our June trip and it has been so much fun to revisit them in new paintings. 

The painting I am sharing today is our Patreon Monday step by step demo. It is 11x14 on gray Pastelmat paper.  I always forget how much I enjoy the way Pastelmat grabs the pastel. I find I make my marks in a different and more direct way....perfect for stormy skies.  

In the Patreon demo I share a step by step photo breakdown of each step of the painting process but I wanted to go into more detail about how I painted the rain falling from the clouds. 
  • I started by painting the dark rain cloud with a few dark value blue pastels. 
  • Next I painted the lighter value dull gray violet and light blue in the sky area under the dark cloud. 
  • The rain is a middle dark value. I want to suggest the look of dark rain bands falling from the cloud so I use a middle dark blue gray pastel moon its side and make a wide vertical mark from the cloud base to the ground. 
  • I use a very light touch on the first pass so I get a whisper of rain. I go back for another pass but vary the pressure on the stick so that some areas of the rain band are a bit darker. 
  • To finish the illusion I use the sharp edge of a light blue Nupastel to make a few linear 'rain' marks.
  • I do go back into the rain with more of the sky color. I want to make sure the rain looks like a thin veil. I need to be able to see through the rain.

Here is a close up photo of the rain.

 I'd love for you to join us over on Patreon! It is just $4 a month for access to almost 4 years of content! Your support helps me create more online demos and lessons!

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!