Best of Pastel Pointers | Painting Greens in the Landscape

Green can be a perplexing color to deal with when it comes to pastel landscape painting. As we head into summer and the presence of ever more foliage, here are a few tips that may prove useful for painting greens in your landscape subject.


Green plays a prominent role in landscape painting at this time of year as seen in this pastel by Richard McKinley.



Mixed Greens: First, remember that green is a pigment in your palette and light in nature. Our pastel sticks are not what we see in nature, they are the tools we use to portray what we see. Many of the pigments used to manufacture green pastels are too chromatically intense (over saturated) and too cool in color temperature. Viridian and phthalocyanine green are examples. When these pigments are left in their native form and merely tinted with white and shaded with black to produce a value range, they appear artificial. While greens that appear cool in temperature definitely serve a purpose in a painting, these pigments have to be affected to appear natural. This has lead many pastel manufacturers to offer greens made by mixing pigments together much in the same fashion as an oil painter. These mixed-greens are often warmer in color temperature, producing a more pleasing green tone. While I have viridian green on my oil palette, I think of it as a turquoise blue/green and mix my basic green paint by combining a warm-yellow and blue. I duplicate this in my pastel palette by purchasing pastels that represent these mixed greens.

Color Secrets: Understanding the importance of color temperature and the effect simultaneous contrast phenomenon has on the appearance of color led me to create a saying for students: the secret of green is orange and the friend of green is violet. Natural light represents all color, so a little orange introduced into green (which is a combination of yellow and blue) subtly introduces the color family of red and completes the color wheel spectrum. Orange can be in the pastel stick itself, as previously mentioned, or feathered into a green passage within the painting. Violet also helps to visually complete the color wheel because violet is made with blue and red. When it is place in close proximity to green, it makes the green appear warmer. Note: Orange (the secret) is in or on top of the green and violet (the friend) is next to the green.

PAstel landscape painting tips for painting greens with richard mckinley

A close-up of the green selection of one of my pastel palettes with a few friendly violet pastels.

“The secret of green is orange and the friend of green is violet.”

Make a Comparison: When painting on location, a comparison can be made between a pastel stick and the scene. Start by selecting a pastel stick. Then hold it up in front of the scene, close one eye and squint. Make sure that the pastel stick is in the same light as the area in question, i.e. sunlight or shade. Often, the selected stick will appear more intense (chromatically saturated) than the actual area. This tests what we believe we see with what is really there and can help in making better green choices.

Green can be a tough color to handle, but with color temperature finesse, sensitive observation, wise selection, and artistic permission to sometimes tweak reality for the sake of a harmonious outcome, a successful lush painting can be achieved.

You’ll find more landscape painting tips from Richard McKinley and 22 other top artists in the new e-book, Landscape Painting in Pastel.

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What It Means to Be Original | Art Business Tips

It’s something that has crossed all of our minds when we come up with a new idea, sometimes even stopping us dead in our tracks. It’s that little voice, saying, “It has already been done.” Upon hearing this voice, I go from the natural high of excitement at the possibilities of a project to a sudden lull, and then quickly I decide if it’s worth doing again, my way. It usually is.

This internal battle is just part of a being a creative person. It comes with the territory, just like the necessity for practicing our craft and studying techniques, and even having at least a basic understanding of art business. And the concept of creating original art goes beyond just coming up with an idea–is it technically considered original if an instructor helped you with it, for example? In The Artist’s Magazine (November 2014), Sheldon Tapley addresses important questions that student artists in particular encounter, including the idea of creating original art in a classroom setting and understanding the variety of art programs available.

I’ve featured his Q&As below. Keep in mind that we have additional resources for art business, painting techniques, and drawing lessons at North Light Shop. And here’s a little secret–if you order anything today, you’ll also receive a free download of Strokes of Genius 4: The Best of Drawing, which retails for $35.

Art business advice | Sheldon Tapley,

Solitaire (2013; oil on canvas, 36×45) by Sheldon Tapley (PIN this article)

Undergraduate Art Programs
I want to study art on a college level, but I’m confused about the different art programs and degrees available. Can you help me sort them out?

A. The bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree focuses primarily on studio education. The bachelor of arts (BA) degree, offered at liberal arts institutions, requires fewer credit hours in studio courses, allowing more time for study in other disciplines, even a second major that could be outside the arts. Private art schools, like the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), offer BFA degrees. Four-year liberal arts institutions, like Centre College or Stanford University, offer the BA degree. Large state universities usually offer both degrees. Unlike SAIC or RISD, large universities may not allow first-year admissions directly into a BFA-degree program. Instead, these schools may place all first-year students in the BA program and, after the first year, students would compete, through an internal application process, to get into the BFA program. Thus, those universities may not require a portfolio when students apply for admission. Liberal arts institutions don’t usually require a portfolio but may suggest that applicants include one as a supplement to their applications.

An Art Business Question: What is Original Art?
If a student creates a painting in a workshop or classroom, with instruction from a professional artist in draftsmanship, composition or color mixing, is the painting considered the student’s work? Could it, for example, be entered into a fine art competition?

Art business advice | Sheldon Tapley,

Clementines (2013; oil on canvas, 12×16) by Sheldon Tapley

A. Art competitions want original work. The eligibility rules in the prospectus will tell you whether your planned submission meets the requirements. Often you’ll see a statement like this: “Work of students eligible only if executed without the help of the instructor.” That clarifies the term “original.” If you took a workshop or class introducing you to a new medium, with detailed instruction in technique, the work made there is ineligible. You should probably also avoid entering a competition with works made in a workshop or class that further developed your skills in making stronger compositions, using a new palette, drawing the figure or painting outdoors, for example.

Some cases require your honest judgment. For instance, once you’ve amassed significant experience, you might participate in a class or workshop in which the instructor isn’t giving detailed guidance or correcting your work in progress. Usually, the instruction is identified as “advanced,” and it’s sometimes identified as a “master class.” In a university, high-level classes or classes taken for credit to make art for exhibition fall into this category. A work made in such a class may be created with great independence; you might receive critiques on substantially finished works but not detailed instruction on works in progress. Would such works be original? You’d have to decide.

Be conservative. If you have doubts, don’t call your piece original. Do another work on your own. Apply what you’ve learned, but do so independently, from scratch. Remember, too, that if you closely imitate another artist’s work or style, you should identify that work or artist in the title of your piece. Absorbing the influence of artists you admire is useful, but producing a near copy of an artist’s work or style is an exercise, not the creation of original art. ~Sheldon

Excellent advice! Discover more about art business at North Light Shop, including books like The Successful Artist’s Career Guide and the 2016 Artist’s and Graphic Designer’s Market. Remember, order anything today at North Light Shop, and you’ll score a free download of Strokes of Genius 4: The Best of Drawing.

And regarding making art that “has already been done” as I mentioned above, just go ahead and make it for yourself and put your unique, personal spin on it. You deserve to express your visions, despite that annoying little voice we all hear, and no one can do it quite like you.

Stay creative,

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Plein Air Pastel Demo With Underpainting

My plein air painting Barn at Dusk was created with a value underpainting that combines both local and complementary color.

[Click here to order your “Passion for Plein Air” painting pack!]

Plein Air Pastel Demo With Underpainting | Terri Ford,

1. My surface is a Dakota Wallis board. Because of the light source, the setting was very bright so I used a white board for a sheer and bright underpainting. For more muted color I would have used a Belgian mist (gray) board. I used NuPastel #305 (a dark blue-green) for the initial drawing and to establish the value patterns—the darks in particular. This #305 is the darkest NuPastel other than black, which allows me to achieve a full range of values. It’s important to me to really capture the darks and create an image that depicts the spatial relationships within the scene. If done successfully, the sketch could stand on it’s own as a monochromatic painting.

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Plein Air Pastel Demo With Underpainting | Terri Ford,

2. I then added both local and complementary colors with NuPastel. Yellow and turquoise were added to the sky. These are both darker, brighter versions of the final local color. I avoid pastels with white in them for this technique because I prefer a sheer wash in the underpainting. A dark red NuPastel was applied to the lower portion as a complement to the final green in the grass. I then applied denatured alcohol to the painting with a stiff bristle brush, keeping a paper towel close at hand to control the flow. I apply the alcohol to the lightest colors first to avoid contaminating them with the darkest color. The pastel blends with the alcohol to create a wash of varying values. Once this step is completed and dry, the underpainting is set and will not pick up or mix into the dry pastel that is applied on top of it.


Plein Air Pastel Demo With Underpainting | Terri Ford,

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3. With the pastel set in the underpainting, I’m able to layer dry pastel with varying amounts of pressure, building up texture and light. I skimmed the green grass over the red with different strokes to allow the red earth to show through. I applied a cooler green to the back of the grass to create depth and added spots of slightly lighter green to give interest to the expanse of grass. Because the darks were well established, I was able to paint in the light of the sky and subtle highlights of light hitting the trees in the upper foliage as well as the trunks. The hills in the background caught more light on the left and became cooler and darker as they receded on the right. I then continued to build up the painting developing detail in the barns and fencing. Here you see the completed painting Barn at Dusk (pastel, 8×16).


For more about Terri Ford’s pastel landscapes and her underpainting process, click here and order a print version of the January/February 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.
Subscribe to The Artist’s Magazine here.


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Watercolor Art: Should Details Dominate?

Today’s special offer is 35% off books and eBooks at North Light Shop, including Splash 16: Exploring Textures from The Best of Watercolor series. Enjoy the following excerpt, and then check out the rest of our awesome titles soon–this “Spring Fever” sale lasts only through Monday.

When you have an idea for a new work of art, it can be tempting to let every aspect of it shine forth, providing a buffet of textures for the eyes to behold. But sometimes it’s best to choose a smaller set of details for the limelight. Doing so can help create balance in your work, allowing your chosen textures to dominate the piece. This is how Marie Lamothe, featured in Splash 16: Exploring Textures handled her approach to First Light–Wood Lily (below). Keep reading to also see how Cathy Hillegas (also featured in Splash 16) painted Summer Rain.

First Light–Wood Lily by Marie Lamothe (
(opaque watercolor on canvas, 10×14)

“The natural world, perched between mackerel skies and the leaf litter of a forest floor, is replete with textures. The challenge lies in allowing some to recede gracefully and others to shine forth. For First Light, a canvas substrate painted with heavier-bodied gouaches in muted colors, applied with stiff brushes and some impasto work, I translated the busy background into an appropriately subtle backdrop without losing its essential character. Happily, the low light of early morning highlighted the qualities of the lily’s petals, allowing the flower to pop off the page.”

Watercolor painting by Cathy Hillegas |

Summer Rain by Cathy Hillegas (
(transparent watercolor on 300-lb. cold-pressed Arches, 20×30)

“Bright sunlight after rain transformed my backyard. Leaves were backlit, and dripping raindrops glowed like jewels. I took a photo, drew the image and masked out the white edges of the leaf and the raindrops. The background was done wet-into-wet, drying and rewetting several times.

“I painted the backlit part of the leaf with a mixture of New Gamboge and Winsor Yellow. Greens were painted on top, one section at time, leaving yellow in between. Shadows on each tiny section added texture and form. The lower right area of the leaf was painted with French Ultramarine Blue, with green or Permanent Rose. Hard-edged dark and light areas make the leaf look wet. I painted the raindrops last, paying close attention to the subtle colors and shapes in the reference photo.”

These two watercolor painting examples from Splash 16 are just a sampling of the beautiful art you’ll find within the pages. Get your copy and you’ll receive enough watercolor art ideas and inspiration to fill your plate. In this series, the featured artists share not only their concepts, but also their watercolor painting techniques, as you’ve seen in these gorgeous examples. And don’t forget to see even more amazing books (for 35% off!) during North Light Shop’s “Spring Fever” sale!

Happy painting,
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New Sketching Themed Issue of Watercolor Artist

“You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.” —John Singer Sargent

Welcome to our sketching-themed issue of Watercolor Artist, in which you’ll see and read about nine artists’ sketchbooks and their creative habits. If you already keep a sketchbook, you’ll enjoy this look into other artists’ processes. If you don’t have a sketching habit, we hope this issue inspires you to develop one. It’s the best way to keep your “seeing” and drawing skills sharp, and to stay in tune with your creative side, no matter where you are.

Featured artists include Carol McSweeney, Dan Marshall, Bill Hook, Brent Funderburk, Liz Walker, Cathy Johnson, Liz Steel, Marc Taro Holmes, Don Gore, Warren Ludwig, Shevaun Doherty, Vicky Williamson, Walter Gay and more.

Watch this video to preview the issue, and order your copy of the August issue in print or as a digital download here!




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Gallery | Dan Marshall Watercolor Landscapes

When Dan Marshall began working with watercolors he was immediately taken by the sensitivity of the medium and the atmospheric effects he could achieve in his watercolor landscapes. They feature a broad panning sweep; the compositional staging is highly stylized, abstract and near-cinematic—calling to mind long opening shots in movies that are meant to imply a narrative or set an emotional tone. He achieves this potent quality by manipulating scale and composition.

Marshall, an award-winning watercolor and tattoo artist featured in the August 2016 issue of Watercolor Artist (now available in print here, as a download here and on newsstands June 14), recently moved to Denver, where he opened Atelier 71, a studio gallery and tattoo space. Enjoy this bonus gallery of the artist’s watercolor landscapes that didn’t make it into the printed issue.

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Evening On the Thames (watercolor on paper) by Dan Marshall | watercolor landscapes

Evening On the Thames (watercolor on paper) by Dan Marshall


Dan Marshall’s Toolkit for Watercolor Landscapes

Watercolors: Winsor & Newton, Holbein and Daniel Smith
Brushes: Escoda and Isabey
Paper: St Cuthberts Mill Saunders Waterford 140-lb. and 226-lb. rough. “The softness of the surface compared to other brands allows for a mixing of paint directly on the surface of the paper that has no equal,” Marshall says.
Misc.: Holbein folding palette and a plein air watercolor painting box that Marshall built based on a design by Joseph Zbukvic; it fits in the overhead bin on any airplane, so he doesn’t need to check it.


Midtown Moves (watercolor on paper) by Dan Marshall | watercolor landscapes

Midtown Moves (watercolor on paper) by Dan Marshall


Family Stroll (watercolor on paper) by Dan Marshall | watercolor landscapes

Family Stroll (watercolor on paper) by Dan Marshall


Morning On the Dock (watercolor on paper) by Dan Marshall | watercolor landscapes

Morning On the Dock (watercolor on paper) by Dan Marshall


Stacking the Riggers (watercolor on paper) by Dan Marshall | watercolor landscapes

Stacking the Riggers (watercolor on paper) by Dan Marshall



Read more about Dan Marshall in the August issue of Watercolor Artist.


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Paint Water & Canyons LIVE with Johannes Vloothuis’ Paint Along 27

TIME: 1:00 to 5:00 PM EST
DATES: 3 Saturdays: June 4, 11 & 18
.Final Saturday

Join Johannes Vloothuis in his next online workshop: Paint Along 27, Paint Water & Canyons! Register for the Paint Along 27: Paint Canyons & Water now! In this online workshop, join Johannes Vloothuis along with hundreds of other artists to strengthen your painting skills with 12 hours of painting fun distributed over the course of three Saturdays.

Johannes will start a painting from scratch, and finish it in real time while you watch, “over his shoulder and hear him think out loud.” And if you want, you can paint along with him from the comfort of your own home! You will receive a drawing template before each class, and during each session you will receive verbal painting techniques, color combinations, professional secrets, and instructions to guide you along the way. One demo will be in oils, another in watercolor, and another in pastels.

You can also chat and socialize with like-minded artists. Make new friends! No matter what medium you use, you will benefit from acquiring the “keys” to successful paintings.

Painting demonstration will include the following subjects:

  • Johannes Vloothuis Paint Along 27: Paint Canyons & WaterThe Grand Canyon
  • A coastline scene from Point Lobos
  • A trickling stream in the woods in the Teton National Park

“I’m going to teach you exactly how I learned. Copying photos simply does not work.” — Johannes

You do not have to attend the live courses. Everything gets recorded and can be downloaded at no extra cost.

Click here to register for the Paint Along 27: Paint Canyons & Water now!

About Johannes Vloothuis:
Johannes Vloothuis has exhibited his work all over the world including Saint Petersburg, Sao Paolo and The National Watercolor Museum in Mexico City. He has won several awards such as the top award in the country of Mexico for watercolor and teaches oils, watercolor and pastel. Johannes has taught over 17,000 artists of all skill levels via his online courses.

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