Visit my Patreon Page for more painting instruction and Paint Along Videos!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Overcoming My Biggest Art Fear

'Raven Rock'          8x10      pastel      ©Karen Margulis  sold

It's Halloween and that makes it a good day to reflect on the fears we have as artists.  Alyson Stanfield has an excellent post on her blog today about the Fears that Haunt you. I encourage you to read it. (if you don't already subscribe to Alyson's excellent blog it is a must! Here is a link to Alyson's post on art fears.   At the end f the article Alyson asks us to reflect on the fears we have and how we are overcoming them.  Good question!

'Mr. Raven II'      8x10    SOLD
I actually have never experienced many of the common fears about being an artist.  I have never been afraid of trying new things or failing or putting my work out there. I know I am always learning and I paint what I love so I am not worried about everyone liking what I do. As long as I am enjoying myself there is nothing to be afraid of.  BUT I do have a big fear that can be crippling.

I am very shy and quiet.  It is very hard to be outgoing especially in a crowd.  I envy those who are able to meet and greet strangers with such ease.  How does this relate to art?  Well I am fine working in the studio and networking online....but when it comes to promoting my work and meeting other artists and collectors in person, it is a challenge for me.

How am I overcoming this fear?  I am finding that the more I am out there teaching and doing demos the easier it becomes.   Being prepared before a presentation is very helpful.  I am more confident when I have practiced and prepared what I will say, I am much more relaxed. It is getting better!

No matter what your art fear is it all boils down to the same solution. You need to work at it and practice.  As Alyson points out in her post "There is no Magic Bullet. Take Daily Action and keep moving  forward."  Thanks Alyson for today's food for thought!

Today's raven paintings were done using a limited 'Old Masters Palette'  You can see a photo of this palette in this recent post HERE

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Painting the Weather...Pastel on Black Paper

'After the Storm'       8x10        pastel     ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase at Daily Paintworks $95 
Sometimes I am compelled to paint something that I didn't plan.  Circumstances intervene and inspiration strikes.  I had intended to paint another cat today with a more involved background but as I listened to the radio with the storm reports from Sandy I went in another direction.

We didn't experience the storm here in Georgia although it has been very windy and cold here the last couple of days. It is the wind and the storm that inspired today's painting. I wanted to paint something that captures the feeling of a windy day....the clearing of a storm with promise of a new day.

It was with a sense of urgency that I searched for that last piece of black sandpaper that I had been saving.  I knew the black smooth surface would work for the mood I wanted to create.  This painting is from my imagination and is more an emotional response to the weather rather than a depiction of an actual place.

I'll get to the cat painting but sometimes there is a painting in you that you just have to get out. It may not even turn out well but it is the process of creating that is important. Don't ignore that voice in your head that tells you what to paint. It is this voice that helps you put your emotions into a painting. It is no longer just a painting exercise. You are painting from your heart.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Demo Monday...How to Paint a Cat in Pastel

'In the Sunny Spot'         8x10         pastel       ©Karen Margulis
SOLD  email me regarding pet portraits
Every once in awhile I like to paint a cat.  It is a good change of pace from landscapes and it helps me practice my drawing skills and values. Both of these things are critical to the success of an animal painting.  You can get away with more in a landscape but if you are off in your drawing or values with an animal it is obvious.

I was asked by a reader to write about how I paint an animal and how I decide what to do in the background.  I will address backgrounds in tomorrow's post.  Here is a step by step demo of a Siamese cat.

 I am using an 8x10 piece of Uart.  I begin with a light pencil drawing. I will measure when necessary to get the drawing correct.  I preselect my pastels making sure I have several colors in a dark, middle dark, middle light and light value.  I begin by squinting at my photo and massing in all of the dark shapes.

 Still squinting I layer several more darks in the dark areas. I don't really worry about what colors I use only that they are all the same dark value. When done I will have nice rich and colorful darks. The key to making this work is to use a very light touch.

 Next I mass in the light areas.  I use a cool light.  I will also eventually layer more light colors in the light areas but at this stage I just want to block in where they will go. I like to wait until the end to put in the lightest lights so they stay nice and clean.

 After blocking in the dark and the lights I should be left with middle values.  I block in these areas with a variety of colors all dark-middle to middle value.  I do choose colors that lean towards the fur color but you can see I have used peaches, greens, blues and purples....colors not usually thought of as fur colors.  I am also working on the background at the same time as the cat. More on this later. See my post about Fur Color HERE

My road map is complete so now it is just a matter of building up the layers of color and refining the drawing. I had to use some background color to carve away areas of the cat when he got too fat.  I Never blend with my fingers of tools. I prefer to let the layers of pastels begin blending themselves I am careful though not to overblend or overwork an area. Make a mark and leave it alone!

For the finish I add a few 'punctuation marks' or spots of color or marks that add the finishing touches. Look at the top photo to see if you can spot these punctuation marks.

I hope you've enjoyed this demo. Be sure to visit tomorrow to learn more about my background choices.  Sign up for updates on the sidebar on the right.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why Try a New Color Palette?

'Appalachian Fall'     8x8     pastel    ©Karen Margulis
purchase in my Etsy Shop  $65

The collage I made of my Fall paintings was very telling. It always helps to see a collection of your work together.  It is easier to notice the good and the bad things going on.  When I looked at the collage it was clear to me that I had been using the same colors for all of the paintings (except for one)

It's not that they didn't work. The colors were bright and vibrant and did say 'Fall color'. But they were starting to look too similar.  While it is good to have a similarity in your work, I want to avoid having my paintings look like they were painted with a formula.  If I continue to use the exact same pastels/palette for every Autumn painting I might risk being too formulaic. So to shake things up a bit I turned to one of my favorite art books 'Confident Color' by Nita Leland.

Trying a New Palette of Colors
I love this book! It has really helped me understand color. I love chapter on harmonious palettes and using Triads.  In this chapter Nita takes the traditional triad of red,yellow and blue and shows us how we can change it to make variations on this palette.

I chose to use the Old Masters Triad. I thought the limited hue and intensity of these colors might be suitable for a gray overcast fall day.  Instead of red, yellow and blue I used Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Payne's Gray. Of course I had to find something close to these colors in my pastel box but I was able to come close. (see photo)

The result of using this palette was a more subdued Autumn landscape. I will play around with these colors some more before I put them away. It will be a good learning experience to see how this palette of colors changes the mood and tone of my paintings.

If you find you always reach for the same pastels for every painting try changing you color palette for a few paintings. You might discover some new favorite pastels!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

5 Tips for Painting Vibrant Yellow Foliage with Pastels

'Aspen Gold'        12x16          pastel        ©Karen Margulis sold

I should be getting the studio ready for next Saturday's Open Studio but I couldn't resist painting this morning. I was going through my photos and found some Aspens in their Fall foliage . I LOVE Aspens and wish we had them here in Georgia.

Painting the yellow foliage was going to be my challenge. I don't know about anyone else but I find yellows to be tricky with pastels. It is hard to get them as bright, clean and vibrant as I want to.  I am always looking for ideas to help me with yellows and I'd like to share five of my favorite techniques.

Gouache Underpainting

  • Try a yellow underpainting under the areas that will be yellow. It gives your yellows a head start. For this painting I did a gouache underpainting.
  • Use your softest pastels. The softer pastels have more pigment and I can get juicier marks with them. This way the yellows don't mix with the colors underneath as easily keeping the yellows pure. In this painting I took an extra step and dusted soft yellow pastel pieces on the painting and rolled them with a rolling pin to set them into the paper.  (see my post on this Dusting Technique HERE)
  • Try to mix warm and cool yellows in the areas that you are painting yellow. I find that if I place warm yellows next to cool yellows, the color looks more alive and vibrant.
  • When building up your layers of Yellow, start with a darker yellow or an orange yellow so the lighter and more intense yellows will stand out in contrast to these darker areas.
  • Use the compliment of yellow....Purple!  Using the complimentary color purple or violet next to the yellow intensifies it and makes it appear more vibrant. Be sure not to mix the yellow and purple or you will get muddy color.
I hope these tips are helpful. I use these techniques whenever I am painting things that have big areas of yellow such as sunflowers!  Do you have any tips for using yellow? I'd love to hear them.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Artists of Northwest Atlanta Studio Tour Sneak Peek

A Collage of Available Autumn Pastel Paintings 
It's that time of year again. Cooler weather and Fall Festivals. Once again the Artists of Northwest Atlanta will open their studios to visitors. This year over 25 artists will be participating next Saturday November 3rd from 9-5.  We will be donated 5% of any sales to a local animal welfare organization of our choice. I will be donating to Atlanta Pet Rescue.

I have been busy getting my studio ready for the tour. The idea is to show visitors what a working studio looks like. I will be painting all day so that anyone can drop by to see me at work.  I will also have my work set up and available at once a year Open Studio sale prices.  I have invited a few local artists to come show their work as well.  I always look forward to the opportunity to show my studio so if you are in the Atlanta area I welcome you to stop by.

'Autumn Path'    8x10     pastel
If you would like more information about this year's Studio Tour have a look at our website. You can read about the participating artists and download a tour map on the site HERE

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How To Paint a Dragonfly with Pastels

'Dragonfly Magic'           5x7        pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available in my Etsy Shop  $75 click here
 I am fascinated by the dragonfly. When they hold still long enough to watch I can really appreciate their delicate beauty.  My friend Jayne has taken some wonderful macro shots of dragonflies and these photos really have allowed me to study these beautiful creatures.  Over the last few years I have experimented with techniques to capture the dragonfly with my pastels. I'd like to share one of my methods.

Step One Using Workable Fixative

  • For this painting I am using Uart paper 500 grit. It is 5x7.  I start by blocking in the background colors and the dragonfly with hard pastels. I use dark blue and black on the wings. 
  • My goal is to have the wings appear lacy and transparent and it seems odd to paint them black but stay with me!
  • Next I spray the dragonfly with Blair Workable Fixative. It dripped some but that's OK
  • When the fixative is dry I use my softer pastels to add another layer. I begin with the background.
  • Next I work on the dragonfly and add color to the body and some yellow gold to the wings. Making the wings lacy is the last step.
  • I use an iridescent pale silver/green pastel and lightly add a layer on top of the dark wings.
  • Next I take a pushpin and draw lines into the pastel (see photo) This is like scratch art!  I look at my photos to see how to draw the lines to look like the lacy wings. I also use a sharp black pastel pencil to add some dark touches.  Finished!

The Secret to Dragonfly Wings
I am working on more dragonflies and will be adding them to my Etsy shop. Have a look at my work in my shop! Click here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Favorite Tip for Painting Red Trees

'Light in the Forest'      9x12     pastel     ©Karen Margulis SOLD

 Fall color is here!  I love yellow trees but there is nothing more beautiful than a brilliant red tree standing on its own. The red just draws me in. How can we possibly capture this red glow in a painting? Do we even have the right colors?  I have discovered a little tip that has help me capture the brilliant red with pastels. Just consult your color wheel!  Read on for details.

Light vs. warm reds
When I am faced with painting something red that is in sunlight I know I need to paint  a shadowed side and a side in the light. Let's take a red tree for an example.

  • I choose a dark cool red for the leaves in the shadows and a brighter red for the rest of the foliage. Now there are some areas in the sunlight and my natural inclination is to choose a lighter red....which would be pink. (see photo)
  • Using pink will make the foliage red correctly but they won't have that warm red glow. The pale red/pink just looks washed out. So what should you do?

  • Take out the color wheel and look at red. Now ask yourself if red was going towards the light source (yellow) what color comes next on the color wheel?  Orange! So if I paint the red leaves a warmer color like red orange rather than a lighter color....I will have a glowing red tree!

So think warmer colors rather than lighter colors when you want to paint something lit by the warm sun!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Best Thing About Being an Artist

'The Magic of Art'           9x12          pastel         ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting here $145
"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see"  Henry David Thoreau

There is nothing more satisfying than taking something ordinary and transforming it through art into something beautiful or unique.  There are many things that I love about being an artist but none are better than the opportunity to see the world with a sensitive eye.  To be able to look at an ordinary empty lot filled with weeds and to be able to see it as a place of beauty is a wonderful thing. 

This ability to see with a sensitive eye can be developed. To many it comes naturally and for others, it isn't second nature but it can be nurtured.  We can train ourselves to look at things in a new light, to slow downs and notice the little things, the light, the shadows, the subtle things that we might overlook when we are in a hurry. 

Being able to see rather than just look at things will go a long way in helping us become better artists. Seeing more sensitively can help us make paintings that go beyond copying what is in front of us. Take today's painting for example. I started with a reference photo of a big weedy field with some trees in the distance. To LOOK at it, you wouldn't think it was anything special. Maybe not even worthy of a painting. But I tried to SEE the field with a fresh eye.  I could see hints of reddish pink weedy flowers in the grass and to me they transformed themselves into a meadow filled with beautiful wildflowers.

Often we can see the beauty but our painting skills aren't yet able to capture our vision. Don't despair if this sounds familiar. Just keep painting and seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary, it will all come together in time.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Demo Monday... Full Key vs. High Key Painting

'Paradise'     8x10   pastel    ©Karen Margulis
available $95 through Daily Paintworks
My Virgin Island Beach Painting series continues this week with a new demo.  Last week I shared my first painting of Sapphire Beach. My goal is to paint a series of at least 5 paintings focused on the beaches of St. Thomas USVI.  Sometimes it is challenging to take the same subject or reference photo and make it different. After a few versions they can start to look too similar.

I decided I would give myself a new challenge for each painting in the series. For this painting I challenged myself to change the color key of the painting and do a Full key and High key version of the same scene.

The Key refers to the overall value of a painting. When the overall values of a painting are light or pale it is known as a High Key painting. Full key paintings utilize the full range of values from the darkest dark to the lightest light. High key paintings only utilize middle to light values with no real darks.  This demo shows my Full Key painting. I will discuss how to paint a High Key painting in another post.
Enjoy today's demo!

 I am working on Uart paper and starting with soft pastels with no underpainting. I begin by blocking in the darks with some dark red and greens. Notice the very light sketch...just the big shapes and no details. I also block in some shadows so I know where they will be.

 Next I block in the light beginning with the sky. I use several shades of blue starting with darker blues with light blues on top. I also put down some of the darker blu into the water area.

 I complete the sky. I allow the layers of blue to blend themselves. I don't blend with my fingers. I also now add some of those yummy Terry Ludwig Turquoise pastels to the water. I try to leave some of my strokes visible.

 Next I block in the distant mountain shape. I am using cool grayed down blues and greens layered with some mauves. I want the cooler muted mountain to look like it is in the distance.  As you can see my palm trees have disappeared! Not to worry!

 I resurrect the palm trees next by putting down some dark greens. I am very loose with them. I don't want them to look to precise. I like the windblown look for my palm trees. Next I reinforce the darks and the shadows and lay in a darker yellow/gold for the sand. I want a darker sand color underneath to contrast with the lighter sand I will add later.

Now I add some brighter warmer greens to the palms and the shrubs. I try to pay attention to the direction of the light source.  To finish the painting I add light on the tree trunks and a very pale peach almost white layer of pastel to the sand. (see top photo for the finished Full Key painting) Below is the High Key version. For this painting I removed all of the darks and worked with only middle to light values.

'Paradise II'     8x10    pastel 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Painting the colors of Autumn...RED

'The Red Tree'       8x10     pastel     ©Karen Margulis  sold

I love Autumn. Cinnamon brooms, pumpkin everything, Chilly air and fleece. Autumn gives my senses a much needed spark.  One of the best things about Fall is color.  We finally get a break from green in the Fall. Every year around this time I get the urge to paint the fall colors.

This week I want to focus on the color red. I love painting red trees. I have a trick to help make red foliage glow with light. I will share it in another post this week. It helps to have some good red pastels though.

A set of 5 red pastels by Mount Vision
To paint red effectively you need to have a good selection of reds from cool to warm and dark to light. Many introductory set just have one or two reds and that isn't always enough. I don't have just one brand of pastel in my collection. I have a little bit of everything with the majority of them being Terry Ludwigs and Great Americans. Both of these brands have wonderful reds.

I'd like to share another option for great pastels that won't break the bank. Mount Vision Pastels. The handmade pastels are a great value. They are nice and big. I can easily cut them into thirds to distribute among my pastel boxes.  The are richly pigmented and a medium soft. They really are great workhorse pastels.  You can get a box of 25 reds and pinks or if you just want to try them out you can get this small 5 piece red sampler.
Read more about Mount Vision Pastels on their website here

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Review of Diane Townsend Metallic Pastels

'Golden Dreams'      5x7     pastel         ©Karen Margulis   $50 click here
Are you looking to spice up your pastel paintings? There is nothing like a little sparkle to to spice up an otherwise dull painting.  Metallic, iridescent, pearlescent are the names given to these pastels. It depends on the manufacturer.  I recently rediscovered my set of Diane Townsend Metallic soft form pastels. I say rediscovered because they were lost in my studio and found during my studio clean up.

The painting in today's post was done completely with the set of metallic pastels. I put down a layer of several of the colors and sprayed the painting with water.  I was curious to see how the metallic pigment would react to the water.  I wasn't disappointed.  Some of the colors rose to the top of the puddles and swirled like an oil slick. I tilted the board slightly and let some of the wet pastel drip. I let it dry.  You can see the sparkle of the gold and copper pastels.  Fun!

Diane Townsend Metallic set of 12 pastels

  • I LOVE Diane Townsend pastels Her soft form pastels are some of my favorites. These metallics are no exception. They are so rich and beautiful.
  • The metallic pastels are extremely soft and buttery. They go on like velvet. You need to use an VERY light touch. A little bit goes a long way. They are so soft that they crumble easily. (see photo) If you press down too hard they crumble right in your hand. Of course I am saving all of the pieces to reconstitute someday.
  • I now know to use a very light touch but for the pastels that have already crumbled I will use them in other ways....sprinkle dust, apply with soft tools like pan pastels....No pastel dust will go to waste!
  • I love the rich metallic colors and will try to use them as spices or accents in a painting rather than for the entire painting.
  • I haven't tried to use them for an underpainting with an alcohol wash but since it just occurred to be I will have to try and report back!
Do you like to use metallic or iridescent pastels? Do you have a favorite way of using them? I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Simplify the Clutter with Smaller Paintings

'Hope Valley'      2.5 x 3.5     pastel    ©Karen Margulis
available at Daily Paintworks $20 click here
Mother Nature can be so overwhelming.  So many landscapes are packed with beauty it is hard to know how to fit it all into a painting.  I remind myself that I don't really need to fit it all into a single painting. I can pick and choose what I want to say in a painting and save some of the good stuff for another painting!

It is easier said than done. Even once you have narrowed down your subject or focus, the scene can still include an overwhelming amount of details.

Take this scene from Hope Valley California near Lake Tahoe.  I had a wonderful visit to this beautiful part of the country for a Richard McKinley workshop 2 years ago.  I wanted to paint the scene in my photo. I liked the river winding back to the fir trees. But the photo had so many trees and bushes. If I put all of them in I might end up with a spotty mess!

My reference photo along with my mini pastel study
Earlier this week I shared one of my methods for simplifying a complicated scene.  I use a photo program to blur the reference photo which makes all of the details fuzzy. It is easy to see the big simple shapes this way.  Another method I like to use is to do a small color study. I work very small....2.5 x 3.5 inches.  I also use by big pastel pieces....never pastel pencils. I want to paint with 'big brushes' so that I can only put down the big shapes. I don't want to put in the details. Now I can use this little study to help me remember to keep it simple even when I use a larger piece of paper!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Try This to Keep a Painting Loose

'Roadside Profusion'      9x12      pastel     ©Karen Margulis
I couldn't decide what to paint today.  I have a couple of commissions to work on but both require some detail and precision. I wasn't in the mood for detail. I wanted to paint something loose and free. A field of poppies fit my mood.  How could I paint them so that they appeared loose and expressive?  Here is a technique that always helps me stay loose.....a watercolor underpainting.

Watercolor underpainting for 'Roadside Profusion'
I love doing a watercolor underpainting because the results are so unpredictable. The colors drip, bloom and bleed into each other. You end up with a loose abstract looking underpainting. It is now up to you to decide just how much pastel you will use on top of the underpainting.

It is always my goal to let the underpainting guide me and to allow parts of it to peek through the pastel. Sometimes I am more successful than others but I always enjoy seeing where the underpainting leads me. Looking at such a ethereal underpainting helps remind me to keep my pastel application just as ethereal. I try to keep my edges soft until the very end of the painting where I decide where to put in some harder edges at the area of interest.

I like to build up light layers of pastel that I apply with a very light touch....Whisper I remind myself. I work quickly to build up a few light layers before putting in a few marks of heavier pastel for the finishing touches.

If you have never tried watercolor under pastel or haven't tried it in awhile have a look at my previous posts on tips for watercolor underpaintings HERE.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Three Reasons to Paint a Series

'Sapphire Beach Dreaming'         8x10       pastel     ©Karen Margulis  sold
A collective groan came from my students when I told them we would be painting from the same reference photo for the next four weeks.  "We will be working on a series"  I told them.  "It will be fun and exciting and you will learn a lot! "

I do understand the groans though. Some artists don't like to work from the same reference or even subject. Once it has been painted it has been done.  But I intend to have them look at painting a series in a different light and I invite you to join us.

A painting series can be many things but the paintings in the series all need to have some common thread among them.  It can be a common technique or color palette or maybe the same subject done on different mediums. For our series, we will choose a subject or reference photo and build our series around this subject.  I  recommend completing  a minimum of 5 paintings for the series.

So what are the benefits of doing a series?  I will share three reasons below. I'd love for you to comment and add to the discussion!

Painting number 1 of my Sapphire Beach Series
1. Painting a series helps you understand your subject.  When you work with the same subject over and over you become intimate or friends with it.  By studying your subject and painting it more than once you are better able to interpret it on a higher level. You move beyond copying what you see as you become more familiar with the subject.

 2. Painting a series pushes you out of your comfort zone without it being scary! When you paint a subject many times you have to work hard at making each new painting unique yet still retain the connection to the series. You have to try new ideas, techniques, colors, etc.  It isn't as intimidating though because you are so comfortable with the subject. You have already figured out the issues with the subject now you are free to play!

3. Painting a series makes you a more confident artist. This is because you are painting more. You are painting more because you have a direction. You have a goal. You don't have to fear the blank paper because you already know how to paint your subject. You've done it already!  The more you paint the more confident you will feel. It is a wonderful feeling!

If you wish to join us choose a subject or reference photo that you would like to build a series around. For the first painting just paint your subject as you normally would...use familiar technique in your usual style.  We started our painting by doing small studies in which we blocked in the big simple shapes. More on this in tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An Easy Way to Simplify a Painting

'A Bit of Sunshine'       8x10     pastel     ©Karen Margulis SOLD

I am all about finding quick and easy ways to improve my paintings. I haven't tried this technique in a long time but I remembered how much it helped me simplify busy subjects.  I wanted to share it with some students so I gave it a practice run.  Today's painting is the resulting demo.

The problem many have with painting from photos is that we are tempted to put in every detail we see. It is all there....every petal, every leaf, every blade of grass.  It is sometimes hard to filter out all of the visual clutter. But unless we are striving for a photorealistic painting, we want to be able to simplify and leave something to the viewer's imagination.  The solution is from a blurry photo!

My underpainting based on the blurred reference photo
Assuming you are working from your own photos and that you print them yourself, this method will work for you.

  • What I like to do is choose my reference photo and open in my photo program.  I am using iphoto on my mac but in the past I used Picasa and Photoshop.
  •  Most photo programs will have some way of blurring a photo. Some refer to it as soft focus or posterize or blur edges. Some programs let you choose the level of fuzziness. I like to have it blurry enough so that I am able to see the big simple shapes in the photo. I don't want to see the little details.
  • I print out a blurred version and the original version of the photo.  I use the blurry version for my initial block in and the first layers. (see photo above)
  • After the initial block in I will blend in this first layer so that it is vague and fuzzy.
  • Now I take out the original photo so I can see the detail. I decide where I want the most detail, contrast and sharp edges and gradually build up the painting with this in mind.
If you want to simplify a busy composition then you want to be sure to start with the big, simple shapes and build up to the details. Working from a fuzzy photo gives you a head start in the simplification process!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pastel Demo Monday! Pure Pigment Underpainting

'Down to the Sea We Go'      11x14    pastel    ©Karen Margulis
painting available for $165 here
I am back in the studio and it is Demo Monday!  I am working on a series of beach paintings this week.   I will be posting more about the series and what we will be doing in my pastel classes. Today I just needed to warm up after a week away from painting.  I chose to paint a beach path on Diane Townsend sanded paper with an underpainting using Createx Pure Pigments. Read on to see what I did!

Createx Pure Pigments used for the Underpainting

Underpainting on Diane Townsend sanded pastel paper

Step by step demo

  • (from top left)  I wanted to get a warm glow for my beach scene so I decided to do a warm orange and yellow underpainting. I decided to use some Createx Pure Pigments.  This is a liquid pigment that comes in many colors. I love using it for an underpainting because the color is so vibrant and intense. You only need a few drops of color. I paint it on with a brush and water it down.  I found the Createx Pure pigments in our local Pearl store when it was going out of business. I haven't seen it anywhere since though it is shown on the Createx website. I did find it online at this art store but I am not familiar with them. Renaissance Graphic Arts.  
  • After the underpainting dried I began the painting by blocking in all of the dark areas with a few dark value pastels in different colors of the same vaNext I work on the sky.  I put down several blues with the darkest coolest blues at the top. I also block in the darker parts of the clouds with some purples.I finish the sky by adding the light yellows and peaches in the clouds. Instead of pure white I use a pale pale yellow. I also put in the darker blues of the distant sea.
  • Now I continue the painting by blocking in the greens of the sea grasses. I use lighter cooler greens in the distant grasses. In this stage I use broad strokes in the direction the grasses grow rather than painting the grasses with lines. I want the grasses to appear natural without having every blade of grass painted!
  • Now for the sand!  I block in a darker peach and gold for the shadows and underpainting for the lighter sand colors.  I also continue to work on the grasses. I pay attention to the direction of the light so I can paint the warmer  grasses that are in the path of the sunlight.
  • Finishing touches: I put in a few blades of grass and refine some of the footprints in the sand. 
I hope you enjoyed this mini demo. If you are interested in learning more about Diane Townsend pastel Paper you might like to read my review post here. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Painting the Marshes in Pastel

'Indian Summer Day'       16x20      psatel     ©Karen Margulis
available in my Etsy shop  $275
I have been out of town all week with no computer so my postings have been sparse. I just returned home and I am looking forward to getting back into the studio and back to regular postings. The other day I asked for suggestions for blog topics. I received several great emails. Thank you for responding and for the suggestions. I will definitely work them into my postings schedule.

Today I'd like to share a painting I did a couple of weeks ago. It was on the blog but wasn't the main photo so I wanted to share it again. It was spoken for but the collector has since chosen another painting so this one is now available for sale.

If you would like to see the original blog post it can be found here.  The topic was how to find smaller compositions within a larger painting.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

More Sunflower Paintings!

'Don't Cut the Sunflowers!'         6x6    acrylic with ink on gallery wrapped canvas
available for $75 on Daily Paintworks
Since I have been out of town the past week with frustrating internet I haven't had a chance to do my usual blog posts. I won't be back to my regular schedule until next Monday so I will be sharing some recent work until I can get back to regular posting.  

What is frustrating internet you may wonder?  It is what I have when I visit my mom in the mountains. She doesn't have internet but I can pick up my sister's wifi signal sometimes.  She lives next door and the signal at my mom's house is tenuous. I could always get connected outside or on the cold and damp porch but never inside where it was warm and cozy!  My sister was out of town so her house was cold and uninviting. So I gave up on the internet this week. It will be a good break for me. Remember I took a technology break for a week this summer and it really can be revitalizing.

In the meantime I'd love to hear from you regarding what topics you'd like for me to cover. I want to be sure my posts are interesting, informative and inspiring and there is no better way to make this happen than by hearing from my readers!  Email me at or send a comment below!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sunflower Acrylic Painting with Ink Lines

'Holly's Sunflower'      6x6   acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas sold
I am taking a break from pastels this week while I visit my mom in the mountains. It has been cloudy and drizzly and cold so I haven't gotten outside to take photos like I'd planned but I have had some time to paint.  I decided to work on some small acrylic flower paintings.  It was the perfect choice for painting while visiting. It was easy to pack a bag with some paints, brushes and canvases. They don't make as big of a dusty mess as my pastels so I can sit at the dining room table and paint!

side view

side view, all four sides painted
My favorite part of creating these flower paintings is adding the ink lines.  Once the paint has dried I draw the lines using black waterproof ink.  I tend to follow the shifts in color and value in the paint with my lines.  It is actually a very relaxing process.

Next week begins the second session of my pastel classes. We will be focusing on creating a series. If you'd like to follow along start thinking about a subject to paint! Details to follow!