Ballet always makes me think of this soft delicate form and dance. I wanted to convey that in my piece. I choose soft vivid pastels to bring this piece to life and still hold the beauty and softness of ballet.
I love the sound of a violin.
I am not musically inclined but I don’t think you have to be to enjoy the lovely sound that a violinist creates from this instrument.
Capturing the soul of violins in this painting was what this piece is all about. They have so much more spirit and character and I used vivid colors to bring them to life.
Painted in soft pastels
Roses in Pastel
These roses are painted in soft pastels. The delicate petals and soft leaves behind drew me into this image. I captured the beauty and fragile nature of these flowers with many shades of pinks and reds.
Gail Sibley’s Website
I stumbled across Sandra Burshell from an interview on Gail Sibley’s website. You can find her at How to Pastel.
Gail Sibley is a wonderful pastel artist she has a very informative website. You can find classes, interviews and lots of information on pastel painting.
You can also visit her youtube channel here.
Her youtube is also full of pastel videos, how to’s, and interviews with other wonderful pastel artists.
The Interview with Sandra Burshell
You can read the interview with Sandra Burshell here on Gail’s blog.
Sandra takes these little clips of life and paints them up in pastels. She calls them roomscapes. They are a small glimpse of time, a place, a person a moment where she captures the atmosphere and the feeling of that particular moment in time.
It could be something as simple as capturing the way sunlight enters a room as in her painting below.
Each one of these roomscapes captures the places where light is a part of the space. There is a unique comfort about her paintings as if they are a place all of us can relate to in the quiet spaces of our own lives.
And at the same time, she seems to also bring us back to yesterday in these places where her painting style just draws you into this fleeting moment in time.
I am intrigued by her subject matter and her particular style of painting.
Scroll down the article
If you scroll down the article you will see a glimpse into how she paints.
She walks you through how she painted her painting with the girl asleep on the sofa.
She edits her original photos so that she can paint just those parts that speak to her. Under-paintings are added that bring the vibrancy of the colors to life using complementary colors under her pastels.
I have not tried this form of under-painting but the look and effect certainly bring much to the finished painting. The colors are more vibrant and rich.
Maybe there is some experimentation to be done with this approach.
I also love the way she applies the pastels in such a scribbley manner, it brings energy and movement to the painting and parts of the warm under-painting to show through connecting it all together in her unique way.
Her center of interest is often the warm glow in the setting. We have all felt a place like this in our lives. To me, there is a softness, a comfort that makes me want to be a part of that room.
Challenge your comfort zone
Sandra talks about venturing outside your comfort zone. I think we learn more when we try things that are new, things that stretch our imaginations and our skills.
Whether we turn out a good piece is not the point.
To grow we need to not only enjoy the process itself but we also need to feed it new things and fill it with wonder. I always want to figure out how to achieve new techniques and styles that broaden my own style.
Explore the unknown, get messy, use the new information and see what comes out of you.
Other artists inspire me. I love tutorials or interviews where an artist shares their thoughts. It is so interesting to hear what makes them come alive in their art. How do they see the world? What little moment of life do they capture in their work and why?
What is their process and how can I use that inspiration to try new things in my own art. What new things will I find by exploring a new technique? I don’t have those answers but I sure love the journey. It’s exciting to fill your head with new ideas and possibilities.
About Les Darlow
Les Darlow is a pastel painter who lives in the UK. He paints what I would call semi-abstract landscapes. His paintings are vibrant, fresh and full of energy, movement, and light.
I came across him via facebook and was immediately taken at first by his skies.
I love the sky and clouds it all just draws me in. There is something peaceful and meditative about enjoying a beautiful sky and there is even something better about being able to paint one is such a way as to draw the viewer in.
This now meant I had to visit his website, check it out here.
Much to my delight, I found he had just published a book called Absolute Pastels.
Buy his book
On his site you can purchase the book here.
It is available as a printed book you can purchase or as a digital book.
You can also purchase the digital book with disk option and you will not only get his wonderful book but you will also get the 5 videos of the projects in the book.
I highly recommend the book and disk option so you can watch him paint these wonderful landscapes.
His package is full of lots of info, videos and pdfs to inspire you to try your hand at his style of painting.
What I found in his books
In this book, he talks about composition and how you can take your photos and choose the right parts to paint just the right landscape. There is also a lot of information on value and how to use that in your painting so you don’t make a flat painting.
There are a couple of paintings in soft pastels and also a couple in panpastels. You get to see how to create this glowing landscapes in both pastels options.
Watch him paint and see how he lays the pastel on the canvas and just how much he leaves out of the painting and manages to capture a beautiful feeling in every landscape he paints.
There are also pdfs of the lessons. You get so much value for you money.
Going from detail painting to looser painting style
I am what I call a fiddler, my brain loves to fiddle with all the details and I could just go with that and do realism and high detail very well. But that is not what makes my creative juices flow. Loose semi-abstract where you capture the essence of a place is where my heart truly lies.
Les Darlow was a scientific illustrator, the kind that does exquisite highly detailed illustration for like medical illustration.
If he can go from so detail oriented then I can also find a way to embrace a looser form of capturing the essence of places in pastel.
His book has given me a place to start and watching him paint has provided me with a better way to understand how to achieve better landscapes in pastels.
Why I love tutorials
Online tutorials are the next best thing to sitting next to the artist and watching them paint. I can’t travel to the UK, even though I would love to take a workshop with him, and this allows me to peek into how he does his art.
I also feel that each tutorial gives you lots of information about the artist technique and thoughts. It fills my head up with ideas and helps me see things in a new way.
There is a learning curve to each new thing we desire to learn and I feel tutorials kind of help shorten the learning curve a bit. It is an investment in you, it helps you progress in your art and your thought process.
Without tutorials I would not be where I am today and even though I have so far to go in the things I want to be artistically successful at, I am enjoying the process and learning all I can.
I highly recommend Les Darlow’s book and disk set. You won’t be sorry you invested in it.
I am a believer that you can make great art with affordable supplies.
There are those that believe you need to have the best of everything in order to make great art and be considered an artist.
First of all that is not true, second of all many of us cannot afford the upper end of artist level art supplies. What answer you get when you ask that question all depends on who you ask.
If you ask and the answer is you get is you need the costly brand supplies that may just discourage you from attempting that art and feeling bad about the fact that you can’t afford the pricey supplies.
Example of affordable art
This painting right here is done with a bic pen. Back when I was in school that was the cool pen to have and there weren’t many choices at that time.
That is also an amazing piece of art. If you type in Bic Pen Art into your google search you will find many amazing examples of art done with a pen that cost less than a dollar.
This artist did not need pricey supplies to do art. He needed experience and skill in his medium.
What can you do if you want to make Pastel art and have a budget.
First I would say I personally think that paper is a major important factor in many art mediums. I have seen people make amazing art with cheap supplies, but I have also seen people make bad art with good paint supplies and cheap paper.
So if you were going to invest in a better level of a supply I would say start with decent paper. You will find it will make a lot of difference.
Lets talk pastel paper
You can make your own pastel paper.
If you truly can’t afford good paper, or you are afraid to use good paper cause you aren’t sure what you are doing I have an affordable solution.
Buy some inexpensive watercolor paper, I prefer hot press paper it is a bit smoother than cold press.
Purchase a bottle of Liquitex clear gesso medium. You can use a nice size flat brush or a foam brush which ever you like.
I use watercolor paints to but a underpainting down on the watercolor paper first. Then put down a light layer of gesso going from left to right across your paper. Be sure to brush it out so you don’t leave strong brush marks.
Let that dry, or use a mini heat gun to speed up the drying process. This will dry clear so you can see the underpainting beneath the gesso.
Next add a second layer of the gesso now layering it from top to bottom and also brushing it out smoothly. I add 2-3 layers like this. Thin layers is better than one thick one.
What Kind of paper can you get if you want to purchase pastel paper?,
There are as many answers to this as there are artists. Everyone has a preference. My answer is if you can afford good pastel paper go for it. It’s worth it and you will see a huge difference in your outcome as you learn pastels.
The paper I like most and have used even while I was learning is Uart 400 sanded pastel paper.
Pastels need a tooth to work well and this pastel paper is one of my favorites. I also suggest you purchase it in large sheets you can find at DickBlick.com and cut it down to workable sizes.
Consider working on small paintings at first so your paper goes farther and until you build up some skill. It’s much less intimidating.
It is easy to think you can use cheap paper when you are just starting out. You may also think I’m not good enough yet so I don’t want to waste money on good paper. This is a common thought even among experienced artists.
What I can tell you from years of art experience in different mediums is that paper matters and if you get
And when you see better results you will want to try harder to learn more.
There is nothing worse that seeing someone disappointed in their paintings time after time and you try to tell them get better paper and they don’t want to invest in it till they get good.
But as an experienced artist, you also know the paper is one of the things that will make them better
Yes, there are brands out there that are affordable in both soft and hard pastels. I say buy what you can afford and enjoy your art and when you can afford better buy better.
But in the meantime, you should not stop yourself from enjoying pastels as art because you can’t dive in at the top level of supplies.
There will always be people in art groups that will say
But also know starting with the affordable end of art supplies is also very doable.
Hard pastels are great for detail and under-paintings. The best ones I have tried are Prismacolor Nupastels.
Nupastels are hard sticks that lay down nicely and are great to work with. They come in several different size sets up to the largest 96 piece set.
The 96 piece set can be found for around 80 dollars with smaller size sets being less money. If you watch around
Buy the size set you can afford.
Soft pastels come in different ranges of softness. From firm soft to medium soft , to soft to ultra soft.
I personally prefer to do most of my painting with the firm to med soft and have a small set of buttery soft for the final top layer.
Now pastels can get very pricey when you buy into the big names in pastel making like Unison, Mount Vision, Great American and many more. And who doesn’t wish they had all those wonderful pastels.
I wanted to do pastels but I had a limited budget and was determined to try out less costly sets to see what quality they were and what I could paint with them.
I have been an artist for over 30 years and have worked in several mediums.
With my budget in mind and wanting as many colors as I could afford I set out to try some of the lower price pastel brands.
Faber Castell soft pastels
This is a 72 piece set of soft pastels and I would say they are more on the medium hardness of soft pastels.
There is a nice selection of colors and you can do a lot with this. Each pastel is about 1 inch long but this goes a long way in a small painting.
They are a student grade pastel but I like them and would definitely buy them again.
This set runs about 30.00 on Amazon and is a good starter set.
This is a 72 piece set of soft pastels in squares and is a very nice set. They are made in India.
They are larger sticks, they lay down and blend nicely and come in this nice wood case. I would consider these also on the medium hardness of soft pastels.
You can find this Mungyo set on Amazon here. It runs 51.00 at the time of this post. I use these all the time.
This pastel painting of colorful clouds was done with this set of Mungyo pastels and a few of the Mungyo Gallery handmade soft pastels on
Mungyo Gallery Handmade Soft Pastels
These Mungyo handmade pastels are even softer than the set listed above. To me, they compare with some of the Name brand soft pastels.
This set of 30 goes for about 43.00 on Amazon and you can find them here.
They are worth the investment to have a few colors on the softer side for the top layers of your painting. I recommend them they are great for a starter set.
I would buy this set again, it even comes in a larger set I would also purchase that whole set when I can afford it.
This Painting was done using both sets of Mungyo pastels, a few nupastels, and a few Faber Castell soft pastels.
So you see you can achieve great results with affordable products.
The pink clouds was painted on
This piggy was also done using the pastel brands mentioned above. It was painted on watercolor paper.
I painted in an underpainting in watercolors and then put on 3 layers of gesso. I then went it with all my pastels mentioned above and painted him up.
What should you start with and what does this all cost.
I would recommend the nupastels as a starter set. Buy the largest set you can afford.
And either the set of 72 Faber
For a beginning investment of about 60 dollars for 2 sets the nupastels and a small set of one of these two you can start on your pastel journey.
Add in some paper and you are on your way.
Now if you wanted all the ones I list above.
Nupastels 96 set 80.00
Mungyo Handmade soft 30 piece set. 43.00
Mungyo Gallery 72 piece set 51.00
Faber Castell 72 Piece set 30.00
Total for all this 202.00 and you would have a 270 piece pastel collection of pastels in different hardness and softness and lots of luscious colors to start your pastel journey
If you want to try the Uart 400 I suggest buying the larger sheet. Get the 21×27 sheet for 8.56. Cut it down to 8×10 squares and that would give you 6 sheets of 8x 10 paper to work with for each large sheet you buy
If you buy the pre-cut sheets package on Amazon you will get 10 -9×12 sheets which isn’t much larger for 28.12.
That comes out to 2.81 a sheet. Just about double the price.
I prefer to paint on 8×10 as its smaller, I don’t feel so intimidated by
And when you get good and want to invest in a wad of paper so you can paint through it without worrying about paper cost you can get the roll.
The roll of Uart 400 is about 170.00. It is 56 inches wide and 10 Yards long.
That’s 56 inches wide and 30 feet long.
Say you cut that up into 9×11 sheets. You would get 195 sheets of paper and the cost per 9×11 sheet would be .86 cents a piece. That’s very affordable.
Just think of all the art you could do!
What is the conclusion
I hope that
And that with a bit of skill you can certainly do good art with affordable supplies.
There is no reason to think you have to have lots of money to be a pastel artist.
It takes desire and practice and learning to get good at any art. Invest in that and you will surprise yourself at what you can accomplish.
There are also plenty of free pastels videos on youtube that can teach you the basics, that will be another article so check back soon.
There are also several pastel artists on Patreon for under 8.00 a month you can watch their videos and learn.
I hope this encourages you to forge on ahead with your art dreams. If you have any questions you can always reach me on facebook.
I am always happy to help and answer any questions you may have.
Have you ever wanted to explore a certain style in your art that is different than the one you currently create? Is there an artist whose style you admire and would love to be able to think in that way?
I have always admired a looser style of art no matter what medium the artist is working in. The kind of art where you can feel the movement and energy. Creating a piece where you are not putting in every detail but working to bring out just enough to tell your story and leaving the rest up to the viewer. That has been a desire of mine for a very long time.
What my brain wants to create
When I work I tend to like to fiddle with the details. I get carried away bringing forth lots of detail. Now there is nothing wrong with detail. I am not complaining, merely saying that give me detail and I can sit here for hours and hours fiddling with things. I just get into the zone and love disappearing into my art.
That being said I am now in a place in my life where I am also ready to explore and grow as an artist an want to put time into exploring a whole different style. I have attempted a loose style before and failed. I have tried my hand at this a few times over the years and not accomplished what I wanted to do.
So you may ask why am I trying this again? That’s a good and fair question!
I am now at a place in my life where I have peace and can focus in a much different way than before. My life before was very stressful and anything but a place to find oneself. I truly believe now looking back that when we are in these difficult places in life where stress is the high ruler that it can be hard to connect with the inner artist on the level it takes to explore something so deep and meaningful and challenging! At least that is what I believe the case to be for me.
I do not create well from a place of unrest. For some artist that is where they do their best work. We are all energized by different things and different energies in life.
The photos in this post are by Artist Dawn Emerson and I just love her work. I have watched several of her tutorials which are available on Artists Network tv. For $20 a month you can subscribe and watch as many tutorials from artists as you like.
Dawn is an artist who is fully engaged and alive in her process. She dances with her easel as she brings her art to life. Her process is one of discovery and playfulness. In her book, she said something to the effect of “if you go into your studio to do what you have always done, then you will do what you have always done”
This is a simple but powerful statement. To me, that can mean you as an artist are always playing it safe. You are good at this thing and you keep doing this thing. To expand you must try new things and constantly move forward in your exploration.
I need a plan
I feel another reason I failed at my previous attempts to explore this style in my art is because I didn’t have a plan of action. As a result, I floundered, wishing for something magical to happen and as we all know that isn’t how this art thing works.
My approach to this will involve roughing out a plan to start, following through on a consistent basis in practicing this plan and evaluating my progress and editing the plan accordingly. I obtained a lot of information from her book and her videos and feel like my mind and my heart are all in the right place this time to give this an honest and full attempt.
I will be noting my plans, goals, progress, and thoughts as I journey down this road of artistic exploration. I am not sure where it will take me and that is not the important part. I will fully embrace the process and the journey and certainly learn something about myself and my art. I will wind up where I am meant to be.
Stay tuned and watch for updates on how this artistic endeavor is progressing.
And if any of this interests you I suggest you check out her videos and her book. Both have lots of valuable information and inspiration.
Going from a detailed realistic style to a loose style.
Often times we admire an artistic style that we ourselves can’t seem to accomplish. I know that has been an issue of mine for quite some time.
I love the loose style of many artists no matter the medium they use to accomplish that. My brain loves to tinker with the details and over the years I have attempted to try my hand at loose art and haven’t been able to nail that skill. As a matter of fact I failed at it over and over.
I am about to try this again. Why you might ask? Why would I tackle this after so many failed tries?
That’s a valid question and I have some thoughts on that.
I believe that our lives and the stress and chaos we have in our every day can contribute to our struggles with our art.
It was only when my life took a more peaceful less stressful course that I had space inside me to discover my inner artist in a bigger way and that is when my art arrived in the most amazing way. It may have been more detail-oriented, but it still showed up in a way it never had before.
So if life stress is a contributing factor to connecting with our inner artist at any point in life, then it is also possible that because of that stress I did not have the ability to have that conversation with myself about working my way to a looser style.
There was no plan of action, there was no quiet space to explore that, there was only desire and disappointment that quickly followed.
I am a different me now and that makes a difference
My life is different now years later and I have found how to listen to the artist within. The process is the journey and I can now appreciate every moment of that in a way I never have before.
Working the process is a much different approach to my love of art than it was in my younger years. There is a comfort in this process that I am now in tune with and that makes such a difference.
I also have a plan and a commitment to working the process of this change. That was something I could not do before, I wanted the result without the hard work. I think that’s something we can all relate to.
In the stress of my life I was not able to see those things.
Does the medium you pick to do this make a difference?
For me, I am going to say yes, yes it does! Right now I use colored pencils mostly for my art medium. Pencils work well with details and give me an
And for that detailed part of my brain that works great. We make great art together. But I want to feed a looser more abstract style of information into my brain.
That’s where pastels come in. Pastels are my new chosen medium to explore looseness in my art.
Pastel sticks, for me, are not the same in my hands as pencils. Pencils let me fiddle, pastels make that harder.
My plan is to pick things to paint that promote mark making, color, emotion, energy
I admire the art of Debora L Stewart. This is one of her abstract art pieces.
You can find her website here.
Also check out her youtube channel
She was very realistic in her art in the beginning and loved the more abstract looser approach. She set out to make that loose style her style
I also watched a few of her real-time tutorials on artists network tv. For a 20 dollar a month subscription I watched her and several others. I will only subscribe for a month or two, but the cost of an in-person class would cost me way more. So it was a worthwhile twenty dollars invested.
I am going to write about this journey here on my blog
When we start a journey we have lots of questions, we wonder about many more things than we do as we get further down the road in that process.
The questions and thoughts we have at the beginning and through the journey change and fade as we grow into that artist.
It is possible that many others want to build a different style other than the one they do best at the moment.
Maybe this journey and my thoughts as I work through it will help me clarify how to accomplish my goals and also help others see into the process as it happens.
I will share my struggles, my failures as they are also a part of my future success.
It is only from failure that we figure out what does and does not work.
Sumatran Orangutan Painting done in watercolor and colored pencil.
Orangutans are and endangered species the world over. Their habitat is being taken away and forests destroyed. Save our wildlife.
This painting won the Croeni Foundation apehero contest 2018. Prize money was donated to charitable Orangutan organization that works to save this endangered species.
Warthogs are not know to be the prettiest animals. Color, texture and artistic vision has brought this guy to life in a spectacular way.
Interested in purchasing art, click on the shop link at the top of the page.
Want to commission a painting contact me.