Saturday, May 27, 2017

Let's Paint with Red!

'Love Red'         7x5       pastel       ©Karen Margulis
I love red. It isn't my top favorite color but I enjoy painting with red. There is something special about pushing a soft piece of red pastel into the paper and getting a rich vibrant mark.  So in honor of Valentine's Day I decided to paint with red.

I had a scrap piece of Uart paper that I had done a quick poppy bloom demo for a student. I decided to take some water to brush in the pastel. I had some watercolor handy from another project so I added a bit of red watercolor. Then just for fun I sprinkled some kosher salt all over the wet pigments.
The result was a cool underpainting. Perfect for some poppies.

The underpainting with watercolor, pastel and salt
 I really like the underpainting so I didn't want to cover it all up with pastel. I decided to paint the poppy blooms first then see what the background needed.

I still like the underpainting background!

 I decided it didn't need much so I very lightly scumbled some peach pastel keeping with the red theme. I added hints of a few stems and called it finished. That was fun!  How about painting some poppies? Here is a tip:

Progression of color for a red flower

  • Instead of using just one red pastel for a poppy consider building the bloom from dark to light and cool to warm.
  • Start with the darkest value violet or cool red that you see. I like to use purple and brick red for the shadowed part of the flower.
  • Increase the intensity and warmth of the reds as you layer the petals.
  • Use the side of the pastel to paint larger chunky petals.
  • Paint the petals in the direction that they would emerge from the they grow.

If you like these tips and want more poppy tips have a look at my PDF demo available in my Etsy shop for $6. Link here:

Friday, May 26, 2017

Would You Like to Paint Poppies?

'Summer Sun'             8x10         pastel          ©Karen Margulis
available $185
It is the perfect weekend for painting the red poppy. If you haven't had a chance to try my digital demos now is a great time. I have a wonderful PDF demo all about painting beautiful sunlit red poppies!  This is an information packed digital demo with 30 pages and 54 color photos.

If you aren't familiar with my digital demos they are step by step pastel painting demos with photos and narrative of each step. It is not a video but in some ways even better because I have taken photos of every step of the painting and spent a lot of time writing my thoughts and sharing tips about each and every step. I share photo demos on my blog but the pdf demo include a lot more information.

You can download the demo and view it on a computer or tablet. Or if you like a physical booklet you can print it out. This is demo # 13 and I am happy to share my tips for painting poppies (or really any landscape element lit by the late afternoon sun)

This new demo is available in my Etsy shop for just $7. Click here for the demo.
Click here for all of the pdf demos.

A screen shot of my new digital demo

A Sneak Peek

Bonus feature in the demo: Building a Flower

This is a pastel demo but for my acrylic and oil painting friends....the information in the demo can certainly be applied to your medium. I am approaching my oil paintings the same way I paint a pastel.

Don't forget that I have my mini pastel poppies available for just $25 which includes shipping. There are still a few remaining in my etsy shop.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

When the Muse Visits You Must Respond!

A Profusion of Poppies!  A collage of my mini poppy paintings. Each one is 2.5x3.5 inches pastel
each available in my Etsy shop for $25 each including shipping
Every once in awhile it happens. I go a bit crazy and just can't stop painting. I get hooked on a subject which turns into a series and I can't stop. I was even painting in the evenings which I never do. I just had to see how many variations on the theme I could come up with.  This time it was poppies.

I was working on some mini aceo/artist trading card size paintings to bring to IAPS (more on this later) and one of them was a poppy painting. I love painting poppies, especially the red ones so I decided to do a couple more. Then a couple more. Before I knew it I had taped 6 more pieces of Uart paper to my board. The 6 more. I couldn't stop.

With each one I challenged myself to make it different from the last. I changed compositions. I changed color palettes. I asked myself how many sky or background colors could I use? I tried up close and personal and meadows filled with poppies. I finally stopped at no.22. I could probably do 20 more. I am that inspired!

Below you can scroll down and see all 22 mini poppy paintings. I am making them available through my Etsy shop for $25 each which includes shipping. Click here. Enjoy!

'Poppy no. 1'     2.5 x 3.5    pastel     $25

My pile of pastels ....the aftermath

Mini paintings protected in a clear bag with foamcore backing
 Click on each painting to enlarge. If you wish to purchase a painting please visit my Etsy shop or send me an email.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How to Take a Painting From Blah to Wow

'Dancing under the Summer Sun'          11x14        pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $175
 It was just a Blah painting. It had decent bones. The composition was interesting enough and the colors were soft and pleasing. But there was nothing special about it. The painting had no punch. It was blah. So there it sat in the great pile of discards.

I was feeling up for a challenge so I pulled out the painting and tried to figure out what went wrong and how to take the painting from blah to wow....or at least 'hey not too bad!'

The original blah painting
So why was the painting Blah? Here is what I decided:
  • The painting seemed a bit flat. All of the big flowers were all on the same plane. There was some depth created by the cooler blue mountain shape in the distance but the flowers looked flat.
  • The values seemed a bit spotty. There were too many spots of dark in the grasses. These spots were disjointed. 
  • The colors were washed out and dull. It is good to have dull or neutral colors in a landscape but  this painting was a little too neutral and boring.....there was no punch!
  • There was an overall lack of CONTRAST. The darks were not dark and rich enough in addition to them being spotty. There was no contrast in pure color or intense 'spicy' colors.

Darkening the grass and adding texture with clear gesso
 So What did I do to correct these problems? Read on!

  • I decided to darken and add texture to the grassy part of the painting. This would increase the contrast between dark and light and add interest to the boring flat grass. I used clear gesso and brushed it over the grass. This liquified the pastel creating a dark green area of interesting texture.
  • I then built up the layers of grass over the dry gesso. The pastel skipped over the texture creating the illusion of grass.
  • I reintroduced the pink clover flowers this time giving them a larger role. I wanted to make them thick and juicy with color and texture. I also wanted some of  them to be in front of the Queen Anne's Lace to give more depth to this area. I used very soft pastels and pressed hard!
  • I brightened the sky and mountain bringing some of the mountain color down into the grass.
  • I refined the Queen Anne's Lace with chunkier marks to add more texture.
  • Finally I added more individual blades of grass using pure intense colors to contrast with the dull colors already there. I made sure to pull some grass blades over the flowers to create more depth.

Now scroll up and view the 'before' painting and then the revised painting. The differences are clear and bright. That was so much fun!!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

When You Need a Little Inspiration

'Lavender Surprise'          8x10         pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available $150
 Sometimes you just need a little Bob Ross. Maybe it's the dreary weather today but I am just not being very productive. I started working on a Queen Anne's Lace painting but it wasn't cooperating so I put it aside for another day. I put up another unfinished painting of a lavender filed but I wasn't sure what it needed.
Then I spent way too much time lost in Facebook and following links. Which actually turned out to be a good thing. I discovered a few very useful websites including the Zen of Bob Ross blog. I scrolled down the page smiling as I read the Bob Bossisms....and then this quote hit me:

“There’s no good or bad. There’s just what makes you happy.”
— Bob Ross

The UFO painting with the original pink sky

It was just what I needed to hear. I now knew what that lavender field painting needed.  It needed a happy blue sky! I had originally decided to do a pale pink and violet sky for the field of lavender. My hope was that the violet in the sky would work well with the purple on the lavender.
And it did work. It just didn't make me happy. Perhaps it was the mood the pinkish sky created. Usually I love playing with sky color but this painting needed a traditional happy blue sky. So I took out a few blue pastels and repainted the sky. It made me happy! Thanks Bob. :)

Check out this fun blog for more gems from Bob Ross:

Monday, May 22, 2017

Add Some Punch to Green

'Beautiful Dreams'        5x7       pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $75
 The Spring blooms have faded leaving behind a very green landscape. That's how it is in the land of green....the southeastern US. I do enjoy the wonderful variation in the greens we see here but in a painting it can be overwhelmingly....GREEN.  There are ways to tame the green and make it more interesting and believable in a painting. I will be sharing some of my favorite tips with you soon but here is a teaser tip....

Add some punch to your greens!

Terry Ludwig 90 piece set of green, Diane Townsend soft form greens.
I wanted to try my new set of Diane Townsend soft form greens so I found one of my Smoky Mountain summer photos. It was very green. Perfect for my little painting. I also took out my Terry Ludwig 90 piece green set. That should be enough green!

I definitely had enough greens. I had a very analogous painting of blue green and green and yellow green. It was OK but it was missing something. It was just too much green. I decided to look at the analogous color wheel for inspiration. The answer was red-violet. That would be the color to use to add the punch I was looking for.

  • I used some dark red violet in the grass and the dark areas of the trees.
  • I used a light veil of mauve (lighter red violet) in the mountain haze.
  • I used some touches of pure red violet and a very pale pink for some summer wildflowers.
That was better!  It works every time. Add a little punch to spice up you greens! I am thinking of a little punch bowl filled with some delicious pink-purple punch. That's a visual I can remember!

I have added a workshop to my 2017 schedule! I will be co teaching a plein air workshop with Marsha Savage in Blue Ridge Georgia this Labor Day weekend. Here is a little blurb about the workshop from Marsha's website:

This will be the third time Karen Margulis and I will be teaching a workshop together! Come join us this September. Karen and I will be teaming up to teach a 3 day plein air workshop in Blue Ridge Georgia. I have a wonderful rustic cabin on the river where we will paint, but we will also paint in some other wonderful spots....we know the secret spots!

Imagine driving  on peaceful country road. It winds it's way slowly alongside the river. You can smell the freshly mown hay and hear the gentle sounds of the river. As you round each bend the views get better. Soon you arrive. It is time to get settled in and take a deep breath of the sweet country air.

Imagine staying in this spot for three days. Painting. Learning. Laughing. Imagine being surrounded by other passionate artists. Artists of all abilities. Artists who just want to become better artists and who share the same passions as you.

This is a plein air workshop on Labor Day Weekend, Fri., Sat. & Sun., Sept. 1, 2, & 3. It is suggested if you are traveling from outside this area, you would want to arrange to stay somewhere close to Blue Ridge, GA arriving on Thurs., Aug. 31, and leaving on Mon., Sept. 4. And, we like to have the students over for a meet and greet that evening before. We can give you ideas or point you in the direction of accommodations.

Click here for more information and to register:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

10 Things You Definitely Should Have in Your Backpack at IAPS

'Wide Open Spaces'          18x24         pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available $400
 It's that time again! The IAPS convention is just around the corner and it is time to get organized. This will be my fifth time going to the biennial convention of the International Association of Pastel Societies. I'll be going as an instructor and representing the Southeastern Pastel Society. I've started my packing process. I've already shipped my boxes of demo supplies to a friend in Albuquerque and I have started to organize the rest of the stuff I need. I want to pack as light as possible but still have the things I need to be comfortable and productive.

One of the things I always have when I travel is some kind of day pack or bag. This bag has all the necessities to make a day of exploring enjoyable. When attending a convention such as IAPS it is great to carry a bag or pack so that you can enjoy the festivities and events without having to go back to your hotel room.  I'd like to share my list of the 10 things you should have in your day pack. (keep reading even if you aren't going to IAPS since these things are great for all general travel.

Be prepared and ready for fun!

Everything fits in the bag. I love Baggallini bags! 

1. Cell phone/ charger or power cube
Be sure to bring your smart phone. You'll want it to take photos, show your work, check time and weather. You might want a charging cube to charge your phone on the go especially if you are not staying at the convention hotel or don't have time in between sessions  Bring a camera or tablet for photos if you don't use your phone for photos.
Be sure to put your phone on silent during the demos and workshops and take photos only during photo breaks so as not to block the view.

2. Snacks
 Snacks are always good. What if you spend too much time in the expo and you're running late to your next session?....a healthy power snack will come in handy.... nuts, power bars, dried fruit , a little dark chocolate will help you power through a busy day.
Choose snacks that are small, packable and individually wrapped. Bring them in your suitcase or head to a grocery store in ABQ to stock up on snacks and water. Bring some plastic baggies for your extra snacks. I like to carry a mini pack of baby wipes for cleanup.

3.  Empty Water Bottle
 Keeping HYDRATED is the most important thing you can do to keep going strong at the convention. Remember the altitude in the city of Albuquerque is over 5000 feet above sea level and altitude sickness is real. Keep hydrated. You can buy water of course but I am bringing my own Hydro flask bottle that I will keep full and in my backpack or bag at all times.
Albuquerque is also in the arid high desert so things dry out quickly. Bring your favorite moisturizer.

4. A Goody Bag
 Bring an extra foldable bag or compact bag or duffle. The kind that folds up into tiny envelopes but opens to a good size.  You might want an extra bag to carry around the goodies you find at the expo or shopping excursions around ABQ and Santa Fe. They take up no space and come in handy!
These small foldable bags are available everywhere now for just a few dollars.
I love the compact daypack from Sea to Summit which can also serve as your day pack as well as for extra goodies!

5. A lightweight jacket or sweater
 It can be cold in the convention rooms and there is nothing worse than trying to stay warm and not being able to focus on the instructor or demo. It's hard to think about carrying  a jacket when it is so hot outside but you'll be glad to have it if the air conditioner is blasting.
The long range forecast is showing highs in the 80's and lows in the 50's so a jacket will also come in handy once the sun goes down.

6.  Sunscreen, sunglasses and hat 
You will want to pull yourself away from the hotel and convention activities to explore the area. (more on that in an upcoming post)  And when you do go outside be prepared for the high desert sun with sunscreen, lip balm with spf and sunglasses. Add some extra protection with a packable hat. You'll need it if you are going to spend time outdoors exploring or painting. The high altitude intensifies the effects of the sun's rays so be safe and use sunscreen, sunglasses and wear a hat!

7. Business cards....or calling cards
Make sure you have cards with your contact info and a photo of you or your work. You will want to exchange them with your new friends! If you don't have business cards they can easily be printed on your own printer or if you are feeling creative, illustrate your own! Be sure to keep plenty of cards in your daypack!

I get my cards through and I love them!

8. A notebook and pens
You'll want to take notes while in the demos and workshops so be sure to bring a slim notebook and a few good pens. I took so many notes one year my pen ran out of ink so now I bring several of my favorite pens. Throw in a copy of the daily convention schedule so you know what is going on and where to be.
I love my turquoise Moleskin notebook and Le Pen black pens. The notebook is slim and gets me in the Southwest mood!

9. Small sketchbook and pens
 Great for getting creative and making memories when you have some downtime. I don't go anywhere without a small sketchbook kit. I usually have some pens and some way to add color like the Derwent Inktense pencils and a water pen.
You might think you won't have time to sketch but it is a great way to do something creative after filling up on inspiration. I'd rather have a small kit that I don't use than regret not having one with me.

my small sketchbook kit

10. A comfort kit
 I like to put together a small pouch with comfort items such as pain reliever, bandaids, any other needed meds such as allergy pills, inhalers, etc., tums, feminine products, tissues, safety pins, Mints or gum for fresh breath. Don't forget an emery board. I always seem to need one! The kit keeps you from having to run back to the room for any needed necessity.
Putting all of these small comfort items in a zippered pouch makes for an organized pack and keeps them handy!

Did I miss anything important? Let me know what you keep in your bag in the comments. Also if you have any general IAPS questions let me know and I will answer them in my upcoming FAQ post.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

From the Archives: Thoughts on the Last IAPS Convention 2015

'Emergence'     16x20       pastel        ©Karen Margulis
inquire about availability
The anticipation for the IAPS convention is building. I am starting to get organized and thought I'd share this post from the last convention. I'll be sharing more convention tips over the next two weeks so let me know if you have any questions!

The boxes sat in the corner of my studio. They called out to be unpacked but I wasn't ready. I had just returned from almost two months of travel and was in the middle of planning for my fall classes. I didn't have time to open the boxes...even though I was curious.

Today I finally had a chance to open them and I would like to share the contents with you. The boxes contained the demo paintings I did at the IAPS convention in June. It was an amazing convention and I was honored and thrilled to be a part of it as an instructor. I did two presentations at the convention....a 3 hour demo on wildflowers and a 3 hour seminar on blogging for artists. I had a wonderful time sharing with artists who are just as passionate about pastels as I am.

During my wildflower demo I did three large paintings. In this post I am sharing my second demo....daisies done with a watercolor underpainting. I used Cretacolor aqua bricks for the underpainting and the painting is on Pastel Premier white sanded paper.

Group shot of the IAPS Master's Circle recipientsI was also honored to receive my Master's Circle medallion at the banquet. What a fantastic group of artists to share this honor with! We were all like kids as we received our award and cheered one another. It was an evening to remember!

Group shot of instructors and demonstrators

closeup detail of painting

I will be sharing the other demo paintings in upcoming posts. The convention was an amazing experience and I encourage you to make plans to attend the next one in June 2017!
Here is a report of the convention that you might like to read: