Inventory and storage
July 2019

Well, the Mayou’s are on the move again. This will be our 3rdaddress in 4 years. I would love to say it is the last, but since we are moving into a rental, it is a good bet we’ll move again! Our first move I had just picked up pastels. I had perhaps 15 paintings to move. The last move I was up to 50 (maybe). Now, it is a closet full and I am ashamed to say they are just laying on top of each other unprotected.

I see now that this is an issue and one I wish had come to my attention sooner! I did a little research on how to store pastel paintings and came across a great YouTube video from Gail Sibley. She suggests wrapping each painting in glassine or acid free tissue paper if you are using a stiff paper or painting on board. If you are using paper, she recommends taping the painting to an acid free board and then wrapping in glassine or acid free tissue paper. Cover all sides of the painting tightly to prevent smudging and moisture from damaging the painting. She also suggests writing painting specifics like: inventory number, title, medium, paper and pastels used, date, if it has been photographed, and if it has been fixed, on either the back of the painting, the tissue paper or a label on the glassine so you have easy access to any details you may need down the road.

Listening to what she included on the back of her paintings, I wondered if I not only need to store my paintings properly, but if I should start an inventory management system too. I know there are inventory management database systems available for artists, but I have been convinced that I need to pay for that at this point in my painting career. I built a simple excel spread sheet in about 20 minutes. It is completely customizable and I can add information to it as needed in the future.

It is a bit daunting to think about all of the paintings in the closet, wrapping them, and inventorying them all! Perhaps it will help me decide if I want to keep the painting or recycle the paper!

Excel isn’t necessary to have, I believe this could also be done by hand in a notebook, which ever is more comfortable and you are most likely to keep current! However you choose to store and inventory you work, my recommendation is that you begin today, don’t wait!

June 2019
To © or not to ©

We have all heard the saying, ‘imitation is the best form of flattery’. While this is true, imitation and stealing are not the same. Artists need to know their rights. Knowing when it’s time to register your artwork isn’t always clear, but it is important!

There are few guidelines that will help artists know when it’s time to register their work. If the artwork generates financial profit, the artists has mass appeal, the design translates well on products, or features creatures or characters that are easily replicated. Artists with large fan bases, especially on social media platforms, are also at risk of having their work stolen. The internet has heightened the threat to artist’s intellectual property. With just a few clicks an artist’s investment of time, energy and inspiration can be stolen.

Even if your work doesn’t meet the above criteria, it’s never too soon to know the types of copyrights available and how they protect you. The attached article is full of information, it’s written with the assistance of an attorney, providing insight, helpful FAQ, and batch or group copyrighting.

If you’re not ready for copyrighting, keeping a digital record of your work will help if it’s used without your permission. The metadata saved with digital photos is date stamped and can help prove when the work was created. You can also use the copyright symbol © to denote ownership of art work when posting online. The © should be accompanied by your name and year the piece was completed. A watermark or low resolution image will also help keep your art protected online and on social media platforms. You can read here about protecting your art on Instagram

Knowing how to protect your intellectual property is so important for all artists. So whether you will © or not ©, know why that is the right choice for you!

May 2019
The Importance of Signature Membership for Artists and the Central Pennsylvania Pastel Society

Signature Status is important for both artists and organizations. It is a valuable credential that gives importance to one’s stature as an artist. Signature Membership is a widely recognized, significant honor, offered by major art organizations. It denotes a high level of artistic proficiency within an organization.

Organizations benefit from Signature Members who promote the organization. As skilled professionals they advance the medium and profession in the community and across the country.

Central Pennsylvania Pastel Society (CPPS) bylaws for SIGNATURE MEMBER:

This status in the Pastel Society is granted to any member in good standing who has three (3) different paintings accepted in three (3) juried exhibitions beginning with the member’s date of initial membership (these shows do not need to be different shows, it could be the same show in different years). No more than one (1) painting per year shall count in this tally. Once the requirement is fulfilled, the member shall notify the President who will formally recognize the member’s Signature status. Signature membership shall remain as long as the member is in good standing.

It is important for both the artist and the organization that this process takes a minimum of three years. It gives the artist time to build credibility with the organization, show growth and commitment to the medium. It also establishes the artist’s ability to produce high quality work consistently.

For the organization the time allows the group an opportunity to get to know the artist, the artist’s goals and level of commitment. It also ensures that artists who have CPPS after their name have meet the historical standards of excellence established by our founding members and are representing the organization positively. CPPS Signature members are held in high regard by the community and other pastel societies and need to meet high expectations for quality and expertise, it is important that Signature Members represent the very best work of CPPS.

As artists it is important for us to seek Signature Membership in CPPS to give credibility to our work. In turn, Signature Members make our organization creditable!

Keeping it together
April 2019

As I have gotten more familiar with pastel brands and how they paint on different surfaces, I have become curious about what keeps the pure pigment in stick form. I Wonder why some pastels are like butter, some like crushed stone and some are hard and some are soft. I decided it was time to look into it.

Pastels are a combination of pure pigment and binders. There is as much to learn about pure pigment as there is about the binders used, but we will save that topic for another day. Technically, all you need to create a pastel is pigment and binder, such as gum tragacanth, gum arabic or methyl cellulose. The binder is combined with a small amount of alcohol and water to create a thick gelatin. The pigment is combined with water to create a paste and is worked into the binder until smooth and even. Gum tragacanth comes from middle eastern legumes and is all natural and easy to work with – it doesn’t stick to your hands when working with it. Gum arabic is also a natural binder and comes from the hardened sap of the acacia tree. Methyl cellulose is wallpaper glue and according to my research is not the strongest of the three. Many other binders have been used; wheat paste, starch, honey and even glue. Their success as binders is not lauded.

The binders mentioned above are susceptible to mildew, so pastels need a preservative. A small amount of 1% carbolic acid is mixed with a pint of distilled water to prevent mildew.

Before I go any further, it is important to note that pigments differ in consistency. Some like titanium dioxide are oily while others, like burnt umber are dry. Also, depending on the weight of the pigment and their cementing properties, the final pastel sticks can vary in consistency from very soft to crumbly.

The difference in pastels from different manufacturers seems not to be in the binder, but in the fillers used. Fillers are used to create a smoother pastel. This makes them more enjoyable to paint with and more suitable for impasto. Fillers also help reduce the cost and help keep the pastel from breaking so easily. Fillers have low tincture and vary greatly in particle size. Examples of fillers are; kaolin, a fine clay, calcium carbonate, dried lime, precipitated limestone, talcum powder, hydrated magnesium silicate, and silicon dioxide. It is the difference in particle size and the nature of the fillers that create the major differences in the pastels we love.

There are many recipes online if you would like to try to make your own pastels. It appears to be very rewarding, provides cost savings and allows you to create a personalized color palette. It also seems to be labor intensive and messy – not that that would deter me – but my goal was to understand the differences I was experiencing between manufacturers. For the time being I will continue to purchase my pastels, with a greater appreciation of the medium!

As a side note, I did learn that the high cost of pastels is due in part to their fragility and the huge number of colors and shades that must be stocked.

I did reach out to several pastel manufacturers to see if they could give me any information on the fillers used in their pastels. Unfortunately, they could not. That information is proprietary. The only information they provided is that the materials they use are safe and natural.


March 2019

Welcome March, I didn’t expect you so soon!  The goals I set in January, for 2019, seem distant and out of focus as I watch you quickly approach.

In January, Pastellus looked at style and how to find our style through good practice habits. Not starting over but evaluating and using that to help focus on areas to improve over the next year. Due to the length of a year, it is probably necessary to evaluate at regular intervals. March is a great month to pause and evaluate. Look at everything in your body of recent work and compare to those distant, out of focus goals.

No matter how often you stop to evaluate, you must have an evaluation plan.

Before we go any further, it is important to note:
This is NOT time for harsh self-evaluation or negative thoughts.
If you notice this happening, step away and
come back to the evaluation process later!

Create your personal evaluation form.
Be prepared to answer questions, either on the computer or with pen and paper. Give yourself ample time to really look at what you have done. Think about the evaluation questions and answer honestly.

Your evaluation should be comprised of the same questions each time you evaluate. They can change and evolve as your work and goals change. You want to look back over evaluations and track progress, ideas and goals.

At the top of your evaluation form list your goals, areas of your work you would like to focus on, and your strengths. This is a good refresher before you begin and is a good starting point for comparison. If you aren’t sure of your strengths gather 5-10 of your favorite paintings, lay them out in front of you and write what you have done right or like about them. Are there commonalities in what you like about these paintings? These are your strengths (and your style).

Write your evaluation checklist based on specific questions that help you focus on your goal. They could be as simple as the examples below or as specific and detailed as you need them to be. They can be for a group of work done over one or several months, or an evaluation for each painting.

As an example, I will be evaluating paintings since January, as a group, asking:

1. Have I defined a focal point in each painting?
2. Is the composition good?
3. Have I shown distance accurately through color and value?
4. Am I drawing what I see or what I think I see?

I create an evaluation for each painting I do, because I realize I have so many thoughts and ideas in my head, that I have trouble focusing. My daily painting questions are:

1. Did I plan the color palette effectively and stick to it throughout the painting?
2. Did I spend enough time making sure my drawing is accurate and the composition works?
3. Did I make a conscious decision on the underpainting I used based on the outcome I wanted to achieve?

Self-evaluation is an important tool to help maintain focus. It will also help you understand and explain your art to others. It may be almost as important to growth as daily painting!

The eye of the artist
February 2019

Following last months’ theme of style, I wanted to explore the artists eye. It stands to reason that styles are different because what we see is different.

The Master’s see the world differently than most.  There are scientific reasons for this; stereoblindness (wall-eyed), divergent thinking, non-attentional blindness and a few others. But what makes them Master’s is that they are open to this.  As Picasso said, “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”  They seem to have understood that divergent thinking can be a powerful tool. By noticing things others don’t have time to see they can jar us out of our habit of seeing what our brain tell us we see.

My college professors would tell us not to identify the object, instead look at the entire scene: lines, shadows, shapes and contours.  They would also have us close our dominant eye before beginning a drawing. These are ways to see the world as it is, not as our brain tells us it is.  I wish I had understood their importance and had continued using them all these years.

I watch artist’s videos, high speed demos, there progress shots and marvel at what they are able to create.

If I had the same reference would my painting look anything like theirs? Would my painting be compelling like theirs?

With this in mind I am proposing, what I hope to be an extremely exciting, February Challenge where we complete a painting from the same reference photo. Share progress shot, video (if we have the ability), time-lapse photo series, thoughts on our process and approach; and then the final and see how differently we each render the reference.  I am already so excited to see the different takes on the reference photo. The reference photo will be a landscape with a structure and people.

If you would like to participate please log into the CPPS website and head to the Member Forum. The reference photo is posted under the challenge section. The reference photo will be a landscape with a structure and people.  Challenge participants can paint the scene as they would any other reference, with or without any piece, cropped or not, etc.  Each week I will post a discussion thread so we can talk about the challenge and inspire each other. The final paintings should be posted on February 21stso we can compare and discuss!

I am hopeful that many of you will participate.  As with any good experiment the more test subjects in the sample the better the outcome will be!

Style Speaks
January 2019

I started my own personal challenge on 9 December, 2018. This daily painting challenge is a small 6×6 painting each morning; before work, 30 minutes, no going back, all still life. I want to improve my rendering abilities, as well, as define my style.

‘Style’ is a word that I hear a lot in my art circles. ‘I love that artists style’; ‘they have such a unique style’; ‘as artists we need to find our style.’ Style is easy to see in many artists work. I am sure that is one of the reasons they are successful as artists. Not sure about you, but in a lot of the art I look at everyday – including my own – I don’t see a strong style. The internet is full of beautiful pastel paintings from artists all over the world, in some I see their style, others I don’t.

I suppose that is the way it is with artists. Some of us never find our style. Some of us do and then seem to get stuck in rut. Some artist’s style is instantly obvious and seems to transcend subject matter and medium.

For myself, I draw my subject and then kind of color it in. I don’t have a light touch with the pastels, although I did try for a while. I gave up, it frustrated me. I am drawn to painting landscapes, and I am not against blending. So, is that my style? Do people look at my work and say ‘Oh, she’s done another thick, smudged painting of the woods’? Do they scroll Instagram and as they pass my latest painting know it is mine?

The answer is yes, that is style and hopefully someday it will be strong enough to be recognized as mine. Nita Leland wrote ‘Cultivate Your Personal Style’ in The NEW Creative Artist,“Every choice you make is a revelation of your yourself and your personal style.” She goes on to explain that subject matter selection, materials and the way you handle them are your style. So why does style matter?

Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” — Rachel Zoe.  Think about that for a minute, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” That is huge!

As artists, we need to be intentional with our work. With every painting we are telling the world who we are. We are speaking out loud to any and all! This led me to try and uncover how to take advantage of whatever ‘style’ I have and use it to say what I want the world to know about me.

I uncovered a gem, Christopher Kerry, a certified Copic instructor. I know, it is out in left field, but his blog is good! “Creativity is taking the same parts and pieces that everyone else has access to and combining them in a way that no one else has ever thought of.” —  Christopher Kerry  In his blog he talks about how to find your style and execute it “in a week, tops!” He has a step-by-step actionable plan to help any artist find their style. It is a very simplified version of the artist’s journey. An exercise that I think would help many of us see ‘style’ in art a bit clearer. See ‘style’ in our art a bit clearer, and verbally communicate ‘style’ in art. I will certainly be going through his steps in January to see what I can learn about myself and my ‘style!’

Some artists have found their style but don’t take full advantage of it. They end up in a creative rut, each painting looking like the last. During my research, I found that maintaining habits is important. If you paint in the morning, paint in the morning. Then do something completely different; go for a walk, meditate, allow your brain time to clear and see something new. My research also found that challenging yourself to try something new (not on a deadline) can be inspiring. Nita Leland agreed in her article “…the actual breakthrough in the privacy of the studio, when one dares to apply paint in a new manner, is a solitary thrill…the individual artist must act courageously in an effort to grow.” Our style will benefit from challenging it with new subjects and applications. If you’re a portrait artist, take your easel outside and paint a landscape. If you are a representational artist, challenge yourself to abstract a subject.

It is important for as artists that we find our style and use it to tell the world who we are and what is important to us. I also now know that it is important that I talk about style. How great would it be for us if I could articulate exactly what I like about your style, your mark making, color and subject choices, instead of just saying that I like your style. I also have learned that style isn’t an intangible that I may or may not find. I have it, but I need to identify it and assist its growth.Pastellus

Just Start
December 2017

About a year ago, while talking with Susan Nicholas-Gephart she mentioned that she paints plein air in the winter. So in awe of this woman! She is the boss – painting plein air in the winter. As I questioned her she about further she revealed that she paints in her car.

Pure genius I say!

It is important to paint from life and on location, this is how we learn to see. The practice of seeing makes us better artists. Wether we create masterpieces on location or just initial sketches to be used in the studio, from life is so much better than a reference photo when possible.

So Susan’s tid bit of information has been on my mind, stirring often, while I explore plein air painting. Each time I attempt to paint plein Air – taking too many supplies or not enough – I wondered how can she possibly paint in her car? I envision pastels rolling down the dashboard being forever lost in that crevasse just before the windshield. Or Susan, board in lap, covered in eggplant pastel dust reaching, flailing, towards the box of pastels just out of reach at her feet.

Due to my feeble attempts at plein air painting I have spent hours researching, reading artists blogs and compiling a wish list of items that would be very helpful to have, but none of them useful in a car – the woman is impressive!

Bottom line is I have been painting seriously for almost 2 years now and the only thing I am sure of is, my artistic abilities do not warrant that kind of financial investment, and such an investment will not help me paint in my car, or on a boat, or on a hill or; you get the point.

As I packed for Thanksgiving with the family, looking longingly at my pastels it dawned on me that I don’t need anything special or extra to paint from life. I too can paint in a car! The ability to paint in a car, or on a boat, or on a hill requires three things. An artist, a set of pastels, pastel paper (ok, maybe a board and some wet wipes). I just need to start.

Since my realization I have run across some blogs on this very subject, the links are below.

I am very curious to hear all the places that you paint from life and how you do it, do you have a complete plein air set up that you take out or do you have a backpack ready to go. There is so much to learn and try, I am excited to start today! Excited to hear from you at 

During January’s challenge I will definitely be challenging myself to paint from my car, in my office, at my mom’s and anyplace else I can paint from life.

Plein Air in Stealth Mode

A small box of pastels – perfect for traveling with carry on only!

November 2017

Participating in a CPPS daily painting challenge is worth over coming whatever obstacles you have to be able to spend a few minutes at the easel everyday.

If you have not had the opportunity to participate in one of these challenges I am challenging you to participate in the next one. The benefits for participation can not be overstated.

Daily Painting – You are a member of CPPS because you enjoy the pastel medium. Thus I will assume you use pastels to create images. I will also assume that when you are creating or finished creating you conclude to create more often because it feels so good and you know that practice makes perfect.

Camaraderie – Participating in a challenge brings you closer to other CPPS members. You begin to recognize and appreciate participants artwork and their insight and suggestions. You share the struggles and joys associated with making art. You connect with each other.

Safety – These closed group challenges are safe places to share your work. Art isn’t shared openly without permission. Participants are supportive of each other. Everyone understands the challenge of daily painting and the struggle of creating.

Accountability – As a participant you are expected to post a daily painting with insight into how it was created and your thoughts on the piece. You are also expected to give feedback to others on their daily painting. Feedback can be questions or thoughts and suggestions. Knowing that your participation is expected and desired drives you to be present.

Uplifting – Challenge participants want to hear from you. Beginner or professional, participants want to see what you have been able to create, hear your thoughts on what you created and perhaps most importantly want to hear your thoughts and suggestions on their creations. It is as close to working together in a studio daily as you can get without travel!

Inspirational – Viewing participants daily work, hearing them discuss technique and best practices will inspire you to try new things. Challenge participants encourage experimentation both technical and stylistic.

Camaraderie – Yes, this one needs to be repeated! After completing a challenge you feel you belong to a group you can reach out to if you need feedback, suggestions or technical help. Participants continue to encourage each other and are hopeful for each others success.

Stay tuned for information about upcoming challenges and please join one. As a member of CPPS I personally would love to know and experience each of you by your work. I would appreciate your feedback, technical advice and artistic touch.

Thank you for reading and I would love to hear from you

Goal Setting for Artists
October 2017

The buzz of summer has quieted and the craziness of the holidays hasn’t begun yet, allowing a brief opportunity to reflect and look forward. October is the perfect month to take a look at artistic goals in order to be ready for the new year and the CPPS January Daily Painting Challenge! We all have life goals, and mixed somewhere in with those life goals are artistic goals. Unfortunately, we don’t often stop and look at artistic goals in relationship to, or independent of life goals, but we should.

Whether you want to sell as many paintings as Picasso or just paint because you love to paint, you have artistic aspirations. Setting goals for your artistic endeavors can be tricky, and these goals can be hard to measure.  This can lead to not setting them at all, or to creating unrealistic goals that can weight you down.

To begin it may help to answer these three questions:

– Who do I want to be as an artist?

– What kind of work do I want to create?

– What do I want to achieve with my art?

These ‘big picture’ questions will help you connect your artistic goals to your life goals and define your objective. Once you have an objective you can set goals to help you reach it.

An effective tool for goal setting is the SMART goal template. SMART goals are designed to set Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely goals to be reviewed and adjusted as needed.

– Specific: Instead of just saying “I want to be a better painter”, think about what you mean when you say that. Do you want learn a new technique, improve your rendering skills, or paint more often?  All of these are specific goals.

– Measurable: This is where artistic goals get tricky. It is difficult to measure learning a new technique or improving drawing skills on a spreadsheet, but you can measure how many classes you have taken focused on your new technique or how often you draw or paint.

– Attainable: Having your goals be within reach is extremely important in order for you to continue to work toward your goals. This is the how part of your goal; where and when to practice new technique, carrying a sketchbook, or painting 3 times a week.

– Relevant: In order for goals to be relevant they need to begin at the place you are in your creative journey. In short, does this goal relate to where you are and what you can do today?

– Timely: Goals need to have a time limit. As an artist you know there is no finish line, but you can put time limits on your goals. As for learning a new technique, you can assign 3 months and at the end of 3 months look at what has been accomplished.  Are you where you hoped to be? You can draw the same object you started with and compare the two, or count your paintings to see if you did 3 a week.

There you go, one goal set. Goals are like promises; keep your promise to yourself. Look at your goals once a week and see if you are on track.  Be honest with yourself.

It is recommended to have 3-5 SMART goals.  More than that is overwhelming, and less isn’t pushing you forward enough. If you need to, stagger your timeline so your goals are manageable. Be flexible with your goals, they will and should change. Small adjustments can be made or goals can be replaced with new more relevant ones.


Be a Better Artist – How to set and keep creative goals.

How to take charge of your creative goals. skinny

Thank you for reading and I would love to hear from you. Was this column useful or any suggestions for future columns.

Abstract Origins
August 2017

I continue to stand at my easel and create the same type of landscapes I have been creating. I don’t seem to be improving or evolving. So I set out to read what other artists do to create fresh works of art; hoping for inspiration, guidance and support to stay the course as an artist.

What I found was abstract art.

Karen Margulis talks often about the importance of doing a value study before you paint. ‘Tips for a More Painterly Painting’. Mary Gilkerson talks about simplifying value and shape in her article ‘Five Common Composition and Design Problems’. Liz Haywood-Sullivan talks in-depth about value and composition in her You Tube video ‘Preview these Composition Tips for Successful Paintings’. Plein Air painters talk about simplifying shape and finding the correct values of the landscape before them. I could go on and on, but a simple online search will lead you to all this great information and more.

After hours of reading articles and watching videos, I understand that in order to improve artists need to learn to abstract. Artist need to separate subject from color and emotion, and separate shape from the detail. Simplify the subject into it’s basic elements. Artists need to plan their paintings from the initial view of the subject to picking the pastel palette. Although much of what the artist does is instinct, planning through value studies and simplifying shapes helps train the eyes and brain to see the abstract. The goal is to see the subject abstractly before we even begin to take reference photos.

Not being an abstract artist. I have been taught in art school that you need to have intimate knowledge of your subject before you can truly begin to abstract it. This information was a revelation to me. It was as though the fog had been lifted and with just a small shift of direction, I could be on a course for successful paintings.

I looked up the definition of abstract (the complete definition is at the bottom of this column) just to make sure I really understood the concept. All the definitions spoke to the idea of separating and extracting basic information, especially when used as a verb.
To consider separately
To extract or remove

As a practice, if we abstract the value and the shapes from the subject we plan to paint before we begin, then we start to see the world differently. We begin to see the world abstractly and can move from separating and extracting to conceptualizing and re-conceptualizing. It is really very magnificent!

I am very excited by this revelation and excited to see if it can help me through the painting plateau I have reached.

Do you abstract before you paint? Do you do value and composition studies? Do you simplify shapes and colors? Does the planning and pre-work help your paintings be more successful? I would love to hear if my revelation is old news to everybody except for me and why didn’t I learn this in art class/school? Please email me at



1. existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence. “abstract concepts such as love or beauty”
synonyms: theoretical, conceptual, notional, intellectual, metaphysical, ideal, philosophical, academic; rare ideational “abstract concepts”


1. consider (something) theoretically or separately from something else.
“to abstract science and religion from their historical context can lead to anachronism”

2. extract or remove (something).
“applications to abstract more water from streams”
synonyms: extract, isolate, separate, detach “he abstracted the art of tragedy from its context”


1. a summary of the contents of a book, article, or formal speech.
“an abstract of his inaugural address”
synonyms: summary, synopsis, précis, résumé, outline, abridgment, digest, summation; wrap-up “an abstract of her speech” abstract work of art.”a big unframed abstract”

Karen Margulis – A Tip for More Painterly Paintings:

Mary Bentz Wilkerson – Five Common Composition and Design Problems:

Liz Haywood-Sullivan – Preview these Composition Tips for Successful Paintings:

Focus – Part 2
July 2017

When it comes to our ability to focus on painting, preparation has to be the most important thing we can easily control. Being prepared allows us to quickly get our hands covered in pastel and can help us create. ‘Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while one is working.’ Henri Matisse

Studio preparation:

  • Having a clean, comfortable place to work is essential. Whether you work in your dinning room, spare bedroom or have a separate studio, keep it stocked,  don’t forget paper towels and rags for keeping hands and pastels clean. There isn’t anything more frustrating than not being able to find a color because it is dis-colored from past uses. Or picking up a color that was used on a dark before and scaring the beautiful light area you are working on.
  • Have good lighting, large LED daylight corrected bulbs are becoming more readily available, they are cost effective, energy efficient and they do not burn hot. You can buy them in many sizes, and free standing so they can be moved where needed. Also, consider a source of directional lighting for still life work.
  • As DaVinci advised consider keeping a mirror in your studio, face it towards your easel if possible; ‘turn your painting to a black glass and it will appear as though another master had done it and you will see its flaws.’
  • Don’t forget the music! Music, audio books and pod casts can help you loosen up and be more intuitive when you are painting.
  • Spend a few minutes when your done painting cleaning, taking inventory and creating a work space that feels good, you will want to return often if you do.

Paper preparation:

Along with having a clean, comfortable space we need paper, lots of paper. It can be painful to have 30 minutes to paint and spend most of it on the underpainting, or fail at the painting on a nice piece of UArt 400. Have several inexpensive surfaces ready for quick trips to the studio and fast studies. Paper can easily be prepared in advance and ready to go when we are.

  • Consider painting drawing paper with watercolor or acrylic paint, once dried you can cover with Liquitex clear gesso for a sanded surface. You can experiment with the color you choose for a toned underpainting. You can also apply the gesso with varying brush strokes and thicknesses to create texture in your painting.
  • Or try pastel primer, they come clear or in several colors and can be brushed on any surface including glass.
  • Ground or pumice can be added to either gesso or pastel primer or mixed into a paste with gel and water. Experimenting with these techniques is inspiring and also freeing, we have created a surface for little money, that may or may not be wonderful, so anything we do is better than doing nothing!
  • Consider gator board for painting the above mediums on to create working surfaces. The board will not warp or bow like paper will, it can be primed and prepared and then cut to size, it is available in several thicknesses, and comes white or black. It holds up well to being left on your easel for long periods and doesn’t require backing if framed. Gator board is not archival, but no one is archiving my paintings – yet! Pastels painted over a hundred years ago are still in great condition because of the care they have received, yet it a risk to consider.

Once we have a few painting surfaces ready to go it’s easy to pull apples out of the refrigerator and paint. No need to brush off or wash the paper off if the painting is terrible, just enjoy that we got to be in a creative space and paint a while.

I would love to hear your feedback on this column, any ideas you have or things you would like me to research for future columns.

Focus – Part 1
June 2017

Let’s face it, finding time to painting is hard.  It doesn’t matter if you work full-time, part-time or not at all, have toddlers, teenagers or no kids.  It’s difficult to make time to paint.  To put in the amount of time it takes to actually become a better painter.  No matter what the end goals might be, showing, selling or improving as an artist; none of us feel like we have enough time to paint. Therefore, the time we do get to spend painting shouldn’t be aimless.  Time spent painting should be productive and most of all enjoyable.  With a little focus – forethought and planning – we can make our time painting a positive experience.

Here are a few ideas to help make your time at the easel easier and more productive.

•Choose a subject and paint it for awhile, sky, trees, fruit, etc; this will save you time deciding what to paint.

•Paint small, no larger than 9 x 12. Smaller paintings allow you to focus on painting not covering a large area.

•Have several pieces of paper or board cut to size and ready for painting, you will be ready to paint quickly.

•Have several reference photos ready to work with; when you have time to paint look over your reference images and pick one.

•Take the time to do a few thumbnail sketches before you paint. Work out value and composition; this will save you time and frustration.

•Choose one or two things to work on when you paint like soft edges or mark making; this focus will help you work on skills important to you.

•Keep your studio and supplies organized. No one wants to have to clean or straighten before they get to paint.

•Set realistic goals like painting 4 hours a week or 1 hour a day. Being realistic will help you get to the easel and feel better when you are there.

•Don’t expect to finish a painting every time you paint; have fun and experiment

•Most of all have fun and enjoy your time painting.

We all know it is important to make time to create and to continue to improve our skills.  With a little focus it is possible to make the time we do have to paint more productive and enjoyable.

I would love to hear your ideas on staying focused to take full advantage of your time at the easel. Please email me at

May Flowers
The Fleeting Bloom
May 2017

Perhaps we have finally seen the last of the snow for a few months.  Birds are chirping and the flowers are blooming.  This time of the year it is hard not to be drawn to paint flowers.  The hold flowers have upon us is intriguing.

The obvious draw is the spring season, re-awakening, renewal.  Spending time outside watching the landscape green and the flowers grow, the colors are so vibrant and tempting.  The draw to paint flowers is deeper than color and re-awakening though.  It is far more visceral; painting flowers is about hope, capturing the fleeting for humanities sake, and the challenge to our technical ability.

Spring flowers renew our hope in the world.  No matter what we humans do, nature continues to offer it’s bounty.  It continues it’s cycle of life.  There is great hope and comfort in this cycle.  It feels like the same hope all generations before us have had.  It is hope that connects us to each other, our history and our future as occupants of this planet.

Flowers can be strong, blooming under the most difficult conditions, but for all their strength their endurance is naught.  The beautiful colors and delicate forms are fleeting – and it’s the artists job to capture their essence and impression for posterities sake.  To paint every petal and leaf so in the suffocating heat of the summer or bitter cold of the winter we can be reminded of the hope we feel each spring.  It is this need to capture the fleeting beauty that offers artists an endless technical challenge.

This subject lends itself to endless interpretation of form and content.  Hard and soft edges, negative spaces, layers of color and dimension.  Whether you prefer painting detail representations or loose expressive images the subjects of flowers is as diverse as the many flowers in existence.  Kim Gates Flick’s article in last months newsletter discussed subject, form, and content.  Flowers require artists to think about these basic components of art before even picking up a pastel stick; and then demand technical proficiency to capture their true beauty.  A artists we owe it to ourselves and our subject matter to spend time composing our painting before we begin.

Flower paintings may not always get the credit they deserve.  As artists we have the ability to change this.  They are a subject that deserves our attention, either in our own paintings or in viewing and critiquing the work of others.  They deserve our attention for the hope they can convey, and their ability to unite us.  Artists renderings of flowers deserve our attention and honest open evaluation of the visceral impression they leave on us and the acknowledgement of the artists technical challenge in capturing the fleeting beauty of the subject!

The Upside of Accountability
April 2017

Definition of accountability

:  the quality or state of being accountable; especially :  an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.

Accountability in the professional arena can be difficult, it is part of a culture that comes from allowing employees to take ownership, and fostering trust between all levels and departments.  In our personal lives we become overwhelmed with so many responsibilities that we find ourselves letting things slide. However, accountability in art can help us focus and improve our skills.

Some CPPS members have accepted and completed recent daily painting challenges; a one month daily painting challenge and a 7 day completed painted daily challenge. Feedback from these challenges unanimously exalted the merit of accountability.

“Accountability has a clear link to higher performance, and experts indicate that it also results in improved competency and commitment to work, increased morale and satisfaction.”

Challenge participants communicated through email. Email boxes filled up throughout the day with pastel images and information on the paintings. Information that you would expect; paper type, underpainting details and self critiques. There was also information you wouldn’t expect; not feeling well today, this is all I could handle, gloomy weather makes thinking about painting harder – but once I got going it was a great day at the easel, tried a new paper – don’t like it, this underpainting was done with…you get the idea. The emails were very informal and very supportive. The group noticed if someone didn’t post, and checked to make sure everything was ok. That gentle accountability really helped participants work through busy days, head colds and blank pastel paper. Being accountable to provide feedback and observation was as important as posting a pastel painting.

Challenge participants also commented that they looked forward to their time at the easel and the emails.  Due to the closed group nature of email, participants could post unsuccessful attempts with no fears. They were able to openly discuss what was working and what wasn’t.

It is not often that there are parallels between the professional 9-5 grind and our easels, but accountability is one we can all embrace.

Besides the accountability and improved pastel skills, participants also enjoyed being part of a working painting community and are eager for the next challenge and opportunity to work together.

If you have any questions or would like more information about this article, please let me know. I would love to discuss the benefits of a group painting challenge!

Stack The Odds
Successfully enter an art show, exhibition and/or competition
March 2017

The last column of Pastels focused on what judges look for when jurying a show. This installment will look into things you can do to help your work be accepted. Entering shows, exhibitions and competitions is a necessary step for artists who want to be considered serious artists. Acceptance into juried shows and exhibitions helps build your resume and lend credibility to your work, allowing your art career and professional development to progress.

Below are items to keep in mind when entering a show. These tips are a compilation of research with the aim of helping you be successful when entering an art show.

1. Make sure the competition fits your artwork.

It is not beneficial for a pastel artist to enter a show geared towards photography. Although your work may be beautiful and meet the landscape theme advertised it will be rejected because it is not a photograph. Keep in mind that most shows receive many more submissions than they have room to show, so making sure that you are choosing shows that fit your art will increase your odds of success.

2. Follow the organizations rules completely.

Read and understand the prospectus. Fill out the application entirely and legibly. Label your images as requested; often images labeled incorrectly will not make it to the jurors for review, it is critical that this is accurate. Learn how to resize your photos to the organizations requirements. You don’t have to have expensive software like Photoshop or Photo Elements, there are other free programs for this purpose; and Spend time learning how to use these programs so your artwork will get the attention it deserves from the jurors.

3. Submit and Present art that relates.

If you are submitting more than one piece your entries should show a grasp and mastery of one medium and subject. Joanne Fox, an exhibiting artist for 30 years and a juror for such prestigious organizations as the Sausalito Art Festival in California and the American Craft Council, says it’s critical to submit works that relate to one another. “Even if you do different kinds of artwork, such as watercolor, drawing and collage,” says Fox, “you don’t want to present all those media in one show application.”Fox says that artists need to present one strong body of consistent work for the jurors to be able to judge properly. “Everything should relate visually,” she says, “with similar colors and the same style.”

4. Spend time on your artists statement

If asked for an artists statement take the time to write a compelling paragraph that generally introduces your work, inspiration and medium. There is a wealth of information on artist statements online waiting to be googled! Jurors do read these statements and help them get to know you and your artwork.

5. Submit the best representation of actual art

In order for your artwork to be fairly evaluated and judged, the jurors need to be presented an actual representation of the art you have submitted. This is by far the single most important item when entering a show, exhibition or competition. It can also be the hardest.

If possible with a professional photographer, they will be able to capture a realistic representation of the artwork, resize it according to the organizations rules or prospectus and make sure that the photo has been cropped and color corrected. If a professional photographer is not possible, check with the organization you are submitting to, many organizations have directions you can follow to ensure your artwork meets their criteria. If not, follow the general guidelines below.

Take a high resolution photograph 300dpi or higher.

-Often images are projected on a large screen, so it is important your photo will stand up to being enlarged.

Do not photograph framed artwork, the glass will interfere with the picture,

Make sure there is plenty of natural light when photographing your work.

– Natural or indirect light is the best light, it reduces the risk of color cast (yellow or blue whites). Photograph your artwork outside when possible. Make sure there are no hot spots or glare (areas where the color is washed out due to too much light) and no shadows from the camera or photographer.

If photographing inside combine natural light from a large window with overhead lighting. Take several photos some as close as you can get and others back a bit. This will allow you to choose a photo that most closely resembles the original artwork.

Once you have chosen a photo, crop it.

-The jurors want to see nothing but art, crop out any background information. Do not put a white boarder around your work, the jurors may assume this is part of the piece. Cropping can be done on your smartphone or computer photo program.

Resize the photo to the size requested by the organization

– This is very important, don’t over look this step. Software information at the bottom of #2

Submit the photo representation of your masterpiece!

Following these steps should help increase your odds for success when entering shows, exhibitions and/or competitions.

Once you’re accepted 

If you make it into a show, be certain you display your work in a good frame. When jurors are awarding prizes, Gregg Hertzlieb, director of the Brauer Museum of Art in Valparaiso, Indiana emphasizes that, beyond the quality of the work itself, presentation really counts. “There’s often a jarring disconnect between the work and the way it’s framed,” says Hertzlieb. “Once I sat on a jury that was determining the fate of a really charming folk art painting, but it was surrounded by an elaborate French-style frame. Those two things together canceled each other out.” Hertzlieb, suggests artists find a framer they trust, or at least another artist who’s able to offer a critical eye.

Dealing with Rejection

After the art show opens, always try to view the art that was accepted into that show and be as objective as possible with yourself (or have an knowledgeable art friend assist you) as to the possible reasons why your work was not accepted. It may not have been the quality of your art, but it may have been one of the other reasons, as stated above. Jurors look for a lot of different things when putting a show together. Often times, the consideration of how a show will “hang together” becomes more important than a juror’s feelings about one particular piece. In other cases, size or media restrictions eliminate pieces that otherwise would be chosen. In the end, there is no way to predict how or why a juror picks specific pieces. Give yourself the credit you deserve for putting your work out there, and don’t ever stop trying!


The Pastel Journal Guide to Entering Juried Shows

Five Tips for Getting into Juried Art Shows

Facebook Skin

What Do Judges Look For
February 2017

2017 is well underway now and because we all know how time fly’s, perhaps, this is the perfect time to talk about this summer and fall! Our pastel society will be having two shows in 2017; a juried art show in August and a members show in October. These are great opportunities for individual artists and our organization – recruiting new members, helping current members and building community relationships. As an organization, we want to represent all of our members and make sure everyone has the chance to show and submit entries. Also, we want to show the community our best, help them understand our mission and unite pastel artists in our area. With that in mind, knowing that putting our ‘best’ work forward isn’t as easy as it sounds, I decided to delve into what judges look for in show entries. The difference between the artist and judges’ impression of their work is interesting. Often, what we think is our best, because of a personal connection, does not resonate with others. So, how can we critically look at our own work?

Research showed, there is a repeated theme of elements to concentrate on. The top three things judges look for when viewing art for a show;

  • Composition – Any one or combination of
    • ⁃  Design
    • ⁃  Value
    • ⁃  Color
  • Strong focus and/or idea – draw them in through the subject or idea
  • Freshness – Incorporates
    • ⁃  passion – feel that the artist had to paint the subject
    • ⁃  excitement – the physical draw to the painting
    • ⁃  breathing room, areas for the eyes to rest as they move around the imageOther elements that were repeated in the research;

• Mood – keep it consistent


  • Consistency of Style – if you’re working in an impressionistic style use it through out the entire piece
  • Technical ProficiencyWith regard to technical proficiency, the research strongly indicated this was looked at last. Technical proficiency does not necessarily make a great painting, and in reverse, lack of technical mastery does not always distract from a great painting. Good news for us beginners as we work to master our medium!One great thought from artist, Bill Hosner, is that when you think about showing some of your work, show a few people – your ‘test market’. These can be people who know you and your work, have been following you, and are not necessarily artists. If you hear ‘Wow’ and there is much discussion, then you have some great pieces. If you hear ‘thats nice’ or ‘I like that’, then maybe those shouldn’t get entered. He also suggested asking artists you associate with direct questions, like, “is the composition strong” or “are the colors balanced”. This can begin a real discussion about the technical aspects of the work.A couple other items of note;
    Everything I read reiterated to keep entering shows. Rejection at one doesn’t mean rejection at another. Many of these shows have several hundred submissions, even thousands. Rejection doesn’t mean your work isn’t good. The judges could have just viewed hundreds of works before yours and were tired.
    In order to be competitive in front of the judges, your submission photo has to be professional. Judges look at each submission for an average of 3 seconds. If a poor quality photo is submitted, you don’t stand a chance. March’s column will focus entirely on photographing your work, it’s importance and tips on how to do it.

    Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this column, would like more information and source material or have any questions.

Pushing Pastels
January 2017

Stacy Mayou

It isn’t as easy as you might think to come up with a name for a monthly column in a pastel newsletter. At this point we will stick with the Latin word for pastel – pastellus – because it’s fun to say and because it is the beginning of written history – not pastels, just words.

The beginning of pastels goes back to pre-historic cave paintings in southern France, Spain and South Africa. The first popular pastel artist was Rosalba Carreira, born in 1675 in France. She used rubbing and blending to achieve a soft delicate feeling.

Carreira – Maria


Carreira – Head of a girl


There were several other pastel artists of note including Maurice Quentin de La Tour who advanced the art of pastel with the use of brilliant color and texture, La Tour is credited for inspiring Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin. Chardin used pastels early in his career and believed pastels had no equal for freshness and spontaneity, but in the end, he ‘gave in and painted

oil’ ( as pastels faded from popularity. Returning to pastels at the end of his career and was very successful with them.

Chardin – Still Life with tin, glazed jar, fruit and bottle


Chardin – Self Portrait

Seventy-five years would pass before pastels came into popularity again-during the impressionist era. Which brings us to Edgar Degas who deserves an afternoon (at least) of googling. He not only used the medium for it’s ability to convey light and atmosphere, but he greatly expanded pastels range through experimentation. He mixed pastels with paints, steamed them, dipped them in solutions and fixed layers. He experimented with surfaces as well, canvas, board, card board and paper, all the time pushing his art to the next level, combining drawing and painting, constructed images, and illustrations. Thanks to Degas, ‘pastel was no longer considered a pale, pallid medium’ (Historical Foundations of Pastel)


Degas – Dancer with Bouquet


Degas – The Tub

Of course the history of pastels continues and I could go on for days. This is a column, so I won’t, but it is well worth an afternoon on the computer looking at the history and the masters who used pastels. Not only does the understanding of our mediums’ history help us speak more effectively about our art, it inspires us to experiment with our medium, techniques and our perspective.

Speaking effectively about the medium we work in and love not only pushes us in our pursuits, it helps us inspire other creative minds and awaken others to a medium not often recognized by those outside of the art community.

A Real Challenge
December 2016

In December it is hard to see January coming at us. It always happens, on December 27th we bolt upright in bed at 4:03am, breathing heavy, sweating a little – the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge starts in 5 days and we aren’t ready. So much to do; need adequate supplies on hand, plenty of study images and of course coffee and massive quantities of chocolate.

Then, January 1st, we roll out of bed at 8:35, head pounding, stiff, in a fog. All we can think about is eggs on toast with mayonnaise and cheese – lots of cheese. By 2pm the fog is lifting and we realize we have to go back to work tomorrow; the house is a disaster, half Christmas leftovers, half New Years Eve dishes, and a basket full of dirty laundry. This is when we remember that our 30-in-30 challenge starts today, we go green around the gills and our knees are suddenly a bit weak.

Ok, survived the first few crazy days of January and now we are happily painting one painting a day. Sipping our coffee in one hand and blending pastels with the other. It is kind of nice to make time for ourselves and our art work.

Come on! Get Real! NICE? Is that what you want? NICE?

How about a real challenge this year, really push yourself and your limits. Expand your abilities and your confidence with a painting Marathon! Oil painter Marc Hanson has done 4 of these challenges, 4 paintings a day for the entire month. In an interview with John Pototschnik ( he explains “Without a doubt the month long painting ‘marathons’ that I’ve done, painting everyday for the entire month, 4 paintings a day, have done the most for my technique, for my outlook on what I choose to paint, and for my endurance as a painter. Those intense months of nothing but painting, all day long, have done more than anything else I’ve done to advance my painting skills. It only makes sense that it would. You have to paint when you don’t want to, when you’re tired, wet, cold, out of ideas, thinking that there’s no way that you’re going to be able to see one more painting, ever. That personal challenge really stretched my chops. I’ve done four of those now, and I would say that with each one I could viscerally feel the steps forward that my painting took.”

How wonderful to really challenge ourselves, to have to paint when we don’t want to, to have to find subject matter to paint that isn’t comfortable. Image how it would truly advance you as an artist. Now, I am really not suggesting 4 paintings a day, although, I do think that is a great goal. But think for a minute if 1 painting a day is really a challenge for you, is painting the same subject matter you normally paint a real challenge? Does it push your ability, grow your confidence? If after careful consideration of your circumstances and artistic goals you answered yes then please complete the 30-in-30 challenge, if you answered no or were inspired by Marc Hanson’s personal challenge then create your own challenge this year. Step out of your comfort zone and see where it takes you – the options are limitless!

The object is to truly challenge yourself.

Get your supplies and your studio space ready now, don’t wait until December 27th. Start on January 2nd or 3rd, so you can completely enjoy the holidays. Remember, reward only comes from Practice, Patience and Perseverance.

Seasons Greeting