Improve Your Painting; 20 Master Pastellists cover

How To Improve Your Painting – 20 Master Pastellists Spill The Beans

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! As I start a new year, I begin to plan and think about what I want the year to bring, how I want to develop my artwork, how I want to change things up, and how I want to help you improve your painting.

Along the way I had a brainwave! Why not ask 20 master pastellists to answer one question. And the question is……

What’s the one thing someone can do this coming year to improve their pastel work?

Below, you’ll find their answers. You’ll see there’s some crossover in the responses (which in my books, makes it a thing we all must do!) and some interesting and unexpected answers. Love them all!!

I’ve listed the artists in alphabetical order for want of a better way to organize the blog. All of these pastellists have written guest posts for HowToPastel and so you’ll find links to the posts below each artist’s answer.


“Improve your painting by always do thumbnail sketches first. This helps to solve problems like – composition, perspective and the general balance of the finished work. Carry a small sketch journal everywhere. I keep one in the glove compartment of my car for emergencies. Squint as much as possible. This allows you to see shapes rather than detail.”

Tony Allain, "Turquoise Lake," 2018, pastel on Colourfix sanded paper, 18 x 26 in.
Tony Allain, “Turquoise Lake,” 2018, pastel on Colourfix sanded paper, 18 x 26 in.

Read Tony’s guest blog here.


“Resolve to see failed paintings, rejections from shows, even criticism, in a different light. Face it, not every painting is meant to be worthy of a frame, not every painting will be as strong as you might have hoped, and every person who sees your work will see it differently than you do. Perfection is merely an idea. So, to be a better painter, resolve to understand that each painting is simply your own “next step”. Rejoice in the winners, but also rejoice in those that frustrate you enough to push you to the brink…those are the paintings that are moving you forward on your journey.”

Improve your painting: Lyn Asselta, "Take Me There," 2018, pastel, 18 x 18 in.
Lyn Asselta, “Take Me There,” 2018, pastel, 18 x 18 in.

Read Lyn Asselta’s guest blog here.


“If I had to pick just one thing to improve your painting, it would be drawing (monochromatic drawing, with charcoal, graphite, etc.). Besides the obvious benefits of learning to get the right proportions and perspective, drawing improves many other important skills needed for a good painting. We are practicing to translate colors into grayscale values, and any successful painting depends on good use of values. In a pastel painting, particularly, the ability to keep the color clean, to layer multiples colors – all requires understanding of color and value relationship.

Drawing also forces us to simplify things, learn to see underlying structure and rhythm in the scene, helping with better composition and design. On top of it, good drawing skills result in more confident marks when we work with color.”

Improve your Painting: Lana Ballot, "Snow On Main Street," 2018, pastel, 7 x 5 in.
Lana Ballot, “Snow On Main Street,” 2018, pastel, 7 x 5 in.

Read Lana Ballot’s guest blog here.


“My best advice for any artist to improve your painting (in pastel or whatever medium) is to draw every day, whether it be a quick sketch while standing in line, an image of an idea you have in your head, a small drawing (even with a time limit), or continuing a work-in-progress. Drawing daily has its other benefits: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso  (The pastel included was done at the weekly drawing session I created over 13 years ago in New Orleans).”

Improve Your Painting: Sandra Burshell, "Kool Cat," 2018, pastel, 20 x 16 in.
Sandra Burshell, “Kool Cat,” 2018, pastel, 20 x 16 in.

Check out Sandra Burshell’s guest blog here.


“Make a new year’s resolution to only paint from high-quality photo reference or photos that really speak to you. I see so many commission artists accept poor quality photo reference which doesn’t translate into the painting they hoped it would. I did this at the beginning of my career and it never did me any favours. Give yourself the best chances to add to your portfolio by being more selective about the work you take on.”

Improve Your Painting: Emma Colbert, "Gigi the Greyhound," pastel, 16 x 12 in. With Photo reference on the left.
Emma Colbert, “Gigi the Greyhound,” pastel, 16 x 12 in. With Photo reference on the left.

Read Emma Colbert’s guest blog here.


“Improve your painting by trying something different just for the pure pleasure of experimentation and learning. I’m having fun doing a series of small paintings all on my favourite theme of reflections but using pastel pencils. Pencils have their limitations but I’ve been amazed at what can be achieved. The small format is also a nice foil to my larger more demanding works.”

Improve Your Painting: Lyn Diefenbach, "On Reflection #3," pastel pencils on Sennelier La Carte, 8 1/2 x 9 in.
Lyn Diefenbach, “On Reflection #3,” pastel pencils on Sennelier La Carte, 8 1/2 x 9 in.

Have a look at Lyn Diefenbach’s guest blog here.


“One of the most important techniques to learn, especially as a pastel painter, is negative painting. If you’ve never used negative painting, you will be amazed at the improvement you will achieve in a short period of time! When you implement negative painting, you are able to start out with a loose, imperfect technique – which I have trade-marked “the beauty of imperfection” – allowing for happy little accidents to develop as you push pastel around and experiment with bold mark-making. At this stage, I purposely paint “outside-the-lines” because I know I will come back in, during the final stage, and “clean up” edges, shape the object in a still life, define a tree or skyline in a landscape, or refine the shape of a chin in a portrait – by cutting into what I have already painted. 

When first beginning to practice negative painting, choose a relatively easy subject, like an apple or a couple of orange slices. Allow yourself to be messy, and then grab your background color, and define the outside edges of the object, using quick, bold strokes – and watch as magic happens!!

Improve Your Painting: Jen Evenhus, "Path on the Bay," 2018, pastel on UART 400, 9 x 12 in. You can see that I painted the palm tree very loosely – some of you may even say it’s a mess. Yes, that’s the magic of negative painting … you can stay loose and messy up until the very end and then carve out the subject with deliberately placed strokes, urging the positive area to emerge from the background like a sculptor chiseling away bits of marble!
Jen Evenhus, “Path on the Bay,” 2018, pastel on UART 400, 9 x 12 in. You can see that I painted the palm tree very loosely – some of you may even say it’s a mess. Yes, that’s the magic of negative painting … you can stay loose and messy up until the very end and then carve out the subject with deliberately placed strokes, urging the positive area to emerge from the background like a sculptor chiseling away bits of marble!

Read Jen Evenhus’s guest blog here.


“I would say if there’s one thing someone can do to improve their pastel work it would be to shed colour and draw for 15 minutes from observation every day. This will heighten your looking skills tremendously. Pencil, pen, and biro are great linear drawing tools but if you use charcoal for 15 minutes you quickly learn to work tonally which is an added bonus in improving your pastel work.”

Improve Your Painting: Felicity House, "Fordington Village," willow charcoal and Faber Castell soft charcoal pencil, 3 x 4 in. The Faber Castell pencil contains compressed charcoal and sharpens beautifully to give lovely graphic marks.
Felicity House, “Fordington Village,” willow charcoal and Faber Castell soft charcoal pencil, 3 x 4 in. The Faber Castell pencil contains compressed charcoal and sharpens beautifully to give lovely graphic marks.

You can read Felicity House’s guest blog here.


“Paint daily to improve your painting! The more you paint, the better you get. It’s that simple. Like riding a bike. Or playing chess. Or learning a language. Practice, practice, practice! But make it fun by painting whatever you want to paint, and keep it small so that you can actually finish the same day. And don’t sweat the mistakes because you can always paint another one tomorrow!” 

Improve Your Painting: Rita Kirkman, "Bubbie," 2018, pastel, 7 x 5 in.
Rita Kirkman, “Bubbie,” 2018, pastel, 7 x 5 in.

Check out Rita Kirkman’s guest blog here.


“Paint daily! Keep your plan loose, and feel free to deviate from it. Paint a month of landscapes with water, but allow for inspiration to sidetrack you to a still life or a portrait. Don’t worry about being good! Do some starts today, and if you’re warmed up, bring something to completion. Have several drawing boards (Elmer’s thick foam core boards are cheap!) going at the same time. Value your time more highly, but devalue the word: resolve!”

Improve Your Painting: Casey Klahn, "Angels," 2018, pastel on Sennelier La Carte, 5 x 7 in.
Casey Klahn, “Angels,” 2018, pastel on Sennelier La Carte, 5 x 7 in.

Read Casey Klahn’s guest blog here. (Casey was my first guest blogger!)


“Open Eyes, Open Mind, Open Heart. I think that openness is something that goes for everyone, no matter at what stage of professionality we are. It is always useful to take a good look at matters, to gaze, to contemplate. Even everyday life.

I would suggest visiting art exhibitions and museums to see also the kind of art that you are not familiar with, works of art that will lead you out of your comfort zone. The mind needs a challenge.

Become familiar with your deepest longings and feelings, even with the most painful ones. When you start painting, welcome everything that is coming towards you from the depths of your soul. Do not fear – it is safe and introspection will improve your painting.”

Improve Your Painting: Pirkko Makela, "World Making," pastel on Ming artpaper, 31 1/2 x 43 1/3 in.
Pirkko Makela, “World Making,” pastel on Ming artpaper, 31 1/2 x 43 1/3 in.

Check out Pirkko Makela’s guest post here.


“When students ask me, ‘what is the one thing I can do to move my skills along quickly?’, my answer is always the same….

Many students in my workshops were painters early-on and careers, family, life, simply pushed their creative aspirations to the far corners. Their kids are grown, jobs are done, and resources and time are theirs to use now to focus on re-awakening their artistic dreams. With SO much wonderful work being created out there, artists returning to their skills after a time away feel frustrated that their abilities don’t quite “measure-up”.  

My advice to any artist, at any level, is to practice the skill of drawing. Draw anything you see: architecture, objects, figures, clouds, to capture the correct scale, perspective, and foreshortening. The more drawing you have under your belt, the better painter you’ll be, and the more quickly your skills will return or fall into place.”

Improve Your Painting: Nancie King Mertz, "Waiting on Wabash," pastel on mounted UART 320, 34 x 16 in. Winner Prix De Pastel in IAPS 33rd Webshow.
Nancie King Mertz, “Waiting on Wabash,” pastel on mounted UART 320, 34 x 16 in. Winner Prix De Pastel in IAPS 33rd Webshow.

Read Nancie King Mertz’s guest blog here.


“Improve your painting? Work on Drawing! One of the major things that I find my students need is to improve their drawing skills. Drawing is the foundation of painting and it is important to be able to draw your subjects accurately in the correct proportion, size, angles, etc. Take a drawing class or online drawing tutorials. Many cities have figure drawing classes and I found this to be the best way to work on artistic observation, measurements, proportion, shapes, and values. You can be masterful with pastel techniques but if your drawing is weak, your painting will miss the mark.”

Improve Your Painting: Nancy Nowak, "Apple Cart," pastel on UART paper, 12 x 9 in.
Nancy Nowak, “Apple Cart,” pastel on UART paper, 12 x 9 in.

You can read Nancy Nowak’s guest post here.


“The hardest advice to follow but the most valuable you can act on is to paint as often as you can. B O R I N G and maybe even cliché, but true. Each painting you create doesn’t need to be a masterpiece, but regular and frequent practice will catapult your artwork further than you can imagine. You will learn what the pastel does in your hand, how to choose colors and values instinctively, where the pastel will make contact with your paper, how to solve problems and challenges, build excellent skills and speed, and eventually allow your own style to emerge. If you are a bit adventurous and willing to try different surfaces and pastel brands, you will also accumulate favorite brands of pastel that work well with each other and for you

How often should you paint? Ah, we each have our own obligations, but a few weekend workshops won’t make you a pro. Once a month isn’t going to make you an expert. Once a week is only a slight improvement. Passionate beginners treat painting as a part-time job at 15-20 hours per week until they gain the artistic stamina required to build an art-making career should they so choose. Professional artists probably paint at least 40 hours per week. And it shows in their work. Make a leap and a commitment this year to paint as often as you can! Then you can look back on the incredible progress you have made…guaranteed. The rewards are well worth the effort.”

Improve Your Painting: Lisa Ober, "Portrait of a Girl," 2018, pastel on UART 400 paper, 24 x 18 in.
Lisa Ober, “Portrait of a Girl,” 2018, pastel on UART 400 paper, 24 x 18 in.

Read Lisa Ober’s guest post here.


“The one thing you can do to improve your painting or pastel work is to draw from life. Not looking and guessing as you draw, but rather strict observational drawing techniques like measuring, relating plumb lines, follow through lines, value orchestration, etc. with the goal being only an exact likeness to the subject. Simple head studies, landscape sketches, interiors, or still lifes drawn with just a pencil or charcoal every day for 20 minutes or so.

Humbling ourselves to Nature, whether people, places or things, improves our ability to see. It also connects us to our immediate environment. Then, when you go back to the studio, whether you normally work from life or not, your work will have a much stronger foundation and depth.”

Improve Your Painting: Carol Peebles, "'Those Who Don't Believe In Magic Never Find It' - Roald Dahl" 2019, pastel on Jack Richeson paper, 27 x 22 in.  Embellished demo from life for BlueEaselClub.
Carol Peebles, “‘Those Who Don’t Believe In Magic Never Find It’ – Roald Dahl” 2019, pastel on Jack Richeson paper, 27 x 22 in. Embellished demo from life for BlueEaselClub.

You can read Carol Peebles’ guest blog here.


“I would recommend that artists look at art—lots of art, all kinds of art—painting, sculpture, ceramics, architecture. It could be old art or new art, good art or bad art; who’s to say or know but you? And don’t just look at art you like. Look beyond your comfort zone, at stuff you’d never consider doing yourself. You’ll learn more than you can imagine.

First, it helps you understand and judge what it is you value in any painting you see; second, you can then use that information to hone a personal discernment and critique of your own art. Is it the technique you admire most, or color, line, narrative, value, shapes, illustrative content, all of the above, or none? And as you look, soak up ideas you’d like to try on for size. It’s okay to appropriate elements of others’ artwork, as long as you appropriate in an artistic environment that is authentically your own.”

Improve Your Painting: Arlene Richman, "Green," pastel on BFK Rives paper, 14 x 14 in.
Arlene Richman, “Green,” pastel on BFK Rives paper, 14 x 14 in.

Read Arlene Richman’s guest post here.


“Deepening your darks will naturally strengthen your mid-tones and flatter your highlights. Other than in deliberately high key subjects, pushing those darks is vital in making paintings which have impact and a strong tonal composition. To see what I mean, see my painting below.”

Improve Your Painting: Richard Suckling, "Mousehole Harbour," Sennelier and Unison pastels on Sennelier La Carte, 23 x 19 in.
Richard Suckling, “Mousehole Harbour,” Sennelier and Unison pastels on Sennelier La Carte, 23 x 19 in.

Check out Richard Suckling’s guest blog here.


“Every year I assess where I am with my work. Collect photos of all of your work from the past year in one album and choose which ones you feel are your best. Decide how you go forward, whether you are satisfied with a particular style or subject matter or are not. Make a list of goals, whether it’s to improve one particular part of your work, or get into a particular show or gallery, or choose a workshop or class you want to attend. But, most importantly, decide if you have discovered your own unique and signature style or voice, and are not just replicating someone else.”

Improve Your Painting: AJ Wainright, "Night Lights," 2018, pastel, 12 x 24 in.
AJ Wainright, “Night Lights,” 2018, pastel, 12 x 24 in.

You can read AJ Wainright’s guest post here.


“Creating a convincing illusion of space is a primary goal of landscape painters.  Success depends in part on learning to see and draw objects in proper scale in terms of their distance from the viewer, which is an aspect of linear perspective, hopefully without vanishing points. Working in color, as we do, an understanding of aerial perspective, which is the degree to which color diminishes in intensity as it recedes in space, is equally important and is the basis of my insistence that color needs to hold its place in space.

Even when colors have been skillfully and sensitively selected to create a believable spatial relationship, pigment applied too densely and too uniformly tends to flatten the image, diminishing the illusion of space and making it appear two-dimensional.

Lightly hatching layers of closely-related colors one over another, as in “To the Bay Beyond,” allows me not only to create a sense of atmosphere and space, but also to make every square inch of the painting interesting – though not equally important.”

Improve Your Painting: Duane Wakeham, "To The Bay Beyond," 2015, pastel, 11 1/5 x 22 in.
Duane Wakeham, “To The Bay Beyond,” 2015, pastel, 11 1/5 x 22 in.

Read Duane Wakeham’s guest blog here.

20. Daggi Wallace

I would say a way to improve your painting is to experiment! Try new surfaces, new brands of pastel, new ways of applying them, mix them with other media, change up your subject matter, try funky angles and perspectives, play with composition, layering, underpainting, new ways of framing and presenting the finished work. All of this will expand your horizons and open up avenues you may not have thought about. If something doesn’t work it doesn’t matter. You may learn something completely unexpected.

Allow yourself time to play and experiment, think outside the box, take the medium to new levels not often seen yet.

Improve Your Painting: Daggi Wallace, "Resist," pastel on UART paper and black acrylic on glass (back of glass), 11 x 14 in.
Daggi Wallace, “Resist,” pastel on UART paper and black acrylic on glass (back of glass), 11 x 14 in.

Read Daggi Wallace’s guest post here.


Well if that doesn’t get you hopping up from your computer, tablet, or phone and into your studio, I don’t know what will!

Soooooooo what’s the one thing YOU are going to do this year to improve your painting? Will it be one of the suggestions above or do you have your own idea? Let us know!

Do share what you think about this post by leaving a comment. Are you inspired by any these suggestions to improve your painting?

Until next time,


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74 thoughts on “How To Improve Your Painting – 20 Master Pastellists Spill The Beans”


    1. Cathryn I am soooo glad you enjoyed it. I feel privileged that so many artists will answer my call for a blog like this. Thank you for your kind words 😀

    1. Yes yes, drawing is soooo important. The allure of colour IS hard to resist though! Hope Laurie that you will be inspired to slow down and take time this year. Let us know how it goes!

  2. Gail, thanks a million for this blog post!!! This is truly a New Year’s gift! Thank you all for your invaluable advice. I couldn’t think of a better way to start my new Art year. To pick out just one, the words of Nancy King Mertz really spoke to me.
    But just looking at all these amazing paintings gives me a rush of motivation! 😀
    Great to have the links to the guest posts too, I will take the time to read them all (again). And of course, I want to paint and draw much more. Happy New Year!

    1. Whoo hoo!! Gabriela that’s such a fabulous response!
      Thanks for sharing the words that resonated most with you. Hoping you’ll let us know how Nanci’s advice affects your work in 2019.
      Also, take your time with the guest posts of all these artists – they have so much to share and the blogs aren’t going anywhere!

  3. All good tips, particularly the advice to paint every day and to improve drawing skills. I’ve recently taken on board Lyn’s suggestion not to worry about ‘failure’ but to see each painting as a learning process. This has really freed me up and made me more adventurous, in some cases leading to ‘success’ where previously I just struggled with a painting and couldn’t see a way forward. Relax, enjoy, experiment, learn. Thanks for this marvellous post.

    1. Kylia love hearing how you now look upon work that perhaps doesn’t work out the way you’d like. Each piece really is a learning step. Every. Single. Time. And as you said, with that mindset, you can take more risks, be adventurous, and see where the journey leads you!

      Great mantra: “Relax. Enjoy. Experiment. Learn.”

  4. Once again, Gail, thank you for an edifying blog post! As you point out, with so much good work being made out there, I sometimes think, why bother – others are doing it better.

    The repetition of good advice is important! The exhortation to practice basics of drawing, values, and observation, with a little experimentation is just what I need to hear!

    One thing I return to often is the joy of discovery, the excitement of attempting to express what I see and feel, like children do when they bubble over with enthusiasm. To cultivate thankfulness for the beauty in our world, and interact with it as an artist… I don’t get my idea of replication ‘right’ every time, but I always learn something about my own take on things, and how my materials work, and where my drawing limits are. And, as I tell students, your vision is unique, and your voice is important, contributing to the fabric of this multi-layered rich textile of life. It’s a dance, and the music is playing!

    1. Ohhhhh Mary Beth, I love what you tell your students – it echoes my own thoughts and words. Wonderfully expressed! Life IS a dance. So don’t be shy, step up and through yourself into it!
      And yay! glad you enjoyed the advice. We do need to hear some things over and over, and often they click with us at just the right moment, when the student is ready.

  5. Thank you to all for the firm reminders. As someone who has been painting for fewer than three years but with some beginner success (and failure!), I can say that looking at lots of art (really, the only art-related thing I ever did before I started painting, and what I believe has made a big difference to my ability to judge); painting from life; experimenting; and drawing are all crucial.

    I find winter in the Northeast is a good time to combine drawing and working from life; just stand (or sit) around and draw what’s in your house.

    Ultimately, it all comes down to work, work, work – and having confidence in your own point of view. It allows you to dispassionately say, this or that is good, and this or that is bad – and move on in the journey to do something that is “you” and that stands up over time. I just tore up about 20 old paintings and it was deeply satisfying and completely painless.

    1. Jane you make so many fantastic points!! And all from the point of view of a relative newcomer to painting. Fantastic!!

      And oh so brave to destroy old paintings that don’t make the grade. It is scary but ultimately freeing when you do that. I hope others, reading about your action, will take courage to do the same. Such a liberating way to start the New Year!

  6. Once again, you provide valuable and important information. Having only come to making art some 6+ years ago, with no training, I know my drawing skills are weak (a safer word than nonexistant!). So in 2019 I will invest time in drawing. And paint more often, even if it’s just a warmup study. Thanks Gail.

    1. Thanks Marsha. It’s always helpful to a) recognise where your weaknesses are and b) be willing and committed to doing something about them. So bravo to you!

      I hope one day to create a drawing course to lay out the basics. It’s so much about seeing and observation and how to translate that through the arm and hand to paper!

  7. Ah Gail, thank you for this! My mind is buzzing with all this valuable inspiration, but two things which leap out to me are a) drawing is super important, and b) practice everyday. I love your newsletter.

    1. You are so welcome Moushumi!!
      I’m glad a couple things really got your attention. And YES!! to drawing and painting often and consistently!!! Let us know how it goes for you through the year.

  8. Fantastic! There is so much information here and what really strikes me is that many of these wonderful artists are suggesting similar ideas which really once again highlights the importance of daily practice and regular sketching; such simple ideas & yet so worthwhile. Thank you, once again, for another great article!

    1. Oh you got that right Helen!! The repetition, the overlap, the simplicity of the ideas. I think we all need to come back to this blog post through the year to be reminded of what can make such a difference in our work!

  9. They all gave such great advice and I hear some repeated themes: draw every day, paint every day, push yourself, don’t give up…so good. Now I need to do it!

    1. Yes, yes, yes!!! Love how you’ve captured the essence of these ideas Daphne! Now go put them (or even one) into action! One of the best ways to make it happen is to get an accountability partner who wants to do something similar. Then you can check in with each other on a daily or weekly schedule.

      Check in again and let us know how it’s going for you.

  10. Your blog is helpful, it inspires me and the additional voices you bring to us are helpful too. I am working too heavily and will try to remember to sketch and work in monotone and value specific. Wish me luck.

    1. I’m so glad to hear you find the HowToPastel blog helpful Karla!
      It’s great that you know where you need to improve and that you have taken some ideas away from this post. I do wish you luck but even more, I wish you the commitment and desire to stay the course!

  11. How wonderful to see you and Cam in one of my favorite spots in the world or is it the end of the earth (it felt that way the last time I visited, in a beautiful way). Very adventurous to go there in winter since it’s a favorite place for “storm watchers”

    20 Masters answering a great question! You’ve outdone yourself and that’s saying a lot. I will be referring back to their comments many times as I try to practice their excellent suggestions. Thank you zillions.

    1. Oh Carol, you made me smile when you said “You’ve outdone yourself”!! Thank you! And you’re welcome!!
      So glad you’ve found the responses of these 20 fabulous artists helpful. I know what you mean about going back to them time and again.

      Tofino is such a beautiful spot. I can’t remember why we decided to go there for our getaway but I think it was because we wanted to go somewhere a bit wild! We felt sooo fortunate to have a perfectly blue sky day for one of the three days we were there. The rest were, as you’d expect, cloudy and rainy. It was perfect!
      And now I need to go add the photo to the end of the blog post so everyone who didn’t receive my email will know what you’re talking about!!

    1. Love hearing that Jean!! Maybe hook in an accountability partner who will help you follow through on the commitment I hear you making. Then let us know how you go.

      I myself am going to get those charcoal pencils Felicity House referred to as they don’t appear to be as smudgy as regular charcoal.

    1. Oh Leslie, I’m so glad you brought up the quality of the artwork by these amazing artists. It’s a pleasure to have their words AND their art on this blog post!

      Love that you will go through all the guest blogs. No rush, they aren’t going anywhere. You can always read guest posts by clicking on the Category: Featured artists – In Their Own Words. There are A LOT (and more to come this year!).

      So glad you found HowToPastel too Leslie!

  12. Thank you for that inspiring post. If there’s one takeaway, it’s that “practice makes perfect.” In Japan, where I live, the equivalent expression is “keizoku wa chikara nari” 継続は力なり: “to continue is to gain power.”

    1. Love your takeaway David! And, absolutely LOVE the Japanese equivalent! Sooooo true. A good lesson for us all. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  13. Gail,
    Thank you once again for providing just the right
    Inspiration to get me going! And for the wonderful
    words from all of you master pastelists – I THANK YOU!!!
    Happy Painting in 2019 to you all.,
    Ginny Stocker

  14. When I’m scouting for my subject to paint and my eyes fix on the spot that inspires me then I resist the ‘swimming’. That means where My eyes(and mind) swim around defining surrounding details. I kept focussed on the spot that matters and analyse what matters, what’s necessary, what enhances the point of my painting. My eyes can see a thousand more things than my pastels can achieve so I delete all irrelevant information that will cloud my chosen subject.
    Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good picture.

    1. Hi Maxine, thanks for sharing your process of painting!! Love the last statement particularly!

      I’m wondering if any of the ideas from our 20 guests resonated with you?

      1. Yes, they all had great ideas and particularly the repeated references to drawing and simplifying to get the essence of a good painting. I often draw thumbnail sketches from others paintings where the composition strikes me as interesting so I’m analysing why that composition works.

  15. Wow!! So great to hear from each and every one of these artists. I’ve been in a slump, but reading these has really helped to change my brain around. The main and strongest theme among them all is to paint, paint, paint, draw, draw, draw as much and as often as possible. I will endeavor to do that this year. Thanks Gail for very inspiring blog!

  16. Thankyou for your wonderful blog. It is great to get these tips from the masters to start the year. This material would make a great diary, to refer to and be inspired by throughout the year, including the beautiful paintings and the tips. If you produced it, I would definitely buy it!

    1. What a super idea Janice! I had never thought of creating a dairy but now you’ve got me thinking! Of course, if I used work by others, I’d need to get their permission. Thanks for your idea and enthusiastic encouragement!!

  17. What an amazingly informative blog Gail. It’s like all you ever needed or wanted to know about the creation of art by 20 thoughtful knowledgeable and excellent artists.

  18. Loved this blog! Thanks for pulling this together…i appreciate the time you put into it. I guess the main takeaway from all of these awesome artists is to work, work, work. It reminds me of what I used to tell my son…. there are lots of talented people out there but the ones that truly succeed are the ones that work at it. This year I am going to work hard at sketching everyday. I too get excited at the idea of those big projects, but I think it’s so important to improve skills, and learn from others…which may mean going out of our comfort zone. Here’s to a new year of exploration.

    1. Love your takeaway Maryann and your reference to what you’d tell your son. So true!!

      Here’s to your year of exploration! And sketching. And getting out of your comfort zone!!

  19. Hi Gail
    Fantastic blog as ever and wow what a bucketful of free advice from such esteemed Pastellistes!! So many of the comments have got me itching (in a good way) but the one that resonates the most for me is Lyn Asselta’s perspective!
    Thank you, Gail, I feel a new sense of vigour!
    Michele x

    1. Thanks so much Michele for such an enthusiastic response. I’m surprised though with your painting schedule and all the work you do that you have an itch!! And yes, Lyn’s words are such a good reminder!!
      Glad we brought vigour your way!!

    1. So glad you could participate Daggi especially with life’s challenges and with such short notice.
      It certainly is a wonderful gathering of wisdom!

  20. Thank you for this blog Gail, it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve had many challenges in the studio lately. I have to admit that most of the problems stem from my inability to allow myself to fail. Thank you Lyn Asselta for reminding us that we must understand that each painting is …

    “simply your own “next step”. Rejoice in the winners, but also rejoice in those that frustrate you enough to push you to the brink…those are the paintings that are moving you forward”…

    I will be writing this out and displaying it on my easel. I’ve been pushed to the brink so many times, it’s exhausting. Your words are golden for me right now. I’m working hard trying to rid myself of that “monster of perfection” that still lingers on my shoulder.

    I have to agree with Emma about the importance of good reference photos when working on a commission. It is so true, we are not doing ourselves any good by taking on commissions with substandard photos. Contrary to popular opinion, we are not magicians. I know I’ve aged prematurely by at least a decade by taking on commissions with only a handful of snapshots where the subjects head is no bigger than my thumbprint.

    Thank you to the other artists for their sage advice😊

    1. Oh Heather, I am sooo very glad to hear how positive this post is for you at this time. I agree with you about Lyn’s reminder that each painting is just the next step in your journey. You do some beautiful work so, step by step, painting by painting, on you go.

      And thank you for pulling out Emma’s thoughts about commission photos and sharing your own frustration (and aging!) with subpar images to work from.

      And wahaaaattttt? we aren’t magicians? With some of the work I see out there, you coulda fooled me 😀

  21. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I am a retired art teacher, K through 12. Pastels were never emphasised at the schools that I taught. Much too messy. I live in a retirement home and do not have the large studio space I am used to. So I thought pastels would fit my situation. I am so glad I tried them. The color and brilliance of pastels is just what I was craving.

    1. So glad you found this helpful Patricia. And my applause to you as an art teacher. Also, I know art teachers often don’t get time to do their own work so I’m happy to hear that pastels allow you to do your work in a smaller space. So I say, let it out!!

  22. Oh my, Gail! After just recently discovering you, I am a new follower. I have spent several hours this afternoon viewing several of your blogs this afternoon which lead me finally this to this one. Your introduction to so many amazing artists is truly inspiring. Their words and beautiful works speak to me. Thank you so much for sharing and doing what you do.

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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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