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Friday, December 04, 2020

New YouTube Video Release! How to Paint a Moody Winter Landscape

          'Winter in the Park'                 9x12                pastel              ©Karen Margulis          sold

This is one of my favorite winter paintings. I painted it last year for my Patreon group. I am now releasing it to my YouTube channel!  It is a 9x12 pastel painting on Uart Dark sanded pastel paper. I used a variety of pastels including the Blue Earth Nomad set which has wonderful moody neutral colors.  Click on the link to see the video. Be sure to give it a thumbs up or make a comment and I would love for you to subscribe to my channel!


 Below is a photo of my demo board. I had done a small study before painting the demo. 

Here is a photo of the painting at the end of the video. I did spend a few minuted after the video stopped to add some finishing details. Look at the finished version to see what details I added. 

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Which Comes First? Buildings or Snow? Painting a Winter Cityscape

    'Winter in the City'               9x12              pastel            ©Karen Margulis                    sold

 I love painting snow and winter and one of my favorite winter motifs is the city in winter. My son and family used to live in Chicago and I would alway make sure to make winter visits. Sometimes I was lucky and we had some snow. I cherish these reference photos as they now live here in Atlanta. (I will give up the snow pictures for that!) Today I painted from one of these photos and I had to make a decision.

What should I paint first? The buildings of the city and the trees or the snow?

The answer for me is to completely paint the buildings and trees and then cover them with snow. It looks and feels odd as the painting progresses but it is necessary so that the light values of the snow can be crisp and clean. I gradually build up the layers of pastel with wide marks to suggest the buildings and back and forth marks to paint the evergreen trees.  

Then the fun begins and I can build up the snow on the grounding on the tree branches. The final touch is to add the falling snow which I do by shaving some white pastel and creating a dusting of snow over the painting. I press this dust in with my hand with the painting under glassine paper. 

                        Here is the painting at an early stage. I have blocked in all the main shapes. 

Here is a close up of the dusting process. I use the edge of a bankers clip or palette knife to shave some soft pastel letting it gently fall over the painting. 

I have the complete demo of this painting over on my Patreon site.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Trying Jack Richeson Underpainting Squares!

                'Evening Approaches'              12x16            pastel          ©Karen Margulis       $295

On Sunday I had the pleasure of doing a livestream demo for the Red Rock Pastel Society. I focused on how I interpret small dark photos. I like to use my artistic license to transform uninteresting photos into more interesting paintings! For this demo I decided to do a warm/cool underpainting using Richeson Underpainting Blocks. I bought these pastels at the last IAPS convention and they sat on the shelf. I recently gave them a try and I have really enjoyed them. Here is a description from the Dakota Pastels website:


Origin: China
Colors: 40
Size: ½” x 1 1/8” x 1 ½”

Underpainting Blocks are the latest addition to the Richeson Handrolled Pastel line. The blocks are made with the same luxurious texture and rich color as the 504 Handrolled sticks. 40 colors are now produced in a large, durable block measuring ½” x 1 1/8” x 1 ½” - great for blocking in large areas and making broad gestural strokes.

The 40 colors (carefully selected from the Handrolled line) are Darks, Rich Saturated Hues and a White. Two 20 color sets are available as well as a complete 40 color set.

available at Dakota Pastels. Click here. 

Below I the small crummy photo I used for the demo. I was drawn to the play of warm light on the hills against the cooler shadowed trees and foreground which guided the decisions I made as I painted. 

 Below are some of the Richeson Underpainting Blocks. I used the dark purples and blues. I didn't have an orange so I used Richeson hand rolled soft pastels. I used a light touch with all of these pastels so that I would not clog the tooth of the paper. 

Here is the dry underpainting. The painting is 12x16 on LuxArchival sanded paper which I love! It does not warp or buckle with a wet underpainting which is such a joy!

In the livestream demo I was not able to finish the painting. I got as far as the 'set it aside and come back with fresh eyes' stage. The easiest way to overwork a painting is to keep working without know what you need to do to finish. I came back to the painting after lunch with a list of things to adjust. You can scroll down to see the finished painting and compare the two. Most of the things I did were to add more clarity to the areas of importance and to strengthen the areas of contrast that lead the eye around the painting. Can you see what I have done?

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Taking Out my Artistic License!

        'Follow the Creek'                   12x18              pastel             ©Karen Margulis        $295

Last week I did a livestream demo for a pastel group. The theme of the presentation was 'Using your Artistic License'. I shared my favorite tips for interpreting a crummy reference photo. I painted from a small portrait format marsh photo and decided to make it a larger landscape format painting. It was a fun demo but I only had an hour so when the stream ended I worked on the painting a bit more and really utilized my artistic license!

Below is the painting at the end of the demo. It is 12x18 on Uart 400 with a bold purple underpainting.

Now scroll up to the painting at the top of this post. This is the finished version. Can you see the changes I made?  My goal was to draw the viewer into the painting and enjoy visiting the marsh. I also wanted a visual connection between the ground and the sky. My first try was to add some yellow in the sky to relate to the yellow flowers. I wasn't quite happy with the results. I then decided to add some subtle pink flowers and pull some of that pink into the sky. I then added back the yellow flowers. 

I used my Floral Landscape set of Terry Ludwig pastels along with some assorted Nupastel. 


Come on over to my Patreon group to see the video replay! It is a $4 monthly pledge but you can cancel at anytime!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A Little Pastel Dust is all You Need!

                            'Golden Splash'              12x9            pastel         ©Karen Margulis   $275

 Shave pastels!  Yes that's what I said and if you are looking for a twist on pastel painting then you should get ready to shave some pastel dust!   If you been a regular blog reader then you have probably read my posts on the Dusting technique.  It is actually an old technique of applying pastel to paper. I discovered it a few years ago and I have been having fun with it ever since.

What is Dusting?  It is simply another way of applying pastel. Instead of making lines of thick marks, or dots and dashes, the pastel is shaved with a blade or edge of a palette knife and allowed to fall onto the paper (which needs to be flat)  You can either build up a painting with many layers of this shaved dust or you can use the dust for special effects which I did for this wildflower painting.

Dusting can also be used to create snow or water foam and spray. While it is a useful technique it needs to be used with restraint. Too much and it looks like a gimmick. But just enough and used occasionally it creates a magical surprise. 

Today's painting of Aspen trees in fall color needed some punch. It is hard to get yellow to pop!   My painting was quite blah!  Dusting to the rescue! I shaved some yellow pastel on the tree and the foliage came to life!

For more on the dusting technique you can watch this older video demo and also head over to my blog for a dusting article. 

You can watch the older video here. Be sure to like, comment and subscribe!!!



This painting also has some added texture due to the layer of clear gesso brushed onto an older failed painting. I thought the purples would make a good underpainting for my yellow trees. 


If you are looking for a holiday gift consider the gift of original art! My Thankful 50% off sale ends on Monday! Visit my Etsy shop to see what I have available:

Monday, November 23, 2020

Have You Tried The Clear Gesso Trick Lately?

'Sunflower Daydreams'             13x14            pastel             ©Karen Margulis      available $400

I searched through my pile of discarded and unfinished paintings looking for a good candidate for a makeover. I found the perfect choice. It was a failed landscape painting on Uart paper. I knew it would handle the special treatment! Clear Gesso! I simply brushed on some clear gesso right over the painting. It made a muddy but textured underpainting.....a perfect canvas for a new idea!  Have you tired clear gesso lately?

  • There is a fun and easy way to add texture to a pastel painting. It starts BEFORE painting. You simply brush on some CLEAR GESSO to your favorite paper and let it dry.  The clear gesso has a slight grittiness and this combined with random brushstrokes creates a textured surface to paint on. 
  • If you want a rougher surface you can add powdered pumice to your gesso but I find the clear gesso to be sufficient. 
  • You can also use the gesso on any pastel paper including unsanded papers. Watercolor paper is a great paper to use.
  • You apply the gesso to prep the paper. If you want to use it during the painting be aware that the gesso will liquify the pastel creating darkish mud. (which is sometimes just what you need!)

Below is a photo of the painting after the clear gesso application. 

Here you can see a closeup of the painting. Look at the interesting texture!

 Over on my Patreon group I share a video demo of this painting. Consider joining us for $4 a month! It is a great online instruction value!


Friday, November 20, 2020

My Thank You Art Event is Back! 50% Discount on Selected paintings!


The touch of a loved one. A kiss from a favorite pet. The sight of a beautiful place. There is not much else to compare to the sights, sounds, smells of your happy place. These things soothe the soul. I rank art right up at the top of my list of things that soothe my soul. Making art, talking about art, reading about art and of course.....looking at art. 

I wrote this last year and it means even more in 2020. It has been a tumultuous year for everyone. We all long for normal times but I see everyday that we free forward and art is one of the things that continues to give pleasure and hope. Going down into my studio and painting every day and sharing with my fellow artists in my Patreon group, on YouTube and here on my blog has been my escape. 

I have also enjoyed looking at other art especially on Instagram and facebook. It is a relaxing way to unwind! I do have a few pieces of original art in my home. Paintings from favorite artists that I have collected or traded when the opportunity arose. These paintings are treasures. I never tire of looking at them. I always seem to see something new when I glance at them. I learn from them and they make me smile.

This year I once again would like to make the gift of art more affordable. Since I am not affiliated with any galleries I am able to set my own prices and while it is sometimes frowned upon in the art world I am going to have a sale! This is a sale to say THANK YOU and it is a sale with a with a fun twist.

I have put together a collection of my original paintings of all sizes and I will be offering them at 50% off regular price. The sale prices will be available until midnight on Monday December 4th.

HOW: Visit my Etsy shop If that link doesn't work try this one. I am not sure why the links are acting strange!

                              Sale prices are already marked.

BONUS TWIST:  Everyone who makes a purchase during the sale will be entered into a drawing to win a  9x12  original painting. Winner will be selected and notified by email at the conclusion of the sale. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Would You Like to Paint Stunning Yellows? Here are some Tips!

     'Golden Memories II'                    8x10                pastel             ©Karen Margulis.    $275

As if you needed another reason to add to your pastel collection!  How about painting some golden trees? Terry Ludwig pastels are hard to resist and I love this set of yellows.  I have always enjoyed using yellow. I like a lot of yellow, sand, sky, sunlight!  But I always found yellow a challenging color to work with in pastel. I found it difficult to get it bright and sunny enough! I have some tips below but I have to say that this set of pastels is making the job easier!

  • Start with orange. When building up a mass of yellow begin with darker values if possible. I like to start with the orange family then gradually build to the lightest and brightest yellows.
  • Use violets. Using the complement of yellow which is violet will help the yellows be more visually exciting. Surround yellows with violets (all kinds) or place them side by side for more interesting yellows.
  • Go darker. If your yellows don't seem bright enough try surrounding them with a darker value color. It will be like turning the lights on in a dark room!
  • Warm and cool. It helps to have a variety of warm orangey yellows and cooler lemon yellows in a mass of yellow.
  • Use Shouting marks. When you really want your yellow to stand harder. A few hard edged marks will contrast nicely with softer marks. These shouting marks will stand out!

Here is a link to the Stunning Yellow set:


In the closeup photo below you can see I used the tips I shared to create more exciting yellows!

Friday, November 13, 2020

New YouTube Video Demo! Tips for Painting on Canson!

  'Golden Memories II'              9x12                   pastel              ©Karen Margulis.      click to purchase $285

Sometimes the best way to compare materials is to do a test painting. I already know I love to paint on Canson but I am always hearing from others who are just not fond of it. I have been painting a lot on sanded papers lately so I decided to do a comparison test by painting the same thing on both sanded and unsanded papers. I did a step by step demo on sanded paper that I will be sharing on Patreon so I decided to do the Canson Mi-Teintes version for my YouTube channel. In the video demo I share my favorite tips for success with Canson. Click on the link below to see the video.


Here are some photos showing both the sanded and unsanded versions of the painting. For expanded commentary on the video visit my Patreon page. I'd love for you to join us!


Monday, November 09, 2020

A Tip For Adding Complex Structures to Your Landscape Paintings

               'Summer in Alaska'               12x9             pastel             ©Karen Margulis   available $265

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 are focusing on adding structures over in my Patreon group 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!

 If you would like to see a video demo of this painting head over to my Patreon Page. If you are not yet a patron consider joining us for just $4 a month!

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Tips for Powerful Color in a Landscape Painting

        'Texas in the Spring'                    12x18              pastel            ©Karen Margulis      available $285

Yesterday I had the pleasure of doing a livestream demo for the Pastel Society of Southeast Texas. The subject of my presentation was 'Powerful Color in the Landscape'. I shared four of my favorite tips for achieving more exciting and pleasing color in the landscape. I then put these four tips to work in a demo of this Texas landscape. It was fun painting live for a group and I look forward to my next livestream for the Pastel Society of South Carolina!

Below I am sharing the demo painting at the end of the video. It was just about finished when my time was up. I let it sit for awhile before approaching it with a checklist of areas to address. The finished painting is at the top of this post and directly under the unfinished demo.  What did I do?

  • I refined the trees and bluebonnet areas. I added clarity around the biggest trees. Notice the spice mark of bright green near this tree?
  • I added a pale yellow to the horizon to connect the sky to the golden colors in the land. 
  • I toned down the dirt path with lighter yellows and tans.  It was a bit too bright and competed with the bluebonnets. 
  • I used some hard pastels to add some linear detail in the foreground grasses. 

Below is a list of the tips I shared in the presentation. 

The painting is 12x18 on Uart 400 sanded paper. I used my floral landscape set of Terry Ludwig pastels with a few Nupastels for the underpainting and final details. I also used a few blue and violet pastels from my 'bluebonnet box'. 

Below is the underpainting. I did a dry wash with hard pastels rubbed in with a piece of pipe insulation foam. This is what I consider going bold in the underpainting. The colors are brighter than I want them to be in the finished painting. 

I will be sharing the livestream demo link over on my Patreon Page soon. Consider joining us for $4. You can cancel your membership anytime if you find the group isn't for you!


Friday, November 06, 2020

Have You Tried a Tempera Paint Underpainting?

                     'Autumn Dance'           16x9          pastel       ©Karen Margulis. available $365


The kids had fun and I had even more fun when they were finished!  Last week my grandkids came to the studio to paint pumpkins. I cleared off my big table and put out a nice selection of kid tempera paint and brushes. I have been collecting art supplies for the kids and they are now at a great age for studio time. They are still learning to manage the amount of paint they will use and they did a good job but we still had some leftover paint on their palettes. The colors were wonderful....fluorescents and glittery golds and silvers. I couldn't let it go to waste!

I covered the palettes with plastic wrap and the next day had some grown up fun with the leftover paint on a piece of LuxArchival sanded paper. (my new favorite).  I scrubbed on paint with a big brush and sprayed it with water to make some drips.  It was so much fun!  I set the underpainting aside and yesterday decided it would make a fun underpainting for an autumn wildflower painting. Ultimately much of the underpainting got covered but the little bits of fun color adds some excitement to the painting!  I will be using these paints again!

                                                       Here is the finished underpainting. 


Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Fun with the Terry Ludwig Limited Edition Snowbirds Pastel Set

          'River Song'                    8x10          pastel               ©Karen Margulis      available $175

Recently someone asked me if I have every Terry Ludwig pastel set. I wish! I have a few favorites that I keep separate from my other pastels and take them out occasionally for a challenge. I use my own Floral Landscape signature set a lot. But I haven't treated myself to new Terry Ludwig pastels in two years! It was time. 

So when I got an email blast with this set of 30 pastels I was sold. I ordered the Snowbird set! This 30 piece set was inspired by the bird paintings of Wyoming artist Mike Beeman. I could tell it would be good for many pf my paintings and not just birds! I was right! I used the set to paint this landscape and the colors were perfect.   The set is on sale until November 6th. Here is the link:

I decided to do a watercolor underpainting first to give me a head start on the colors and values in my scene. I used an 8x10 piece of Luxe Archival sanded paper which I LOVE! I will be giving a more complete review of both the pastel set and the paper soon!


Monday, November 02, 2020

How to Start a Painting Without Fear!

'Morning Magic'             9x12          pastel           ©Karen Margulis       available $225

I finally got to paint on Sunday! We experienced Hurricane Zeta last week and were without power for two days and only just got internet back Sunday afternoon! It was nice to have a break from the computer but I was happy to get back to work!  The first painting on the easel was this scene from my cruise to Norway last fall. I loved the photo but it felt a bit overwhelming. How should I begin? I took a deep breath and began with a rough block in and dry underpainting with hard pastels. 

I am going to call it a fast and furious block in. All I did was choose a few colors and values that represented the extremes... the darkest areas, the lightest areas and the most intense colors. I kept the idea of atmospheric perspective in mind and chose warmer colors for the foreground mountain and progressively lighter blues for the mountains. I roughly blocked in the main shapes of the scene. 

Tip: It helps to start a painting on a toned middle value color. I am using a piece of Wallis warm mist seconds (I have a small stash) But you can tone any paper with a layer of pastel rubbed into the paper.  Having a unified tone peeking through your pastel layer is like having a thread woven through the painting. It holds everything together 

I kind of like how this fast and furious underpainting looks. It was fun and I want afraid of 'messing up' because I knew it was only the first layer. It took the fear away and allowed me to relax and enjoy the rest of the painting. I did take the extra step of blending in this first layer because I like to start with an out of focus underpainting I then get to choose where I put the clarity and focus.


We will be adding structures to our paintings this month! We will also have lessons on Edges and the color yellow. I can't wait to paint some yellow autumn trees!  Join the group for a fun month of painting!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

An Easy Way to Paint More Natural Grasses with Pastel

            'Moody Marsh'                 8x10           pastel                 ©Karen Margulis               sold

I never get tired of painting the many moods of a marsh. I love it because it lets me play with painting grass. I LOVE to paint grasses.

Grass can be a challenge and can make or break a painting. Grass that is painted too stiff, thick or regular can not only look unnatural it can create a visual barrier. The eye of the viewer can't get past this 'fence' of grass. The trick to painterly natural looking grass is to paint with BROKEN LINES. 

There are several techniques for painting broken lines but all involve a light touch. You can use a hard pastel and let it dance on the paper skipping and then laying down color. You can roll the tip of a round pastel and you can use one of my favorite techniques: Press and Release a square pastel. 

To create the grasses n my painting I used all of these techniques. I used the press and release for the darker grasses. You need a square pastel. Of course I prefer Terry Ludwig pastels. They are the perfect blend of from softness and intense color. All you do I place the pastel on the sharp edge and press into the paper and lift the pastel back up. You will be left with a broken line and broken lines look more natural than a stiff solid line!

This painting is this week's step by step demo over on my Patreon group. Join us to follow along!