How to Paint Daisies in Pastel

‘Daisies Make me Smile’             9×12              pastel            ©Karen Margulis

click here to purchase $165

Daisies make me smile!  I love to paint them but I wasn’t always successful. In fact anytime I tried to add wildflowers to a painting they would look childish and sweet. I didn’t want that! I wanted my wildflowers to look authentic …to look like they belonged in the landscape and not just an afterthought. I wanted them to look as wild and free as I saw them.  But they always looked stiff and boring.
I didn’t give up.  I just practiced and observed and tried different techniques.  I am still learning but at least now my daisies don’t look like they were painted by a preschool child!  I have discovered ways to help me paint them better.  I am excited to be able to share my discoveries with you in my latest demo.
The demo is available as a pdf booklet in my Esty shop for $6. Click here for details 
The cover of the pdf booklet

This demo is my biggest one yet!  It is 30 pages filled with 60 color photos. I have documented each step of the painting from the watercolor underpainting all the way through the layering of the pastels.  I extensively cover the watercolor underpainting stage….something I didn’t always have great success with!  Through the many photos and my description you will be able to see how I work through the addition of pastel while preserving the underpainting. Here are a few sample photos:


close up photo of watercolor underpainting
sample from the pdf demo

This demo is a PDF file so you can either print it out and staple the pages into a booklet or just save it and follow on your computer or tablet. I know several artist who like to follow and paint along on their iPads.

I would love for you to take a closer look and consider giving this demo a try. I have 6 other demos available as well. They can be found in my Etsy shop.

Here is a link to the demos.

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Learn How to Paint a Winter Landscape in Pastel


‘Winter Silence’              8×10             pastel             ©Karen Margulis         SOLD
I like to paint winter landscapes in the winter. Some prefer to paint them in the heat of the summer. A bit of respite from the heat. I can understand that. I like to paint a warm summer beach to take the chill off a cold winter day.  But I still prefer to paint winter when it is cold.  I feel like I can relate to the cold iciness of the snow when I actually feel cold. And it helps to be able to observe the snow and the bare winter trees live and in person!
It was cold outside when I painted this demo. It has been cold everywhere including Georgia!  I enjoyed painting it and I am excited to share the detailed demo notes in my latest download available in my Etsy shop.  I love sharing my mini demos here on the blog but these monthly demo downloads allow me to go in depth and share step by step my thoughts and techniques.
This demo focuses on how to paint the colors in snow and snow shadows and how I create the illusion of detail without really putting in a lot of detail….suggestions of detail is what I try to do.  Bare winter trees are the perfect subject for minimizing detail.
This demo is 22 pages with 40 color photos. It is available as a PDF download for $6. You can view or on your computer or print it out. Here is the link to the Winter Demo
If you haven’t tried my monthly pastel demos I have the last 5 available in a bundle for $24 here.
The front of my Demo PDF



suggesting bare winter trees
shapes and colors = suggested detail


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A Simple Technique for Painting Snow with Pastels

‘On the Way to Grandmother’s House’             9×12          pastel         ©Karen Margulis

click here to purchase $125

Want to paint snow with pastels?  Forget about trying to paint every snowflake. I have a quick and easy way to create a snowy landscape.  All you need is a very light value pastel and something with a sharp edge. I like to use a palette knife.  A piece of glassine or tracing paper is helpful but you could do without it in a pinch. Read on for details.

I am using a light gray piece of Canson Touch paper that I also coated with some clear gesso for a bit more texture. I used only my softer pastels, Terry Ludwigs and Diane Townsend lights. I blocked in the darkest shapes with some blues and purples.

I block in the sky with pale pink and pale yellow bringing it down into the trees.

I finished the snow covered foreground and mid ground using blues for the shadows on the snow and pale yellows and pinks for the snow color. I don’t use pure white at all.

I refine the trees by using the sky color to create some airy and lacy branches. I also lightly draw in some branches with the sharp edge of my pastel. I refine the trunks and aadd some bits of color to the trees. Now I am ready for the falling snow.

I lay the painting flat. Using my flat palette knife and a pale pale pastel (not white) I shave the pastel over the painting where I want some snow to fall. I dig into the pastel stick to create some larger snowflakes. Once I am satisfied with the amount and placement of the snow I put down the piece of glassine paper and press down with my palm all over the paper to push the pastel dust into the paper. I also use the palette knife to push the bits of pastel into the paper. I also use the palette knife to draw in some branches like scratch art.

Voila…now you have falling snow!  Easy and a lot of fun!



Posted in Daily paintings, Landscapes | 1 Comment

Making a 30 Day Art Plan

‘Sledding in the City’          11×14              pastel           ©Karen Margulissold

It is so easy to get overwhelmed. This is the time of year many of us set goals for our art journey. Whether we are professionals or just paint for fun it is good to have something to work towards.  We can call them goals but sometimes this makes it seem like a chore. I like Lori Woodward’s approach to goals…..she calls them ‘wants’ as in “I want to be a better artist.”  You aren’t measured or graded on how well you do to meet your goals. Instead it is up to you to follow through because you really want to paint better.

It is still easy to be overwhelmed with a big list of wants!  How can we manage to work at our wants and still have fun?

How about simplifying the list.  I love what my friend Marsha Savage is doing.  She is setting a 30 day plan for her art to-do list.  Breaking the tasks into monthly chunks makes it less daunting than working on a huge list.  I have things I want to accomplish but they take time and effort to achieve. Having monthly tasks helps keep me focused.

One of my ‘wants’ was to achieve Master Circle status with IAPS (International Association of Pastel Societies)  It took a few years of entering shows and getting my work accepted but I did it!  I will get my medallion at the next convention in 2015. The hard work was worth it!

If you have art wants give a 30 day art plan a try. Make it simple and manageable so that you can work towards achieving your own personal wants.

IAPS Master Circle letter Yay!!

About today’s painting:  I am starting a series of Winter in the City paintings and this is the first. It is 11×14 on yellow Pastelmat paper.

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‘Early Morning Magic’                8.5 x 14.5        pastel      ©Karen Margulis

click here to purchase $145

I feel like a kid at Christmas today!  I got a new toy and it is hard to focus on anything else!  I treated myself to a GoPro video camera.  If you aren’t familiar with these fun little cameras here is a bit from the GoPro website but basically it is a very small waterproof camera that shoots wide angle videos and photos. It can be mounted on just about anything to get great action shots.

“The camera that started a revolution.

Impossibly small. Impressively high performance. Incredibly versatile. It all adds up to a camera that makes it easy for anyone, anywhere, to capture stunning photos and video of their life’s most meaningful experiences.”

I may not be into any extreme action sports but I can see the possibilities for filming my painting adventures. I will be putting it to the test in a couple of weeks in the Caribbean!  And I have some really exciting adventures planned for 2014 so this little camera will get a workout!

What about using it closer to home?  I thought I would try it out while I painted yesterday and made my very first video demo which I have added to my Youtube channel.  Read on about how I did it.
My Set up …I mounted the camera on the box top which I stuck on a tripod

I am definitely a novice when it comes to video and editing. But the GoPro made it easy (along with the many tutorials you can find on Youtube. After I got the camera out of the box (I did need to watch a tutorial on that!)  I set up the camera and the GoPro app for my iphone. You can control the camera via the app using wifi….very cool.   I took a quick video of the dog and managed to get it on the computer and do some basic editing. I was excited.

Next I decided to do a quick painting.The camera does Time lapse which I think will be great for a bigger more involved painting. This demo took me 7 minutes so I filmed it straight through. I didn’t cut much out at all. I figured out how to add titles and music too.  I have some great ideas for my Youtube channel so I hope you will subscribe and check out my first demo.

Here is the link to the demo. Let me know what you think!


The camera is a GoPro Hero3 Silver (not the latest model but a great bundle price at Costco)

The painting is on Canson MiTeintes paper with Terry Ludwig pastels.

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The Benefit of Painting en Plein Air

‘The End of September’            18×24           pastel        ©Karen Margulis

click here to purchase $450

I have been meaning to do this. Ever since Richard McKinley suggested I use my plein air studies for studio paintings. That was a few years ago during his Lake Tahoe workshop.  I really haven’t done much with that idea though. I usually come home from a trip or plein air outing and throw my paintings in a box.  Once I am home and wrapped up in everyday life I don’t take time to revisit these little studies.

I am missing out on one of the benefits of Plein air painting. Making use of the studies. These studies may not always be great or frame-able  but they do give you better information than a photo.

I discovered that my plein air studies shows the emotional response I had while studying the scene on location. Compare the photo of the scene and my plein air study below. Can you see the drama and feel the wind in the painting?  You can’t see that in the photo. When I look at the study I am reminded of the wind and the ever-changing drama in the sky. Now to recapture that drama in a studio painting!


Reference and Plein Air Study

I decided to use the plein air study for the demo painting I did last week for the Atlanta Artist’s Center. The demo painting is 18×24. I chose it for the demo because I am familiar with this place. I wouldn’t want to paint something totally new to me in front of a big group! Also the study made it simple to choose my palette.

The demo was a success. I got a lot of positive feedback and had a lot of fun with it. I don’t think I captured the wind in the big painting and I think it is partly because I was talking and painting at the same time so I wasn’t in the ‘wind zone’. Also it is different paper. I used wallis Belgian Mist for the study and Uart for the demo….so it seems much smoother.

I am not finished with this motif so I will try it again to see if I can capture the energy of the study. I am encouraged to work from my plein air studies more often. I just needed a reminder!

If you didn’t get to see my new YouTube video demo because the link wasn’t in the daily email here is the link   I apologize for that. It seems the email subscriptions don’t pick up embedded links.

Posted in Daily paintings | 2 Comments

How to Paint More Expressive Paintings part one


‘Marsh Walk’           6×6         pastel       ©Karen Margulis   sold

It’s the number one question I am asked.  ”How can I loosen up?”  or ” I am too tight, get too detailed and then end up overworking the painting. What can I do to keep my paintings fresh and loose?”

So I have given the question much thought and read what others have to say about it. (Jackie Simmonds has an excellent blog post about painting loose here) I have come up with five things we can do to help us achieve looseness. I will be sharing them in my classes and workshops but I thought it would be fun to give my blog readers a peek into my weekly pastel class and see how we will apply these 5 things.

First I would rather use the word ‘expressive’ rather than use the term loose. I think expressive is a better way to describe what I try to do and that is express my feelings about the subject, suggesting a lot of the detail and interpreting my subject rather than copying it.  Loose can be interpreted as being sloppy, all soft and painted fast which isn’t always the case.

Here is what we are doing in class this week. Feel free to follow along and comment below on your experiences!


My demos of 7 minute paintings
We began class with a discussion about the importance of study and painting practice. We talked about Robert Genn’s term for artists who are blocked or frustrated with their work because they have a lot of knowledge about painting but not enough time at the easel for this knowledge to become intuitive. It is called ‘Educosis’ Read more about it here.  Don’t you love it?
How can we make time to paint more often in our busy lives? One way is to do smaller timed paintings. We started class by doing 10 minute paintings. We then did a 7 minute painting. We did 3 of them.  It is amazing what everyone did with just 7 minutes to paint. There is no chance to get bogged down with copying details in this short time. The paintings were fresh and spontaneous.
It was also an excellent way for us to warm of after a class-free summer!  I am encouraging my students to fit in more of these timed paintings in between classes. (more on my incentive plan in a later post)
students painting fast and furiously!


Posted in Daily paintings, Landscapes | 3 Comments

Why Travel is Good for an Artist

‘Taking the Back Roads’            11×14              pastel         ©Karen Margulis
purchase this painting here $165
 ”Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”  Seneca

I am in trip planning mode. In another life I must have been a travel agent. I love planning trips as much as taking them. Usually I start planning my next trip on my way home from the current trip.  I have always loved to travel. When our kids were younger we would take three weeks each summer to explore the National Parks. That was wonderful.

But now that I paint Travel takes on a  new dimension. I am not just a tourist seeing the ‘must see’ sights. I see every place with fresh eyes. Even the ordinary sights become extraordinary when discovered on a trip.  Traveling makes you more aware of your surroundings. All of your senses become more acute. You notice more. Even if you  choose not to paint on a trip you are absorbing it all. It enriches you. Let me give you an example: Today’s painting is from a photo I took on a road trip to Wyoming. We took the backroad one morning and came across this pasture.
reference photo…somewhere in Kansas


We pulled over to take photos. It was peaceful and the morning light was so soft and beautiful.  If we were at home we might have zipped pass this place, too busy with life to notice. But on a trip we were relaxed and in tune. Our cameras ever ready for the next best shot. We noticed the ordinary.
And even now, three years later I can look at the photo and recall how I felt at our discovery. The sights, sounds and smells. Those heightened senses stayed with me.
Yes I can certainly be more aware of my surroundings at home but there is something about travel that sends a signal to my brain that it is time to wake up and soak it all in.
What’s in the works for the coming year?  NJ, Pawleys Island, Caribbean cruise, and in 2014 possibly Nantucket, Monhegan Island and a Fall trip somewhere to see Aspens. And of course several trips to Chicago to see my kids!
What’s your next trip?
Today’s painting:  Uart 600 paper with an alcohol wash with Terry Ludwig pastels, the Marsh Savage Southeast Landscape set.
Posted in Daily paintings, Landscapes | 2 Comments

Pastel Lesson Download…How to Paint Animals with Pastel

‘Siamese Beauty’      5×7          pastel         ©Karen Margulis

click here to purchase $95

I finally did it!  I have put together a complete pastel lesson and demo in booklet form.  I do post mini demos on the blog but I have been wanting to find a way to share a more in depth lesson. When I saw that Etsy had a category to share Digital Downloads I thought it would be a perfect way to share my lessons.  It was just a matter of finding the time to put the lesson together.  Here it is!
Download the PDF lesson $6 in my Etsy shop
I chose ‘Painting Animals’ as my first lesson. It is based on a class I teach on my approach to painting animals with pastels. I posted an abbreviated version of the demo on the blog but I have expanded my descriptions and added some extra thoughts and details. The demo photos are in full color.  The lesson is available in PDF format in my Etsy shop for $6.  You can download the file and view it on your computer or print it out and staple it to make a booklet.




The subject of the demo is my Siamese Cat Toblerone. Tobi makes a great subject to illustrate my approach.  I use the same approach for any animal I paint. I even use the same steps when painting an animal in oil or acrylic. So you don’t have to be a pastelist to follow along.


If you aren’t familiar with Etsy….it is a wonderful online venue for fine art and crafts as well as vintage items. It is clean and easy to navigate and is a wonderful place to browse for unique items. I have been selling some of my small paintings on Etsy . A couple of weeks ago I came across a digital download of knitting patterns and I thought hmmmmm now this is how I can share my lessons!
If you enjoy my blog demos think of this booklet as an expanded blog post that you can print out and save. If you know of anyone that might be interested please share this post. AND I welcome your suggestions for future lessons!


Posted in Workshops | 1 Comment

Road Trip Painting Day 15

‘Desert Oasis’. 5×7. Pastel
We have to say goodbye to Sedona and make our way back home to Georgia. But we made it a great day. Holly and I started the day by hiking t o the top of the Airport Vortex. Well she went to the top. I stopped a bit shy. I’ll blame it on on my shoes but I am not a big fan of sheer cliffs an steep drop offs.
Next we went to a wonderful little spot in Sedona recommended by the lady in the bird store. It is called the Sedona Wetlands and is a series of ponds created from reclaimed waste water . It is still a work in progress but it is a beautiful spot of green and blue among all of the red rocks. I did three daily paintings based on the Sedona Wetlands.

‘Wetland Trails’. 5×7. Pastel

‘Summer Sunshine’. 5×7. Pastel

I admit that I didn’t paint these on location. It was getting very hot and there was no shade. Instead I came back to the cottage and sat on the patio to paint. I looked at my camera display. It really isn’t a bad way to simplify a painting because you sure can’t see much detail on a camera display!

Here are some photos of the wetlands. I was happy to spot three Black Crowned Night Herons!

And lots of happy little sunflowers.


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