Finishing a pastel – a look at “The Ginkgo Tree”


Sometimes finishing a pastel is the hardest part! When is a painting done? That’s a big, tough-to-answer question! Sometimes you just know, other times you aren’t so sure.

When I was working on the pastel “The Ginkgo Tree,” I came to a place where I thought the piece was nearing completion.


The pastel "A Gingko Tree" almost finished
Almost finished!

I sat with it for awhile knowing it wasn’t quite finished but wondering what I needed to do next. And then, one day as I was looking out my studio window at the ginkgo tree that had inspired this piece, the wind gusted and a shower of gold leapt from the tree. I realized this was the finishing touch I needed! So I added in those leaves. I also made a few other changes which I have marked below. Before you scroll all the way down, look at the finished piece just below and see if you can spot all the changes. Did you get them all? Did you find ones I left out?


Gail Sibley, "The Gingko Tree," pastel, 18 x 12 in
Gail Sibley, “The Ginkgo Tree,” pastel, 18 x 12 in


Here are the changes:

"The Gingko Tree" and how I finished the pastel
Finishing a pastel – showing you the changes I made

1a&b. I thought the roof edges were too harsh against the sky so I softened them slightly. In 1a, I added more blue to the sky (I felt it needed some gradation) and then I ‘brushed’ some of that blue colour into the roof. In 1b, I ‘brushed’ the roof colour into the sky.

2. I added more broken blue areas into the lower left side – I felt it needed more interest.

3. I introduced the same blue used in #2 on the lower right side too.

4. I decided I wanted to show the edge of the roofline so I added more sky to delineate that edge.

5. I felt the foliage was too thick so I further broke up the foliage by adding background colour in among the leaves.

6. I worked more on the trunk trying to give the feeling of bark.

That’s it I think.


So when you’re pondering your pastel, trying to decided whether or not is is finished, I suggest you stay open to the possibilities that may arise. You never know what can happen!

Please let me know if this post was useful. What did you learn? What was missing? Do you have problems finishing a pastel? And if so, what are those problems? To comment, just click on the title of the post above and that will take you to my website where you can comment or, simply reply to this email and let me know that I can attach your comment to the blog and I’ll do just that. (Google search loves lots of comments!!)

As always, I look forward to hearing from you!

~ Gail


PS. You can see more of the evolution of the pastel over at my website. Click here to see it. In it, I mention the influence of Wolf Kahn. Here’s an example of his work:

Wolf Kahn, "Dancing Trees," 1997, pastel on paper, 22 x 30 in, Marianne Friedland Gallery
Wolf Kahn, “Dancing Trees,” 1997, pastel on paper, 22 x 30 in, Marianne Friedland Gallery

Gorgeous isn’t it??? One day I’ll do a blog on his work.


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6 thoughts on “Finishing a pastel – a look at “The Ginkgo Tree””

  1. Gail,

    I really liked this exercise and the demo shots with the changes. I was able to discover about 4 out of the 6, didn’t catch the trunk at all! Very helpful to see how you really punched up the color to make the tree a much more dramatic focal point, thanks.

    Laura Gabel

  2. Hi Gail!

    I love all your videos; they are so helpful and always cheery too. I particularly liked this video, because I have a hard time figuring out when to stop painting too! My last challenge (done or not?) was on this painting I did of the marsh and the reflections of the clouds in the water ( I walked away from that one for a few weeks before getting back to it for another session. I think I’ve finished it, at least for now, though I haven’t framed it yet, so I guess I am still not 100% sure! 😉
    Thanks for the great tips!

    1. Hi Cristel, thanks for commenting!
      So glad you are enjoying the videos – more in the works!
      I remember seeing your pastel posted on a social media site – Facebook perhaps? Love the reflections!!
      You are right – until a pastel is framed, the temptation is there to to keep working on it. I think putting it away for a few weeks, as you did, is an excellent idea especially when you are unsure as to what to do next or if the piece is perhaps finished.
      By the way, love your website!

      1. Thank you! I always wonder if my paintings are done. This really helped a lot! Thank you Gail, for all your time and energy that you put into all this! Just can’t tell you how happy I am to be a part of this group! You can publish this.

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Gail Sibley

Artist. Blogger. Teacher.

My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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