Tag Archives: how to paint with pastels

Difference Between Watercolor Underwash and Pastel/Turpentine Underwash with a Pastel Painting

What is an underwash? With a pastel painting, it is the first layer of the painting. Why are underwashes needed? Because it either covers the media, saving you from using too much soft pastels, or has a desirous effect with your painting. We will discuss both. In both of these examples, I am using a 10″x8″ Ampersand Pastel Board.

Example #1  Watercolor Underwash

In this example I used watercolor as a first step underneath my pastel painting.
Pros: Watercolors have a cool effect. The water spreads the pigment and the clouds look soft, distant trees look realistic without much effort. Let the watercolors do what watercolors do…..spread on their own. Do you see under the clouds? It looks as if rain is descending on the ground….I did not do this intentionally, the watercolors spread on their own and like magic it looks realistic.
Cons: When dry, the watercolors dry very, very light. Apply dark if possible.

When applying soft pastels on top, do not cover the whole painting. Let the watercolor underwash show through. This enables you to achieve a 3D effect, effortlessly.

Example #2  Turpentine and Pastel Underwash

In this example I scribbled a little pastel color and blended it on my board with turpentine and a bristle brush. A little goes a long way.
Pros: It takes very little pastel scribbled on your board to cover the entire surface. It actually takes a lot less than what I used. Just apply a tiny bit of pastel color and with a clean bristle brush, spread it with turpentine. Pastels are expensive, but if you use this method you will not waste much soft pastel.
Cons: Not much of a 3D effect, rather flat, but many layers can be applied for a dimensional look.

Both methods are fun. These two examples were done on Ampersand Pastel Boards. These methods will NOT work with regular pastel paper. The water with the watercolor and the turpentine in method #2 will destroy regular pastel paper.

Explore and have fun! Layer and see where it takes you.



Speed Demo Video Spring Sunset Soft Pastel

It’s been a long time since you’ve seen a video, huh?!? Yeah, I’m slacking! Well, no more! Time to get to work. And more to come….I promise.

Normally, I like to perform a step by step painting demo right in nature. It is so much more pleasant than an indoor studio, however I saw this magnificent breathtaking sunset as I was driving to Springfield, IL, two weeks ago and I only had time to click a quick picture. So this demo is done from a photo.

Here is the photo:
Spring Sunset

Here is a photo of the final painting:

Unfortunately the video has poor lighting, so the final (which was scanned in) looks much more vibrant. I am using new software so quality will improve with use.

I hope you are keeping up with your art. I hope you are playing and practicing. I hope you are taking time for yourself in this area. Life can be overwhelming most of the time, especially if you have a full time job and a family. You have to fight for your time. Fight for it. It will keep you healthy.

Here is a link for archival prints if interested:
Art Prints

Let’s Paint November Sunset!

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What is it about November that I like so much? Could it be the calm before the storm (peace before holiday chaos)? Could it be the de-clutter of leaves on the trees, providing a sort of de-clutter in my mind? Is it the warmth of the sweater that surrounds me or the first sip of hot chocolate? I’m sure it is a combination of all of these and many more. I love autumn even when it sheds its happy colors and puts on a more subdue garment. At this time of year, the grays and browns dominate, but you can still catch some exciting colors in the sky.


So let’s enjoy this time of the season by making a pastel painting of a November Sunset! This is going to be 100% pastels from start to finish. It won’t be too hard and you will have sooooooooo much fun in the process!


Step 1: I am using a sheet of Kitty Wallis Museum Grade 18×12 pastel paper. It feels like sand paper. You can get this wet and apply an undercoat, which we will do in a few steps. I made a rough sketch with a pastel pencil, it doesn’t matter what color, it will disappear in the end.


Step 2: Holy Hot Tamales!!! This is a fun step, well all of them are fun, but this step will connect you to your child like self buried deep, deep, down somewhere. Don’t worry about the bold dark color. This will be painted over. In this step and the next few, we are just laying down color. I am using Rembrandt pastels. Scribble in most of the sky using a dark pink, a little red and some orange. Repeat the same colors in the water.


Step 3: Now take a medium blue and scribble in the rest of the sky and some of the water. Take a dark blue and scribble in where the distant trees are just above the horizon.


Step 4: Look Mom! Look what I brought home from 1st grade! Hahahahahaha. In this step scribble in the land with a dark maroon/brown. Wait until you see what comes next!


Step 5: Now we are going to spread it around. Pour a small amount of turpentine (smells) or turpenoid (doesn’t smell) in a cup and wet a 2″ bristle brush. Dab on a paper towel to get excess off. You do not want it sopping wet. Start on the lightest color and touch the pastel spreading it around with small sweeping strokes. Clean brush before you move to the next color.


That’s what I’m talking about! Yessssss. Spread it around now! This is an undercoat. Don’t worry how obnoxious it looks. We are going to apply another top coat of soft pastels. Only a tiny amount of this color will show through. Let this dry completely.


Step 6: We will start at the top and work our way down. When your undercoat is dry, take a light pink pastel and paint in the sky. I hate saying exact color names or numbers on my step by steps. I do not want people to run out and buy more art supplies because they think they don’t have the “right” color. All colors are right. All colors are usable. Use what you have. When I’m determining what color to use on top of an undercoat, I just use a shade lighter.
Paint in the sun colors using a lighter orange and a touch of dark yellow. Paint the lower half of the sky with a light blue.


Step 7: With your finger and a light touch, blend the two colors with a sweeping strokes.


Step 8: Using the light blue sky color, fill in the water near the horizon. Take a medium blue pastel and paint in the distant trees. Using your finger blend the trees upward towards the sky. Looking good so far.


Step 9: Now I realized my maroon land color was not dark enough, so I’m adding a very dark blue Unison pastel color. The darkest Rembrandt is not really dark enough for me. Unison pastels can get very, very dark. I also painted more of the water with the light sky blue color.


Step 10: This is a close up of the land where I’m going to describe how to paint the dried grasses. Now because the light technically is coming from the back and it’s the beginning of evening, the grasses will not have much color. Using a dark blue pastel pencil, make dots and lines on top of the water just above the land. This represents cattails in the distance. Next take a gray-purple pastel and make lines for grass on the land. I like to be messy about it. Neat is boring.


Step 11: Take a lighter pastel, like a light gray-brown and make some grasses in the front. Take your dark blue pastel or pastel pencil and make some tiny grass sticks here and there in the very front, some put right in the water. Oh this is coming along nicely!


Step 12: Using a dark blue pastel pencil, paint in the trees. I thinned them out from the picture. I didn’t want them to be too distracting. After my trees were established I went over them with a dark brown color. Working on the water, take the same sky colors and paint the foreground. Don’t forget the nice orange color of the sunset. Make sure you add the tree trunks reflecting in the water.


Step 13 Final: Add more blue sky color to the water in the foreground. Because the wind was so strong, it was breaking up the reflection in the water, so paint some more like blue and pink in the water.
Lastly, let the sun kiss the tree trunks and limbs by adding some hot colors; hot pink and orange work nice. Finished!

“Sweet November Sunset”

If interested in purchasing the original, click here to see availability.

I hope you enjoyed this free step by step pastel painting demonstration. I am so very honored that God has blessed me to be able to share this with you.

Let’s Paint Twilight Winter Landscape!

This is a picture I took last winter at the Orland Grasslands. I think it was about 4:30, just before dark. Something about this scene caught my eye, maybe it was the openness of the field or that lonely moon looking down.

Winter is wonderfully quiet. Do you ever escape to a place just to be in peace and quiet? I do. Winter, even though cold, offers perfect silence more than any other season. I like to just stand for several minutes and hear nothing. I think silence in itself is a blessing. Many people are afraid of it. I know one person who has to sleep with their television on or they can’t go to sleep. I know another person who cannot sleep without the radio on. Both individuals wish they could sleep in silence, but cannot. To be at peace and comfortable in total silence is a blessing. Anyway, that’s what winter at the Orland Grasslands is like. If you’re quiet enough you may just hear nature whisper to you. So let’s paint this “Twilight Winter Whisper” landscape in pastels using a watercolor underwash.


Step 1: I am using an 11×14 Ampersand Pastelbord. Using a charcoal pencil, draw a light sketch of the landscape. Mask out the moon with watercolor masking fluid. We are going to use watercolors to cover the board. You can use some pastel colors and turpentine to make a wash, but I find that takes too long. Watercolors are quick and cover a lot of ground.


Step 2: Turn your board upside down. We are going to paint the sky first. Starting at the horizon line paint a strip of mauve and rose. In the middle I took more water and a touch of cobalt. Near the edge I painted rose, cobalt and ultramarine blue.


Step 3: When the sky is dry, paint the distant trees with sepia and Payne’s gray. Flick the edges into the sky to represent tree top twigs.


Step 4: Turn the board right-side-up. Paint the field in burnt sienna and the snow in a diluted cobalt blue. We are done with watercolors. Wait until everything is dry or cheat by using a hair dryer. Next up…pastels.


Step 5: Now comes the fun part! I am using Rembrandt Pastels. Take a medium purple and scribble just above the tree line. Do not cover every inch, you will blend with your finger and some of the watercolor color may show through. Next, add just a touch of medium-dark blue just under the rose color. In the middle, scribble some light blue. Using the same medium purple paint on top of the light blue and at the very top paint with the medium-dark blue around the moon.


Step 6: Over the rose color, paint with a light pink that has a peach tone to it. Blend with your fingers in a sweeping motion, just like the wind whipped clouds. This step may make you feel like a kid again, beware. 🙂


Step 7: Using a red-orange pastel, paint the distant field. Take a tan pastel and highlight the very top of the distant grasses. With the lightest purple there is, paint the snow the field. Paint touches of light blue in the snow as well. Blend with your finger.


Step 8: Using a yellow-tan pastel, make grasses sticking out of the snow against the dark patches. For fun, paint some red and purple grasses sparingly. Something really amazing happened at this point….the painting told me it didn’t need any more trees. Remember in our photo on the left hand side there is a group of trees that’s near the foreground? I was planning on painting them in, however at this step I felt the painting just didn’t need it and if I painted them, it might compromise the feeling of the painting.


Step 9 Final: After stepping back and reviewing, I noticed that my sky was way too stark. In this last step, lighted the sky around the moon with the same light blue as the middle of the sky. Blend. Using a light purple, paint the cloud next to the tree tops. Blend. Highlight the snow along the path with a very light pastel (almost white). Done!

Twilight Winter Whisper – Orland Grasslands

If you are interested in an archival print, you may want to view my selection of paintings through Fine Art America. They create prints, canvases, greeting cards and they can also frame if desired. To view this painting click here. To view all paintings available click here.

I am very thankful that God has given me this talent to paint and the ability to share my talents with you. Thank you for your visit to this site!

Let’s Paint an Eastern Bluebird!

The Eastern Bluebird is a beautiful bird that spends its summers breeding and living in my area before migrating south for the winter. They are not hard to find if you look in meadows and open fields especially if bluebird boxes have been set up there. The Little Red Schoolhouse has a few bluebird boxes in its tiny meadow right before the Black Oak Trail and Spears Woods also has one near the yellow trail. Right now however, the bluebirds have left the area and moved south.
😦 I am missing them already.

So let’s keep a piece of the Eastern Bluebird so that we can cherish it all winter long…

Step 1: Here is my reference photo. It is from the site, Paint My Photo, where artists upload photos and allow you to paint from them, copyright free. This photo was taken by Kathy Detweiler. What a beautiful shot!
This is going to be a pastel painting with a watercolor under painting. I am using a white 5×7 Ampersand Pastelbord. I made a rough sketch with vine charcoal.

Step 2: Holy Hot Tamales! Yes, that’s a bright red, but don’t worry, it will be covered up when we are done. I am using the compliment color red/orange, for a watercolor under wash. When finished I want my sky to be a green/blue color. Why bother doing this when most of it will be covered with pastels? I like this technique because it creates a deeper color, less flat when finished.

Step 3: Paint the branches in watercolor, I used purple. Now for the bird. Paint the bluebird’s back cobalt blue, the mid section burnt sienna, and under his belly a gray color. Let every thing completely dry.

Step 4: We are done using watercolors, when the board is dry, take a dark turquoise green pastel and fill in the sky. I am using Rembrandt pastels.

Step 5: With a lighter turquoise green paint the sky behind the bluebird. For the bluebird’s white belly, take the lightest blue pastel (looks almost white) and paint the belly, also paint under his eye. Where the shadow is on his belly, paint that light purple and blue. These colors should almost look light gray. For the main branch, paint that dark green and for the smaller branches paint those medium purple. Don’t cover the whole board, let a tiny bit of red show through here and there.

Step 6: Using pastels, paint the rust color a dark orange/brown. Layer with lighter orange colors and highlight with a yellow. Paint his back and head with a deep indigo blue pastel.

Step 7: Using the same light blue/gray you used on his belly (shadow), paint the top of his head.  When ever I want to get a really bright highlight or a really dark, dark color, I stop using Rembrant pastels and I switch to Unison pastels. Unisons are not as hard and feel buttery. The softer the pastel the easier it will be to grab onto the board. I took a very light yellow (almost looks pure white) Unison pastel and painted the left side of his belly and on the tail feathers.

If You Leave, I Will Follow - pastel

Step 8 Final: For the sky, take a light blue and paint behind the bird. Next, take a purple pastel and paint the main branch and a light purple and paint the smaller branches. For the bird, it might be easier to use pastel pencils for detail in the face. As long as the face is in detail, nothing else needs to be in focus, because it’s not really important. Take time when painting the eye and don’t forget that white reflection! Paint his leg a dark brown and highlight the top with a lighter red/brown.

“If You Leave, I Will Follow Bluebird”

This painting will be on display at the LaGrange Art Gallery in November. I didn’t know what to title this painting so I asked myself, “What would you be thinking if this bluebird landed in the tree above you?” And I answered myself, “If you leave this tree, little bluebird, and fly to the next one, I will follow you so that I can burnish in my memory your beauty and recall it for years to come.”

I hope you enjoyed this free step by step painting demonstration on how to paint an Eastern Bluebird!