View Full Version : Need Suggestions

05-03-2017, 10:31 AM
Need suggestions for "how to" with soft pastels. I am entirely self-taught, never in an area where classes or instructors were available and the only experience I have had has been with horse and dog portraits in pastel on velour paper. In the 70s and 80s I did a lot of commissions with this. My only *instruction* was with the Walter Foster book "Horse Portraits in Oils and Pastels" and I felt quite confident with my abilities. The subjects were realistic and fairly simple, the palettes limited and the instructions in the book were very specific to what I was going.

I have not work with pastels for many years now, though I've just finished one pony portrait in pastel on velour and I'm quite pleased with it, after a few 'hiccups' with things I'd forgotten in 30 years.

However, I'm now trying to expand into landscape/still life/ country scene type things but it seems a slow learning curve and I'm not finding the kind of books I need to learn more. Still no classes, no instructors and I have some vision impairment now that makes viewing video clip instructions difficult.

I need books or printed material and I need detailed instructions with a limited subject matter. A rusty horseshoe, a pot of geraniums, texture of a barn door, old wagon wheel, etc. I have found this kind of instruction book and online downloadable/printable lessons in graphite and colored pencil, which is what I've worked with the last 20 years. I am not finding the kind of books or online lessons like this for pastels.

I am slowly working through all the information on this forum but any suggestions about specific links, books or online downloadable/printable lessons would be greatly appreciated.

Donna T
05-03-2017, 01:10 PM
Gail Sibley has a great blog with all kinds of instruction and helpful demos:

Karen Margulis also has a wonderful blog: http://kemstudios.blogspot.com/

As for books, the ones I reach for over and over are The Pastel Book by Bill Creevy and Pastel Pointers by Richard McKinley. Bill does landscapes and still lifes while Richard's book is focused on landscapes but the techniques he teaches could also apply to other subjects. I

I've learned a lot over the years and continue to learn from all the artists featured in the Pastel Journal magazine so that's an option for you too.

water girl
05-03-2017, 06:06 PM
Donna T beat me to it! Gail and Karen have some wonderful information to share. Just be patient with yourself.

05-03-2017, 09:03 PM
Karen also has lessons in her Etsy store which are PDF and can be printed out.


05-03-2017, 09:46 PM
Thank you for the suggestions. Have looked at both Sibley and Margulis and bookmarked things for reference to go back to and read in depth. Very promising.

Also waded through the "How to Get Started in Soft Pastels" for beginners (yes, all 27 pages!) and bookmarked several sites from there, plus found several very useful demos of the type I was looking for there.

Lots of information ... now to actually go to work on something! :)

05-09-2017, 01:55 PM
Sharon when I made the leap to pastels I icould not find anyone near me for classes - the best instruction I found was here and experimenting w techniques w no thought to the outcome. The biggest changes came when I discovered a paper I like (Uart 400. Your results may differ....) and then how to use underpaintings. I like to just lay down large masses of pastel and then go over it all w alcohol. On the paper. Not in me.:angel: Again, your results may differ.
A couple of Richard McKinley's books have been inspirational but I have yet to find a good How To for pastels. Karen Marguilis' blog probably comes closest to that.
I've had very successful people tell me I should go back to oils if I ever want to sell anything, (not because my oils are necessarily better but because works on paper are harder to sell) but I find I just can't give up on pastels. So give it a shot. Work small until you get a handle on techniques. And start saving your money - it's way more expensive than oils!

05-09-2017, 02:07 PM
Linda, as far as books go, have you ever read Jean Hirons "Finding Your Style In Pastel"?

I finally spent the money for it and I'm glad I did. I was just looking at it again last night and realized that there are suggested activities at the end of each chapter... I'll probably put some of those on my summer painting list.


05-13-2017, 01:12 PM
I like to just lay down large masses of pastel and then go over it all w alcohol. On the paper. Not in me.:angel: Again, your results may differ.

At this point, I'm thinking the alcohol may work better in me rather than on the paper! :)

Actually, I've never tried that, but have seen the results when people do. Just not something I've ever tried.

The local library has requested a couple of the pastel books that have been recommended through their inter-library loan program (they don't have much themselves) and I've found several WIP threads here that look helpful.

I'm going to have to learn to work with less detail. I want realistic, but I also realize that I'm not going to get the detail I do with my graphite work. I've done a soft pastel on velour portrait of one of my pony mares ... used to use that for commissioned portraits years ago. Took me a bit to remember some of the things that worked for me ... and did one pastel sketch of a foal on tan Mi Teintes paper that I'm not unhappy with. But I really am going to have to work on the landscape type things.