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

Detail of final pastel painting

Improve Your Paintings With The Power Of Negative Space

I’m writing this sitting in Frankfurt airport as I travel home from my 7-day Croatia workshop. Teaching this workshop got me thinking a lot about negative space – both its power as a visual device and as a tool to aid in the creation of a painting. My demo and lesson on the last day touched on the use of negative space.

Here’s my demo:

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Paint Like No One’s Watching (Or Cares About What You Are Doing)

You know that saying, dance like no one’s watching? Well I think you could also say, paint like no one’s watching!

I’m in Croatia to teach a 7-day workshop (very excited about that!). And it’s time to write a blog for you. I was going to pastel some landscape or townscape. A good plan until I suddenly realized that within an hour I was to hand over my pastels to Mario, the workshop organizer. (He’d bring them with him when he drove to Istria for the workshop. Cam and I were trying to relieve ourselves of a lot of luggage so as to travel light over next few days before the workshop.) But this meant I had to paint something in an hour!

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Tweaking my plein air painting in the studio: Gail Sibley, "Shepherd Hills Hideaway," Great American pastels on Wallis Belgian Mist mounted paper, 9 x 12 in. Available.

Tweaking My Plein Air Painting In The Studio – How I Did It

A couple days ago I was on Salt Spring Island visiting my parents and one of the things I really wanted to do while there was to work en plein air. It’s been awhile since I’ve painted on location and as I’m preparing for my workshop in Croatia, this was on the to-do list. It was a perfect day for painting and although I went through the angst of I-can’t-remember-how-to-paint during the process, I was quite happy with the result. Of course the outcome wasn’t as important as the doing of it but still, it’s nice to have some success. This post reveals my thoughts on tweaking my plein air painting back in the studio as well as the progress of the painting on location.

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10 minute painting: Gail Sibley, "Hair Care," Unison pastels on UART 320 paper, 5 x 6 in

A 10-Minute Painting? Yes You Can!

Every week in the HowToPastel Facebook group, we have a Friday Challenge. The challenge could be to paint a specific subject or create a painting in particular way. Last week, inspired by the interviews with Jen Evenhus and Tony Allain, the challenge was to create a 10-minute painting. Yup you heard me. A 10-minute painting. Since it was my challenge, I thought I better darn well take part!

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Detail of Summer Flowers in a Vase

Summer Flowers In A Vase…Or…The Case Of The Disappearing Coaster!

Visiting my Mum and Dad last weekend, I was struck by the light and colour of summer flowers in a vase on the living room table. The thing that really got my attention though was the way the red coaster was visible beside the vase but disappeared behind it even though the vase was transparent. It then ‘appeared’ in two other places ‘on’ the vase. Well I wasn’t about to figure out why and how that happened but I did become interested in capturing the effect. This painting was so much about painting what you see, not what you know! So let me take you through the process.

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Demo with Sennelier pastels

Demo With Sennelier Pastels At Their IAPS Booth

I’m back from four amazing days at IAPS!! This pastel conference connects and reconnects you with wonderful people who are all passionate about pastels. It also inspires you through demos, workshops, and the exhibition of amazing work from around the world. It’s also a place to stock up on pastel supplies at the ‘candy store’ where you can converse directly with the vendors – offering feedback, finding out about new products, getting the best deals you’ll probably find. While there, I had the opportunity to demo with Sennelier pastels at the Savoir Faire booth. I thought I’d share the progression and results of this demo with you.

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Édouard Manet, "George Moore," 1879, pastel on canvas, 21 3/4 x 13 7/8 (55.2 x 35.2 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA - detail. Oh. My. Gosh. The eyes!! You could write a whole blog post about just this! you can see Manet looking, seeing, and making his strokes. Much of the canvas is left bare and that's the cool playing off the warm pastels of creams and yellows. The eyes are there but with so little to describe them. And look at that reddish line for the eye on the left - that says something with so little about Moore's state don't you think?

Édouard Manet’s Pastel Painting – “George Moore” – Audacious And Enduring

There’s a pastel painting I’ve always loved – it’s Édouard Manet’s “George Moore”.

I was reminded of it today when, searching my book shelf for something else, I came across a book, Édouard Manet Pastels by John Rewald published in 1947. This book is particularly special to me as it first belonged to my grandfather Newton Brett and was then passed on to my Mum, Joanne Sibley. The thing is, it also survived the devastation of sea and sand in Hurricane Ivan. My Mum’s note when she gave it to me for Christmas a number of years ago said, “Another ‘Ivan’ escapee – almost. I am sure Dad would love to know that you are now enjoying it.” Like I said, very special!

I’ve been wanting to do another ‘Close Look’ blog and as far as I was concerned, this was a sign to do it today! It was difficult to decide which of Édouard Manet’s pastels to choose – there are so many luscious ones of women! – but in the end, I chose this one of George Moore, executed in one sitting.

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Lack of colour choices: feature image

Lack Of Colour Choices Will Get Your Creativity Flowing

If all you have is a limited palette, a lack of colour choices can stop you from painting some subjects. I’m here to persuade you to take up the creativity challenge with the pastels you have available – you may be surprised!

Take today’s demo – a box of tissues as its subject. It’s a lot of off-whites on off-whites. But say my palette only has a few colours to choose from, what do I do? Well let’s check it out.

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Breaking the rules: I wanted to bring the parts of the floor together and make it all less colourful. So I scumbled a warm black pastel (Unison Grey 13) over much of the floor area. And it's done. Gail Sibley, "Night Slippers on Black," Unison pastels on UART 320 grade, 12 x 12 in.

How Breaking The Rules Can Overcome Blank Canvas Syndrome

I’m back in my studio after a wee getaway to Seattle and then Salt Spring Island. The DK Project is pretty much wrapped up so I can do what I like in my studio. But being able to do anything often means I do nothing! And so the blank canvas sits starring back at me. I’ve spoken previously about the usefulness of boundaries and restrictions in pushing creativity so I decided to set up a challenge. This time, it would be about breaking the rules.

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