View Full Version : The Spotlight - April 2017 - Your Favorites

03-31-2017, 08:06 PM
Welcome artists!

Here is a quick recap of what The Spotlight is all about!

The Spotlight is an activity thread for pastel artists of all experience levels working from photos chosen by a monthly host. Most months, the host will choose photos from only one subject, putting that subject into “the spotlight,” so to speak! For example, one month the subject will be painting water, another month will spotlight flowers, etc.

Some months, rather than spotlight a subject, the focus will be on a challenge of some sort. In those cases, we might have a wider variety of photo references, but “the spotlight” will be on the challenge itself.

Since this is a group activity, we can pool our knowledge and resources, and grow as artists in a fun, “no-pressure” atmosphere.

And, remember, no critiques unless specifically asked for.

The intent is to have fun, try new things, experiment, and perhaps most of all, to see what our friends and colleagues are painting from the same reference material!

Please note: The photos this month were taken by me or are from the Reference Image Library. You have permission to use the photos as reference to create your artwork and to sell them and/or exhibit them. The actual photos still retain the copyright of the photographer. So you cannot copy the photo to your blog, for example, without the permission of the photographer, or digitally alter or reproduce the photo for any purpose other than for your personal use, with the exception of crops, digital alterations and posts of these photos within "The Spotlight" thread.

This month’s Spotlight is on…Your Favorites!

We've just spent the last three months working on a difficult and complex subject - color temperature - so I thought this month I would turn over the Spotlight to you! What are your favorite subjects, or your favorite paintings, or your favorite techniques...or your favorite, well, anythings!

Please share any and all your favorite subjects on painting! Share any stories that may go along with your favorite paintings! Do you have a favorite technique or any questions about that technique? Feel free to share and ask any questions that you may have wondered about, but that we haven't covered here on previous Spotlights!

This month it is all about you!

Well, about me, too! I thought I would start things off and share my favorite pastel painting. It was painted - goodness - 9 years ago!


The interesting thing about this painting was that it started out as an experiment. I had just bought some pan pastels which were new at the time. So, I started this painting with no greater objective than to try out the pans. I didn't like the pans at all, and switched to regular sticks after a fairly short time!

Unfortunately, this isn't the only time that I started a painting merely to try out a new product and have it turn out really well. Alas, when I do start a painting intending it to turn out really well, it usually doesn't! :eek:

As one might guess, figurative paintings have long been my favorite subject - going all the way back to art school and the many figure drawing sessions that I attended. When I went to art school, one of my main interests was drawing super-hero comic books. I thought that maybe someday that would be my profession! During college, we usually alternated between male and female models. Whenever we had a male model, I tended to make them quite muscular and "super-hero" like! Imagine the surprise of my fellow students when I turned skinny, scrawny male models into Captain America!

But I digress! Aside from figurative work, I also dabble in landscapes, flowers and pretty much any subject. As long time visitors of the Spotlight probably know, my favorite landscapes are of places that are special to me - and that would be the Adirondack Mountains in my home state of New York! You are all probably quite sick of seeing all the Adirondack references I have posted over the years, and wish I would take a vacation someplace else! Here's one of my favorite pastel landscapes of the Hudson River in the Adirondacks, where it originates.


Amazingly enough, this painting also began as an experiment - the first painting I ever did on La Carte paper. Obviously I paint better when I have absolutely no pressure or expectations!!

OK, now it's your turn as we put the Spotlight on Your Favorites!

Feel free to share your stories, your paintings, your questions, your references! I can't wait to hear some of your favorite painting experiences!


03-31-2017, 09:23 PM
Oh wow! Wonderful theme! Of course you know my favorite subject... well, maybe if I did Sissy Cat laying in a pile of flowers? I do like flowers, fruit, bright colors and Cats, most of all cats. She's such a perfect model too. Some fur will have to flow this month!

04-01-2017, 08:33 AM
Interesting post..as always..I relate to it on many levels..expectations from art school, favourite subjects (mine Southern Ontario), experimental approaches.
Unfortunately, all my recent experiments have been disasters so I'll have a hard time finding a favourite! :rolleyes: but I'll keep at it!

04-01-2017, 10:18 AM
What fun Don. Thank you for doing this. A monthly inspiration is what I need to keep painting.

I love your portrait. Very ethereal. Sensitive. Lovely. (I'd love a lesson..hint?)
(I am aware of your previous portrait lessons ).

Btw, how is Sammy? Speaking of favorites!

04-01-2017, 10:20 AM
Leslie, I believe that when we try hard, we mess up. I guess it shows we are trying to grow? I too feel like I need to back up and just play a while. As Don said, no pressure. Best idea. Enjoy art.

04-03-2017, 01:07 PM
Ok....a favorite. A favorite reference that Don put up from his beloved lake...I guess i like it since this is the third painting of it!!! So this is brand new.

a story: This painting is a gift for a grandnephew who was so disappointed on Christmas Eve when someone took his gift, a framed painting of mine, in a Yankee Swap game we played. So this is his replacement.

I felt like a newbie when I started this on Saturday. Really...like I needed lessons! (I've never seen anyone do a pastel painting in person so I guess I do!)

This is 11 x 14 on White Pastel Premier. I think 400. I put a very pale wash of watercolor on it to kill the white on most of it. (Pastel Premier has these dimples that can be hard to cover.) Many brands of pastel. This is just off my table to it may change a bit. I already added a bit of shadow behind the boat after I took the photo. All C and C most welcome.

Don I wish I could put up your beautiful reference alongside but my computer didn't want to!!! From June 2015 spotlight. Thank you and thank you for the spotlights.

I'll still put up a favorite old painting.

04-03-2017, 01:13 PM
OK, previous is Don's reference. all thumbs today.

04-03-2017, 02:02 PM
Lots of colour lots of fun!
Yankee swap... that's a new one for me!

04-03-2017, 04:11 PM
Thanks Leslie.
yankee Swap. People bring gifts of a specific value. Others get to claim the gift if they like it. Someone else can take theirs. There are rules. It's fun as long as no one get serious. Everyone goes home with something. I think some people call it White Elephant?

04-04-2017, 07:11 PM
Jay, Very nice! I really like your color combinations!


04-06-2017, 01:21 PM
Thanks Don. I just touched it up a bit and texted to the nephew. He is very happy. I'll frame it soon for him.

Equus Art
04-09-2017, 05:36 PM
While I have never joined one of these fabulously informative Spotlights, courtesy of Don's hard work and diligence, it doesn't mean that I have not been inspired and applied the information to my own work. I always take something away with me after I read each monthly post and have enjoyed everyone's efforts. I have to admit to being mostly a lurker on these threads as my day job and the good fortune to have commissions to keep me busy.....well.....keeps me very busy!

One of the last Spotlights did spark (pun intended when you see the painting) me going totally outside of my comfort zone, both in trying to be much looser in my mark making and also paying attention to the way cool and warm colors played off each other. I often look at this painting and wonder who painted it because it so completely differs from my usual style of work.

It is also my favorite painting because it was the first piece that I sold, hung in a juried gallery show, that was not a pet commission for someone. The person who bought the painting bought it because it must have said something to them! I was both thrilled and sad that it sold.

Hot Shoe


Thank you, Don, for all the work you put into these Spotlights. So much appreciated even though I have not contributed to them. You have taught me a lot.

And thanks, Jay, for the nudge!


04-09-2017, 09:18 PM
Yes, Jay has a great idea, can we do a Spotlight on humans? I too love figure drawing and I love pastels, but can't get those two loves together!

Looking through my favorites now, will post soon!

04-10-2017, 07:38 AM
Cat, that painting is breathtaking. I remember seeing it in stages as you did it. The hand alone is fabulous! Thanks so much for showing us. This is a fun place to hang out!

Sandra, I'm sure you know Don has spotlights on WC about faces and humans. But no more critique now. That's why I mentioned it.

But why not show us your favorite painting? I seem to remember some lovely work.

04-10-2017, 07:40 AM
Cat, do you remember the paper and the pastels you used? Just curious.

04-10-2017, 08:00 AM
Here is one of my favorites. My granddaughter took the reference photo.

04-10-2017, 08:28 AM
Cat and Jay, both of these have a wonderful sense of mood!
Both have a wonderful use of light and shadow.
Both of these have a wonderful use of colour!
Is there something in the air?:wave::wave:

CM Neidhofer
04-10-2017, 10:19 AM
Not sure if this exactly fits this month, but it's one of my favorites, done a long time ago. I think for, or from a reference, from the Monthly Scumble. Not sure, I never titled it and I can't find the reference either.


04-10-2017, 11:19 AM
Thy say a change is as good as a rest Don. I think this is a lovely change of theme. Not a lesson but I'm sure we can all learn from it. I love your beautiful sensitive portrait. So glad you tried the pan pastels!

Jay, I love your interpretation of that great scene! Love that you made the setting disc of the sun big!

Cat, I think I've seen this one before, it's fabulous! You really caught the glow here!

I need to think about this. I have a lot of favourite subjects, in fact whatever takes my fancy at a given time. As for favourites, well, maybe not so many of those theses days but surely I can come up with a few from the hundreds of paintings I've done......back later ;)

04-10-2017, 12:19 PM
Whoops! I didn't see page two. Jay, this has to be niagara doesn't it? Wow, that water looks just as it actually looks. great job!

Chris, that's lovely. What a gorgeous bowl and yummie juicy strawberries too!

04-10-2017, 04:51 PM
Thanks Leslie. That was exciting to do.

Thanks Ruthie. It is Niagara. The challenge of doing that rushing water was exciting.

Chris: Those strawberries! Wow. And the milk glass. Just wonderful.

This is a fun thread!

04-10-2017, 06:52 PM
Cat, Absolutely wonderful painting! And thanks for the kind words! Glad you've been following the Spotlight!

Jay, Very nice! You've captured the flowing water of the American Falls! Beautiful!

Christine, I remember this reference and your painting! Really great the way you captured both the strawberries and the dish!


04-11-2017, 11:33 AM
The reason I really wanted to learn to paint was to capture the landscape around where I live. However, I soon realised that landscape wasn't really my forté! So I did animals, then portraits, still life (thanks mainly to the spotlight) flowers etc. But I did do landscapes, lots and lots, mostly awful. Now I have done hundreds of landscapes and sometimes I do one I actually like!

Here are my most recent ones, done today and yesterday in fact! Funnily enough neither of them are scenes from Norfolk where I live but they're both from my own photos. :)

Vaasa inner harbour, Finland, while on a workshop with Karen Margulis :clap: This is my second stab at this scene.


This one is from a trip to Maldon, Essex, not so far away as Finland! The Blackwater estuary.


04-11-2017, 12:25 PM
Don, thank you. That one was exciting to do.

Ruthie! Two beauties in two days! Lovely. The near marsh in the second painting is stunning! Such depth in that work. Thanks for sharing.

04-12-2017, 10:32 PM
I just finished a plein air workshop with Karen, Ruthie! Isn't she a fabulous teacher? Both your pieces are stunning.

04-13-2017, 12:38 PM
Jay - a very nice sky scene and Niagra is beautiful.

Cat - a very nice blacksmith

Christine - the strawberries look good enough to eat!

Ruth - very nice, I like the second one most because of the red grass.

04-13-2017, 12:52 PM
I vaguely remembered I had something that was not posted yet. I think it is from January 2017, a lake scene. I spent a long time on it because I have troubles with sunset/sunrise.

04-13-2017, 05:23 PM
This is very moody, Fana...I LIKE it! It has a feeling of silence. A special moment when the sun is almost gone. Nice painting!

04-13-2017, 07:26 PM
Ruth, I always love your landscapes and these two are no exceptions!

Fana, Very nicely done! You've captured the mood, for sure!


04-15-2017, 11:07 AM
Lots of interesting comments and contributions.
Ruthie, I particularly like your first scene as the colours are so springlike and cheerful.
Fana, This doesn't look as though you struggled at all. Again like the moody colours.
Christine, bright red strawberries..what's not to like!

Sandra suggested portraits, not a subject I would be brave enough to tackle but would enjoy seeing.

Ruthie mentioned Karen Margulis... perhaps one month we could talk about artists' that have influenced us?

Happy Easter from Canada :wave:

04-16-2017, 05:39 AM
Thank you all for your comments on these two. I may not be painting for a little while now as hubby is building me an extension to my little garden studio :clap:

Shallbe, yes, Karen is a great tutor, generous with her time, her demos and her little gifts and brilliant tips. I learnt a lot from her on that workshop. :)

Fana, a great scene filled with atmosphere! It's got to be good to push yourself with problem subjects. Eventually they stop being a problem!

Leslie, why not start a thread in pastel talk anyway about artists who influence us? Give my love to Ontario by the way :wave:

04-16-2017, 08:42 AM
Ruthie mentioned Karen Margulis... perhaps one month we could talk about artists' that have influenced us?

Happy Easter from Canada :wave:

Happy Easter to everyone, as well!

Well, if you have any favorite artists, feel free to mention them this month! And perhaps in a future Spotlight we will expand on the subject!


04-16-2017, 09:00 AM
I have lots of artists who inspire me but this time of year I think about this artist...

it might surprise to find out who it is!

In the meantime here's a pastel that might also be titled Undergrowth.
It's also one of my favourite subjects - Trees in all their variety.



04-16-2017, 08:44 PM
Leslie, I don't know who your mystery artist is!

Your painting is absolutely lovely! You always have nice color harmonies plus a really good sense of edges!


04-17-2017, 06:48 AM
You know, first I thought Monet. But, hmm, not quite. Then I thought I bet it's Van Gogh. Could I be right? It sort of looks like his marks, not that I know much about him or any historical artists really.
Lovely cool colours in yours with a beautiful balance to the tree trunks.

04-17-2017, 08:21 AM
Well done Ruthie!
Don, I was surprised as I associate Van Gogh
with the broad brushstokes of "The Sunflowers".
I saw an exhibit of his called " Van Gogh Up Close" and was inspired!
I like the energy and rhythms of his work.
There are some great pastel artists like McKinley, Margulis etc. but why not look further afield?

04-18-2017, 09:05 AM
Leslie, Thanks for sharing the Van Gogh. I really enjoyed seeing it...first time for me.

And your painting. I feel the creatures stirring in the brush. The living forest. Well done!

Ruthie...jealous! My poor dining room/studio is bursting at the seams.

Artist. I adore Turner.

And I'm so impressed with Carlson. (I copied one of his black and white landscapes into color as my first pastel.) I learned so much from him.

And I can't remember the name of the artist that Don showed us. Brilliant use of color. (sorry Don) But I remember the paintings...that's what counts. Red skies, even red trees...

04-18-2017, 04:08 PM
I would not have guessed Van Gogh! I wonder if it is one of his earlier works, as he seemed to become bolder with bigger shapes and brushstrokes as he progressed, Or I could be completely wrong as I am no Van Gogh expert!


04-19-2017, 07:48 AM
Hello All,

Don, the Van Gogh was from his later period, in the asylum. Which makes sense as the brushtrokes are quite frenetic.

Jay ..Turner is a great one to admire..I wonder if those soft watercolours would translate into pastel.
Carlson does a lot of winter scenes I think...did you post your experiment?
Cheers Leslie

04-19-2017, 11:34 AM
I am so surprised that Ruth's mystery artist is Van Gogh. He is my favorite, but I've never seen this one before. All of your paintings are lovely and inspirational. Keeping with the other lakes and sunsets submitted this month, I will share this one that I did from a photo posted online of the lake that my niece lives on in New York state. It is on sanded paper using various hard and soft pastels.


04-19-2017, 05:03 PM
Cheriswinmi, Stunning painting! The reflections in the water! Wow. Great job.

Leslie. I did save that first pastel. I'll find it and post it. I think I was barely breathing doing that one.

04-19-2017, 05:10 PM
The painting by Carlson was a black and white. I'll show it here to show what i tried to reproduce. I hope that is ok to show the original. The color is my attempt. I learned so much doing this.

04-19-2017, 05:11 PM
Ok, it's also possible that the black and white is my edited in black and white. I don't remember anymore. I did try to find the values by putting it in black and white.

04-19-2017, 06:28 PM
Cheriswinmi, Thanks for joining us! Wonderful painting! Beautiful and vibrant colors! Just curious, what lake is this?

Jay, Very lovely painting! You really did a great job translating a black and white reference into color! (And yes, I think the B&W is a copy of your painting!)


04-19-2017, 06:46 PM
Thanks Don. When I saw it big on the Spotlight I realized his branches weren't sketchy like that. I learned so much doing that.

04-20-2017, 08:55 AM
Jay, I love your choice of colours!
I'm off to look up Carlson:D

04-20-2017, 09:50 AM
Thanks Leslie. Carlson is so knowledgeable about landscape. He covers things we wouldn't think of. For example, he says that trees are warmer in color near the earth and cooler as they reach into the sky. I find his observations interesting.

04-20-2017, 10:17 AM
I did a quick search on Pinterest and this was the first to pop up!
Love it!
John Fabian Carlson (1875-1945). Winter Willows

04-21-2017, 02:17 PM
I read Carlson's book on landscape. Very useful.

Okay, I love horses, so... I will post one of mine as soon as I can figure out how to do it! :clap: Found it. Now to resize.

04-22-2017, 06:59 AM
Leslie, that Carlson is a beauty. i hadn't seen that one. Thank you for showing us.

Olswagman: Would love to see those horses!

04-22-2017, 08:09 AM
Here's a Carlson I love. From his book. I love the way he controls the values. He leads us through the painting. if we try to walk along the road with the man, the tree takes us up to that very white roof but the branch across the roof leads us across to the other roof where the blowing snow off the roof and off of the evergreen tree leads us back to the man and the horse. I forget to use these principles..this is a good review for me. Hope it's ok to post the John F. Carlson.

04-22-2017, 11:41 AM
The book is wonderful but it would be glorious in color! Okay, this is my first horse in pastel, hence my favorite:

04-23-2017, 09:52 AM
How wonderful! Love the wild mane blowing. I don't know horses but you managed to make him look real, natural. I hope some of the horse painters comment for you. Thanks for sharing!

04-23-2017, 07:00 PM
Very nice horse painting! Glad you have joined in!


04-24-2017, 11:58 AM
Thank you, Jay and Don. Just getting back into pastels. This site is a joy.

04-26-2017, 11:45 AM
Thank you all, Jay, Don, Leslie, Ruthie.

Cheriswinmi - a very nice painting of the lake.
Jay - very nice woods. I will have to check out Carlson, the paintings look very nice.
Oldswagman - a nice horse. Something I will never, ever attempt LOL