View Full Version : Need help progressing

02-27-2014, 04:19 PM

I've been drawing for about 1,5 years.
Mostly digital, but lately I began with pastels.

Now I cant achieve a certain degree of realism, and I'm stuck on it.
I can't figure out why.
I would appreciate I you guys could help me out on that :)

I'll attach some files of my pastels so you guy can have an idea of what I'm talking about:


I would really appreciate your help!

Thanks in advance!!!

02-27-2014, 04:44 PM
All I can do is to say keep drawing and painting and put aside that incessant nagging drive to be perfect in your realism. What I mean is, I found that in my early years of drawing and painting I had this unhealthy drive that literally put me on the edge of depression. I tried so hard that I was just spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere, hence, stuck. Once I put that obsessive need to be perfect, good or to achieve realism, I started to grow.

How do you do this, you wonder? well, focus on each day at a time but part of that secret is the doing, not necessarily the wanting. Once you achieve some movement or growth, pick up that wanting. The wanting will be the catalyst to get you motivated and striving to become even better.

Draw, draw, draw, paint, paint, observe and when you can, draw from life (plein air). Study other artists and their work and keep a positive attitude. Hope this helps and I have answered any questions. Remember it is a journey, not necessarily the destination. I remind myself that everyday.

02-27-2014, 04:54 PM
André, it looks like you're well on your way towards realism. It takes time to learn how to handle pastels, and from what I see you are doing well.

If you want high realistm, look at this thread by Dianna Ponting:

02-28-2014, 07:21 AM
thanks a lot for the encouraging words :)

I guess I have to start to go into the nature and draw from real life.
It seems like paintings done from photo reference looks less realistic.

I don't even want to achieve a photo realistic look or something, just some kind of impressionistic look.

For example, many painters don't draw in a lot of details, but you can see, that it looks realistic.

eg: http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large/marsh-twilight-karen-margulis.jpg

Hope you understand what I mean :D

02-28-2014, 09:13 AM
André, that example makes it clearer what you want. Karen has years of experience, but as far as I know, she works on surfaces with a good tooth. To me, it looks like the papers you use are the 'plain' papers, like Ingres, Canson Mi-Teintes, and the likes. The paper makes a huge difference.

Do you break your pastels into smaller bits, and use the side of the stick to paint with sort of "a broad brush"? That is also one thing Karen does.

Are you in the Americas, Europe, or elsewhere? You can get advice on paper from people living in your nook of the world.

02-28-2014, 10:09 AM
I would recommend you go back to the beginning of Karen's blog and follow along, very carefully. I know that by doing this myself, my technique and the quality of my work has improved tremendously. She also has demonstrations available for purchase on Etsy, and I have bought every one of them. I took each post she made on a particular subject and did my own exercises over and over again until I was comfortable with that particular technique or suggestion. I have produced some of my best work following along with her demonstrations, both in her blog and those I have purchased. She just makes learning a fun experience. I would also suggest setting aside enough time each week to just practice and play.

02-28-2014, 03:06 PM
It's all about painting shapes, both negative and positive. Stay away from details until the end, then add bits just to suggest. Keep at it, that's the only way you will progress. Also, if you can, take lessons from someone you admire. That helps a lot. You are well on your way!

Karen Margulis
02-28-2014, 07:23 PM
Thanks for sharing my marsh painting as an example. I haven't visited the pastel forum in quite some time but it was an important part of my daily learning when I was new to pastel so I am grateful to the Wet Canvas community and the pastel forum for that!
One of the things that really helped me with the learning curve of pastel painting was to paint everyday. I would do a small 5x7 daily painting and spend no more than 1/2 hour on it. I learned so much by just painting. I still paint and blog about it every single day!

So my advice is to study and read all you can but be sure to paint a lot...it is how you will put it all together and while it takes time you will see progress!!

Another tip...be sure you use the best materials you can afford. You deserve it! A lot of artists new to pastels use inexpensive papers and pastels until they feel they are good enough....but really it is more difficult to have success with the cheap stuff. Often basic inexpensive sets don't have a good selection of colors and values....greens especially. The greens tend to be very bright and artificial. A few neutral and more subtle greens will give the landscape a more authentic or realistic look.
You are off to a great start! Keep it up and you will see progress :)


02-28-2014, 07:59 PM
Very good advice.....bravo! Karen, I love your painting, perfect illustration for this thread. :)

03-01-2014, 02:42 AM
You know, 1.5 years means you are really at the beginning of your journey. Many artists who go to art school here in The uk, like myself, are there 4 years full time and even after that they still feel they have much to learn! I did.

Working from photos at this stage will not help you. Your cloud pic is a classic example...the photo did not give you the information that your eyes would have seen. That line of black hills would not have been black I. Real life. You need to work from life, if you cannot get out and about for any reason, try to work from windows, or still life, anything rather than using a photo.
Be patient too. Gradually you will learn the language...how to make things look as they are but using the language of Impressionism. It takes time and practice, and lots of studying too, never forget that you have loads of resources for study. Books, internet, all sorts. Other painters will show you the way, slowly, slowly. For example for learning howto paint clouds, study other painters clouds, then move on to looking at how they paint grasses in fields and so on. Compare one with another, see what they did differently. It will feed you.

03-01-2014, 10:15 AM
Jackie, what wonderful advice and observations. I do know myself that I have only been using pastels for about a year or so now, and have only come back to drawing and painting 2 years ago after a 40 year gap. I sometimes get frustrated because I know how I want my work to look, but I just can't get there. I have been fortunate to study under a wonderful pastelist in my area and she encouraged me just to keep painting and playing. I work a full time job, so my painting is usually relegated to the weekends, but I spend a considerable amount of time on those weekends sketching, painting and playing with different papers and pastels. I like how I am progressing and I am getting ready to submit a few pieces for a juried exhibit next month.

Most recently, I watched several of your pastel videos and felt that I finally understood some of the basics that you were illustrating and gained enough confidence to move forward once again!

03-02-2014, 01:47 AM
Thanks, I am delighted to have proved helpful, both with advice and with teaching.
It is so difficult not to be impatient, and easy to become frustrated when you can see clearly what you want in your head but cannot do it somehow.
I used to explain to my students that they must realise that learning to paint is not unlike learning to play a musical instrument like the piano. Everyone is happy to accept that it is important and necessary to practice loads, even after learning all the keys and notes. They are happy to start with simple tunes but recognise that to play complex pieces well will take a long, long time and endless hours of practice. Yet painters want to achieve more, more quickly, and a year feels like a long time to an artist. But it is truly only the beginning. Many hours must be spent learning about tone, colour, composition and all the underlying important elements of painting, as well as learning all about ones tools and the techniques to use and how to adjust those to your purpose. It is a fun journey but not a quick one.

03-02-2014, 01:53 AM
Just a thought for the poster.
You might find it helpful to post one painting at a time and ask for a very specific critique.
Would be good if you had a local tutor who could do that for you, but failing that the artists here can often be helpful and encouraging.
What you need however, apart from encouragement, is proper advice. You just need to be able to accept it and that can be tricky sometimes!

03-02-2014, 03:31 PM
wow, thank you all for all these advices!
It helped me alot to correct my jorney in the right direction!

btw, Margulis Blog is an awesome source for information.

I was probably a little impatient, thought after 1,5 year I should be better by now...
I will have to keep on painting everyday and in plein-air, as you say.

Again, thank you all :thumbsup:

03-02-2014, 03:59 PM
You know what, get some sandpaper (fine, very fine), paint on that and see if you like it better. Paper can make wonders!

03-02-2014, 04:05 PM
Charlie is right.....sanded paper can heighten your painting experience, there are several choices on the market.