Monday, September 29, 2014

A First Look at the New Warm Mist Wallis Paper


'Slipping into Evening'              8x10            pastel on Wallis Warm Mist            ©Karen Margulis
available $150
 I have become a hoarder. Like many others I have been saving my last small piece of Wallis Belgian Mist paper. It is on my paper shelf and every once in awhile I will pull it out and think about painting on it. But I don't.  I put it back saving it for another worthy idea.

I have found other papers to love. I have moved on. It was a good relationship while it lasted and I managed to convince myself that I didn't need it.

And then there was a twinkling of a light at the end of the tunnel. A tease. A post on the Wallis Corporation's facebook page last month. Finally an explanation for the absence of Wallis paper. And a glimmer of hope for it's return. And an offer....a small quantity of the new Wallis Warm Mist paper was available directly to artists. But alas I found the post too late and the paper was sold out. I wasn't meant to have it I guess.

And then a coveted piece of the new Wallis was given to me by an artist friend Sharon Lewis. Thank you Sharon! I held onto it for a week before I decided to give it a try.

The Warm Mist Wallis is on top. A piece of the original Belgian Mist in on the bottom.
I liked it. My pastels liked it. It was warmer which I liked,  but most importantly it seemed to perform like the old Wallis. I will buy more when it becomes available. My favorite use for Wallis Belgian Mist was always for studies...plein air and daily paintings when I didn't want to do an underpainitng. I loved the tone of this paper peeking through my layers. It allowed for more direct painting. I missed it for those times. 


For those of you who aren't on Facebook I have copied and pasted the post dated August 18 from The Wallis Corporation's facebook page:

"As some of you know there has been a ridiculous consecutive sequence of errors in the production of Wallis paper that resulted in repeated shortages over the last few years. These included shipping damage, hidden materials flaws, subtle coating flaws, cutting errors, etc. Each of these caused us to fall a little further behind in production, since the process takes 2-4 months per run. Late last year we took steps to improve the overall process in both time and quality by gaining access to some of the newest and most technologically advanced coating equipment in the U.S. Unfortunately it turned out that the equipment did not work well with the archival materials with which we make our products and the majority of that run came out damaged and unusable.

The run was a test of new color, (a warmer ground version of our Belgian Mist we are calling Warm Mist), and it was meant to be immediately followed by each of our regular products you are familiar with. The subsequent runs, of course, were canceled.

The good news is we do have a quantity of the test run that is perfect. It uses the same Belgian-linen colored brown grit as our Belgian Mist product, but with a tiny bit of Maroon Oxide added to the glue underneath, as opposed to the Brown Oxide used in our Belgian Mist paper. We were running the test color because many artists have inquired about a warmer version of Wallis paper for years."


Karen's note: the limited quantity is currently sold out September 29 2014.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

How to Paint Expressive Trees and Shrubs..NEW Pastel Demo/Tutorial


'Morning Magic'           8x10            pastel         ©Karen Margulis
painting available here $150
I used to avoid painting trees. I didn't like my trees. They were too fussy. No matter how hard I tried I would over work them and paint too many leaves!  They didn't look good and it just wasn't fun.  Along the way my style has evolved and I finally figured out how to simplify my trees. I enjoy putting them in my landscapes now. It has taken practice and restraint to keep them simple but it is a lot more fun. Landscapes with trees don't scare me (as much) anymore.

I decided to put together my tips for painting foliage and making trees, shrubs and grasses more expressive into my next pdf demo tutorial. I am pleased to announce that it has been released today and is available for download in my Etsy shop. Here is a preview of what's inside:






This is my largest pdf demo with 29 pages and 57 color photos. I take you through the process of painting from the preparation of the paper to the finishing details.

You are welcome to follow along and paint or use the demo as an insight into my process. I have learned so much from watching demos so I wanted to offer a way to share my process.  A video would be nice but in a way this step by step demo is even better because I freeze each step with a photo and detailed commentary on each step!

How will this painting develop? What is next?

close up of the trees in progress

I now have 10 of these demo/tutorials available in my Etsy shop. They are $6 each or you can choose a set of the 5 demos (part 1 and 2) for $24.  These are digital downloads in pdf format. You can view them on your computer or tablet or print them out and staple them into a booklet!  Click on the links for more information and to purchase the demos:

New demo: Painting Expressive Trees and Shrubs

The first 5 Demos: includes a simple marsh on canson, a very green landscape, turpenoid wash/water, painting an autumn marsh, how to paint animals. 

The second 5 Demos: Includes How to paint a mini pastel, How to paint the beach, Watercolor underpainting with daisies, Winter landscape with snow, How to paint expressive trees and foliage

Here are some testimonials:
Excellent tutorial! I love the super-detailed step-by-step approach and the inclusion of little tricks and tips. It's difficult finding really good pastel 'how-to' books (by great artists whose work I admire), but your tutorials fill that gap! Looking forward to more! 

What a wonderful way to get an organized, well developed lesson in the comforts of my own home! Thank you Karen for a great lesson, I'll keep practicing!!

All of Karen's demos are fantastic--information-rich, lots of photos, detailed examples, easy to follow.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

What is the Most Challenging Color Scheme?

'Mystery'                  12x15              pastel            ©Karen Margulis
painting available here $165
 It should be easy.  All you need to do is choose 3 or 4 neighboring colors on the color wheel. This makes up  an Analogous Color Scheme. How hard could it be then to pick the colors and get a good painting?  Not as easy as it looks.   We all have our favorite colors and color schemes (even if we don't know it or label it)   In looking over my work I have discovered that I never use a purely analogous scheme.

Analogous Color Schemes are restful. Since the colors are next door neighbors to one another they are harmonious and pleasing to the eye. This color scheme is often found in nature so it it a perfect color recipe to use for a landscape painting. Paintings using this scheme are serene, peaceful, calm.

But I find a pure analogous color scheme to be a bit too calm and serene.....they can easily become a bit too boring to my liking. When I find myself using analogous colors I tend to incorporate the complement and some discords for some color surprise.  This is known as Analogous-Complementary scheme and it is probably one of my favorites. I love using an the Analogous Color Wheel to help me.

How can we make a pure analogous scheme work ? I challenged myself to give it a try. It was difficult to stick with my chosen scheme of yellow, yellow-green, green and blue-green. I so wanted to take out some red- violet! I exercised restraint and in the end made it work. Here is what I learned:


My chosen colors are yellow, yellow-green, green, and blue-green


  • Choose one of the colors in the scheme to be dominant. I chose Yellow-green. 
  • Choose a second color to be a support color and use it in a smaller amount. I chose Yellow.
  • The third and fourth colors are used in an even smaller amount. These colors are accents. I used blue-green and green in the smallest amounts.
  • Contrast becomes important in an analogous scheme. Make sure the contrast of dark and light is strong enough.

My reference photo

This is the same scene using a Tertiary Triad color scheme
Changing the color scheme can totally change the look and feel of a painting. Have fun with color and take out a color wheel and challenge yourself this weekend! Pick the scheme that you never use and see what happens!

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Must Have Plein Air Gadget for under $3

'The Usual Suspects'            11x14           pastel           ©Karen Margulis
click here to purchase $150
It wasn't on my list so I didn't have one with me. I was happily painting out in the meadow. After awhile it was time for a snack so I pulled out a wipe to clean up and took out a granola bar. There was a problem though. I had forgotten a trash bag.  I had nowhere to throw away my trash.  I am out in the country and there are no trash cans. So I shoved the trash in a pocket of my backpack. Not the ideal place for it but it worked in a pinch.

Never again!  I just discovered a must have gadget at Target that will ensure I will never be without a trash bag again.

The bag holder opened to show the roll of baggies

Clipped to my backpack and ready for trash!

It's called a Bag 'N Bags Disposable Bag Dispenser by J.L. Childress Co.  It is a small 3x2" canvas pouch which holds a roll of plastic bags (the kind you use for dog walking duty)  The pouch has a velcro flap and a slit for the bags. The best part is the carbiner clip so you can attach the pouch to your backpack.

Now I will never be out in the field without a trash bag again. I can think of a lot of other reasons why I'll be glad to have a plastic bag so handy...

  • wet clothes 
  • quick rain cover for my pastels in unexpected rain. 
  • A bag to cover a painting in case of sudden rain.
  • several bags could be a makeshift ground cover to protect my bag from wet dewy grass.
  • a bag to hold souvenirs from the field....I could have used one for the pinecones I collected!
Painting notes: Today's painting is a demo for a private class. It is 11x14 on brown Canson paper.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why Choose Oils for a Pastel Underpainting



'Liberty'                18x24            pastel              ©Karen Margulis
purchase here $500
Have you ever wondered what determines the choice of underpainting technique for a pastel painting? Maybe you have wondered why one should bother with an underpainting at all. I love underpaintings for the freedom they give me.

Underpaintings, especially the wet ones are not always predictable or controllable. Wet paint of any type can drip. It can mix and mingle and bloom which often results in those so called happy accidents that we love to embrace.

Oil Stain Underpainting
One of my favorite wet underpainting techniques is to use Oil paint to create an Oil stain effect. 
  •  All that is needed is a few tubes of oil paint and some odorless mineral spirits and a brush.  I typically use three colors...Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Yellow Medium. I can mix just about any color I need with these three colors. I don't use white as it makes the paint too opaque and the beauty of the oil stain is the transparent quality I can get by thinning the paint with the OMS.
  • You need to use sanded paper that can get wet. My favorite is UART any grit. I find I don't even have to mount Uart as it rarely buckles.
  • I begin with blocking in the darkest shapes first. I thin my paint with the OMS (I use Gamsol) until it is the consistency of tea. Practice makes perfect. If it is too thin it will resemble a light wash and may be too light.
  • If you see your brushstrokes in the paint, the mixture is too THICK. It won't dry very fast and will also fill the tooth of the paper preventing the addition of pastel.
  • If done thin enough the underpainting tales about 30 minutes to dry. I put it in the sun or in front of a fan if I am impatient.


close-up detail of the flowers
Why do I like Oil Stain Underpainting the best?  I find the use of the paint and Odorless Mineral Spirits creates the most interesting drips. They resemble roots or spiderwebs. These drips are wonderful in landscapes as they give the suggestion of grasses. I love the head start that it gives me!

TIP:  You only need a small amount of each paint color since you will be thinning it. I always squeeze out too much paint!  I don't like to waste paint so I will often take out extra paper and just do underpaintings that I can use for future paintings. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cooking with Color.....Color Recipes to Try

'My Happy Place'             12x15             pastel         ©Karen Margulis
painting available for purchase $165
Choosing a color palette for a painting is one of my favorite parts in the painting process. Most of the time I choose my colors based upon the colors I see in my subject. I take into consideration the effects of the light but lean toward using realistic colors. I take my chances that these colors will be harmonious and result in a pleasing painting.

Wouldn't it be a great if we had recipes for color palettes?  

We do and they are known as Color Schemes. These are tried and true arrangements of color based upon how they relate to one another on a color wheel. The most common color schemes are monochromatic, complementary, analogous , triadic and square (tetrads). These are pretty straight forward.  It gets more interesting when we expand and combine these basic schemes. How about split complementary or cross complementary tetrad?  They sound complicated but with the help of a color wheel and making color notes it is easy to use these schemes to help choose a color palette.

There are many good books on color theory and color that address color schemes and how to use them but here are a couple of my favorite resources:
Book: 'Confident Color An Artist's Guide to Harmony,Contrast and Unity' by Nita Leland
website/blog: www.brandigirlblog.com Color Theory made simple

my reference photo 
Using new color schemes can help us expand our knowledge of color leading to more intuitive color choices. It can also help us from falling into a color rut....using the same color palette for every painting. I love to challenge myself occasionally by choosing a color scheme and applying it to my subject. For the best learning experience I choose a color schemes/colors that force me to choose colors I DON'T really see. I rely on the values and not the local colors. The color scheme gives me the recipe and the colors provide the fun!

Tip: When trying a new color scheme use a color wheel and choose your dominant color first. Use a test trip to make color notes so you can keep track of the colors in your scheme. I will also often do a quick color study to work out possible arrangements of colors.

test sheet with color studies
Painting Notes:  I used a TERTIARY TRIAD for today's painting. I chose Red Violet, Yellow Orange and Blue Green.  My paper was a yellow orange piece of Pastelmat.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Choosing The Colors for a Painting

'Autumn Welcome'              18x24              pastel            ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase $500
 I love a good challenge. It is all too easy to fall into the comfort of a familiar palette. If not careful paintings done with the same palette will start to look the same. Every once in awhile it is fun and helpful to mix it up and stretch our color muscles with color schemes....the more complex the more we are stretched!

We are working with color schemes on my pastel classes this week. We are discovering ways that color schemes  help our paintings. I will share more in an upcoming post but I wanted to first ask you some questions to get you thinking.

How do you usually choose the pastels (colors) you will use for your subject?  Do you use color schemes to guide your choices? If so do you choose a subject to fit the color scheme or choose a color scheme to fit your subject?

Visual aids for this week's class

I typically do not use a planned color scheme. I look at my subject and choose colors to represent each element in the subject. For example....I choose grass colors and sky colors and water colors and so on. I try to go beyond local color choosing a variety of same value colors to layer with my local colors.

I am taking my chances that the colors I choose will be harmonious and will look right together. Taking time to practice with color schemes gives me the knowledge I need to make more intuitive color selections. I only work with color schemes occasionally as an exercise but I always come away from it with a better understanding of color.  More to come  on color schemes!

Today's painting is the demo from my Tuesday morning class. I chose a Split Complementary color scheme of Red-Orange, Blue and Green. It is 18x24 on Uart paper with no underpainting.

Studio Dog....Heidi Rose

Studio Cat....Jennifur

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pastel Demo....Trees and Sagebrush on Mystery Paper

'A View to Remember'            11x14           pastel             ©Karen Margulis
this painting is available for $150 click here to purchase
 It's Mystery Paper!  I though I knew my pastel paper but this has me stumped. I was taking paper inventory this morning since I am getting low and I came across this package of paper in my pile. I have a dwindling stack of assorted paper I purchased from an artist who was downsizing.


Mystery Paper....Anyone know what it is?
There were two sheets about 15x20 in a plastic bag sealed with a 'Made in Canada' sticker. The paper was toned this salmon color on the front. It felt like heavy rag paper with a soft touch. The sanded side wasn't gritty like sandpaper. Nothing like Uart. It reminded me more of Canson Touch or Colourfix, sanded but not sandy. I decided to give it a try on today's painting.

My thoughts: Like any paper tried for the first time it felt strange. I didn't dislike it but I didn't fall in love. It will take more paintings on it for me to give a fair assessment. I was actually relieved I didn't fall immediately in love with the paper since I don't know what it is.  Does anyone know what kind of paper this is?

Enjoy today's mini demo on this mystery paper. Stay tuned this weekend for the release of my latest PDF Demo Booklet which will also cover painting trees and shrubs!

Step 1:  Rough sketch with charcoal


 Step 2: Blocking in the dark shapes with 3 different dark value pastels. The pastels are having a hard time covering this paper.




Step 3: Working on the sky and distant mountain.


Step 4: I decided to blend in the first layer so I could get better coverage. Adding green to the trees.




Step 5: Adding more color to the trees and foreground sagebrush. I feel like I am getting close to filling the tooth of the paper so I decide to use some workable fixative spray.




Step 6: The fixative helped. I am able to add more color to the trees and start to develop the sagebrush. I needed to spray 2 more times to give me the tooth I needed to get the effect I wanted in my foliage.



Step 6: At this stage I begin working more on the foreground. I also added more color to the trees and sunlit shrubs. Finally I added more blue to the sky and lightened the mountain.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Up Close and Personal with Wildflowers...The Red Poppy

'In Flander's Fields'            6x6             pastel          ©Karen Margulis
Painting available for purchase $75
I love a good zoom lens. When I am taking pictures I love to zoom in and get up close and personal with my subject. I love cropping and isolating the subject. I love focusing on just one thing allowing everything else to become less important. I am  also drawn to these quiet intimate vignettes when I am painting.  I love painting the big view...the vista....that big field of poppies. But then I am drawn in to a more intimate look.  I want to study a single poppy or two. I want them to become the star of the painting. I zoom in and bring them close for a more personal painting.

These paintings help me paint the larger view. Studying one or two blooms up close gives me so much more information about the flower. What shape is it? What is the growing habit? What colors are they? What kind of foliage does it have...foliage colors? I get the answers to my questions when I am painting close up views.

'Where Poppies Blow'        5x7        pastel      $75
It also helps to learn more about the flowers I am painting. Take the Red Poppy for example. Did you know that the wildflower Red Poppy is also known as Shirley Poppy, Flanders Poppy and American Legion Poppy?  These red poppies can be pink and white and they are not the same as the large red orange Oriental Poppies and smaller Icelandic poppies we see in gardens.

The Red Poppy is best known for the large meadows of poppies in Central Europe. They have become permanently linked to World War I where the fields of poppies disappeared during the war due to the unrelenting battles. You may recall the famous poem by John McCrae 'In Flanders Fields' written as he gazed at the fresh graves of his fellow soldiers in the poppy fields.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae
Written in Flanders on May 3, 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


I will be sharing tips for painting both distant and close-up views of Wildflowers at the upcoming IAPS convention. My three hour demo will be packed full of information and several painting demonstrations. I am so excited about my plans for the 3 hour session. You will not want to miss it if you are coming to IAPS!  Remember that registration for classes and workshops is now on October 8th at noon on the IAPS website

Read more about the Red Poppy and order seeds for your own poppy meadow from American Meadows. 

Painting notes: Both paintings are done on gray Pastelmat paper with no underpaintings. I used Diane Townsend Pure color set soft pastels.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Black on white on Black.....A Saturday Diversion

'Hunkered Down'               6x6           pastel           ©Karen Margulis
purchase on Etsy $50
 I am always open to a change in plans. I am making good progress on my Procrastination Board (see my post here) so my intention for Saturday was to keep plugging away at my to-do list.  I begin my day with coffee and email and one of the emails I received totally changed the course of my day.

A recent black and white pastel beautifully framed by my collector

I received a nice email from a recent collector. She shared a photo of her newly framed painting. She chose a triple mat and a gold washed frame. I love when I get to see my work framed. It is always fun to see the framing choices.  I loved how this particular frame and mats set off my painting. I really did enjoy painting the Queen Anne's Lace with black and white and seeing the framed painting inspired me to take the black paper back out.

I decided to use black paper and only use black, white and grayscale pastels. No color. I chose two Florida scenes....a foggy meadow and a Snowy Egret. There are many choices for black surfaces (see chart) but my favorite is Strathmore Artagain black paper. I like the 6x6 pads of Artist Tile paper. They are meant for Zentangles but they are perfect for little 6x6 pastels. The paper has no tooth so you have use a light touch or plan on using only a few layers.

'Morning Fog'          6x6        pastel   $50

a sampling of black surfaces for pastels
 I spent about an hour of my morning playing with the black and white on black before moving on to the other items on my list.  I never question my inspirations or put them off if I can help it. It was a welcome diversion!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tip for Suggesting Objects in a Landscape Painting

'Time for Quiet'            11x14           pastel
click here to purchase $175
I used to be a landscape purist. I would not add anything man made to my landscape paintings. No buildings, telephone poles or people. Nothing but the landscape. It wasn't because I was making a stand or felt strongly about being a purist. It was actually because I didn't know how to put man made stuff in my paintings without them looking silly or childish.  It was easier to leave them out!

But then I realized what I was doing wrong.  I was DRAWING these man made things instead of PAINTING them.

They didn't look like they belonged in my painting because they didn't fit in with the rest of my marks. They were too detailed and called attention to themselves.  I didn't really want that to happen because the painting was really about the landscape and not the man made things in them.  This things were supposed to add flavor to the landscape but not dominate it.

close up detail of distant buildings
I discovered a trick for suggesting man made objects rather than rendering them in detail. All it took was a simple change in the way I held my pastel.  I started using the pastel on it's side to make small marks to suggest things rather than using the point of the stick to draw them.

Look at the buildings in the close-up photos. They are just chunky marks made with the side of my pastel. I didn't draw them first. If I did I would have been tempted to color them in and add windows! They are in the distance so we wouldn't see the windows!

Be sure your suggested objects are in scale with the rest of the landscape. You don't want a house to tower over the trees!



More suggested buildings
Painting Notes:  Both marsh paintings are on Canson Mi-Teintes Touch paper with no underpainting. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Overcoming Procrastination and Getting Stuff Done!

'Desert Homecoming'              8x10            pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase $100
 I have lists and notes to myself everywhere. There is so much I want to do. So many ideas to try. I usually am pretty good about moving forward and tackling my lists but sometimes everything seems to come to a screeching halt. Nothing gets done.

I read a great article this morning by Jack White on what kills an art career. It got me thinking. He suggests that too often artists don't have success because of procrastination. They may be afraid of failure or what others will think so they don't do anything. They don't even try. (read the whole article here)

This is true for many. I can also be a big procrastinator and it drives me nuts sometimes. But it isn't fear of failure or worrying about pleasing others that causes me to procrastinate.  For me it is a feeling of being overwhelmed that can stop me from moving forward.  Too many projects, ideas and piles of notes can be paralyzing. Instead of tackling things I do nothing. I waste time. I spend too much time on Facebook or reading the news as my pile grows larger.

Today I decided to try a new idea to help me stay focused and get things done.

My big ToDo board
It is a simple white board. A big one. I put it up on a spare easel so it is in clear view. I condensed all my little notes and lists and put down all of the things I needed to do on the board. In the past I have tried keeping lists and using organizer apps but they weren't visible enough. Too easy to ignore!  So far the white board has been a big nag......I can't ignore it. I have accomplished a few of the things I have been putting off and took great pleasure in erasing them from the board!

What do you do to help you overcome procrastination?

Painting notes: today's painting is on my homemade surface (details coming soon) with Terry Ludwog's arid landscape set.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Great Place to Paint People

'Umbrella Drinks'            5x7           plein air     pastel          ©Karen Margulis
available on Etsy $50
The sweat was pouring down. The sunlight was almost blinding. The music was loud. It was hot on deck but I was in heaven. It was the first afternoon of a seven night Caribbean cruise and I had a week ahead of me to relax and paint.

I pulled out my smallest travel pastel kit (available soon) and got to work. The first thing that caught my eye was the poolside bar and two very colorful women who were already celebrating. They had on the brightest neon coverups and were drinking a fun umbrella drink.  I had to work quickly before they got up to continue dancing!  It was going to be a great cruise.


That was in June.  It was a great cruise but since June was such a busy month I have not had a chance to share the paintings I did. I love painting the landscapes of the islands from the deck of the ship. But I realize that I really enjoy painting the people....my fellow passenger and the island locals.  A cruise ship is a great place for drawing and painting people. I usually fill a sketchbook with my people sketches. (see my blog post here with my sketches)  There is such a variety of shapes and sizes and poses on board a ship. You need to work quickly so it is great practice in gesture drawing.  If you are not a sun lover you can sit in the shade to sketch. You will be treated to a constant parade of interesting subjects to sketch or paint. I love it!

Cruising is such a good value if you are flexible and pay attention to the deals. I just got the best cruise deal ever and since I am flexible with my time I have decided to take advantage. I got a 5 night cruise for 2 for total cost of $630 with a $400 on board credit. That makes the price only $115 for me for 5 nights!  I can't buy groceries for that! My mom and I will enjoy a November cruise and I will have fun painting more people!

I have a great cruise travel agent so let me know if you'd like his contact information!




All paintings on this page are available in my Etsy shop. Click here for details.