Category Archives: Tutorials

Longer than quick tips, tutorials will help you understand the process of painting in pastels whether in a pastel demo on video, step by step progressions, or a detailed look at a pastel painting

Creating colour studies: three colour studies with first layer

How Creating Colour Studies Can Improve Your Paintings

I know how tempting it is to get right in there and paint when you’re excited about a subject. But hold on, did you do a thumbnail?! And what about creating colour studies, have you drawn up a couple of those?

I know I know, I hear you – it all takes so much time!! But you know what? A bit of time spent in preparation can save you frustration and disappointment in the long run, and also help you produce an exceptional painting!

So what are colour studies?

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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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Paint even when you don't feel like it: That's it! Gail Sibley, "Last Fling," Schminke pastels on UArt 400 paper, 6 x 6 in

Why You Should Paint Even When You Don’t Feel Like It… And Some Gerberas

Today I painted even though I didn’t feel like it. The reason? This blog. The looming deadline acted as a spark and ignited my painting soul. And I realized how important it is to paint even when you don’t feel like it.

Painting isn’t easy.

Being creative isn’t easy.

It’s damn hard work in fact. And because it’s hard work, sometimes we just don’t do it!

Those who don’t create usually don’t understand how difficult painting is. It’s all, “What fun it must be to spend time all day painting” and “How lucky you are to spend time painting.” True for sure, but you just know the way it’s being said that those speakers think it’s an easy, laadeedah thing you’re doing.

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Limited Palette: Highlights added, plum forms further refined, pattern on bowl quietly indicated, bowl's cast shadow enhanced, single stem added. And after 35 mins, it's done! Gail Sibley, "Backyard Plums, Terry Ludwig pastels on UArt 400 grit paper, 6 x 6 in

Push Your Creativity with the Restriction of a Limited Palette

I was on a deadline today – a post was due to be published! I wanted to show you a progression through one of my paintings. Problem was, I didn’t have anything to share. So I needed to get creative quickly. I set a timer and chose a limited palette by using a starter set. I decided on Terry Ludwig’s Best Loved Basics because I knew it contained a deep purple and I was going to need it since I’d be painting plums. Once I got started though I wondered how in the world it would be successful – I was missing colours I felt I needed!! But I didn’t have time to waffle about so I got stuck in and embraced the restriction of the limited palette. Have a look!

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Pastelling Outdoors: 10. Gail Sibley, "Summer's Here," Sennelier pastels on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in, available

Pastelling Outdoors (And Chillin’!) In Oak Bay

Yayyyyyyy, summer’s here in all its glory. That means it’s time to get pastelling outdoors!! For me, it takes some revving up to do when I’m out of the habit. While Cam was away, I made it a goal to start the ball rolling. I took myself out for breakfast (hmmmm…reward first?) then found a neighbouring park where I set up to paint the sunny view of sea and sailboats.

So let’s take a look at what happened when I went painting en plein air.

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11. A few more tweaks and for now, it's done! "Garden Corner, Schminke pastels on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in

Garden Corner – An En Plein Air Progression

There’s so much in a garden to paint – long views and closeups, flowers and garden accoutrements, seasonal changes or a single season, a garden corner or an entire garden – all make for great subject matter!

I’m in Ontario to teach at the ICAN Pastel Conference in Aurora during the week. Happily the plan is to spend both weekends with my sister and her family. Last weekend at her place, I found some quiet time to pastel en plein air. It’s been awhile since I’ve painted on location – Mexico in February was the last time – so this was such a pleasure. Hot weather standing in the shade painting. What could be nicer?

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The Importance of Play In Art: 7. I decided I like the painting in the second orientation so back it went upside down. I kept working on it. This is as far as I got. I quite like it as is but I need to give it some time. Then I'll come back and see what it needs. I'll let you know if and when I change it. (This photo is a bit darker than it actually is.)

The Importance Of Play In Art-Making

Today, I’m thinking about the importance of play in art.

I feel pulled in so many different ways on a daily basis. There’s so much to get done – finishing my new course, writing and organizing blog posts, updating my websites (hah!), nevermind painting. And oh yeah, what about fun time, downtime, a balanced life?!

I’m reading a fascinating book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less which is all about doing more of the right things. This morning, I skipped to the chapter on ‘Play’. Author Greg McKeown defines ‘play’ as, “anything we do simply for the joy of doing rather than a means to an end.”

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Pastels on black aper: Gail Sibley, "Untitled [at this point], Mount Vision pastels on Sansfix pastel card, 5 1/2 x 7 3/4 in

Using Pastels On Black Paper

Occasionally I get asked the question: Do you ever use soft pastels on black paper? And the answer is: Well no, I don’t. Mind you, when I first started in pastels over 20 years ago, I worked on a dark green mat board. So I have worked with pastels on dark paper, just not black paper. But once I discovered sanded paper, ie Wallis paper which came in the warm mid-value colour known as Belgian mist that I used at first, it was bye-bye dark paper!

When thinking about what I could do a new pastel demo for YouTube on, I recalled the question about pastels on black paper and here you have the result. I’m using pastels from Mount Vision’s workshop set of 50 pastels on Schminke’s Sansfix pastel card.

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Simplify, Simplify, Simplify: Gail Sibley, "View From Martin's," Sennelier pastels on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify! Working En Plein Air in Mexico

We’re back from our two-week vacation in La Manzanilla, Mexico where we danced up a storm during the first week in a tango intensive workshop and then relaxed a bit in the second which is when I managed to get some pastelling time in. This pastel is a view from the verandah of Martin’s Restaurant. At first I was a bit overwhelmed by the scene until I spoke the mantra, simplify, simplify, simplify! It’s always good when you remember that you don’t have to put everything in – only include what you want to say something about. Let’s have a look at the view and the thumbnail sketch I did of it.

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