Pastel Demo – Landscape with Wildflowers

About Karen Margulis

I was born in Connecticut, grew up in South Florida and spent summers in the North Carolina Mountains. I currently live in Marietta Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. I graduated from the University of Florida with a BA in Education.

I operated a family day care for 21 years so that I could stay home with my own 2 children. We traveled every summer with the kids and tried to visit every National Park. Most of my paintings are inspired by the photos I took on these adventures.

I am now painting and teaching pastel classes and workshops full time. I am represented by several galleries in the Southeast as well as several online galleries. I am a Member of Excellence in the Southeastern Pastel Society and a Signature Member of the Pastel Society of America.

Follow this link to visit Karen’s Website

Pastel Demo….Colorado Landscape with Wildflowers

(Please click images below for larger views)

‘Into Yankee Boy Basin’ 8×10 pastel ©Karen Margulis

painting available for $95 at Daily Paintworks

After three weeks of traveling I have enjoyed getting back to the easel today. I decided to do a pastel painting of Colorado’s Yankee Boy Basin. I visited this beautiful spot at the height of wildflower season and was in heaven! I took photos of my process and would like to share them as a demo.

I am working on Uart paper size 8×10. I chose Uart because I wanted to do an alcohol wash and this paper handles a wash beautifully. I did a rough sketch of my main shapes with a nupastel. I don’t like a fussy drawing because then I am tempted to stay in the lines and be less painterly.

I covered the paper with broad strokes of hard pastels. I used some Nupastels for this step. I used a combination of local colors and complements for the underpainting. I started with the dark shapes first. I chose the pinks and oranges because I knew I would be using a lot of green in the painting. This will make the green masses more interesting.

I used rubbing alcohol and a cheap bristle brush to paint over the pastel, liquifying it. I try to be careful to not let it be too sloppy and drippy or else all of the colors will run together to make mud. it dries in about 20 minutes or less.

Now I am using my softer pastels and I begin by blocking in all of the dark shapes. I try to connect the darks where I can so I won’t have a painting that is too spotty.  Next I block in the sky with several blue pastels.

I finish the sky and add some lights to the clouds. I also add some pastel to the mountain. I liked the colors of the mountain in the underpainting so I use a very light touch and use colors close to the ones in the underpainting.

At this point I got into my zone and forgot to take pictures!  What I did was build up the greens in the trees and the grasses. I used a lighter cooler green in the distant grasses and warmer greens in the foreground. There was a lot of bushes and stuff in my reference photo so I tried to simplify it into some green shapes.  I also worked on the path by adding some dark peach and blue shadows and the light peach of the dirt.

I am almost done here. I added hints of the wildflowers with a focus on the red Indian Paintbrush. These are just marks and not detailed flowers.  I decided that I needed to carry the eye down the path and into the distance better. So I added some bright green accents in the bushes and carried the red flowers into the distance but I used a cooler red and I made them smaller. See the top photo for the finish!

Thanks for following along and I hope my thoughts as I painted are helpful!  I have an idea for this same scene so plan to come back later this week to see what I am up to!


  1. says

    I love this demo the finished painting is so good. I am going to recomend this lesson to an ex student amd friend of mine who lives in USA.

  2. Debbie says

    Where do I start. I have wanted to learn watercolour painting for so long and this is the year I intend to give it a serious go.
    Can you help me
    Regards debbie

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