Sunday, May 28, 2017

Step by Step Poppy Demo

'A Gentle Breeze'         8x10         pastel      ©Karen Margulis
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.  Join me today for a step by step demo in pictures of today's daily painting. I am working on an 8x10 piece of tan Canson Mi-Teintes paper. I begin with a dry wash underpainting using 3 values of pink. I establish the dark shapes first. I then paint the sky. I continue building the painting from big shapes of green down to the details of the flowers and grasses. I spray the grass a few times with workable fixative to create texture.

I thoroughly enjoyed painting these poppies and I hope you enjoy the process through my photos.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Let's Paint with Red!

'Love Red'         7x5       pastel       ©Karen Margulis
I love red. It isn't my top favorite color but I enjoy painting with red. There is something special about pushing a soft piece of red pastel into the paper and getting a rich vibrant mark.  So in honor of Valentine's Day I decided to paint with red.

I had a scrap piece of Uart paper that I had done a quick poppy bloom demo for a student. I decided to take some water to brush in the pastel. I had some watercolor handy from another project so I added a bit of red watercolor. Then just for fun I sprinkled some kosher salt all over the wet pigments.
The result was a cool underpainting. Perfect for some poppies.

The underpainting with watercolor, pastel and salt
 I really like the underpainting so I didn't want to cover it all up with pastel. I decided to paint the poppy blooms first then see what the background needed.

I still like the underpainting background!

 I decided it didn't need much so I very lightly scumbled some peach pastel keeping with the red theme. I added hints of a few stems and called it finished. That was fun!  How about painting some poppies? Here is a tip:

Progression of color for a red flower

  • Instead of using just one red pastel for a poppy consider building the bloom from dark to light and cool to warm.
  • Start with the darkest value violet or cool red that you see. I like to use purple and brick red for the shadowed part of the flower.
  • Increase the intensity and warmth of the reds as you layer the petals.
  • Use the side of the pastel to paint larger chunky petals.
  • Paint the petals in the direction that they would emerge from the they grow.

If you like these tips and want more poppy tips have a look at my PDF demo available in my Etsy shop for $6. Link here:

Friday, May 26, 2017

Would You Like to Paint Poppies?

'Summer Sun'             8x10         pastel          ©Karen Margulis
available $185
It is the perfect weekend for painting the red poppy. If you haven't had a chance to try my digital demos now is a great time. I have a wonderful PDF demo all about painting beautiful sunlit red poppies!  This is an information packed digital demo with 30 pages and 54 color photos.

If you aren't familiar with my digital demos they are step by step pastel painting demos with photos and narrative of each step. It is not a video but in some ways even better because I have taken photos of every step of the painting and spent a lot of time writing my thoughts and sharing tips about each and every step. I share photo demos on my blog but the pdf demo include a lot more information.

You can download the demo and view it on a computer or tablet. Or if you like a physical booklet you can print it out. This is demo # 13 and I am happy to share my tips for painting poppies (or really any landscape element lit by the late afternoon sun)

This new demo is available in my Etsy shop for just $7. Click here for the demo.
Click here for all of the pdf demos.

A screen shot of my new digital demo

A Sneak Peek

Bonus feature in the demo: Building a Flower

This is a pastel demo but for my acrylic and oil painting friends....the information in the demo can certainly be applied to your medium. I am approaching my oil paintings the same way I paint a pastel.

Don't forget that I have my mini pastel poppies available for just $25 which includes shipping. There are still a few remaining in my etsy shop.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

When the Muse Visits You Must Respond!

A Profusion of Poppies!  A collage of my mini poppy paintings. Each one is 2.5x3.5 inches pastel
each available in my Etsy shop for $25 each including shipping
Every once in awhile it happens. I go a bit crazy and just can't stop painting. I get hooked on a subject which turns into a series and I can't stop. I was even painting in the evenings which I never do. I just had to see how many variations on the theme I could come up with.  This time it was poppies.

I was working on some mini aceo/artist trading card size paintings to bring to IAPS (more on this later) and one of them was a poppy painting. I love painting poppies, especially the red ones so I decided to do a couple more. Then a couple more. Before I knew it I had taped 6 more pieces of Uart paper to my board. The 6 more. I couldn't stop.

With each one I challenged myself to make it different from the last. I changed compositions. I changed color palettes. I asked myself how many sky or background colors could I use? I tried up close and personal and meadows filled with poppies. I finally stopped at no.22. I could probably do 20 more. I am that inspired!

Below you can scroll down and see all 22 mini poppy paintings. I am making them available through my Etsy shop for $25 each which includes shipping. Click here. Enjoy!

'Poppy no. 1'     2.5 x 3.5    pastel     $25

My pile of pastels ....the aftermath

Mini paintings protected in a clear bag with foamcore backing
 Click on each painting to enlarge. If you wish to purchase a painting please visit my Etsy shop or send me an email.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How to Take a Painting From Blah to Wow

'Dancing under the Summer Sun'          11x14        pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $175
 It was just a Blah painting. It had decent bones. The composition was interesting enough and the colors were soft and pleasing. But there was nothing special about it. The painting had no punch. It was blah. So there it sat in the great pile of discards.

I was feeling up for a challenge so I pulled out the painting and tried to figure out what went wrong and how to take the painting from blah to wow....or at least 'hey not too bad!'

The original blah painting
So why was the painting Blah? Here is what I decided:
  • The painting seemed a bit flat. All of the big flowers were all on the same plane. There was some depth created by the cooler blue mountain shape in the distance but the flowers looked flat.
  • The values seemed a bit spotty. There were too many spots of dark in the grasses. These spots were disjointed. 
  • The colors were washed out and dull. It is good to have dull or neutral colors in a landscape but  this painting was a little too neutral and boring.....there was no punch!
  • There was an overall lack of CONTRAST. The darks were not dark and rich enough in addition to them being spotty. There was no contrast in pure color or intense 'spicy' colors.

Darkening the grass and adding texture with clear gesso
 So What did I do to correct these problems? Read on!

  • I decided to darken and add texture to the grassy part of the painting. This would increase the contrast between dark and light and add interest to the boring flat grass. I used clear gesso and brushed it over the grass. This liquified the pastel creating a dark green area of interesting texture.
  • I then built up the layers of grass over the dry gesso. The pastel skipped over the texture creating the illusion of grass.
  • I reintroduced the pink clover flowers this time giving them a larger role. I wanted to make them thick and juicy with color and texture. I also wanted some of  them to be in front of the Queen Anne's Lace to give more depth to this area. I used very soft pastels and pressed hard!
  • I brightened the sky and mountain bringing some of the mountain color down into the grass.
  • I refined the Queen Anne's Lace with chunkier marks to add more texture.
  • Finally I added more individual blades of grass using pure intense colors to contrast with the dull colors already there. I made sure to pull some grass blades over the flowers to create more depth.

Now scroll up and view the 'before' painting and then the revised painting. The differences are clear and bright. That was so much fun!!