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'City Kids'                  8x10             pastel           ©Karen Margulis
available on Etsy $150

Greta and Jamie are city kids. They go to their neighborhood park everyday. They have a group of friends already and I am sure they will have a great time this winter on the sledding hill. This painting is dedicated to my grandchildren and all of the city kids out there! 

I took some step by step photos as I painted this one. Here are my steps and my thoughts as the painting developed.


I chose a homemade support which is mat board coated with gesso and pumice mix. It is white. I did a quick drawing with a pink Nupastel. My reference photo inspired me but I made changes to create a better composition.


I blocked in the painting with big simple shapes of neutral pastels. I selected muted colors from my 'neutral drawer'. These are all grayed down muted colors such as blue-grays and muted purples. You can see the texture of the pumice in this photo.




Here is a shot of my Neutral Drawer. I keep these colors together so I remember to use them. Next to other more saturated colors these pastel get overlooked. Some may even think of them as ugly or dirty. I love their soft subtleness.


I decide to rub in this first layer of pastel to fill in the rough texture of the support and to create an out of focus underpainitng.


For this painting I choose to work on my center of interest first. The children going up the sled hill are my center of interest. Anytime you add a figure to a painting the eye looks at the figure first. I want to make sure they are well placed and developed before I spend too much time on the less important parts of the painting.



Next I develop the trees and suggest window in the distant buildings. I am still using my neutrals. I did use some saturated colors on my figures. I also add some blue and lavender shadows in my snow.


 I work on the snow some more. I use a dull rose for the distant snow and some brighter whites in the foreground snow. I also make some footprints in the snow. I also add a few lamp posts and light the lights....since I was going to make it snow.


I add the snow using pastel dust. I decide to add some smaller figures in the distance since my two stars seemed a bit lonely!  I also changed the color of the turquoise sled to yellow to echo the lights in the distance. Now I am finished!






Here is another Chicago winter cityscape. I love painting these scenes!

'Let it Snow'.           8x10           pastel            available $150

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'Beauty on the Coast'.             9x12.          pastel.       ©Karen Margulis
available in my Etsy shop.    $150

This painting was a struggle! I was painting the tree for a Patreon video so once I started I didn't want to stop. I thought it would be easy to just adjust things as I painted. It wasn't that easy! There are two important lessons here...... 1. Always start with a plan and make sure your initial drawing or placement of shapes is correct. 2. Don't give up and don't make the painting precious. A painting rarely comes together perfectly without some kind of struggle. Sometimes art videos make it seem like there is never a struggle but the struggle is real.

In this video I work through the problem of a poorly placed tree and bad trunk. This is one of my weekly video demos that I share on my Patreon Page. I want to share the video here with my blog readers because it has such valuable lessons. Click on the link below to see the video on YouTube. 




Click link to view video on Youtube https://youtu.be/P_mAAr1MTOs
Please be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and check out the Patreon Page. I appreciate your support of my online instruction. Your support allows me to continue to create great content!

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'Cardinals of Winnemac Park'            8x10         pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available in my Etsy shop click here $150

I knew I wanted to use some neutrals for this winter landscape. I love using those dull mousey 'uglies'! They have a subtle and quiet beauty. They are the colors I use in my family room and bedroom.  I get excited when I find a reference that requires the use of a lot of my neutrals!

The subject of this painting is a Chicago city park near my son & family. I love this park because it has a naturalized prairie area. It is beautiful in all seasons but I especially love it in winter. I knew I would be using many neutrals so I decided to tone the paper with a dull mousey gray to give my painting a head start and to cover up the light tone of the Uart paper.

As I prepared for the painting and pondered how I would tone the the paper an idea came to me. Why not use the pastel dust in my gutter tray from my last painting instead of throwing it out. The dust was a nice blue- gray with bits of red violet. It would make a perfect middle value gray tone.

I use a gutter of scored coated foamcore to catch my pastel dust

I took out a piece of pipe foam and dipped it in the dust and then rubbed it onto the paper. I continued until the paper was covered.  Then I took an old paint brush and some rubbing alcohol to liquify the pastel to mix the dust even more. You can see the result below. I now had an interesting blend of grays to start my moody winter scene! It was a quick and easy way to tone my paper. And cheap! I made use of the precious pastel dust rather than throwing it out.

Note: Many artists save their dust my emptying their dust trays into a jar. The dust can be made into a neutral pastel by mixing it with some distilled water until it forms a paste which can be shaped into a pastel.

This is the toned paper....uart with an alcohol wash using collected pastel dust

Some of the neutrals I used for this painting

Do you see the little surprises?


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'A Light in the Darkness'             8x10         pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available $150

You know me. I don't like to waste good pastel paper. So when I used a piece of Art paper to demonstrate an exercise for the Patreon group I knew I would repurpose it somehow. I had made some marks with a blue pastel so the first thing I did was to add other blue marks.....some dull blue and some turquoise on top of the darker blue marks. Just random blue marks. Then I used my old cheap paint brush and some rubbing alcohol and liquified the pastel marks. I let it drip and mingle.

The result was the blue abstract underpainting shown in the photo below. I had to decide what to do with it. The blue reminded me of ice. It made me cold so I thought 'snow'! I went through my winter reference photos and found the perfect scene. A sun setting in the distance of a very cold winter scene. The blue underpainting was perfect. WHY?

The blue underpainting was an alcohol wash over some demo marks

Underpainting color choices matter! Especially if you have a light touch and allow layers to peek through. I like my underpainting colors to peek through my final layers. Because of this the colors I choose need to harmonize with the upper layers. I can choose more than one color for the underpainting but sometimes it is easy to choose just one color family. In the case of this painting I knew I wanted a feeling and mood of cold. Using the cool color of blue will help promote the cool feeling the scene. I also know that my reference has a small area of orange. Since blue is the complement of orange I know that the blue in the underpainting will make the orange glow more exciting.


The first dark layer of the painting. You can see the underpainting peeking through.


The pastels I used for the painting

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'Santa Hide and Seek'            12x9       pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available in my Etsy shop. $125

It's that time of year! Have you made an artist's wish list? Perhaps you are starting to think about setting goals for 2019. I always begin the new year with a good studio cleaning and nothing spurs me on better than having to find a home for some new supplies! Here are a few suggestions to get you started on your wish list. I shared this list last year but they are still my most used items in my studio!

1.  Any size Heilman Box. The ultimate gift besides a full set of your favorite pastels is a great pastel box. I use and recommend the Heilman Box. Click here to see my recent review.

2. Any set of Terry Ludwig pastels. The ultimate pastel! This is my favorite pastel brand and any set would be a treat. If you are on a tight budget consider the smallest sets. The 14 Most Requested Violets is fantastic. All sets on sale through December 31. www.terryludwig.com

3. Cretacolor Pencil Lead holder. This fun drawing tool is a great addition to any artist's supply box. Read my recent blog post about this fun tool here. Find it here:https://www.amazon.com/Cretacolor-BC31036-Ergonomic-Lead-Holder/dp/B0049V37C4

4. Analaogous Color Wheel. Everyone who sees me use this color wheel wants one. It is a great tool for helping resolve color problems or choosing a palette for a painting. Read my blog post about the wheel here. http://kemstudios.blogspot.com/2015/11/my-favorite-color-tool-comes-to-rescue.html

5. White Artist Tape and Dispenser.  I can't do without my tape dispenser for my roll of white artists tape. it makes life so mush easier since I use this tape every day! Read all about it here: http://kemstudios.blogspot.com/2012/01/my-most-indispensable-studio-gadget.html
Buy one on Amazon click here.

7. Diane Townsend Pastels. I love all pastels but next to Terry Ludwigs I would have to add some Diane Townsend soft form pastels to my list of favorites. Add a few to your collection! http://www.townsendpastels.com

8. Art Graf Artist Tailor's Chalk. These are not at all like they sound! They are a must have for underpaintings. I love the earth tones and the primary color sets. Read about them on my blog here.
http://globalartmaterials.com/artgraf.php

9. Hand Care Basket. Artist hands take a beating! From handing pastels to the frequent hand washing they need a lot of TLC.  I like to first protect my hands with Gloves in a Bottle barrier cream.  I wash my hands with Lava soap and a nail brush. And finally I apply a good quality had cream. My favorite is Weleda Skin Food.

10. Sketchbook by Hand book Journal Co.  Just in time for starting a sketchbook habit. I love these little sketchbooks. They come interesting sizes that fit easily in your bag. Perfect for sketching on the go! http://www.globalartmaterials.com/travelogue.html

Do you have anything you would like to add to this list? Add them in the comments!
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'Winter Magic'           8x10         pastel          ©Karen Margulis
available on Etsy. $150

Do your paintings ever speak to you?  Do they tell you want they want to be sometimes?  Do you listen or do you push on with your original idea?  My paintings don't always talk to me but when they do have something to say I usually listen.  It always leads me on an adventure!

Take today's painting.  It began as a demo for my Patreon page this week.  I was showing the the group how to block in a painting from a value study and how to paint fir trees. We have been studying trees and this was part of the final tree demos. The original photo was a bad reference. It was dark and hard to see. The composition wasn't interesting. I needed to figure out how to make it interesting. My plan was simple.....move some trees around but keep the cool moody late summer day.

But then this painting took on a life of its own.


The reference photo and the plan


I was working from a reference photo that had a  green meadow withdrew yellow grasses.  I chose violets  for the underpainting and used an alcohol wash.....I started painting the trees and then the moody sky and I was ready to paint the green and yellow grass.......when all of the sudden I realized that my original plan wasn't going to be interesting.

The painting was talking to me!  It wanted to be a winter scene with gently falling snow!  And so that is what I did!  It is no use to fight with a painting to force it to fit your original plan. It is more fun to listen to it and let it take you on an adventure. You learn more and might just end up with a more interesting painting. It certainly will be a better interpretation of your photo!


If you would like to see the complete step by step demo it is available on my Patreon page. It is just a $4 a month subscription that you can cancel easily at any time! www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

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'Winter in the Park'.           9x12         ©Karen Margulis        pastel
available on Etsy  $175

I've got shipping unframed pastel paintings down to a science. Since I have been selling my work online for the past 10 years, I have shipped many pastel paintings to their new homes. The method I use has not failed me. My paintings arrive safe and sound. I only ship unframed paintings. If I need to ship a framed piece to a show I use an airfloat box. 

So what is my shipping method? I make a foamcore sandwich! I just released a video demonstrating how I make the sandwich.Click on the link below to see the video on my YouTube channel. While you are there be sure to follow my channel so you know when a new video is posted.





Here is a written description of the foam core shipping sandwich. 

  1. Cut the foamcore so that it is a few inches larger than the painting. I use a utility knife. I cut a double wide piece, score it in the middle so that it can fold shut.
  2. Tape painting inside the foamcore using white artist tape. I hinge the tape. See my post on hinging tape here.
  3. Cut a piece of glassine paper slightly larger than the painting and tape it down to cover the painting. I usually only tape two sides so the glassine can be lifted to view the painting. I get my glassine on rolls and cut it to fit. A roll lasts me a long time.
  4. Close the cover of the foamcore sandwich and tape shut. I have printed a label with instructions that I put on the foamcore (see below)
  5. I slip my foamcore sandwich into a clearbag that has a self adhesive strip. I include some business cards, a bio, pastel care information and a thank you card.
  6. I have just started to wrap the whole package in nice gift wrap with a handmade card.




Here is the foam core sandwich
The painting is now ready to be slipped into a padded envelope or Priority Mail box depending on it's size. If it is over 8x10 then I have to make my own box from a couple of Priority Mail boxes. I save my Dakota and Blick paper order boxes for shipping large paintings. I use USPS for all of my shipping and after shipping hundreds of paintings I have never had a problem (knocking on wood here!)

A completed package ready to go into a Priority Mail box


I hope that if you are an artist or a buyer you have found this post useful. And of course to see the packaging in purchase why not treat yourself to an original painting! www.etsy.com/shop/karenmargulisfineart


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'Gentle Breeze'          10x8          pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $150
  It is a cold day here in North Georgia! The perfect day to paint palm trees and dream about a trip to Florida! Fortunately for me it isn't just a dream. We will be taking Bertie the Art Spirit (our pop up camper) to Florida in February for a winter break. The timing worked out perfectly to accept the offer of a workshop with the Pastel Society of Central Florida. The two dayworkshop will be held in Leesburg Florida on February 20 and 21st. Below is a screen shot of some information and you can click on this link to access the PCSF website.  I am excited about the opportunity to share and I'd love for you to join us!


Click Here for the link to more information and registration 

Information about today's painting: This painting was done for the artist's choice demo for my Patreon page. We have been exploring trees for the past month and so it was fun to show how I paint palm trees. The painting is 10x8 on Uaart 500 with a 3 value  dry wash. I used the Terry Ludwig Red Rocks set and a few misc. Nupastels.


Terry Ludwig Red Rocks set and an assortment of Nupastels


New Video Demo available this week on my Patreon page www.patreon.com/karenmargulis

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'At Peace'              9x12              pastel          ©Karen Margulis
available on Etsy $165

I don't remember where I came across this quote. Sadly I don't even know the author but it is one that often comes to my rescue. It helps me remain true to my desire to paint with more expression....to paint what I feel rather than render every detail as they exist in my reference.


" The human mind delights in soft mystery"   unknown

It really is amazing how we are able to piece together bits and pieces and make them into a whole. We really don't require much information to fill in the blanks. We prefer it that way. It allows us to participate in a painting. If we see a few blades of grass rendered in detail surrounded by larger blocks of grass color we can assume that the entire area is the same type of grass. We don't need every blade of grass to make this assumption.



A close up view of the distant land mass NO detail at all.

Soft Mystery....keeping this thought in mind as I paint reminds me to decide where I will put clarity and detail and where I can just suggest it.  Take the distant mass of trees and  shrubs in the distance of today's painting. The trees are in the distance so I don't want to paint the them with detail and hard edges. I want to simply suggest a FEELING of the trees. A gentle brush of green and orange pastel is all that is needed. Soft mystery to suggest the foliage and grasses in the distance. In the foreground grasses only a few strokes to suggest grass is all that is needed for our brains to fill in the rest. 

Painting notes: I am working on commissions this week.  I love to paint landscape commissions and have a few openings on my schedule for holiday commissions. Contact me for details! karenmargulis@gmail.com
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