Pastel Pick of the Week | Canadian Pastel Conference 2016


Canada made headlines this week thanks to an official State Dinner at the White House, where President Obama welcomed the new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

I decided I would keep Canada in the news cycle a bit longer—at least in the pastel news cycle—by sharing this announcement from Ruth Rodgers, president of Pastel Artists Canada:


“Pastel Artists Canada announces a five-day pastel conference, “ICAN Pastel,” to run from May 30 through June 3, 2016, at the Aurora Cultural Centre in Aurora, Ontario, Canada, located one hour north of Toronto. Our 2016 juried exhibition, in the same location, will open on Saturday May 28, kicking off the conference activities. Join us for an exciting line-up of demonstrations, workshops, and other events featuring award-winning and experienced Canadian pastel artists. We welcome all pastel artists, novice to advanced. Hope to see you there!”

For exhibition and registration information, and other details, visit






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Upcoming Online Events


Abstract Explorations in Acrylic Painting with Jo Toye

Tue, Mar 29, 2016 | 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM ET Jo Toye Webinar Promo Image

Join this free webinar with Jo Toye for a peek inside her new book, Abstract Explorations in Acrylic Painting. Explore the inspiration behind using unique materials and the concepts that lead to successful abstract paintings. Discover the tools you need and watch the magic happen in a step-by-step demo!

This webinar will consist of a power point presentation and a live Q&A with Jo, so get your questions ready! Everyone who registers will get a link to watch the recording of the presentation as well as a special discount code to use at and ArtistsNetwork.TV!

Click here to register for this FREE webinar now!

Discover Oil Painting with Julie Gilbert Pollard

Discover Oil Painting- Julie Gilbert Pollard April Webinar

Wed, Apr 13, 2016 | 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT

In this free webinar, peek inside Julie Gilbert Pollard’s new book, Discover Oil Painting. Learn Julie’s tips for trying to keep it loose, using “color as value” and the anatomy of a waterfall. She will share how to get your oil painting “up and running” with minimal struggle. Finally, she’ll touch on the importance of having a “tool kit” of techniques which you can pull from as different problems arise.

Everyone who registers for this webinar will get a link to watch the recording and a special discount code to use at and ArtistsNetwork.TV!

Click here to register for this FREE webinar now!



Upcoming Art Chats with Linda Fisler

Art Chat with Linda Fisler: Creating Color Relationships and Harmony with George Gallo

Wed, Apr 6, 2016 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM EDT
Join Linda Fisler as she chats with George Gallo. It’s all about color, color relationships and color harmony for this show! We discuss using color to express emotion, capturing it en plein air and insuring that the colors we choose create a harmony captivating the viewer. We’ll also discuss George’s latest art-related movie project.

Click here register now!

Art Chat with Linda Fisler: WAM Women. Artists. Mentors. Supporting Each Others Careers

Thu, Feb 25, 2016 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM EST

Join Linda as she chats with the members of the collaboration WAM, Women. Artists. Mentors. to discuss the benefits of forming a mentoring group. Debra Keirce, Helen Beacham, Kim Minichiello, Carrie Waller, and Maria Bennett Hock meet online monthly to discuss their art journeys and everything about art. Their diverse personalities and styles mesh to form a cohesive, dynamic force that solves problems, creates opportunities and has fun. Find out how you can create a similar group.

Click here to register now!

 Have you missed previous Artists Network Online Events? Find them here.



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What You Need to Know About Watercolor Pigments

Watercolor artists who take their craft seriously will know the different classification of the paints and how to exploit them. In my last tutorial I indicated the differences in the watercolor paper. Now we will analyze what goes on the paper and how these pigments behave for watercolor painting.

Classification of Pigments Used for Watercolor Painting

Pigments designated for watercolor painting are the same as in all mediums. Burnt sienna, for example, is ground from minerals. That same substance forms the volume in oil paints. If you don’t add white to burnt sienna oil paint and dilute it with a solvent, it’ll have the same transparent properties as watercolor. The difference between burnt sienna used in thicker mediums and that used in watercolor is the binder, not the raw pigments. Occasionally, my students have expressed they don’t paint with oils because they fear the paints are toxic or they have allergies and prefer to paint with watercolor. If you think you can get around this, I’m sorry to say that if you exclude petroleum-based solvents used with oils, you’re back in the same boat. So acrylics and water-mixable oil pigments are the same as watercolor in this sense. On a side note, I wish to dispel the rumor that oils are toxic in comparison with other paints. (You can visit your art manufacturer’s websites and read the labels for more information on this.)

In the thicker mediums we don’t have to worry that much about how pigments are classified but in watercolor it would be wise to understand them. When you compare a watercolor painting against any other medium you’ll notice that the painting seems to be more luminous and requires less light to stand out. It seems to me the entire painting is one value lighter. Why is this? A watercolor painting works somewhat like the plastic in movie reels. The very thin layer allows light to pass through and bounce off the white paper and more photons of light return to the eye, whereas as in the other mediums they bounce off. As soon as white is added to an oil or an acrylic painting it becomes opaque and blocks this phenomenon from occurring.

In broad terms pigments are classified as:

  • Transparent
  • Semi transparent
  • Opaque
  • Staining
  • Nonstaining
  • Permanence (the lifespan of a pigment before it fades)
  • Granular
  • Plus: Price range and quality (professional vs student)

Let’s start with the last two, professional vs student quality art materials. Professional-grade watercolor paints have pure pigment, meaning no artificial fillers fatten the tube to reduce the cost. I have a bone to pick with manufacturers when they call these “student quality” because sure enough my students, in order to reduce costs, will buy them. This will just make the whole painting process more difficult because you can get mud (when too many and/or low quality pigments are mixed and create a chemical reaction, dulling the color). It’s better to bite the bullet and buy the professional paints so you will encounter less hindrance. Unfortunately, art stores don’t spontaneously give recommendations. If I were an art store cashier I would say, “Take those back and buy the professional quality paints.” This applies to the other mediums as well.

If you shop for the most popular watercolor paints, Winsor and Newton, you’ll see the price range varies enormously. These are separated into Series1, 2, 3 and 4. They go from less expensive to expensive respectfully. The abundance or rarity of the raw materials is what determines the price. For example, ultramarine blue is mined from minerals so it’s quite abundant in nature. A 14 ml tube will cost about $12.50. Cobalt blue, which is close to ultramarine blue in color, will cost about $17.50.

Some watercolor artists want to stay uniquely within the transparent family. Personally, this isn’t a big issue for me. I select my paints on how close they are to nature, but I’m mostly a landscape artist. I prefer Indian red which is not as transparent and more muted than alizarin crimson, the latter being too intense and artificial looking for my landscape paintings. I still see a lot of luminosity in my watercolors because even if certain paints are more opaque they’re so diluted with water that you still get luminosity. Also the semi-opaque and opaque paints are less fugitive and are easier to control during wet-into-wet application because they’re heavier.

When it comes to glazing (putting a wash over a dry layer), however, I will only resort to using transparent paints. For example, if I feel my greens are too garish, I will glaze over them with burnt sienna instead of cadmium orange. On the other hand, a more opaque paint can help override an unpleasant area. If your rocks are too orange you can add cerulean blue. Naples yellow, being the most opaque of them, all can help indicate highlights on foliage. You can visit the manufacturers’ websites to see the classification of their products.

I always like to have an “undo button” for watercolor painting. If I’m not happy with an area I use a jet spray water bottle to remove unwanted paint. This is where it comes in handy to know the staining effects of pigments. Think of it as wine vs ketchup spilled on a fabric: It’s much harder to remove a wine stain. Hooker’s green and alizarin crimson are very staining and will stubbornly adhere to the paper. This is another why I threw alizarin crimson out of my palette and prefer Indian red. You can consult my personal palette on my website.

Now let’s talk about granular pigments. These are usually mined from minerals so no matter how much they become pulverized you still see mini deposits in the paper grooves. I find this effect to be distasteful when it comes to smooth water or blue skies, so I avoid ultramarine blue for these areas. Cobalt blue is a better alternative for blue skies, and Payne’s gray is generally a good choice for lakes. Both of them give a clean, smooth finishing. You have to experiment and see what works best for you.

In my next tutorial I’ll give some insight on how to control wet on wet applications and some valuable tips to make watercolor cooperate better.

Visit my website, to download courses I have given, to buy my book, “Landscape Painting Essentials” or join our ongoing live online art classes.

“Landscape Painting Essentials” and other video courses are available at North Light has also just released a new eBook written by Johannes titled Landscape Painting Essentials. Join his online art classes at

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Acrylic Artist Toolkit – Marcia Burtt

The spring issue of Acrylic Artist includes in-depth information on several acrylic artists, including their painting techniques and life as working artists. Wanting to learn even more about these fascinating artists, we asked them to give us a look into their toolkit. Here is what acrylic artist Marcia Burtt has in her toolkit:

Quiet Evening on the Slough Acrylic Artist Marcia Burtt

Quiet Evening on the Slough, acrylic artist Marcia Burtt

Brushes: Isacryl brushes by Isabey. You should have at least one large (1” or wider, about a #16) quality brush. I like brights and filberts because they are short and stiff; I like to carve shapes with their thin edges. For your smallest brushes, buy flats rather than brights or filberts.
Canvas: Linen-covered panels by New Traditions
Easel: The original half box Julian French easel.
Fishing Tackle Box– Buy a fishing tackle box (NOT an art bin) with molded dividers–one compartment for each color. The molded dividers are important because paint can leak from one compartment to another if the dividers are the slip-in kind. Buy a box that forms a groove where the lid closes over the bottom. This is superior to a simple lid, which may allow moisture to escape too quickly. Currently I like Plano model 6103-93
Palette: Two pieces of foam board or cardboard cut to fit inside the box of the French easel.
Paint: Golden Heavy Body Acrylics
Colors: cadmium yellow light cadmium yellow medium cadmium orange pyrrole orange pyrrole red primary magenta Hooker’s green historic hue chrome oxide green permanent green light dark turquois (NOT turquoise, which has white in it) cobalt blue dioxazine purple violet oxide titanium white


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The Acrylic Artist’s Toolkit—Darlene McElroy

The spring issue of Acrylic Artist includes in-depth information on several acrylic artists, including their painting techniques and life as working artists. Wanting to learn even more about these fascinating artists, we asked them to give us a look inside their toolkit. Here is what acrylic artist Darlene McElroy has in her toolkit:

Lucky In Love Acrylic Artist Darlene Olivia McElroy

Lucky In Love (mixed media on panel, 8.75×36)

Brushes – I use cheap acrylic brushes from art and craft stores. I work the brushes hard so I do not need anything expensive.
Canvas – Ampersand panels
Easel – I work flat on my tables
Etching/Scraping tools/Mark Making Tools – Chisel point color shapes (my favorite), porcupine quills and my fingernails.
Gels – Coarse molding paste, soft gel gloss, fiber paste
Glass Beads – I use micro beads for highlights or tone on tone glitter on occasion
Matte Medium – I work with gloss until I am done then I decide on my final finish. I usually use the Golden MSA spray satin.
Palette – Styrofoam plates because I can use them as stamps and/or cut them up for collage elements.
Paints – Golden and Atelier brands.
Colors – quinacridone nickel, azo gold, red oxide, titan buff, carbon black and any and all metallic.

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Acrylic Artist Toolkit – Alexandra Eldridge

The spring issue of Acrylic Artist includes in-depth information on several acrylic artists, including their painting techniques and life as working artists. Wanting to learn even more about these fascinating artists, we asked them to give us a look into their toolkit. Here is what acrylic artist Alexandra Eldridge has in her toolkit:

Lucid Dreaming, Alexandra Eldridge, Acrylic Artist

The lady in Lucid Dreaming (found text and acrylic on board, 40×30) is obviously awake, eyes wide open, taking in all that swirls within the dreaming mind.

Brushes: I am using inexpensive brushes from the paint store. I am rough on them so brushes such as Fine Touch brushes work well.
Glazing: Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid to thin my paints. I also mix water with either Mixol or Guerra liquid pigments for my watercolor effects.
Medium: Either Behr’s venetian plaster or house paints from Sherwin-Williams to Ralph Lauren. Also Golden acrylics and Utrecht gesso.
Surface: I have my masonite or wood panels made by a local frame maker and occasionally will buy Ampersand Claybord panels from Dick Blick.
Tools: For applying venetian plaster, Behr makes a trowel-like tool to go along with the Behr venetian plaster.
Varnishes: I use either Golden MSA or Golden polymer.

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Acrylic Artist Toolkit – Steve Wilda

The spring issue of Acrylic Artist includes in-depth information on several acrylic artists, including their painting techniques and life as working artists. Wanting to learn even more about these fascinating artists, we asked them to give us a look into their toolkit. Here is what acrylic artist Steve Wilda has in his toolkit:

Honed to Imperfection Acrylic Artist

Honed to Imperfection, acrylic art by Steve Wilda.

Brushes – Royal & Langnickel mini MAJESTIC and Robert Simmons synthetic brushes
Canvas – Ampersand gessobord
Desk/Easel – I never used an easel. I work on my office desk, the board raised 1.25 inches and this slides under the IMac which I use for viewing reference photographs.
Etching/Scraping tools/Mark Making tools: Royal Sovereign Ltd Colour Shapers
Matte Medium – Sennelier matte medium
Palette – Acryl-a-Miser
Paint – Sennelier acrylics: raw umber, Sennelier brown, graphite, yellow ochre, burnt green earth, parchment and titan buff.

{Check out our bonus interview with Steve Wilda- We discus his painting, Honed to Imperfection, pictured above.}

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