Productive morning




Artist Demo and Dialogue: Part Two – Begin a Pastel

I attended a Demo and Dialogue at Meininger’s Art Supply store in Denver Oct 13th 2013.  Doug Dawson was the presenting artist.  He is a master painter in any medium and was demonstrating pastels.  I learned so much about the painting process and how to approach making decisions before and during a painting, that I wanted to share as much as I could.

The Demo and Dialogue series is sponsored by the Denver Art Students League.


Landscape Thumbnail Sketch
Landscape Thumbnail Sketch

Beginning to Paint

Setting up the ‘window’ for the painting on pastel support

Fold down the edges of the thumb-nail sketch and draw a diagonal line through it. The edges of the thumbnail sketch are the corners of the ‘window’. The diagonal line just drawn will carry through to the corner of your window.  Make sure the painting is proportional to the sketch – it makes the design decisions easier if you do not need to make them multiple times.

Keep an outside working area beyond the window of the painting so that you can play with your pastels and see them right next to each other on the support they will be used on before they are actually used within the painting window.

Color Harmony 

Color harmony in a painting is dependent upon ONE color being woven throughout 50%-70% of the painting.  You can increase your chances of achieving color harmony by doing one or both of the following:

  • start with 3 colors
  • use toned paper

Field Size Theory

Exciting color is about having a small area of intense color against a large area of dull color – EX: candle-light in a dark room.

Field Size Theory – small area of intense color next to large area of dull color

Now, Paint!

Start with the thumbnail sketch, not the reference photo.  The design has been worked out with the thumbnail sketch, so use this first to rough in the painting. Correlate the 4 warm-greys on the thumbnail sketch to 4 pastels.

First, test the 4 pastels on the paper next to one another.  There should be a dark, mid-dark, mid-light, and a light.

Divide the thumbnail into 4 sections with a vertical line and horizontal line down the middle.  Do the same with the “window”.

If the painting is a smaller painting, anticipate about 1/2 inch loss on the edges for framing.

Once you have the 4 pastels rough in the painting using the average value for each space and think only in ABSTRACT SHAPES.

“Delight in the BIG SHAPES and how they relate to one another” – Doug Dawson