Monday, September 10, 2012

First Day of the Fall Session at Spruill

"Sun and Shade" pastel, 9x12
When I have several new students in a pastel class, as I usually do at the start of a new session at the art center where I teach, I find it best to gear the first class toward this group. New pastel artists typically begin with a small supply of pastels and the cheaper paper. I can't blame them...the good stuff is expensive! And if they're just trying out a new medium, who wants to spend a fortune on art supplies when you're not sure if you'll like it.*

So I try as much as possible to use the same supplies that they'll probably use on their first day. My "day 1" exercise: working from a black & white photo. This helps diminish the frustration of trying to match exact colors in a reference photo, and focus on seeing the color pastel sticks in terms of values.

reference photo
My demo was done on Canson Mi-Teintes paper starting with three Nupastels and a Rembrandt or two, followed by 12 softer pastels.

*I should add that I do encourage my new students to gradually try the better pastels and surfaces, since for some artists, the better quality materials can make all the difference with whether they like the medium or not.


  1. This is a beautiful and simple pastel. I love how you have employed the color of the paper.

  2. Thanks, Debora! It's partly unfinished, but I kind of liked it that way, with much of the paper showing through. It's so easy to overworked a pastel on Canson, so I thought it better to leave it as is!

  3. I agree, what a beautiful painting! I would never have thought that the brown paper would work for green trees but it does because the value is correct! Thanks for a great lesson, Barbara.

    1. Thanks, Donna! When I work on a colored surface, I normally like a warm color, especially for landscapes with a lot of green.

  4. Your paintings are beautiful and it is interesting to see how you challenge yourself to make an interesting painting.