Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Resolving a Watercolor Underpainting...Wildflower Pastel Demo

'Believe in Magic' 21x27 pastel ©Karen Margulis

After a watercolor underpainting is dry what is the next step? It is time to add pastel and the good news is your painting is already half done! Sometimes it feels like cheating but now you have something on your paper to respond to. I like to study the watercolor to see what it might suggest. Often I will find 'happy accidents' that suggest a new direction for the painting. I like to try to preserve some of the watercolor if I can but sometimes I end up covering everything with pastel. I don't despair about this and just try again in the next painting. Here is a step by step demo of the wildflower painting I started earlier this week.


  1. (from top left) The watercolor underpainting on my easel. My reference photos are taped onto my foamcore board.
  2. Finished watercolor. I am using Uart paper and the size is 21x27 (a full sheet and huge for me!)
  3. My selection of pastels that I plan to use for this painting. I like to select my pastels in advance. I may not use them all and I may choose others during the painting but I like to begin with a limited palette. I like having all of the pastels used in a piece out in my tray so if I need to re-use a color it is right in front of me. I arrange the colors by value and by sections....greens are organized from cool to warm. The pastels I am using are Terry Ludwigs,Great Americans and Diane Townsends.
  4. The first thing I do is reinforce my dark areas. I start with a middle dark value and match the colors in my underpainting, I will usually layer several dark colors of the same value in my dark areas.
  5. Next I put in the sky. I liked the pink sky of my watercolor so I thought I'd make the sky pink. In the end I added pale turquoise because I thought the pink was too Pepto Bismal and It also reminded me of early morning and I didn't think so many bees would be so active that early. (I guess I should research bees) I mixed three or four values of pink in the sky.
  6. Next I added my bumblebees. I didn't want to wait and add them at the end because I wanted them to be somewhat hidden and integrated into the flowers. You can see how bold they are in this stage. I liked painting them!
  7. Now I got into the 'zone' so I forgot to take more pictures but basically I was just refining the flowers and the weedy stuff. This part is hard to explain....it is just a matter of being inspired by the photos but making marks that make a better painting. I spent about 2 hours on this stage.
  8. Close-up of a bee on a Queen Anne's Lace flower. Look carefully and you will see some of my added pastel dust. I added this dust in the weeds and the flowers. I call it magic dust which is part of the painting name. I used a rolling pin to push in the shaved pastel into the paper.
  9. Another Bee and dust close-up and the finished painting. As you can see I added blue to the sky. I will try another pink sky for a wildflower painting but it didn't fit in with all of the buzzing bees. I really enjoy painting larger!
For tips on doing a watercolor underpainting please see my post HERE
If this mini demo was helpful please feel free to share! I will be doing a new mini demo every week so be sure to come back!

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love your work - do you ever give workshops outside Georgia? Is it ok to try to the demo or is it copyrighted? Thanks, Kris

Karen said...

Hi Kris,
Thank you for the comments! I have done workshops in North Carolina and I am always open for invitations for out of town workshops. I don't mind if you try the demos for your own personal use but not to sell, share or enter in shows. After you have tried the demo I suggest you use a photo of your own and try the technique with your photo...that will be great practice!
Thanks again and be sure to sign up for blog updates! I appreciate you visiting!

Patricia Lee Christensen said...

This is wonderful to see your process! I love the bees - they are so believable & yet not too important. They are soft & look in motion. I am teaching a introductory 3-hour pastel class later this month at a local arts guild. I am putting together a list of pastel artists' blogs to give students - I will be sure yours is on the list. Thanks so much for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Karen, I appreciate you getting back to me and your talent. Keep up the beautiful work.
Kris

Karen said...

Thank you so much Patricia! I appreciate your comments on my bees...that is exactly what I was trying to achieve. I appreciate you including me on your blog list for your workshop students! I hope you have a wonderful workshop!

Kim Denise said...

Karen, I LOVE this piece! I've never tried a watercolor underpainting, but now I'm intrigued.

Karen said...

Thanks Kim! I love doing the watercolors. It is unpredictable but that's what makes it so exciting!

Carol Flatt said...

Karen, thank you for your efforts in creating this post. I found it very interesting with helpful suggestions. Being such a visual person, I greatly apppreciate the photo-taking and sharing to highlight the progression of the piece. Just lovely work!

Karen said...

Thank you Carol! I appreciate the comments. I hope you will sign up to get blog updates as I am planning to post a new demo every week. I am working on an oil paint underpainting this week.

Grace | employment posters said...

Thank you for sharing your day to day experience in your artistic world!

Olga Díaz said...

Karen, no dejo de ver los post son muy interesantes.Eres un autentico profesor, realmente agradecida por todo esto, por tu esfuerzo y trabajo.
Este cuadro de las abejas es precioso.
Saludos

Anonymous said...

Karen, your paintings are wonderful. Thank you for the great demo earlier this year for PSNM - everyone is still wowed! Beverly. P.S. Recently read that the Latin word for "inspire" means "breathe life into", and that's exactly what you do in you paintings.