To Blend Or Not To Blend Pastels, OR Why I Don’t!

Is it really December already? (Someone tell me no, it ain’t true!) Look out for my monthly picks next week. In the meantime, this week I made a video about why I don’t blend pastels.

I frequently get asked the question – Gail do you blend your pastels? OR Gail why don’t you blend pastels? In the video below, I set out to show, with sample swatches, why it is that I prefer to layer rather than blend pastels.

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No Time to Paint? Gail Sibley, "The Plug," Unison pastels on UArt 400, 3 1/4 x 6 in. Finished after a few tweaks.

No Time To Paint? No Excuse! Painting A Plug In 20 Minutes

So you think you have no time to paint? One of the things I learned doing the 31 in 31 challenge last month is that there really is always a way to carve out time to create art.

I spend a lot of time on my computer these days, e.g. working on my blog, connecting with members of the HowToPastel Facebook group, or developing my online courses. I often feel desperate for and incapable of finding time to get in my studio, but having done the challenge, I realize that’s a crock! It’s easy to make excuses about having no time to paint. So what to do about it?

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October's Superb Pastels: Maria Marino, "Birds on a Wire - Susquehanna River Bridge," pastel on La Carte, 12 x 16 in

October’s Superb Pastels

Ahhhhh yes…it’s time for another monthly roundup of ten superb pastels. I’m always hopeful that one of these months it’ll be a breeze to select the 10 from the many I collect over the month….and then to wrote about them. Hasn’t happened yet. So after much time struggling to choose this month’s choices, here they are, October’s superb pastels!


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Florence Rodway, "George Whiting," 1913, pastel on paper, 63.5 x 49 cm, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Florence Rodway – Little Known Today Yet Successful Portraitist In Her Time

Tasmania, that island off the south east of Australia that many of us have heard of but really know nothing about including the fact that it produced painter Florence Rodway (1881-1971).

I think Papeeta was the first piece I saw by Florence Rodway and I was stunned by how beautiful, textured, and contemporary it looked. It’s a perfect example of Rodway’s style of focusing on the face and letting all other elements merge together. The pastel was up for auction and sold through Sotheby’s, Sydney in 2005. Have a look:

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Gail Sibley, Red Onion, Terry Ludwig pastels on UArt 500, 5 x 6 in

Take One Small Set Of Pastels (Terry Ludwig In This Case) And Then…

You know I’m always on about the benefits of limiting your palette. When you’re starting out in pastels, the choice (and price!) of soft pastels can be overwhelming so I always suggest beginning with a small set of quality soft pastels. Play around with that set, get to know what the pastels in a limited palette can do, and then start adding sticks as you find your way. Starter sets are definitely not going to have an ideal range of colours and values but they are a good place to start. So I thought I’d practice what I preach and show you a number of pieces created using only the pastels from the Best Loved Basics set from Terry Ludwig.

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Duane Wakeham, "David Sleeping," pastel on Canson Mi-Teintes, 12 x 16 in

Duane Wakeham – Drawing The Male Nude

Duane Wakeham. For me, the name conjures up luminous paintings of the California countryside. These take-your-breathe away paintings have perfect composition, values, colour combinations, and edge. Duane Wakeham is a master landscape painter so worthy of emulation (and if you want to get better at landscape painting, study his landscapes!).

So, if you’re familiar with the work of Duane Wakeham, you may have been surprised by this blog’s title.

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Past the ugly stage: Gail Sibley, "Waiting for a Refill," Schminke pastels on UArt 500, 5 3/4 x 5 3/4 in

Working Through The Ugly Stage – Yes You Can!

Have you ever had that experience when you look at what you’re working on and think, “Good grief this looks so awful [or something a bit stronger!] – I may as well quit now!”? I think we’ve all been there. This reaction usually happens at what I call the ugly stage.

So what do I actually mean by the ugly stage?

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September's Sensational Pastels: Ken Pledger, "Simone," pastel, 13 x 14 in

September’s Sensational Pastels (and being in Pratique Des Arts)

Ahhhhhh it’s that time of month to share my pick of 10 sensational pastels from the oh so many I saw last month. Because the Pastel Society of America’s annual show, Enduring Brilliance, took place this month, there were even more to choose from. (I didn’t go to the actual page but rather selected pieces as they were posted on various Facebook groups. It’s worth taking a look at all the pieces in the show though! Click here to do so.)

I started with 83 pastels and arrived at 10 after long, looooooong deliberation. So many incredibly beautiful pastels. But before we get to September’s sensational pastels, I’d like to share some pretty cool news.

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31 Paintings In 31 Days – Shall We?

Soooooooo….the decision has been made – I’m all in for the 31 paintings in 31 days challenge!! It begins 1st October and goes for the whole 31 days of October. And I am hoping YOU will join me!! Come on over to the HowToPastel Facebook group and say ‘YES!! I’m in!”

The idea of doing 31 paintings in 31 days is actually freaking me out a bit.

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