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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Tips for Painting Large Pastel Paintings

'Surrounded'                18x24                   pastel                  ©Karen Margulis
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From the archives:
 It's fun to be the teacher. I get to ask my students to do things they might not otherwise do. I remember that one of my  college professors did this. The class was children's literature. He assigned us a project that involved interviewing our family and writing a family history. He admitted it had nothing to do with the course but he knew we would value the results. I cherish the interviews I did with my grandparents and I cherish my book! I am grateful to that professor.

So I hoped my class wouldn't be too mad at me for assigning a day to paint large! I was also hopeful that they would value this exercise! I was excited to see everyone come to class with their 18x24 paper attached to big pieces of foamcore. This was going to be fun!

2.5 x 3.5  quick color study
I have a very talented group of artists and I had faith in them. I knew that they would do well with a larger scale painting. Some had never painted larger than 8x10. I was right. Midway through the class the paintings were taking shape and looking great.  And within an hour and a half, most were just about finished. The paintings were awesome and I think I have some big painting converts!  Here are some of the tips we discussed:


  • Planning is the key! Don’t begin painting without a plan: concept and black & white thumbnail, then color choices.
  • Choose your palette in advance. 
  • Do a small color study to test your palette
  • Start with an underpainting to get a head start and use less pastel. I like Mount Vision pastels for large painting block-in.
  • START BIG: paint the big shapes first. Keep things big and simple for as long as possible.
  • Save the details (decoration) for the end
  • MOVE! Allow your arm and whole body to get into the painting. Think Big bold strokes.

Permission to stop after about 20 minutes

Evaluating the painting and writing down the changes to make

I have not addressed the mechanics of painting large pastel paintings.....what kind of support? To mount or not to mount? How to frame?  I am compiling information for a future post so I'd love to hear from you large scale pastelists! Please share your tips if you'd like!

A hard working and talented group of artists!
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Debbie Nolan said...

Karen just stopped by to visit your blog. I have been enjoying your pastels for quite some time. Thank you for sharing wonderful tips. Your art is awesome. You paint the things I love. Hope you have a great weekend.

robertsloan2art said...

So tempting, once I get my studio-cottage built. I did paint large decades ago, did a series of big cats painted big or life size on 30" x 40" velour boards that I loved. Unfortunately framing and mounting them were something else. Now though, I think I'd stick to something smaller than the mat board I'd put it in.

Silja Salmistu Støvring said...

My largest piece up til now is about 19" x 24" still life . I love painting large (just wish I had more space in my tiny over-cluttered studio!). I use minimal mounting, plexiglass and lightweight backing to keep it safe in frame. Considering to go even larger and see how it`s gonna work.
Thank you for inspiration!