View Full Version : Inspiration for newbies....

07-03-2008, 11:06 PM
Hi all...I am a newbie to both wet canvas and to pastel painting...I asked one member in a private message but then I thought other newbies might be interested into any insight you veterans could share....Basically, I am wondering how long have y'all been painting with pastels, ..I strive for realism in my paintings and would really appreciate any tips...do you have any suggestions for getting better at painting (in addition to practice,practice, practice), how often do you paint, what do you prefer to paint on (paper, board, etc.)...how long before you sold your first painting...I just think selling a painting would be exhilirating..any advice for newbies would be appreciated..I know there is also a tips for newbies thread but I was looking for more of like a mentoring session....thanks again:D

07-04-2008, 08:46 AM
How to improve (in no particular order):

Go to the library or bookstore and get art how-to books.

Take art classes or workshops.

Look at works of art as often as possible. Try to figure out what it is that you like about each work.

Visit WetCanvas as often as possible!

Paint as often as you can and practice, practice...Don't be afraid to experiment and have failures. Doing the same thing successfully over and over will teach you nothing.

Don't paint with idea of selling. Paint with the idea of learning something new about painting, and ultimately about creating something unique and beautiful.

Just my opinions! Good Luck!


07-04-2008, 10:12 AM
Hi Joanne,

First, we were all newbies at one time, and in my opinion, we also, never stop learning, or trying to broaden our experiences. Always strive to push yourself in trying new things, but also concentrate on one thing. Richard McKinley advises to pick one thing and try different approaches. In other words, pick a subject or genre, and try different techniques, papers, application, etc...

As for tips, study books, do research on artists you admire, try to attend a workshop by them(for realism, you could do no better than our Diana Ponting), look at their work, and try to figure out how they acheived a particular stroke, or technique, try to figure out if they used an underpainting, look at use of color; is it broken, blended, optical mixing, etc...try to paint as often as possible, expect failures to happen, and learn from them,then move on. Also, look into joining a group in your area, Pastel Society(which you can ususally join as an assoc. member new to pastels), a plein air group, whatever, but, mainly immerse yourself in with other artists.

As to personal experiences,
Pastel has been my medium of choice for about 6 years. I try to paint every day, but some of that is teaching and demos. I also try to paint from life as often as possible, but I do use photos.
I prefer sanded surfaces to paint on, cannot stand some papers, but admire others' works on said same papers. I also make my own grounds, and like to experiment.
As to selling your work, yes, it is nice,very nice, but that is not why we paint;ok, egos do have a tendancy to jump to the foreground sometimes, but the artist creates really, because we have to, it is our way of "talking" to the world. And sometimes I have struggled with the pull of painting what I want to paint, and what will sell. So, it is a mixed bag, sometimes a dilemma, a joy, a curse,being an artist.

07-04-2008, 11:11 AM
:wave: Hi, welcome to WC!

Great advice above!:thumbsup:

I would add: Don't be afraid of doing lots of "studies", experiments.
I noticed at a watercolor group I paint with, that often newbies feel they have to make every mark on the paper be part of a complete painting.

I never regret the time "wasted" to mess around with my media:
What do various colores look like on paper? on colors of paper, in various values, blended together.
While in paintings, I strive to keep my colors fresh....making mud in experimentation is just part of the learning.

For 6 years, I taught kindergarteners. The teacher always learns from students: I watched some of my fellow teachers rushing to the easel to
interrupt a child because he/she was "just making mud".
But, what the child learned as the "mud" developed, I learned to treasure.
Instead I would ask a child what they noticed as they mixed the colors and I learned to watch them carefully as they mixed one color and another.
BTW, the child "mud-maker" ususally abandoned the mud making and turned to wonderful color paintings sooner than children who were told "Don't make mud!" Ok, Elsie, off the soapbox! :lol:

Also, don't be afraid of following as closely as possible a demo in a book or video and producing your own "study/copy". My demo following has always,
then shown up, with growth in my "original" paintings.:D

Paint, paint, paint, draw, draw, draw, paint, paint paint......
And come to WC everyday you can.
:clap: :clap: :clap:

07-04-2008, 11:59 AM

I know this about soft pastels, but I just want to share with you something I have done recently with my water colours and intend to try the same with my pastels.

I made up a sketch book of really good quality water colour paper and instead of actually trying to paint a painting as such have been practicing things like trees, foliage, water, rocks, walls and I have to say have been really enjoying myself ( this was my husbands idea too). I think the reason I have got so much out of doing this is because I am pleased with the results of the small individual things that I have been painting, instead of trying to do a painting in the traditional sense and not succeeding hence dissappointment and discouragement. I'm thinking of setting up something similar with Art Spectrum Colourfix interleaved with Glassine and doing the same with my soft pastels. Then I'd like to try to combine to two and see what happens then.

Tress, I don't know what other countries experience as far as joining in with Pastel Societies or Water Colour Societies go, but here it hs been somewhat dissapointing. It seems unless they like your painting they will not admit you as a member. In order to join them you have to submit up to 10 paintings and they judge them before deciding to let you join them or not. This of course can be very difficult for someone looking for encouragment and tuition when starting out as a beginner. So far I have not been able to find a single Soft Pastel tutour for someone starting out in Soft pastels, if you look around and can afford it there are a few water colour teachers around the most affordable for absolute beginners is at your local community centres but after that it is quite expensive to persue further as far as tuition goes.

Take Care and enjoy whatever you paint.
Love to all Carolynn :):):heart::heart:

07-04-2008, 12:21 PM
Carolyn, that is not good, but, unfortunately it does happen. Our pastel society welcomes associate members to come and join in, learn from demos and workshops, getting crit from other members,etc, and enable newbies to learn. Yes it is true, to become a full member and participate in "member only shows" etc..you must be juried in. But our philosophy is to enlighten the world in general to the pastel medium , and to facilitate learning within the art community.

and Joanne, Carolyn made an excellent suggeston, do not attempt to make a complete painting success, just concentrate on elements and shapes, etc...if you are interested in still life, practice one thing in a study,like apples in one, paers another, objects sitting around your home, anything can be a still life study; or landscapes, break them down, as Carolyn suggested, into components.

07-04-2008, 09:07 PM
Hi Joanne,

There are many things that can be said, but I'll refer those that are in my opinion, among the most important.
Learning to see. Independently of the medium, if one doesn't learn how to see, one will have a hard time painting in a realistic style as you pretend.
Namely being abble to identify the values (range of darks and lights).
Defining(sp?) the darkest and lightest values and then working in between will help to build a consistent an harmonious work.
Going to museums and studying other works that you like, is important.
Have you ever seen a painting by Delacroix ? I payed alot of attention how he paints eyes, giving them that glow.
When painting realistically (I don't know what level of realism you pretend to achieve), it's important to know how colours behave, namely knowing that a colour as we see it is influenced by many things, namely by adjacent ones.
That's why some photorealists (many don't like to be called like this) sometimes use holes on a paper to compare two colours separately from adjacent ones, usually when trying to match colours.
And there are other things, of course.
But I do believe that learning to see is the most important.

Kind regards,


07-06-2008, 11:34 AM
Jose and others gave you some good advise.

But you asked about mentor ship. Sometimes that develops from workshops. There are people I'd love to take a workshop from, or even simply stand around and watch. But I can't afford tuition, travel, lodging, etc. So I use other means to learn and develop a kind of "mentoring".

Galleries and museums: I am one of the people who stand in front of paintings with their hands behind their backs and their noses inches from the paintings. You can be almost certain that all these people are artists, learning from observing how other artists worked.

And go to openings! Schmooze with artists. Get them to talk about their art. If there is anything artists like to talk about, it is how to make art! Eventually, you might connect with someone who'd be willing to give feedback on your work.

Books: there are some excellent books on color, composition, technique. There are also some not-so-excellent books, and which are which is often a matter of personal preference. Even the little "how-to"s have something to teach.

WC: I have a long list of great demos and tutorials in my "favorite threads" list. If you do a search for "demo" or "WIP", your search will find a lot of them. Whenever an artist you admire has a link to a blog-- check it out. Many of these blogs are great sources of technique and experimentation and demos.

Post your paintings, no matter how you feel about them. Ask for feedback and critique. Ask specific questions for people to respond to-- that helps direct their attention to things you are concerned about. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Growth inevitably involves frustration.

Also: don't limit yourself to the pastel forum. I learn a lot from some of the "subject" forums, and even forums in other media. If you keep participating and posting your work for comment, here and in other forums, a experienced artists may take on a mentor role.

By the way, yes, it is exciting to sell a painting. But I wouldn't advice using a first sale as a measure of progress. I sold my early paintings nearly 35 years ago, but then life intervened. I started seriously making art again a few years ago, and pastels about 2 years ago. What was exciting to me was first getting encouragement from folks here. Then, a year later, being accepted by the local artists guild (local, but regionally recognized for quality). It was thrilling simply to see my paintings hung. I've made some private sales, but yet to make a gallery or show sale. I don't care. I need to make art, and I need to keep growing and experimenting, whether I sell or not. And that may be the ultimate secret.

Dayle Ann

07-07-2008, 12:48 AM
Welcome Joanne to the wonderful world of pastels. You have some great advise from everyone before me so I won't add to it, except to say that the're many artist here at W/C who are more than willing to help with any question you may have about your art or theirs, and if they are not sure will point you in the right direction for the answers.

07-07-2008, 09:30 AM
Here's something new I recently discovered. There is a video renting service called www.smartflix.com (http://www.smartflix.com) that has instructional DVDs for $9.99 per weekly rental. There are a bunch from well known pastelists as well as artists in all types of media. I am waiting for my first one featuring Bob Rohm. I intend to play it on my laptop in my studio space, much like taking class, only just for me. Seems to me this is an inexpensive way to take a workshop. No subscription required, just rent and pay for what you want. If you were to purchase these DVDs they would cost $60 - $80 each.

CM Neidhofer
07-07-2008, 10:59 AM
Helen, please let us know what you think of the DVD when you're finished. I've looked at this site also, but haven't rented anything yet. I don't have a lot of time to devote to painting sometimes and wondered if this would be worth what time I do have. So tell what you think and if it's worth the fee, please?


07-07-2008, 12:06 PM
OK Christine. Will do. I should get my first one this week. I figure I have nothing to lose because I only pay for what I rent. No sign up or monthly fee.


07-07-2008, 02:26 PM
Here's one long time prof. artists advice:
1. Show you work to anyone and everyone who will look (friends, family, neighbors, etc.) That's where you'll make your first sale.
2. Read a book called, The artists Way.
3. Take yourself on weekly artist dates for inspiration, like to an outdoor art festival.
4. Break out of your box. Try things like entering yourself in the local sidewalk chalk festival. You'll learn more when you take risks.
5. Keep an artists journal, take it everywhere and use it daily (like when your waiting for the waiter to bring your food.)
6. Volunteer or teach others art, you'll learn more from your students and teaching is the highest level of learning.

07-08-2008, 08:32 AM
Quote from Robert Genn:

"Esoterica: Keep in mind the salability of something is probably
the weakest argument of all. After all, lemons are bought every
day. The idea that someone wants your work can be a deceptive
delusion. While it's better than someone not wanting your work,
it really doesn't prove very much and is no reason to rest on
your laurels. The evolved artist, forever a student, gets her
main feedback from the personal process of art-making. Green
feedback comes naturally and unheralded because other healthy
and livable processes are in place."(unquote)


07-08-2008, 10:50 AM
I'm a newbie as well but have painted many pictures, since starting in Jan. Can't frame them all and can't bear to throw any away! What is the best way to store pastel drawings? I don't want to use fixative if possible.

Valerie :wave: