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Thursday, June 04, 2020

How to Exercise While Painting!

pastel on paper 36 x 48                     ©Karen Margulis
 I just finished a large commission. This is one of the largest personal commissions I have painted in pastel 36x48!  I had to use two easels to accommodate the board but those Blick aluminum easels are versatile! I used Nupastels to block in the painting and Mount Vision pastels for the remaining layers.  I used my Terry Ludwig pastels for some finishing details. I used Uart 400 paper cut from a roll.

Painting this large really gets you moving! I turned up the music and got to work. I was working form a study I had painted several years ago for a different project. I would interpret the scene in this new larger landscape format.

  • I used Art paper cut from a roll. I used artist tape hinges to attach the paper to an extra large foam core board. This isn't a permanent mount. It will be attached to archival support board by the framer. 
  • I started with a simple four value block in using four values of salmon. I would allow this red-pink color to peek through an enliven the greens.
  • Next I reinforced the dark shapes with Mount vision pastels. I love using these large and robust pastels for big paintings. 
  • I began layer darks and middle values in the tree trunks and foliage.
  • I added the distant blue landmass and began work on the sky. The sky holes were important to help define the tree shapes.  I needed to paint sky holes and add more foliage until it looked natural. I did use Blair Low Odor Workable Fixative several times to build the texture in the foliage. 
  • Next I started the water. I had already put in the reflections when I painted the dark shapes. I used horizontal strokes to paint the water. 
  • The last thing I painted was the Spanish Moss. I had fun draping the moss on the branches. I used several colors to paint the moss. See the photo below. 
When I started I was intimidated by this huge blank paper. But as soon as I turned on some music and started moving I was able to slip into the zone. It really was a workout though! Wouldn't that be a fun way to exercise? Tape up some huge paper, turn on music and get dancing!

My set up with two easels and pastels on stools.

half way through. You can see the salmon color underpainting.

Here is a close up of the moss

Monday, June 01, 2020

Yes You Can Use Canvas Boards for Pastel!

'Provence Impressions'               6x8              pastel on board                ©Karen Margulis
available $95
 I had some canvas boards that I bought for my oil painting practice. I wondered how I could use them for pastels. I know I could just paint on them. The texture of the canvas would allow for the application of pastel. But could I elevate it and allow for even more layering?  I turned to my shelf of goodies and pulled out a jar of Micaceous Iron Oxide. This is an acrylic paint but it has a slight grittiness. It is just enough grit to give a toothy sanded surface.

I applied some of this paint which is a dark silvery gray to the 6x8 canvas board. The result was a rough dark toned board....perfect for pastels. I will say that I had painted the board with random brushstrokes and it felt quite rough. I did rub in the fist layer of pastel but it still was too rough to allow for fine detail. I didn't mind! I liked the abstracted quality to the finished painting!

I have used this product before and made a video. You can see it on this post here:

The demo board along with my Terry Ludwig Floral Landscape pastel set. I made a video demo of this painting for my Patreon group. Consider joining us this month. Our focus is on COMPOSITION! I am so excited about this month and I'd love to have you join our group!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Revisiting an Old Friend. Painting What You Love

'Autumn Magic'               9x12               pastel                 ©Karen Margulis
available $165
After a month out of my comfort zone it was time to get back into the weeds! I had fun pushing myself to add figures to my landscapes. It was a great month on Patreon with so much wonderful work shared by the group. As the month draws to the close I just wanted to paint some tangled weeds and let go!  This is a great way to work and grow. Spending time with the unfamiliar helps you do a better job with the familiar.

I decided to block in the big shapes of my tangled scene with a rich dark. This dark would form the foundation for the composition and would hold all the details in place. In a filed or meadow I like to think of this dark block in as the DIRT. The dirt holds onto the roots and prevents the grasses and flowers from floating.

I used a black Sharpie marker on Canson unsanded paper on the smooth side. It was such a liberating way to start a painting! I enjoyed the process and especially enjoyed the freedom of making grass marks after painting people!

white Canson Mi-teintes paper
I have painted this scene before. For this painting I explored a variation on the composition. You can see a step by step demo on my Patreon Page.

You can see a demo of the previous version on the blog here:

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Have You Tried Derwent Inktense Sticks?

'After the Storm'                  11x14             pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $175
We finished the Paint Along painting this week and here is the result of my demo! For this month we did a wet underpainting using Derwent Inktense sticks with water. I decided to try a complementary color underpainting which was an interesting way to add unexpected color to my painting.

If you are not a Patron consider joining us for this paint along video series and much more!

Do you want to know more about Inktense? Here is a post and video from the archives!

I am continuing to play with wet underpaintings this weekend. I love how a wet underpainting helps me move away from my reference photo and allows me to interpret the scene with my own voice. Today I decided to do an alcohol wash using Derwent Inktense Blocks. These look like sticks of hard pastel but they are actually blocks of water soluble ink. You can use them wet or dry but they really shine when wet. They explode with rich color. In the fall I made a short video for my patreon page showing an alcohol wash with the intense blocks. You can now watch the demo on my YouTube channel.

(update: I have discovered that water actually works even better than alcohol!)

The underpainting done with Derwent Inktense sticks

A close up of the distant figure. She is just 4 marks.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Poppies for Memorial Day

'Remembering'                9x12                   pastel               ©Karen Margulis
available $175

It is Memorial Day weekend.  I will be painting poppies as I usually do. I am going to dedicate my paintings to the brave men and women  who gave their lives for our freedom. What better inspiration for my Memorial Day series than my photos from a past trip to Normandy.  Today's post takes you behind the scenes as I share my inspiration and process for the first poppy painting.

I am working on a piece of white  9x 12 Canson Mi-Teintes that I covered with black Diane Townsend Dry Ground. I begin with a rough drawing where I place the poppies.  The inspiration for th painitng is the wheat or barley fields that surrounded our rental home in Normandy. It was the end of the poppy season but there were a few stagier left blooming at the edges of the golden fields. I loved the pop of color in the fields and I have been wanting to paint this scene!

Canson paper with Diane Townsend Dry Ground

I block in the poppies with a dark dull red and add some dark browns for the wheat.  I thought it was wheat but a friend told me it was barley. I think wheat fields sound more romantic.

I also reinforce the darks in the foreground with some dark blues and violets. Next I put in the sky using several light value blues. It is challenging to cover the dry ground though it is not mixing with the pastel which is good.

I add in some marks of middle value ochre to suggest the wheat. I use the sky color to carve into the grasses and wheat. This painting not only about the poppies but also the negative painting to define the grasses and wheat stalks.

Time for the poppies. It is a simple 5 step process. I start with the darkest red. Then add a bit warmer red. I try to be aware of creating a variety of shapes and sizes of the flowers.

Now I turn on the light with the addition of an even warmer red orange and finally bright orange.  I make the petals with wide marks with the side of my pastel.

The last step is the addition of the dark center with a Terry Ludwig eggplant pastel and a touch of blue for interest. 

 To finish the painting I add smaller and smaller marks of grasses and wheat. I go back and forth with grass marks and the negative painting with the sky color.

The final details are added with Nupastels to get finer marks. I also add a few speed pods and call it finished.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Choosing Paper Size to Fit the Subject

'Looking for Lavender'           18.5 x 12           pastel             ©Karen Margulis
available $250.00
I have been doing a lot of armchair traveling these days. Reminiscing about past adventures and dreaming of the future trips yet to come. I am so fortunate to have ad the opportunity to travel the last several years. I never turned down a trip and I have no regrets! One of the best trips was my bucket list trip to see the lavender in Provence. It had all of the right elements.....wonderful friends, a charming home base, great food and wine and amazing and inspiring scenery. ...and lots of lavender. I have enjoyed pulling out my photos and painting from them. Today's painting is from one of our touring days. We started early and stayed out all day trying to see as many lavender fields as we could.

Here are a few step by step photos. I used a failed painting that was on old Wallis paper. I liquified the pastel with alcohol to get a muddy base. I chose the paper because of it's odd size of 18.5 x 12. It suited the point of view I wanted....standing on a hill looking over the fields. As soon as I saw the old painting in my pile I knew it would be perfect to express the expanse of fields I remembered.

TIP: Paper size matters! You can really make a subject come alive with the right size and orientation of paper. Give it some thought. Ask yourself what you hope to express.  What is your story? Choose paper size and orientation to fit your story. 

Here are the initial layers along with the reference photo. I need to create depth and a patchwork of fields and trees.

Here is the second pass of pastels. I layered some warm colors to go under some of the green fields. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

New Video Demo: How Do I Know If I am Finished?

'Endless Inspiration'             11x14              pastel                  ©Karen Margulis
available in my Etsy shop $195

What a difference 10 years makes! In this video I pull out a painting that I THOUGHT was finished at the time. But after 10 years of painting I realized that this oldie had some problems. I show you what I could have done better and rework the painting to bring it up to 2020! Click on the link below to watch the video. Scroll down to see the original painting BEFORE I made the adjustments in the demo.

The 'Before' Version completed 10 years ago.

If you like my videos on YouTube please help me by subscribing to my channel and giving my videos a like. If you want to be notified as soon as a new video is released be sure to hit the bell icon. Thanks for watching and sharing!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Importance of Being There

'Poppies from the Heart''                  9x12               pastel                 ©Karen Margulis
available $175

Did you ever paint something that you just couldn't get right? I was so excited to paint from the beautiful garden photo my friend sent me. It was a garden filled with poppies. I imagined how I would paint them . I even had a title for the painting. I would call it Garden Party. But it turned out to be a party pooper. It was probably the busiest painting I ever did! I had fun creating the profusion of flowers but it was just too much.

The more I added the worse it got. I kept thinking if I added more it would improve. It didn't.  I became frustrated. I walked away from the easel. Today with fresh eyes I saw that the only choice was to wipe it off and start over.  But I realized something very important. 

While I loved the photo my friend sent me I wasn't invested in it. I was not there when she took the photo. I didn't experience the garden with all of my senses. I couldn't interpret it with my heart and soul because it was just a pretty photo that someone else experienced.  

I still wanted to paint poppies but I had to paint poppies I knew. I pulled out a photo of a poppy field I saw in France. My heart began being faster. I felt the connection. I remembered the day I took the photos and the emotions rushed in. I painted and this time it was from my heart.

The first version was a wiper

My new reference. I wiped out the painting and used alcohol to do a wash. I also applied some Diane Townsend dry ground to add back some tooth. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Have you Tried Diane Townsend Dry Ground?

'Call of the Sea'                 8x10                  ©Karen Margulis
available $155
I don't know what took me so long to try these! I saw them when they were first introduced but I didn't get around to ordering them right away. I finally bought all of the available colors at the end of last year. I have been itching to try them!  Was it worth the wait? So far the answer is a big YES!

I did a complete review of Diane Townsend Dry Ground over on my Patreon Page as well as some demos but I wanted to share some thoughts with you! If you are familiar with Diane Townsend pastels these look like her Terrage pastels only a bit bigger. These are blocks of a ground that you apply to paper to add some tooth for pastels. They allow you to use unsanded papers and create a more toothy surface. Not only can this save you money it gives you a new type of surface to work on.

I actually enjoy working on unsanded papers such as Canson mi-teintes. Sometimes I feel I am in the minority but there is something nice about the softness of the paper. I also enjoy working on papers not normally used for pastel such as printmaking papers.....Somerset and BFK Rives....the dry ground adds a subtle tooth that is just right for me. It is not an aggressive toothy surface. It is soft and gentle. I am looking forward to more experiments with this product!

Diane Townsend Dry Ground

You can also tone the paper with pastel and the dry ground

closeup of the figure
Come see the complete step by step demo of today's painting over on my Patreon Page. We are also exploring the addition of figures to our landscapes!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

IAPS 36th Exhibition Gallery Walkthrough with Richard McKinley

'Look Toward Tomorrow'                 8x10                 pastel                 ©Karen Margulis
What an honor to be included in this gallery walkthrough! It was a wonderful honor to have a painting accepted into this exhibition but to hear Richard discuss it (and me) in this videos icing on the cake! Here is some information from the IAPS FB page:
"Richard McKinley had the pleasure of sitting down with Sabrina Hill, President of the Pastel Society of the West Coast, to conduct a Virtual Gallery Walkthrough of the IAPS 36th Juried Exhibition.
The theme of the discussion was on the diversity of pastel and how the medium is being utilized in an array of expressive ways from traditional schools of representationalism to some very avant-garde/modern applications.
Thirty-six paintings in the exhibition were chosen and we hope that the observations prove to be insightful as we celebrate all things pastel. A list of the artists and painting titles can be found in the description of the YouTube video."
I hope you enjoy this video walkthrough. It is a wonderful look at some amazing pastels and listening to Richard is a fantastic learning experience!
Click on the photo above to enlarge and have a closer look at the painting I had in the exhibition.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Adding Some Life to a Landscape Painting

'Waiting for a Bite'                  12x9               pastel             ©Karen Margulis
available on Etsy $175 click here to purchase

This painting has all the challenges. How about a seascape with waves and a sandy beach? Add a figure fishing and then add a bird! I have had the reference photo for years but was intimidated to paint it. This month I have pulled out all of my candid people photos and have been slowly tackling them. The incentive is our Patreon focus this month on adding people to our paintings. There is nothing like diving into a topic and pushing yourself to try new things!

The tricky part of this painting was deciding what to paint first.....the seascape /background or the fisherman and the bird? If I painted the stuff behind the figures I might cover the figure too much. If I painted the figures first and made them just right I would be afraid to ruin them with the background and might not get close enough. That would leave a halo effect around the figures. My solution?

I paint the background first and pulled it slightly into the figures. I was then able to paint the figures and add layers on top of any stray background.
 (see the complete demo on my Patreon Page )

Have you tried shaving pastel? I shaved a bit of white pastel and pushed it into the paper to paint some spray on the waves!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Have You Tried Daler Rowney Murano Paper?

'Summer Greens'               13x19                   pastel               ©Karen Margulis
available $195
 I bought the paper for the SE Asia cruise that never happened. I was planning to introduce the guests to pastel and wanted an inexpensive but quality paper to supplement the sanded papers.  I had never tried Daler Rowney Murano paper but the price was right. I selected a dark gray. I decided to try it this month since I now have a stash of Murano paper. Guess what.....I liked it! Then again I like unsanded papers.

The paper has a definite texture and no real 'smooth' side. I liked how the texture created a canvas like weave feeling in my painting. I know that many artists don't like the texture of Canson mi-teintes and this paper is similar.

  • The paper is budget friendly. $3.25 for a 19x15" sheet 
  • It comes in a variety of colors....35 colors!
  • It is a decent weight at 98 lbs
  • The texture is interesting!

I reviewed this paper in a video and did a two part demo of this Ireland painting over on my Patreon Page. Consider joining us! This month we are adding people (and cows) to our landscapes! 

Demo in progress!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Lavender Painting Emerges From the Ashes

'Memories of Provence'                  8x10                pastel                   ©Karen Margulis
available in my Etsy shop $175
What happens when you liquify a pastel painting? What happens to the colors when they get wet and pushed around with a paint brush?  The colors return to their liquid/paste state. The more you mix this sludge of pastel around the paper the more the colors mix. When more than one color family mixes together physically you get grayed down color. Sometimes we want this neutralized color and sometimes we don't. We then call it mud!

I made some good mud recently and I used it for my latest Provence lavender painting. I had a piece of Multimedia Artboard with a failed painting. It gave me great pleasure to take an old brush and some clear gesso to erase the painting. The colors turned into mud with some interesting value shapes. The clear gesso left a slightly gritty texture enhanced by my random brush strokes.

Clear gesso over a failed painting

 To counteract the effect of the texture I rubbed in the first layer of pastel. I used Nupastel for this initial block in. I rubbed the pastel into the grooves of the texture with a piece of pipe insulation foam.

The first layer of pastel rubbed into the textured surface

I took out my softer Terry Ludwig pastels to build up the painting. I began with the dark shapes. Then I moved on the the mountains and sky. I completed everything in the distance before I added the shades of violet of the lavender. I didn't want the dust from the sky and background to fall on the lavender. I wanted it to be bright and clean!

Before turning on the lights on the lavender
I painted the lavender with bold 'shouting' strokes. It was very satisfying to pull this paintings from the ashes of a muddy piece of Multimedia ArtBoard.

If you haven't watched my quick video demo on painting lavender you can see it on my YouTube channel. Here is the link:

Monday, May 11, 2020

How to Paint a Waterfall New Video Release!

'What a Rush'              10x8          pastel            ©Karen Margulis

New Video Release! How to Paint a Waterfall.

Last June we spent a month on Patreon exploring techniques for painting water. One of the video demo showcased a fun way to suggest rocks, water and foliage of a woodland waterfall. I am releasing the video today to my YouTube channel. All of the water lessons are still available on Patreon! Join us if you like this video!

Here is some more information on how I painted the water:

I took a pair of scissors to this painting but not for the usual reason. Usually we take out the scissors when we want to crop a painting to make a more interesting composition. It is so easy to cut pastel paper and get a few good paintings rather than one failure. But this time I wasn't using scissors for cropping.

How did I use scissors? I was adding the finishing touches to this waterfall. I realized that in some areas of the rushing whitewater the pastel was too thick and covered too much of the rocks. It didn't look natural. I wanted to have some of the rocks peek through to make the waterfall a bit more delicate.  I looked around my easel and spotted a pair of scissors. Perfect!

I used the tip of the scissors as a scraping tool. I started scratching through the light pastel (the whitewater) which revealed the rocks and toned paper underneath. It was just the right touch and allowed the waterfall to appear painterly rather than overworked. If I had added more rock color rather than taking away the water it would have potentially looked overworked and muddy. 

Using scissors!