Reclaiming An Unfinished Plein Air Painting

I sat down at my easel. I was uninspired to start something new, but I had the urge to paint. Paint what?

I rummaged around my desk area looking through some of my ready-toned papers, when I found an old plein air painting I had started and left incomplete from a few years ago. In fact, it was one of my first plein air attempts!

Aha! In the back of my mind I remembered the day well. It was a fairly early summer morning, mainly overcast, but I had found shafts of sunlight peeking through a wall of trees at the edge of our property, causing my eyes to dance back and forth between the lights and shadows playing on the grass and fencing.

Hmm…. I had never gone back to try and finish it. Why? Well, at the time I guess I didn’t have anything more to say! I should also mention that this particular painting was also an experiment with a paper new to me: Canson Mi-Teintes “Touch”—a sanded paper by Canson.

I vaguely remembered doing a watercolor underpainting before applying any pastel, but I have no photo of that.

Here is the painting as I left it back then: 

I decided to see what I could do to say something more than I had when I first attempted this painting.

I wanted to discover how I had changed and hopefully grown artistically.

So the first thing I needed to do was to think about what I liked about the original attempt and what I wanted to change.

I decided that I really liked the sky—it definitely reminded me of that overcast morning with some moisture in the summer air.

I also liked the fence posts and my initial attempts at describing the light that was hitting them.

I felt the composition was weak. The grassy path looked more like stairs than a path with depth. 

Also, the values didn’t have enough contrast. Where were the darks?

Armed with a plan, the first thing I did was try to restore some tooth to the paper by brushing off quite a bit of the original’s pastel—mainly in the foreground and midground.

Next I used a dark Nupastel to deepen the areas of darkest values.
I also darkened the closest fence post as it was supposed to be in shadow.

As soon as I began adding pastel, I remembered how much I disliked this paper—and I STILL DO—UGH!!!
It felt like I fought the paper’s pebbly texture the entire time I used it—even with my softest pastels—not good…..

Determined to proceed but relieved of the burden to make this painting “framable”, I began to add more pastel.

As I worked, I continually reminded myself of what drew me to paint this scene in the first place. I was drawn to that interplay of light and shadow.

I also I wanted to crop my final image to be slightly less vertical.

Here is the final image:


My mission to say something more was definitely a challenge. 

Had I time and the inclination, I might say something more about the light, but for now this is enough.

This plein air/studio creation won’t get framed.

I don’t value it for the end product, but for the memory it helps me recall and for the chance to see my own growth!

Try reclaiming one of your own old artworks and see how you’ve grown. You might surprise yourself! 🙂

Till next time, 

Stay challenged!


Experiment: Underpainting with Pan Pastels

Hello fellow creatives!  I know it has been a while since my last post, but I am still here. 🙂 

I haven’t had as much time at my easel lately as I have been pursuing another of my creative passions—music!  However, I recently completed a painting in which I experimented using PanPastels as my underpainting.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with PanPastels, they are ultra soft pastels that come in a cake-like form. Containing very little filler or binder, they are blendable, erasable, and produce very little dust, making them an excellent option for people who have respiratory issues or other sensitivities.
(Note: I would still be careful with the application of these pastels if a severe reaction is possible.)

For more information on PanPastels, visit

For this experiment, I used a more basic set which has 8 colors plus black and white:

In the image above, you can also see the soft pastel stick palette I chose for this experiment.
I used these on top of the PanPastel underpainting and they played very nicely with each other. 😉
You can also see some of the sponge tools I used to apply the PanPastels to my paper.

Speaking of which, you can use pretty much any kind of paper with PanPastels.
For the underpainting below, I used a piece of Pastelmat, which is very easy on the sponge tools.
In the past I have used sanded papers with PanPastels; however, I do not recommend it as it can quickly destroy the applicators!

Here is the completed underpainting using only the PanPastels colors in the basic set:

I actually quite liked the bold colors I was forced to use since my palette was limited!

And here is the final piece with soft stick pastels applied over the PanPastels:

My Thoughts….

As an artist, I am always pushing myself to try new things.
I think that this experiment was meaningful in that it forced me to learn how to apply pastel in a different way—more like painting with a paintbrush. 

I’ll be honest, I probably would not use these pastels on a regular basis; however, if I had large swaths to cover in a loose way, Pans might be an option I reach for.

I personally don’t like to have any sort of application tool between me and my pastels.  
That’s probably why I haven’t gotten into painting more than I have and why I like the immediacy of pastel sticks over pastel pencils.  But hey, that could change!

So give it a go! If you don’t like the dust that sticks can create, or don’t like getting your fingers dirty, these might be just the ticket!

Till next time,

Stay creative friends!