I got such a positive reaction to my recent pastel painting of Adventure Bay that I did another for my Mum’s “World’s Greatest Shave ” fundraiser auction. There’s already been anabsentee overseas bid for it so I hope it does well for the Leukaemia Foundation on the night. This photo is on the dark side- need to hone up my photography skills a bit .
A friend saw the first pastel on Instagram and asked if I could paint a small canvas for her as it brought back lot’s of childhood memories of holidays spent at Adventure Bay.So I went ahead and painted this one today. I think it’s my favourite because of the lively colours in the shadows on the sand.
Then I decided to break out my new Schminke watercolours and try a large (for me) painting. I really only use watercolours for pen and wash sketches these days so this was a bit of an adventure. I did find I’d forgotten a lot of the techniques but was happy I’d remembered any to be frank! I like the reflections, the clouds are OK ,the shadows are too pink and the foilage is overworked.
It was interesting trying the same painting in pastels, acrylics and watercolours and made we want to brush up my watercolour technique and try a few more. We’ll see how that goes!
I’ve been wanting a day trip to Bruny Island all January but The Writer was hanging out for the perfect day. He was after all those blue sky and sparkling sea shots. I was all for just going and working with the weather! So last Saturday I got up early , packed lunch and said “Let’s go”- and off we went.
I have to say I was quite happy with a few clouds- I’ve got lots of sunny shots from previous trips . My first solo art exhibition was inspired by a day trip to Bruny on an astonishingly beautiful summers day and I was looking for a different, more moody side of the island. The early morning light was subdued and the water took on a silver sparkle.
I love this into the sun shot at the Neck and have already painted a small pastel using it as reference.
I added a little more colour and used a square format. I’m a bit of a fan of the square for small paintings.
The clouds came and went creating some interesting skies and reflections.
…and the water kept on sparkling.
The tidal flats had just enough shallow water to make for great reflections of the amazing clouds…
And finally the sun took over the day and we had a swim and a snorkle in the fairly chilly water at Coal Pt with it’s weathered rocks that have been wind blasted creating a myriad circular pockets in the rock.
Then off to Adventure Bay for a few shots in the bright sunlight to satisfy The Writer.
The lovely tracery of shadows on the sand inspired another painting…
All in all, another stunning day on this small island off an island.
My sister came up today and helped me rip off the old rusted roof from the Potter’s shed and replace with new colorbond sheets. It was a big job jemmying out the old rusted nails and power drilling in the new roofing screws while balancing on the wobbly ladder! But girl power prevailed and 6 hours later we had a new rain proof roof.
While we were ripping, banging and balancing someone bought one of my pastel paintings from my Etsy shop so that paid for half the roofing sheets. Happy days!
My kids get a good laugh ( I even laugh at myself) at how excited I am when I reach another small You Tube milestone. It took such a long time to reach the first 100 subscribers and I was counting up to the big 100 for days ( maybe even weeks!) then just 2 months later I’ve hit 500+. Am totally loving the chance to share my pastel techniques and help aspiring pastel artists out there. Love getting questions and thinking … “yes- I know the answer to that one!”
I have to admit I was doubtful that anyone would want to watch my offerings . There’s so many great art videos out there that it seemed unlikely mine would find an audience . I try to think how I felt when I started experimenting on my own with pastels, what I wanted to know, how long it took me to search out information and what kind of information would have helped me progress quicker at the beginning. Then I jotted down some headings and I’ve been slowly working my way through them. It’s not easy finding the time to make these videos and it’s been a steep learning curve coming to grips with editing them into some semblance of viewability but very rewarding to see people are watching and being inspired to try , or re-try, pastels.
I do know that 500 subscribers is very small fry compared to all those channels out there that are slick, posting everyday and going viral but I have to say my 500 are the most talented, discriminating and plain wonderful viewers on You Tube and more than make up for their small numbers by their discerning and insightful comments and the artful way they click the like button!
A big thankyou to everyone who has ever taken the time to watch , to comment and to share. I hope to hit 1000 by Christmas and plan to expand the types of videos I do next year as I have more time. Am thinking a painting on holiday series would be fun!
I had a rostered day off work today after a horror couple of weeks with equipment breakdowns that have played havoc with our work schedule. I love a RDO ! Unlike a weekend it’s all MY time! I can share it with The Writer if I choose but he never takes it for granted that I’ll go for a walk or sit down for a long conversation over lunch, which is a good thing, since I always have a long list of stuff I want to do on my precious day off.
Today I got up early and put on some washing , showered,had a quick breakfast and checked my email. Then I had a fun morning making some little felt phone pouches. They’re quick and easy but I did have to change the cotton colour quite a lot! I’ll be popping them into my Etsy shop later on tonight. Then I hung out the washing ,which I have to admit I forgot about!
Then I started a large pastel painting for an upcoming charity exhibition and made a good start. I’m happy with the water and sky. The rocks are coming along well- although I may knock the colour back a little in some places. There’s going to be a lone seagull in flight when it’s finished but I haven’t got that far yet. The photo’s not the sharpest as the cat was purring round my legs when I took it with the tablet and there’s a bit of camera shake going on but I was just too darned busy to break the schedule and get out the camera on the tripod.
Around one thirty my stomach reminded me to take a minute out for lunch so I made a sandwiched and then headed back to the studio. I kept working on those rocks for the next couple of hours until the chill reminded me to get the washing in. A few domestic chores, a quick flit to the shop for some butter and a foray into the bush for the greenery that I need for tomorrow nights decorations for a mid winter feast and it was time to put dinner on.
While dinner cooked I cut out snowflake templates stuck them to empty jars and then spray painted the jars white . Once the template came off I dropped in a tea light and voila! a safe and pretty candle for the table centers.
So by the time I would usually be heading in the door from work I’d managed to tick off a fair bit from my “to do” list!
I’ve unpacked the suitcase, done the laundry and distributed the gifts. I’ve settled back into work reacquainting myself with the myriad small disasters of the working day. I’ve rearranged the studio and tidied up a bit. So now there’s so more excuses for putting off starting on the post holiday paintings.
It might surprise you to know that as much as I love painting there’s something a bit daunting about sorting through my memories, masses of photos and all those small sketches I did and trying to distill the essence of the holiday that I now want to capture in larger pastel paintings.
Sometimes I absolutely know what I’m interested in. One holiday it was patterns- roof tiles, fields of different crops, rows of lavender, five metal jugs on a wall, bicycle wheels- stone fences-the list went on. Other times it takes a while for a them to emerge and this last Italian holiday was one of those.
When that happens sometimes I just decide to jump in and start painting whatever and see what develops. So here are my first three paintings and I think what might be developing is a visual essay on the varied landscapes of Italy.
When you live as far “down under” as we do, in southern Tasmania, it’s a long way to Europe and our usual approach is to whittle away at our wish list across 2 or 3 countries each trip. This holiday we spent 5 weeks in Italy instead of our usual 1-2 weeks and it really made a difference. We were able to stay a week each in four very different regions and explore a bit more in depth than we usually have time for and I think the vastly different landscapes, architecture and traditional work is what captured our interest. Of course this variety shouldn’t be a surprise given that the Italy we know today is a very recent entity .
A gentle morning landscape with mist rising over the Tuscan wheatfields, the emerald waters of Sardinia and snowcapped mountains reflected in Lake Arpy in the northern Italian alps – the start of a series celebrating the diverse landscapes of Italy.
I fell in love with pastels for their bright and glorious boldness but as our relationship developed I began to appreciate more and more the quiet beauty of the muted greys. So in this video I explore the more restrained colours that can help develop a more subtle mood.
If you’ve seen many of my paintings you might think I only use brights. It’s true I’m a bit of a colourist and my hand naturally gravitates to those jewel bright sticks in my pastel box but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the muted pleasures of soft greys. Tonight I pulled out my box of Great American Artist greys to use in a small painting of a Tuscan evening sky and I didn’t miss those brights at all.
I’ve had this photo on my idea board for a while . It’s a quick snap I took a few years ago on a trip to Italy. We were driving home one night and the sky was just beautiful – full of soft pinks and mauves with a typical Tuscan farmhouse and cyprus trees silhouetted against it. Well – I took more than one snap that night but this is the one I’ve been thinking about lately. I’d planned to paint it fairly large but as I walked past my painting area a scrap piece of purple paper that looked just right caught my eye so I decided to go small and paint right then!
The photo doesn’t show much colour in the foreground so I wanted to up the colour there for a little more interest. The sky was the main inspiration so I planned to render that area fairly faithfully . The tree on the right didn’t seem to serve any purpose in the composition so I got rid of it. I decided on more contrast between the fields and the foreground bushes to add a bit more depth to the picture…and that was my planning process before I started painting.
This is a fantastic set of greyed pinks, blues, purples, browns and greens. They’re so useful for evening skies, soft shadows and understated subjects. These weren’t a cheap buy but I don’t regret a cent – they’re a must have in my collection. This is the set I used for tonight’s painting with the addition of a few darks. It’s surprising how few pastels you actually need to paint a subject like this.
I’m reasonably happy with this little 20 minute painting. It has a bit of verve, I haven’t overworked it, there are some lovely soft colours in the sky that give the glow I was looking for. True ,the house roof could do with a bit of quieting down and a few of the trees are looking a bit stunted , but overall I’m pleased with the results of my box of muted greys.
Painting with pastels is very intuitive. I think this is because it takes us back to our childhood when we used crayons and chalks in a very fluid way. We hadn’t started judging our art yet so we were happy with every picture we drew. For me, picking up a pastel stick takes me right back to that happy place where each stick of luscious colour was there to be slathered on the paper with joyous abandon. I don’t worry about the end result I just enjoy the experience.
Using pastels is a combination of drawing and painting and there are many different mark making techniques to experiment with. The more you paint the more ways of manipulating the pastel you’ll discover.
When I started out I used a small range of simple marks and they still form the basis of most of my paintings. Of course I’ve learned a lot over the years and developed some of my own ways of adding texture and interest but the basics underpin all my work. You can check out a demonstration on my mark making video.
Different pastels for different marks
The type of mark you make with a pastel depends on a number of factors:
the hardness or softness of the pastel stick
the amount of pressure you exert
the part of the pastel that comes in contact with the paper
Soft pastels v. hard pastels
Soft pastels give up their colour more generously with less pressure than hard pastels. It’s surprising how easy it is to “eat” up a soft pastel when using it on sanded paper. Less pressure is the rule here! The marks are generally softer and more rounded than a hard pastel as it’s more difficult to keep a sharp edge on a soft, round pastel. Soft pastels lend themselves to natural forms such as clouds, trees, flowers, landscapes, skies, animals etc
Hard sticks are often square and are wonderful for sharp, linear marks that you would find in grasses, wire fences, boat masts, rigging and architectural details. Compared to soft pastels you will need to use more pressure to get the same amount of pastel deposited on the painting surface. They are also a more economical way to block in large amounts of colour in the early stages of a painting with the added advantage of leaving gaps in the colour to allow optical mixing of later layers.
Here you can see the larger swathes of colour left by the soft pastels creating shadows in the grass clump and the crisper linear marks made with the edge of hard pastels help to define the individual grasses.
Where the pressure has been lighter the pastel has less contact with the paper so the grasses are thinner and finer. By increasing the pressure you can vary the thickness of your mark.
Side of the pastel v edge of the pastel
Using the side of a round or square pastel you can lay down broad strokes of colour quickly to establish areas of sky, water and land. Then the edge of the pastel can be used to add crisper details.
Here you can see that I’ve used the broad side of different blue pastels to make sweeping bands for the sky and water. Layering these blues will give your sky and sea more interest. Then I came back in with the edge of a white pastel to suggest some sails.
Rounded end v sharp tip of the pastel
The rounded end of a pastel is useful for painting trees and bushes in the landscape. Just moving the pastel the paper in a scrumbling motion will give a soft rounded form. When you come to adding in branches, trunks and stems a sharp tip is just the thing.
Try slanting the pastel so differing amounts come in contact with the paper to give a natural variety in your tree and shrub shapes.
Bringing it all together
So let’s see how we can bring these basic techniques together to create a painting full of life and interest. This a little 30 minute sketch using the basic techniques. You can join me and paint along as I demonstrate how to paint this in a step by step video.
You can copy and print this reference photo if you would like to practice these techniques or paint along with me.
I would love to see your paintings so feel free to post a link in the comments section.