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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Three Tips for Painting Water: New Video Release!

This week I am sharing a video I made for my Patreon Insiders back in 2019. We spent two months exploring water and in this intro video I share 3 simple tips to help your paintings that include water look natural and believable.  The first tip I share is to always keep the water straight and level. Watch the video to see why and to see this marsh painting unfold! Click on the link below to watch the video. 

By the way if you are already a Patreon Insider you may have seen this video. I will be sharing a post with some extra commentary later this week!  It is always good to rewatch demos after you have gained more experience!

        I used some pastel pencils to add some of the finishing grasses! Do you use pastel pencils?

Friday, September 17, 2021

Add Some Bling to Your Paintings!

    "Golden Summer'                    8x10              pastel            ©Karen Margulis     available $265 

This month I am exploring unusual underpaintings. One of my challenges is to take the same scene and paint it each week using a different underpainting technique. I had fun with this variation! Here is what I tried:

  • I repurposed an older painting done on LuxArchival paper by brushing on some Liquitex Clear gesso. This turned the pastel into a muddy gray brown. I left the original light blue sky and used my brush to push the mud color into the shape of my mountains. 
  • I liked the effect of the muddy color and the random brushstrokes but I have done this technique before and wanted to add something extra!
  • I did a scan of my art supply shelves and found a bottle of gold powder by Schmincke. The powder is meant to be wet with water and brushed into watercolor paintings but I wanted to see how I could use it for my underpainting. 
  • I sprinkled some of the powder on top of my still wet gessoed paper. The powder stuck to the gesso and was so shimmery and interesting!
  • Everything dried and the gold powder remained secure and stayed shiny. I was ready to paint on it. 
The finished underpainting was exciting! The texture of the gesso gave me enough tooth to layer as much pastel as I wanted.  I made sure to use a light enough touch so some of the gold shimmer would show through the pastel layers. I love this effect and will be sure to try it again....perhaps in my next video demo!


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Which is Better...Water or Alcohol Wash? New Video!

     'Mountain Joy'                8x10               pastel             ©Karen Margulis        $275

When it works it really works! It is a bit unpredictable but that is part of the excitement. Anytime that pastel is washed with a liquid it creates a whole new wonderful world! The dry pastel turns into paint and interesting things can happen. I love the possibilities!

Pastel can be liquified with any liquid. Water is an easy choice and I use it often. I also love to use rubbing alcohol and odorless mineral spirits. So which is better? It is a personal preference but I give the edge to rubbing alcohol.

  •  Rubbing alcohol dries a bit faster than water. Since it quickly evaporates it doesn't sit on the paper leading to less chance of buckling.
  • Rubbing alcohol can create some interesting spider web-like drips. Click on the photos below to see them closer. The results are unpredictable so I am always excited when I get some good runs like I did here. When I get some interesting drips it becomes my goal to allow as much of this underpainting as possible to show in the finished painting.

Tips for an alcohol wash: You need to use a surface that can get wet. Most sanded papers will work even when unmounted. Some artists prefer Pastelbord by Ampersand which is a board and will not warp or buckle. I use 70% alcohol which has a lower flashpoint than the 90%. Using harder pastels work best. The softer the pastel the gummier the results. If you do use a softer pastel be sure to use a very light touch.

If you are looking for a paper that will not buckle when wet have a look at my new YouTube video!

Be sure to leave me a comment and like and subscribe to my channel if you have not done so. Click on the notification bell so you will be notified when a new video is released. Subscribing to my channel is free!


Sunday, September 05, 2021

How I Solved the Problem of White Paper! New Video Demo


                 'A Moment of Silence'.                 ©Karen Margulis.             pastel               sold

Do you struggle with painting rocks? I spent a month in July 2020 in my Patreon group focused on painting rocks and water. At the end of the month I put it all together and painting a scene with a variety of rocks, cliffs and even some reflections. I am releasing that exclusive Patreon demo to my channel for your enjoyment! This demo is helpful for pastel artists of all levels of experience! Not only do I share my tips for painting rocks and reflections , I show you how you can use plain printmaking paper for pastel painting!

Click on the link to watch the video! You can really help the channel by subscribing, liking and making a comment. It really does help! Thank you in advance!

SUPPLY LIST 1. BFK Rives paper 2. Nupastels hard pastels 3. Terry Ludwig pastels pastels 4. Clear gesso and gray acrylic paint 5. Blair very low odor workable fixative 6. Black foam core support board with black artist tape hinges to attach paper Subscribe to my channel and Patreon Page for more pastel and painting video demos and tips! ▽ Visit my channel 👇: ▽ My Patreon Page 👇 ➞ ▽ My Instagram Link 👇 ➞ ▽ My Daily Painting Blog 👇 ➞

Friday, September 03, 2021

What is the Most Unusual Underpainting You Have Tried?

'Mountain Magic'            8x10           pastel            ©Karen Margulis      available $265

This month I set a challenge for myself. How many unusual underpaintings can I try? I love the mystery and magic of underpaintings  and I often use watercolor or wet my pastel with water or alcohol but I wondered what other unexpected techniques I could try. So I made a list of the media and techniques I want to try and I will use my photos from our June camping adventure for inspiration. 

For my first underpainting explorations I tried two materials and techniques. I began with a wet underpainting using Caran d'Ache Neocolor II water soluble wax crayons. I then shaved some soft pastel bits in the meadow areas. I sprayed these bits of pastel with water which made them drip. Some of the pieces dried as texture on the paper.  The result was an interesting texture with bold vibrant color. 

I felt like a mad scientist in the studio and can't wait to do more explorations!  What is the most unusual underpainting you have done? Share in the comments!

 Join my Patreon group to see the full step by step demo of this painting! You can join for just $4 a month which gives you access to almost four years of content!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

How to Make Your Paintings POP! New Video Demo on YouTube

             'Intrepid'                 16x20              pastel               ©Karen Margulis        available $425


Recently I dd an online mini workshop for the Arkansas Pastel Society. The topic was How to Paint Wildflowers. I did two full demos and started on a third. I did a wet underpainting with Derwent Inktense sticks and water. I finished the demo and made a Youtube video of the process. It is available for all to watch on my YouTube channel!  Click on the link below to watch. 


Can I ask a favor? I would love to grow my YouTube channel and expand my reach!  I would like to offer more videos on YouTube that compliment what I am doing on Patreon. Your engagement with me on YouTube is so helpful. If you have not already done so I invite you to subscribe to the channel and click on the notification bell so that you can get alerts when I release a new video. Your comments on each video are also very helpful!  Thank you very much for your support! 


Thursday, August 26, 2021

New Video Demo Release: Tips for Adding Structures to Your Landscape Paintings

                      'Summer in Alaska'             12x9             pastel           ©Karen Margulis   sold

Did you know I have almost 300 videos available on my Patreon group? Some are lessons but most are complete demos. I also have videos available on my YouTube channel. Most of these videos are unique to the YouTube channel bu occasionally I will share a Patreon demo to YouTube. Today I am sharing one of my favorite paintings from last fall.  Below you will find the link to the video as well as more information about the painting. 

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 were focusing on adding structures over in my Patreon group (November 2020) 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!


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

How to Paint Rain with Pastels

'Let it Rain'              11x14             pastel              ©Karen Margulis       available $295

I am back from a blog break. I didn't intend to be away for so long but one thing after another kept me busy with non-art activities. But I am back on track and I even have a half organized studio! More on that later. Even though family has kept me busy I have still been painting and sharing with my Patreon group. This month our focus is on the sky and clouds. I am sharing demos and tips for painting sunsets and stormy skies! I took some great sky reference photos on our June trip and it has been so much fun to revisit them in new paintings. 

The painting I am sharing today is our Patreon Monday step by step demo. It is 11x14 on gray Pastelmat paper.  I always forget how much I enjoy the way Pastelmat grabs the pastel. I find I make my marks in a different and more direct way....perfect for stormy skies.  

In the Patreon demo I share a step by step photo breakdown of each step of the painting process but I wanted to go into more detail about how I painted the rain falling from the clouds. 
  • I started by painting the dark rain cloud with a few dark value blue pastels. 
  • Next I painted the lighter value dull gray violet and light blue in the sky area under the dark cloud. 
  • The rain is a middle dark value. I want to suggest the look of dark rain bands falling from the cloud so I use a middle dark blue gray pastel moon its side and make a wide vertical mark from the cloud base to the ground. 
  • I use a very light touch on the first pass so I get a whisper of rain. I go back for another pass but vary the pressure on the stick so that some areas of the rain band are a bit darker. 
  • To finish the illusion I use the sharp edge of a light blue Nupastel to make a few linear 'rain' marks.
  • I do go back into the rain with more of the sky color. I want to make sure the rain looks like a thin veil. I need to be able to see through the rain.

Here is a close up photo of the rain.

 I'd love for you to join us over on Patreon! It is just $4 a month for access to almost 4 years of content! Your support helps me create more online demos and lessons!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

From Plein Air to Studio: An Important Tip

     'A River Runs Through It'              9x12          pastel on board           ©Karen Margulis.      $275

There is something special about plein air studies. Even if they aren't perfect frame worthy- paintings, they are an authentic response to a  place and time. The colors and values in a plein air study are a reflection of what we experience in real life. These studies often have a freshness that can be difficult to duplicate in a studio painting. But when we use a plein air painting as inspiration for a studio piece it can often be a frustrating experience. 

I have a suggestion for a more successful studio painting.  Don't try to copy your plein air painting. Don't make it a goal to recreate the same exact painting. Instead use it for inspiration. Choose something you like about the study and expand on that idea. Then choose a completely different technique/paper/underpainting for your studio painting. 

I selected one of my favorite plein air studies from my June trip for a studio painting. I was tempted to select the same paper and even take out the same set of pastels I used for the study. But then I realized I was trying to copy the study rather than interpret it in a new way!  I changed direction and took out a 9x12 white Pastelbord. I did a bright and colorful watercolor underpainting. It gave me something different yet interesting to respond to. The finished studio painting was inspired by the study yet had a different feel. Choosing a different technique and surface made all the difference!

Here are some photos of the 5x7 plein air study and a photo of the location. Below is the finished watercolor underpainting. The study is on Wallis Belgian mist paper (leftover stash) and the underpainting is on white Pastelbord with Pelikan watercolors. 


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Try This Fun Challenge!

     'After the Rain'              9x12            pastel           ©Karen Margulis         available $275

Have you ever painted a pastel painting with hard pastels only? If you have been painting with pastels for awhile then you probably have started a good collection of pastels. Most of us desire the softer pastels but we often begin our pastel journey with a set of the less expensive harder pastels such as Nupastels or even Rembrandts. But hard pastels can be just as much fun to use as the softer ones and you can certainly use them for the entire painting process. 

This week I challenged myself to paint using a set of 24 Nupastels. It was for my Patreon Monday demo and I was almost successful! I got about 98% of the painting finished with just these 24 hard pastels. In the end I did have to pull out some soft pastel for the finishing marks....but not because the hard pastels weren't good enough. It was only because the set of 24 had limited neutrals and I needed them to tone down the grasses!  Here is a photo of the set I used. Patreon members can access the full demo.


  • Choose the largest set you can afford. You need to have a good range of values from dark to light as well as a range of need some of the duller neutrals as well as the pure intense colors. You can modify colors by layering but it is nice to have a larger variety to begin with. 

  • Plan to remove any labels and break bigger sticks in half. You want to be able to use the pastels both on the side as well as the tips. Removing labels will allow you to paint and draw! Also Nupastels are too long for me so I like to break them in half so I can have more control. 

  • Choose the right paper. Hard pastels have more binder and less pigment so they tend to be more successful on sanded paper which grabs onto the pastel better. I do use them on all paper types but sanded papers will be less frustrating especially for beginners. 

  • I like to keep my hard pastels separate from the softer ones. I have a box of assorted hard pastels that I will use for underpaintings and finishing detail marks. I don't keep them in any kind of order. It is nice to have this little box available!

Below is the demo painting before I added a few marks with some softer Terry Ludwig pastels. You can see that the grasses and dirt were a bit too bright and artificial. I needed some neutrals to tone them down a bit!


If you have any hard pastels, challenge yourself to use ONLY the hard pastels for an entire painting. If you can't make note of what you were missing. Perhaps you can fill in your hard pastel collection for future paintings!

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Two Must Have Pastel Sets!

        'Marsh Moods'                     8x10              pastel              ©Karen Margulis     available on Etsy $255

I am home from an amazing camping adventure and back in the studio! We spent a month traveling around the western US and while I didn't paint as often as I planned I came home with thousands of reference photos! I will be inspired by these photos and memories for years to come!  

One of the first paintings I did since I have been home was not inspired by the trip but rather a photo I took in the South Carolina Low Country. I selected this scene because it was the perfect subject to demo for our Patreon topic this month....Foregrounds, Transitions and Depth! Painting a marsh teaches us so many landscape lessons. One of them is how to create the illusion of depth. One thing we can do to create depth is to have more clarity and detail in the foreground to middle ground and use less detail as the landscape recedes.  How can we do this?

If you know me then you know my go- to pastels are Terry Ludwig pastels. I couldn't paint without them! But one of the wonderful things about pastels is the ability we have to layer hard and soft pastels even of different brands. Lately I have been incorporating both harder sticks (Nupastels) and super soft pastels (Sennelier and Schmincke half sticks) into my paintings for the finishing marks. 

                                    This is the Sennelier half stick Paris set and 24 Nupastels set

Both of these extra sets give me the flexibility to make a variety of marks. The hard pastels allow me to make thinner linear marks which are perfect for grasses. They are also great blending tools. (look in my sky to see how my linear marks blended the sky colors) The super soft Sennelier sticks are great for thicker textural marks. The brighter more intense colors make the perfect spices! Below is a close up of my foreground detail. 

 Have you considered joining my Patreon group or returning to us? This month we are focused on foregrounds, transitions and depth. The low $4 monthly pledge gives you access to almost 4 years of content!  I appreciate your support!

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Great News about this Blog!!

     'Sunshine in the Mountains'                9x12               pastel          ©Karen Margulis    available on Etsy 

If you've been getting Painting my World blog posts through e-mail, you might notice that something has changed with your email updates!

I am no longer using Feedburner to let you know of new posts.   Feedburner has been deactivated by Google. I have been requesting that you sign up for my new website. My intention was to start posting new blog content on my new website. The only problem is the new website does not allow for email notification of new posts! I am planning on consolidating posts into a monthly newsletter. I will still be doing this and I still would love for you to sign up for these newsletters on my new website at However I found a new service to provide email updates on THIS blog. So for the time being I will post to both blogs.

The new service is  

You may get an email to confirm your subscription. Please be sure to confirm that you wish to still receive this blog via email.  Once you confirm, you can go to the settings on the site to let it know how you want to receive the email.  The default is the email heading or snippet, once a day.  But you can also get summary posts, the full article, or just read it at rather than getting an e-mail.  

Please note that the free version of Follow it will have ads at the bottom of the email.   So, if you'd prefer to see the blog without the ads, etc., you can just bookmark my blog site and check it weekly. I am trying to post at least twice a week. 

I look forward to sharing with you both here on Painting my World and through my website blog! 

Friday, July 02, 2021

Revisiting the Watercolor Underpainting with a New Tool!

'Serenade by the Sea'                11x15           pastel            ©Karen Margulis       available $295

I have a love hate relationship with watercolor underpaintings. I love the effects when I am successful preserving the underpainting but I have sometimes struggled with paper buckling if I get it too saturated. Not any more! I have been using LuxArchival sanded paper for the past fe months and I am fan! It is a white sanded surface with just the right amount of grit. The best thing about it is that is does not buckle or wave no matter how much liquid I use. It is not even mounted paper! The white paper is perfect to showcase the transparency and luminosity of the watercolor. You can read more about LuxArchival paper here: 

Enjoy this post from the archives which tackles the other issue with watercolor underpaintings: 
It is elusive....that wonderful peek of watercolor under a thin veil of pastel. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes it doesn't go as planned. But I remind myself that the creation of a watercolor underpainting will influence the direction of my painting even if I completely cover it with pastel.

Still, that thought doesn't stop me from trying! I always approach a watercolor underpainting with the intent to allow a lot of it to show through the pastel layers. I want the wonderful drips, blooms and mingling of the paint to do much of the work.  But once I start layering pastel I often go farther than I wanted. Many a painting gets completely covered with pastel much to my dissappointment. How much pastel is too much? It is a personal preference. I love the contrast between the transparent watercolor and the opaque pastel so I want some of the watercolor to show. I've discovered some tips....

It is all about restraint. Work slowly and deliberately. Think about every pastel mark.

Here are some things I do to help me preserve the underpainting:

  • After the watercolor is dry I spend a few minutes evaluating it. Is there any area I love and want to be sure to save? Do I like the colors? Make note of these areas.
      • When I am ready to add pastel I begin by choosing colors and values that closely match the underpainting. I apply a VERY light layer so that I can hardly see the pastel. I will change color and value very gradually....small areas with a light touch. 
      • If I like the passage with this thin veil of pastel I will leave it and move on. In this way I don't get too heavy too quickly. I remind myself that it is OK to let the paper/underpainting show.
      • I find I most often overwork the pastel application  when I get too thick too fast. I then feel the need to keep adding heavier layers all over the painting. When I keep a light touch and work slowly I have more success.

       This painting is the Paint Along for my Patreon group this month. Head over to Patreon to check it out. There is a $4 pledge to access the content but it is a great value!!

      Tuesday, June 29, 2021

      A Simple Way to Start a Painting

             'Summer Sun'                9x12             pastel            ©Karen Margulis         available $285

      I like things simple.  Simple landscapes with big simple shapes.  But every once in awhile I am drawn to something that isn't really simple. Sometimes they are downright complicated. I would love to paint these complicated scenes but I am usually intimidated.  Usually when I dive into it I can usually work it out and simplify things but it takes me awhile to work up the courage.

      I need to remind myself of the exercise of Upside Down Painting.  It really works!

      You may have done some version of upside down painting at some point. Maybe you make it a regular practice. I have done it myself as an exercise a few times but forgot how effective it really is. It really does help you get an accurate drawing and painting of a complex scene.  Here is why:

      • Turning your reference photo upside down causes your brain to disconnect which helps you see the scene as a collection of shapes, colors and values rather than things. When you look at something and try to draw it...your brain wants to label it and give you the shortcut of symbol for that thing. The symbol isn't usually as interesting as the actual thing!  We need to disconnect the thinking brain so we can SEE better.
      • Make sure you don't try to figure out and label what you are looking at in your upside down photo. Describe things by shape, value and color as you block them in. For example: You aren't painting white are painting a whitish shape with some blue middle values on one side.
      • Keep the photo upside down for as long as you can...the longer the better the results. For this painting I blocked in the whole painting with one layer of pastel before I turned the photo and painting right side up.

      I was skeptical that it would work but I was determined to give it a try. My block in done with the photo upside down  didn't look promising. But when I turned it right side up I was pleasantly surprised! The painting actually looked like a truck with flowers.  I only needed to make a few small corrections and then develop the painting to my satisfaction.

      I will remember to use this exercise more often!  If you have something  complex you have been wanting to paint but putting off.....turn it upside down and get started!

      Don't forget that the email notifications for this blog stop next week! Be sure to visit my website and sign up for my newsletter and RSS feed. I will be positing new blog articles on my website blog!

      Sunday, June 20, 2021

      Experience one of my Paint Along Videos!

      Welcome! I have been creating monthly Paint Along videos on my Patreon Page since 2017. The Paint Alongs are comprised of four video demos in which I break down the painting process from the planning stage to finishing touches. The goal is to simplify and slow down the pastel painting process. This allows artists of all levels to benefit. 

      I am now making some of these Paint Along videos available to you as one complete video for free on YouTube. You can purchase a PDF booklet to accompany this video in my Etsy shop. This PDF booklet contains supporting photos and expanded information.

      Usually the videos on my YouTube channel are under 30 minutes. This doesn't give me time to expand on each important step to my process. The Patreon Paint Along series allows me to slow down and spend time on each stage of the painting process. They have been a fun part of my silver tier on Patreon and I am excited to share one of my favorites with you.



      **Note that this video is all four parts of a monthly Patreon Paint Along series all in ONE NEW VIDEO. You will see all four parts combined together.**

      If you enjoyed this Paint Along video consider joining us on Patreon for much more!