Pastel ColorPlay Project #8: Colorful Grays

Hello Creative Friends! 🙂  It’s time for a new ColorPlay AND an announcement!

I have a new YouTube channel!!!  


My hope is that I can periodically post about my paintings in progress and the techniques I use.

However, since I have just begun learning how to document via video, AND I tend toward perfectionism in things like editing, 😉 I am not planning on posting videos with any regularity yet.  Thanks for your understanding!

I WILL be embedding the videos I create on this blog, though, so please check them out and let me know what you think.  And if you have ideas for videos, let me know that too!   Just click on the picture at the bottom of today’s post to watch the video.

Now, on to today’s ColorPlay…. 🙂



For today’s painting I chose a Triadic color scheme of red-violet, blue-green, and yellow-orange in a variety of values.

Triad of red-violet, blue-green, and yellow-orange

The reason for my choices were two-fold.

First, I don’t typically like working with triads.  I could never explain exactly why, but I think I may have figured it out!

We’ve all seen preschool rooms painted in bright, primary colors of red, blue, and yellow.  
Well, I never liked that color scheme…it seemed garish to me.  BUT….

Take those same primary colors and gray them down, and voila!  You have a completely different look!

So that’s the approach I took with today’s painting, only instead of using Primary colors (red/blue/yellow), I used versions of violet/green/orange, aka Secondary colors.


The second reason for choosing a Triadic color scheme is to create Colorful Grays!  This is the technique I show in the video at the bottom of this post.

Most people think of “gray” as a non-color somewhere between black and white.

But that can be pretty boring and dull-looking in an otherwise colorful painting. That’s where triads come in.

Any time you mix three colors which are approximately equidistant on the color wheel, you will get what is called “muddy” color.  

Most of the time, painters try to avoid making mud!  

But there are times when we want our colors to be muddy (grayed down or neutralized).  (Note: You can also achieve neutral colors by mixing opposite colors on the color wheel, but they are not as colorful.)

Here is an example of what I am talking about.

Secondary (left); Primary (right)

You can see the individual colors which make up the swatches above.  The more times I apply each layer, the more the pastels will mix themselves and the more “gray” they become.  

It’s easier to see this with the swatches on the right using primary colors in different values.

Here is another example:  I LOVE the gray achieved with the bottom swatch…. 🙂



Using Canson Touch sanded pastel paper in mid-tone gray




Colorful grays were used in this painting—especially in the background trees and sky.


Check out the video below to see how I created different grays.

Phew!!  Well, that’s it for now.  

Thanks so much to you all for taking time to read my blog!  It means a lot!!!

Please feel free to comment with your thoughts and ideas about this or other posts, or my YouTube endeavor.

And until next time….stay creative and colorful!



Plein Air Gear For Painting With Pastels!

Hello my Art Friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I better get moving 🙂

As promised, I am going to share with you the gear that I have found essential for my plein air painting with pastels.

One caveat: the following list is always evolving!  As I grow and change artistically, so do my equipment needs.  But for now, this is what I am using when I go off on my painting adventures….

Everything packed up!

All of my gear packs into an inexpensive Eastport backpack.  This particular model has lots of zippered compartments to keep things separated.  It is big enough to hold my 9×12 backing board, two paper portfolios, a Heilman Sketchbox Double, and various other supplies.  It even came with a lightweight nylon bag (seen on the right) which I use to hold used wet wipes, hand towels, and my roll of tp to clean my pastels on.

I have a bad back, so I have to watch how much I carry.  Since at this time I am painting closer to home, I thankfully don’t have to carry things too far.  I would probably downsize some if I was hiking to a painting location.

MeFoto Classic Aluminum Roadtrip Travel Tripod

The system I use for painting includes a Heilman box mounted on a tripod.  But UGGH!!!  I went through several iterations of tripods before I found this MeFoto Roadtrip tripod.  It was recommended by pastel artist Alain Picard on his blog.  And I have to say that I have been very happy with its ease of use, sturdy construction, and stability.

It even has a setting where I can spread the legs out really wide for extra stability, but so far I have not needed that option.


Heilman Sketchbox Double, easel, and side tray

The other half of my system is the pastel box I use.  I can’t say enough good things about Heilman pastel boxes!  I own the Backpacker box and the Sketchbox Double (see the sketchbox double above and below).

For plein air, the lighter weight of the Sketchbox Double is a must for me, but as you can see in the photo below, I don’t lack for much color!


My plein air palette so far…
Hat, iPhone, Viewfinder

One of the first things I do when I am looking around for a scene to paint is to look at it through a viewfinder.
I keep mine handy by wearing it on a chain around my neck.  If I like what I see, I will shoot a few reference photos.


The next thing I do when I am drawn to a scene is a thumbnail sketch.

My sketching kit includes unlined 3×5 notecards; Pitt Artist pens in a light, mid, and dark value; a Pigma Micron pen; ruler; kneadable eraser, a bit of foam pipe insulation, a bristle brush; key to my pastel box; extra vine charcoal; Derwent XL Charcoal (Ochre–for toning paper); and a chamois.

Sometimes I don’t want to use my sketchbook for thumbnails, so I use unlined notecards.
A side benefit is that I can clip the notecards right onto my backing board when I start painting my scene!

Thumbnail Sketching Kit & Thumbnail Examples


The final items in my plein air gear include two paper portfolios (one holds 8×10 paper and the other holds 5×7); artist tape and various clips; and 9×12 backing board.

The backing board is actually a dry erase board I purchased from Hobby Lobby and then sprayed with matte black paint to limit reflection into my eyes.

Well, that’s it for the gear!  I hope this is helpful to any of you interested in going out and trying plein air for yourself.

Till next time,

Stay Creative!!






Pastels en Plein Air (Painting Outside with Pastels!)

Hello Everyone!

Since it has been some time since I have had time or energy to post, I thought I would pause to blog about my latest creative drive — plein air painting with pastels!

Many of you know that “plein air” painting is nothing more than painting outside.  Some prefer the term “on location”.  Some lucky ducks get to go to exotic locales to paint, taking workshops with well-know instructors.  Others (like me) 😉 simply seek out the fresh air and sights of more familiar places.

I am a farm girl at heart, so I am drawn to our little farm’s treasures: uncut pastures, farm animals, weathered fences, bird nests in springtime….  It doesn’t take much to make me happy!


(Here is a picture of my set-up….More to come in a future post.)


Though I am new to plein air painting, I am finding that when painting outside my goals and intentions are very different than those I have when working in my little studio.

First, I have no expectation that I will produce any great or /even good pieces of art!

While I have to admit that was a tough one to wrap my Type A personality around, it has done me a world of good to let go of the idea that what I produce needs to be “frameable.”  This is extremely freeing!!  I am coming away with the notion that if it isn’t any fun, I’m doing it wrong 🙂

Second, I am learning that plein air painting is a great teacher. 

I find that as I immerse myself in a live scene (instead of a photo), I see more!

Colors are livelier and values are more accurate than those in the photos I take of that scene.

Of course, I have and will continue to paint from reference photos all the time.  There is no shame in that.

But I am now more acutely aware of the way the camera can distort colors, values, and other things, which means that I can deal with these distortions appropriately when working with photos in the future.

Thirdly, painting out in nature has enormous VALUE!

I treat my plein air outings more like sketching opportunities–a way of taking notes on color, value, and composition that is an enjoyable process in and of itself, but can also be a way of gathering information useful for future studio paintings!

Lastly, painting outside is just a lot of FUN!   

Once I worked out my supplies and my set-up (the subject of my next post), I discovered just how enjoyable painting on location is.

It has become a surprisingly exciting new creative outlet that combines my love of being out in nature and my desire to express my feelings about my surroundings.

(Plein air piece in progress)



  • Do you paint “en plein air”?
  • What medium do you prefer when painting outside?
  • Do your goals, intentions, or creative process differ considerably while painting en plein air vs. in your studio?

I’d love to hear about your plein air experiences!


Till next time, stay creative!!


Charcoal Portrait

Portraiture!  I never thought I would EVER do a portrait!  I do not consider myself a portrait artist, but have lately been drawn to working on facial features.

Here are some examples of the practice I have been doing.



I am still working out what materials I prefer for portraits.  I love working with vine charcoal because it’s so forgiving and easy to correct mistakes, but I also like going in with charcoal pencils on top.

My expectation is to move into pastel portraits using my Terry Ludwig portrait set; however, who knows when I will feel inspired to actually DO that!

Here are a few more practice features….

I find myself very much in the experimental phase.  Trying out new paper, brands of vine and compressed charcoal, charcoal pencils, etc, has been frustrating and a little daunting.  

There are A LOT of opinions out there about what materials to use in every situation, but in the end, it comes down to 1) what I can afford, 2) what I can find, and 3) what I end up liking!  I have had to learn to be patient with this whole process….(sigh).

As I began experimenting, I knew immediately if a paper didn’t suit me, which was helpful.

It became more difficult when a paper let me get farther into the process, but then fought me.  This happened if it stopped grabbing the charcoal because of lack of tooth.

What compounds things even more is that my “process” isn’t really clear yet…. I am NOT an all pencil kind of person–don’t have the desire or patience for that.  However, for feature work as in the above photos, pencils got me where I was going.  

But discovery is what this blog is about, so…..

The following portrait was done in almost all soft vine charcoal, with highlighting in a white Nupastel.  It was done on  Canson XL Recycled Bristol 14 x 17 in paper (right side).  I will probably experiment next by using the other side of the paper, as this paper has a smooth side and a textured side.

This is a portrait of my beautiful daughter.  Wish I could’ve done better, but hopefully that will come with time and practice.

Incidentally, I also tried out Strathmore Bristol vellum paper.  I didn’t like it at all.


I hope to be doing more with my art as the school year comes to a close, and I hope you are all doing well and staying creative!

Till next time,




Sharing Some Inspiration….

We have hit the season of “Sprinter.” Where everyone is dying for Spring, but Winter just won’t die. We are technically well past the official start of Spring. It is now March 30th. But Winter must not like us this year or it really just doesn’t want to end. I am looking out the […]

via “Sprinter” light bulb moment — Imperfection At Its Finest

I stumbled on this post from Imperfection At Its Finest today.  It hit me right where I am living in this busy season of life, so I thought I would share it with you!  I hope to get back to some easel time soon, but till then, Enjoy!

~Rhonda (one snowflake to another!)

Pastel Painting: “Winter Drive”

Hello all!  Welcome visitors and artistic beings 🙂

I took a little break from the Pastel ColorPlay posts to put my growing color confidence to use in my newest pastel painting.

Today, I would like to share with you the process I used for this painting, and the discoveries I made along the way….

So onto the post!



This is my own reference of a scene near my home.  I was drawn by the interplay of sunlight and shadow.  The limitations of the camera lens didn’t pick up the true values and colors I saw with my own eyes, but I actually found that to be helpful when setting my imagination loose to choose and apply color!


Using an HB pencil, I lightly sketched out my scene on a white 6×8 piece of sanded paper (Pastel Premier).


I knew I wanted to apply an underpainting to help me deal with all that WHITE, but I wanted to try something new.  I decided to experiment with some acrylic inks that I have had for a while but haven’t had time to play with.

I also knew I wanted to play up the shadow areas, as well as the darker valued areas like the tree trunks, so I chose three ink colors: purple lake, raw sienna, and sepia.  The inks I used are FW (Daler Rowney) Acrylic Artists Inks and can be bought at most craft stores. (The link is for the primary set.)

These inks can be used straight or thinned just like watercolors, but are permanent once dry.   

The only caveat I should mention is that if you put them on too heavily, they might make spots of your paper a bit slick (less toothy to grab pastel).  I did not have that problem for this painting, however.







After signing the painting, and letting it sit for a day or two on my easel, I decided it needed one more thing….
Can you tell what I did?



“Winter Drive” 6×8 pastel on sanded paper


Thanks for stopping by to visit and taking the time to read about my artistic adventures.  
I hope you enjoy these types of posts and find them helpful.

If you do, please feel free to leave a comment or ask any questions you may have!

Till next time, take care and stay creative!


Pastel ColorPlay Project #7

Hello Everyone! ColorPlay #7 is here.  

I will keep this particular post brief, as it deals with the same color scheme as in my last post.

I find that sometimes it is easier NOT to put away the pastels I used for my most recent painting, and I use them again.  

So this time I decided to try out a new paper for me….

     UART DARK 500


I am used to working on UART’s lighter sanded paper which is actually a sand color.  It comes in a variety of grits from a very toothy 240 all the way up to a very fine 800.  The higher grits are probably better for things like animal portraits or subjects which require a lot of detail.  I typically use the 400 grit for my landscape paintings.

UART DARK is a 500 grit, so a little finer than I am used to working on, but not vastly different from the 400.

What I love most about this dark sandpaper is how it makes the pastel colors look so vibrant!  

In the image above, you can see how the darkest violet of my palette “pops” against the dark of the paper.


My intent for this ColorPlay was to use an Analogous Complementary color scheme using yellow, orange, green, and red-violet; however, this particular exercise turned out to be much more of a Complementary color scheme focused around the red-violets and greens.  Very minor use of the other colors….




This might be one piece I pull out again in the future to do a little more with, as it feels a little “unfinished” to me; however, I am itching to do some more painting and posting about some of the pieces I haven’t had time to share!


So until next time….stay creative and colorful!