How to paint a pastel seascape -demo

This is my very first post! I thought I would start with a demo painting of a local seascape to share my painting process with you. Hope you find it interesting…

Getting started.

Sometimes I’ll know just what I want to paint – other times I’ll  look through old photos or my ideas board until something says “paint me”!  Today I chose a photo of a local beach at low tide – I like the sense of distance and the diagonals in this photo. I know it will need something else to bring it alive but I have an idea for that.

Choosing the paper.

So I’ve decided which reference photo I’m going to use and now I need to choose the colour of my sanded paper. I use either Canson or Mi- Tientes sanded pastel paper because the tooth holds layers of pastel and I don’t need to fix the finished paper. ( more about fixative later!)

Anyway how to choose one colour from all the possibilities?

I take the photo and look for papers that either  provide a strong contrast with the main colour or temperature of the subject  or one that matches the dominant colour and temperature or maybe one that matches the temperature but is a darker or lighter tone than the dominant tone of the subject.

Here I’ve narrowed it down to 3 colours so I lay the photo over the intersection of the papers and see which one I think feels right.

Choosing the sanded paper
Choosing the colour – and the middle ground mid tone colour wins!

I choose the mid tone colour as I think it will give a good under colour showing through the pale foreground sand , it takes care of the middle ground and won’t dominate the sky which I want to stay light and bright.

Now for the pastels!

This is when I get out my boxes of pastels and the fun starts. I’m going for my Great American ArtWorks seascape set, a fantastic set of Sennelier half sticks and my “orphans” box and a couple of pastel pencils to sketch it up.

Sketching up

I could transfer the image by any number of methods but I’m not too fussy about getting it exactly right and just sketch in the  main forms of the mountains, hills, horizon, sea and sand The one thing I am careful about is getting the horizon dead level! I use a dark pencil for the background and then a light one for the sand and sea as I don’t want the dark to show through later layers.

Measure on painting

Rough sketch- but measure that horizon to get it level!


 Blocking in

Now I start blocking in the main shapes loosely. Mostly I use the local colour ( the actual colour I see in the photo) but in the middle ground hill I pop in some bright reds and golds. I want these to show through a little under the final greens to give some added warmth to the painting. I make sure to put in some light pinks and yellows at the base of the sky for some sparkle. The wet sand gets a swathe of dark blue as it will be useful later in establishing the dips and shadows in the sand. Once I’ve finished blocking in smooth the sky and hills with the side of my finger to blend the colours.


The sky and hills

Next I work in some blues in the background hills and some greens in the middle hill. I add the suggestion of trees and some more golds into the dry paddocks. Also a little work on the junction between the wet and dry sand.

Add some hill colour
See – the red hill has dissappeared




The sea and sand

I add more layers of pale pinks, yellows and blues to the sky and some of the same colours in the sea. I start adding layers of creams, siennas, ochres and some purples to the wet sand and darken the edges of the sand bar . Now I add a sprinkle of washed up sea grasses to the edge of the wet sand.

Adding some middle ground detail
A bit of sparkle on the water


Next it’s a bit of a suggestion of the path and then some seaweed on the dry sand.

I work up the grasses around the path using darks and then some lighter colours for the sunlit side. I use some hard conte sticks for the grasses. Notice I’ve darkened the water’s edge some more and added a little pink to the water as well. I want to give a sense of how shallow it is here. Some shadows from the grasses help to show the slope of the path.


Finishing touches

I want to add a little life and movement so I pop in a few wading birds on the wet sand. They also help carry the eye from the strong sand diagonals back towards the water and hills. You can see I’ve also strewn a few white shells and some darker marks around for a bit of added interest and texture to the sand.

Some birds

All done!

A final distant sail boat , my signature and the painting is finished. On the whole I’m quite pleased. The finished painting retains the strong compositional lines that first drew me to the subject but I’ve warmed it up, strengthened the contrasts and added some movement.

Signed and finished


26 thoughts on “How to paint a pastel seascape -demo

  1. Good heavens, woman! How much talent can one person have? Love the painting, and your demo. Other bloggers would probably have the pastels and papers you mentioned linked through to their amazon site so any interested aspiring artists could purchase, thereby earning a side income. You never cease to amaze me with all that you do.


    1. Hi there. i didn’t know you had a blog but as soon as I read your comment I knew it was you!! Just that first sentence was enough! Will check out your posts from now on. Always a good read!


    1. Buy some more Debbie! It’s so very therapeutic – but I know you have your own therapy arts and crafts and we can’t do them all even though I give it a bash!


    1. Thanks Claudette, I really need to talk to you about our journey and keep some momentum going. It’s a bit overwhelming reading up on host your own v. but I think I’ll just start with trying to get someone to read it before anything else lol!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m still hosted by wordpress, but just bought my own domain name. I guess it depends what other things you might want to add to your blog.
        They usually do blogging 101 in Jan/Feb so you may have missed it but I think they run it again mid year (at least they did last year)..They also do another one more focussed on “getting it out there – selling – promotional” type thing too.


      2. Just changed my name to lindywhittonstudio and bought the domain name . Figured it’s better to have the same name as my Etsy store and as an artist might be better to have my name out there. I did miss 101 but think the getting it out there would be more useful right now. Steep learning curve!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. yay. The other thing is to add the social widgets to your blog – so others can click the button to share easier. I use the WP Admin layout (My Sire – then scroll down to WP Admin) it seems to be easier to find what I want here (maybe because that was how it was when i created my site before they upgraded).
        Go to Settings – Sharing and make sure that you have the little icons included for those you want, FB, Google, etc. If you scroll down further on this page you will see an option to include “Reblog” (this lets someone share your post on their site really easily.


      1. We all had a lot to learn when we started. But don’t let it make you anxious. Just relax and have fun. The most important advice I can give is this: Always post and write about things that are interesting to YOU, don’t worry about what anyone else might think. If you are honest and real, other honest and real people will find you. Best of luck!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re certainly talented. Although I started reading all the instructions I realized it as beyond me and just enjoyed seeing the development of your picture.


    1. Thanks for your kind words. All art needs an audience – so thanks for seeing. I’ve been surprised over the years of painting how much progress I’ve made by simply trying things I never believed I could do. I had a lot of trouble with rocks and drew a lot of shockers until one day I just found my hand drawing a rock without my brain thinking too much. You could surprise yourself….


      1. Yes I did! But I forgot to reply – shame on me! I thought the mountains were very good – and if you hadn’t told me I wouldn’t have known that you “drained” the lake and turned it into a grassy meadow!


      2. At the moment I’m enjoying making mosaics so I think I’ll stick to that, I’ve tried drawing and painting in the past and they’re definitely not my forte. 🙂


      3. I’m a less patient person than you – mosaics would kill me. If I can’t do it in a day I don’t start it!!


  3. Well, your sister is right! You are certainly a very talented artist. I love this demonstration in how to though I remain unconvinced that I will EVER be able to paint a picture that looks like anything recognisable. This fact is exasperated by the fact that I have two daughters currently studying Art – one a Fine Arts degree and the other a Foundation in Fashion design and illustration. May I suggest that you might like to look at Andrew Seal’s blog it’s really very good 🙂


    1. Thanks for your kind words. It does kind of put you off from having a go when there’s someone in the family with a big talent. I love words but my husband has written 5 novels so I’m too timid to have a go! I’ll be checking out your blog and thechangingpalette later today.Thanks for the recommendation!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hello Osyth, I’m another daughter of Lindy’s who couldn’t draw a gum leaf at school! one day during a time of a bit of stress she invited em to “Come and paint a picture with me”. I laughed at the thought but complied with the invitation, to go home with what was a recognisable piece of “art”!!!! Of course I was hooked on the idea then and have painted a lot of “Stuff” since. Some of it has ended in the bin but I have a few things that it pleases me to look at. {I am no where near the class that Lindy is in and never expect to be but the doing relaxes me wonderfully even when it runs out wrongly.}
      Have a try and you might find a surprise waiting for you!
      Lindy’s paintings are just awesome!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello! I am inspired to try …. I bought a sketch book and a variety of pencils recently and I think Lindy may have landed in my path as a reminder that I do need to try! Thank you for your words of encouragement but the deal is – I draw some stuff, she writes some stuff because words are no less daunting really 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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