Thursday, May 18, 2017


Framing art to take to the Jura Silverman Gallery each spring keeps me busy for several weeks. The studio, the adjacent family room, and the framing area all become a chaotic mess, with art work, backing boards, mats, and glass covering pretty nearly every inch of space.  It's no wonder that I knocked over my travel mug that was half full of tea. The lid popped off and tea began to run under pencils, rulers, papers, and stacks of magazines on the work table, splashing onto one finished, unframed painting that was on the table.

In the image on the left you can see the dark, wet splotches in the lower left corner and a few drops in the sky of this close up shot of the painting.

This could have ruined the painting if it had not been done on Art Spectrum Colourfix paper. All I had to do was wait for it to dry and repaint the splotched areas. This is one good reason to love papers that accept a wet application.

Below is Soft Autumn Light  10 x 18 after the splotched areas were repainted.

Surfaces used for pastel include commercially prepared paper, boards, and sandpapers. Some artist like to prepare their own surface using prepared primers or their own formula. Choosing which surface to paint on can be overwhelming for the new pastelist. When I started out as a pastelist I used Canson MiTientes paper and I still do on occasion. The Canson paper is very popular, it is reasonably priced and it comes in many colors. It will not, however, accept a wet application. One side of the MiTientes paper is textured and one side is smooth. I have heard artists argue over which is the 'right' side of the paper. My answer, there is no right side. Each side has it's unique characteristics. Try both to see which you like better.

To understand pastel paper it is important to understand the difference between tooth, grit and texture.

  • TOOTH  is what holds the pastel particles to the surface. A deeper tooth holds the pastel well and accepts many layers. The less tooth, the less layering the paper will accept. Once the tooth is filled the surface will accept no more pastel strokes. A paper with less tooth can create problems when framing because the pastel dust falls off easily onto the mat or glass. If the tooth is insufficient to hold all the layers one would like, the surface can be sprayed with a workable fixative to bring back the tooth. I do not use fixative, but that is a subject for another day.
  • GRIT refers to a sanded paper and usually has a number associated with it like what is used in commercially prepared sand papers used in the building trades. Uart paper has seven grades, with 240 being the largest grit and 800 the finest grit.
  • TEXTURE is the pattern on the surface. Texture appears as tiny bumps, inlaid lines, patterns or grain. This texture can be seen and felt. A pastel lightly dragged across the surface  shows the texture.

In my last blog post I suggested that beginners to the pastel medium might like to experiment with a variety of pastel brands. A good source for sampler sets is They have sampler sets of pastels, pastel papers and pastel boards. Working with a variety of pastel brands and papers will help you decide what works best for your own unique style and technique. Freely experiment using small pieces so that you will not feel you are wasting paper. Try light over dark, dark over light, soft over hard, etc.  Try varying the pressure. Try using the side of the stick and the end of the stick. Try as many combinations as you can. To check the layering capabilities of the surface try adding multiple layers one over the another and count the number of layers that can be added before the surface will accept no more.

The example below shows six different papers with five different pastels dragged across plus a sixth layer,  a blue pastel drawn across diagonally. You can see the difference in the amount of pastel that is grabbed by the tooth of the Art Spectrum and the Uart paper. You can see the texture of the Canson MiTientes paper. 
The pink was dragged across first then the next five colors where dragged over the top but each one was started slightly lower than the last color to reveal all colors that were laid, so when you look at the green on the bottom it is covering four other colors. You can see that the Art Spectrum, The Uart, and the Canson (smooth side) do a better job of accepting the five layers. The colors on the Strathmore, the Canson MiTientes (textured side) and the Bristol seem to blend together as the layers are added. Experimenting with papers and pastel brands allows you to become familiar with how the various materials will perform.

To sum up, some papers have a lot of tooth, but very little texture, others have lots of texture but very little tooth. The combination I like to use is less texture but a lot of tooth. As I mentioned before, some papers can get wet and others cannot. The coating on some papers will disintegrate if it comes in contact with moisture. My favorite papers are Uart sanded paper and Art Spectrum Colourfix. Both are smooth (less texture) with lots of tooth and can accept a wet application. The Art Spectrum paper comes in many colors and sizes. Both are durable, versatile, re-workable and forgiving; accepting a wet application as well as multiple layers of pastel. Uart comes in a variety of grits and sizes, including rolls of 56" by 27 yards. 

Another consideration is archival quality. Any finished work should be done on an archival paper. It is less important for sketching and experimenting, but for finished work it is wise to use the best quality you can afford.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below or send an email to .
Let me know what you'd like to know about pastel techniques and materials.

 Future topics I am considering are:
  • Easels, etc
  • Under Painting and other ways to start your painting
  • To Blend or Not to Blend - Does sand paper remove your fingertips?
  • To Fix or Not to Fix (Fixative)
  • Forgive or Forget - Correcting mistakes or tossing it out.
  • Framing
  • Not Your Common Dust Bunny - Dealing with pastel dust
  • Plein Air Equipment
  • My Favorite Art Books
  • L

    Monday, April 3, 2017


    Pastel is a great medium for beginners. There are no complicated formulas, no brushes to clean, there is no paint to mix, no waiting for paint to dry, and no color changes due to drying. Pastel lends itself to self expression and experimentation. It can be applied in bold wide strokes or thin precise lines.  The method of application and the effects achieved are endless. And it is a very forgiving medium -  so what's not to like? The messy pastel dust in the studio and on hands and clothing, as well as the possible complications of breathing in the dust are all drawbacks. Loose dust can also create problems when framing (more on dust and framing issues in a future post).

    The Pastel Medium.
    There are two pastel mediums: oil pastel and soft pastel or what is commonly referred to simply as pastel.  This article is about soft pastel, not oil pastel. 

    Pastels are made with pure powdered pigments combined with a binder to form a paste.​ The paste is rolled into round or rectangular sticks or shapes that are easily held in the hand. The paste is then allowed to dry.  Pastels are applied in this dry form to a surface such as pastel paper or specially prepared board.

    Hard, Soft, and In-Between.
    Within the soft pastel medium there are three general categories: soft pastel, hard pastel, and pastel pencils.
    ​ To further confuse a beginner to the pastel medium, there are many degrees between hard and soft. There is some consistency within brands, for instance Rembrandt pastels are known as semi-hard or medium. While NuPastels are considered hard and Schmincke is known as a very soft pastel. Yet, even within brands there can be some variation in the degree of hardness from stick to stick. Pastel pencils are what their name suggests: pastel within a wood pencil that can be sharpened to a point like a lead pencil. They are useful for fine lines, detail work and for blending.
    The website offers a list of pastel brands with the degree of hardness listed. The list also includes the dimensions of the pastel and a picture shows the shape of the pastel. Here is a link that will take you to the chart.​ 

    Buying Pastels
    When buying pastels for the first time it is advisable to look for a set of half sticks.  Half stick sets offer more colors for the money. It is best to stay away from the very inexpensive student grade sets. The results achieved with this type of set will probably be quite discouraging. Purchase the highest quality you can afford. A set of  48 colors or more will give a good variety. To supplement the basic set, individual sticks can be purchased from most manufacturers. These are called open stock. Though the individual stick price might be more than the price per stick in a boxed set, you will have the freedom to choose the colors you desire, rather than spending money on colors you would rarely if ever use.  Buying a dark, middle, and light value of each color that you are adding to your set will create a well-rounded set. offers a great way to experiment with different brands. They currently offer six different sampler sets of soft pastels and sampler sets of pastel pencils with eight different brands of pastel pencils. This is a great way to experiment with different brands and discover which ones work best for you.

    ​Keeping Track with an Inventory

    When I buy a new pastel I use a single edge razor blade to cut the pastel in half. The half that has the color name and number on the label I put in an inventory box.  I remove the label from the other half of the stick and put it in my working box. This affords me the ability to use the side of the pastel for wide sweeping strokes.

    One of my pastel inventory boxes.(You will notice that there are also full sticks in the box, these are extras of colors I use often)

    My working pastel box

    Another method of keeping track of pastels is to create a color chart. Simply draw a small square of color on a piece of pastel paper and write the color name and number next to it.

    Color Chart

    When a pastel is getting almost too small to use I can refer to the pastels in the inventory box or the color chart to find the color number and name when I need to reorder.

    Future Topics:
    • Tooth, Grit & Texture - Pastel Paper and other grounds
    • Easels, etc
    • Under Painting and other ways to start your painting
    • To Blend or Not to Blend - Does sand paper remove your fingertips?
    • To Fix or Not to Fix (Fixative)
    • Forgive or Forget - Correcting mistakes or tossing it out.
    • Framing
    • Not Your Common Dust Bunny - Dealing with pastel dust
    • Plein Air Equipment
    • My Favorite Art Books
    Are there other topics you'd like to know more about? Want to see one of the above topics covered first? Do you have questions?
    Comment below or send an email:

    Wednesday, March 1, 2017

    Indiana Dunes Lakeshore 18" x 18"

    Here is the painting that I worked on during the last three days of my February challenge.
    In August 2016 I was selected for the Artist-in-Residency Program at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. I spent two weeks painting, hiking, exploring and taking reference photos to paint from. The above painting will become part of the park's Aritst-in-Residency Gallery.

    Saturday, February 25, 2017

    Day 25 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

    Today I did not complete a painting. Here is a work-in-progress that I worked on today. This is a larger version of the small painting posted on the  23rd. I have put away the reference photo and I am working only from the small painting, in an effort to avoid adding more detail than is necessary in the larger version.

    Friday, February 24, 2017

    Day 24 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

    Clouds Over Ice 16.5" x 9.5" Pastel on Canson MiTeintes orchid paper.
    Cumulus clouds in an intensely blue winter sky. The vibration created by the contrast of the orchid pink paper and the blue causes the sky to come alive.

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

    Day 23 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

    Indiana Dunes Lakeshore 6.5" x 6.5" Pastel on Uart paper.
    Painted this from a photo and sketches made during  my Artist-in-Residency at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in August of 2016. I am considering doing a larger version of this one.
    Available through PayPal

    Wednesday, February 22, 2017

    Day 22 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

    Through the Trees 8" x 8" Pastel on UArt paper.
    The sun filters through the trees and spills out over the snow, creating patterns of light and shadow.

    Tuesday, February 21, 2017

    Day 21 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

    Twilight 12" x 16" Pastel on Uart paper.
    Twilight creates a soft peachy sky which lightly touches the snowy hills and the roofs of the farm buildings nestled in the valley. 

    Monday, February 20, 2017

    Day 20 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

    Hillside Farm 6.5" x 10" Pastel on UArt paper.
    Today I decided to paint something green. It was a gray day outside and the snow is melting and looking dirty, so I didn't really feel like going outside to paint.This was painted from a photo I took in summer. I don't really know why but my attention is often drawn to rusting metal roofs.

    Sunday, February 19, 2017

    Day 19 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

    Long Winter Shadows - En plein Air 8.5 x 10" Pastel on Art Spectrum paper.
    It was another unseasonably warm winter day in Wisconsin and a great day for painting outdoors. The sun was bright and the shadows were long. From my view the sun was just kissing the tops of the trees. 

    Saturday, February 18, 2017

    Day 18 ~ February Challenge

    Cirrus Clouds ~ En Plein Aire 12" x 9" Pastel on Richeson Pastel Paper
    It was another unseasonably warm winter day, so I headed out to paint outdoors. I didn't travel far, just to the field behind my house.The sky was intensely blue with high, thin cirrus clouds. It was great to be outside. Working on the  Richeson paper was new to me and I liked the rough texture and deep tooth.

    Friday, February 17, 2017

    Thursday, February 16, 2017

    Day 16 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

    Country Road 5 x 7" Pastel on Richeson's Pastel Board
    Today I tried a surface that was new to me, I liked the suttle texture of this toothy surface. Not sure if it was the small size or the texture of the surface but I was able to achieve a looser style which I was quite happy with.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2017

    Day 14 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

    East Shore - Plein Air, 12.5" x 9"
    It was another great day to be outdoors painting.Though I would have liked to spend maybe half hour more on this one, but the clouds rolled in very quickly becoming completely overcast and the wind started whipping, so I called it finished and headed inside.

    Monday, February 13, 2017

    Day 13 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

    Winter Lakeshore 10" x 10"
    Today was a great day to be painting outdoors. The sun was warm and the temperature around 42. I sat at the end of the dock and painted the long shadows of the trees acroos the snow-covered ice.  The shoreline weeds sticking up above the ice were catching the sun's rays and the sky was deep blue with wispy clouds

    Sunday, February 12, 2017

    Day 12 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

    Hills and Clouds 7" x  9" Pastel on Uart 400 grit pastel paper.
    On this blustery, winter day I enjoyed working in the sutdio from my reference photos taken when the temperatures were warm and it was a fine day to be outside.

    Friday, February 10, 2017

    Day 10 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

    Winter River Light 7 x 9
    Here's the revised version of yesterday's painting. I got so involved in this one, that I didn't complete a new painting to post today. Check yesterday's post to see the work-in-progress.

    Thursday, February 9, 2017

    Day 9 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

     This is a photo of the underpainting for Winter River Light. The underpainitng was sketched with hard Nu-Pastels and then a brush and alcohol was used for the underpainting.
    I love using Uart paper because it accepts this wet technique. Not all pastel papers will stand up to getting wet.
    Winter River Light 7 x 9" Pastel on Uart paper, is a work-in-progress. I still need to "clean-up" the shapes of the trees and branches, and the sun shapes filtering through the branches. 

    Monday, February 6, 2017

    Day 6 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28 Days

    Winter Evening Sky 5.5" x 7.5"
    Pastel on Uart paper
    My dad used to say "sky blue, pink and purple"  referring to a color that did not exist. I often am reminded of that phrase when I see a sky like the one in this painting.

    Purshase Winter Evening Sky

    Friday, February 3, 2017

    Day 3 ~ February Challenge 28-in-28

    Slip Slidin' Away 11" x 14"
    Another take on the sun slippin' below the horizon on a winter evening. Yesterday's version was a tiny 4.5" x 5.75". This one was done as a demonstration for the residents at the Heartland House Care Facility. CLICK HERE: TO PURCHASE THIS PAINTING

    Thursday, February 2, 2017


    Here are the first two days paintings for my self-imposed challenge to paint 28 daily paintings, one for each day in February. My plan is to do small studies and then select some of the best to complete larger works. I am trying to loosen up, working with less detail and working in a small format encourages that. If you care to comment on the ones that you feel would make good larger paintings, I would love your input.

     Snowy Hillside 4.5 X 6.25"
    Slippin' Away 4.5 x 5.75"

    Monday, January 23, 2017


    This original, framed, ready to hang pastel landscape painting will go home with one of this year's Sweetheart Candlelight Event raffle ticket buyers. So, go to the event, have some fun, buy raffle tickets, and you might be the one. You'll have the satisfaction of knowing you helped to financially support the Ice Age Trail and you will have an original work of art to remind you of the trail.

    Waushara County Chapter of the Ice Age Scenic Trail
    18th Annual Sweetheart Candlelight Event
    February 11, 2017 -- 5-9 PM
    Caribou Bay Retreat
    N795 County Rd. JJ, Coloma, WI

    This family event is a fun winter outing for all ages. After hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing on the Wedde Creek Segment, warm yourself by the bonfire. Go inside the Caribou Bay Retreat to enjoy music by the Cody Clauson Trio and refreshments - and be sure to enter the raffle for great prizes.

    Here's why I donate art to the Ice Age Scenic Trail's annual Sweetheart Candlelight Event's fundraising raffle:
    ~ The raffle proceeds go directly to creating, protecting, and supporting the trails in Waushara County.
    ~ The Waushara County Chapter maintains 20.5 designated miles of trail divided between 6 segments.
    ~ Access to the trails is free.
    ~ Giving back to an organization that helps preserve the areas where I hike and paint is simply "the right thing to do."

    Monday, January 16, 2017


    Many thanks to Keith Linwood Stover for featuring my art on the My art will be featured January 16 and 17th. Keith tirelessly works to promote artists, and I am deeply honored to have been selected by Keith. The image below Winter Sun & Shadows is one of the images Keith selected for the online gallery.Visit the online show soon to see my work on the front page then go back often to view all the great artists he selects.

    Sunday, January 1, 2017


    Happy New Year!
    Year after year I've noticed that retailers like to promote organization in January, offering special sales on plastic totes, desk organizers, closet organizers, etc. It appears they hope to take advantage of the many New Year's resolutions that are made by folks hoping to live a more orderly and organized life. I decided I would do a bit of organization in my studio, starting with my pastel tray. (Sorry, retailers, I didn't need to buy anything.) Pastels do need to be cleaned frequently because it does not take long before all the pastels in the tray become a grungy gray. Periodic cleaning brings them back to their original brilliant color. Some artists have a clean-as-you-go philosophy or clean at the end of each painting session. I am not as diligent, and when I entered the studio after some time away for the holidays it was evident that I should take time for cleanup and organization to start the new year off right. Here is a photo of my cleaned pastels and organized tray. The pastels are again in order by color and value (light to dark, with a special section for grays) making it easier for me to find just the right color when I need it. The time off during the holidays has me feeling a bit rusty but my materials are ready and I am eager to paint. Are you making an resolutions, goals or special plans for 2017?