Heading into Fall

The year of COVID… what happened to Summer? or Spring for that matter?! Next week is the official start of the Fall season and time is just passing.

Because I participated in an online workshop with pastelist Karen Margulis end of August I plan to now put into practice some of the underpainting techniques she featured in her lessons.

We had three assignments based on three 2 hour videos; the first was the lesson that helped to understand color values, this was a primary goal of the workshop for me.

Provincetown Dunes
soft pastel on UArt
9” x 12”
Simple thumbnail sketch

We used our own photos and started with a thumbnail sketch. I picked one color in 4 values to use for a dry pastel underpainting.

Dry pastel underpainting on UArt 400 paper

Once the underpainting values were established, I spread pastels using a piece of foam insulation.

Single color with 4 values, dry underpainting

Karen had sent us “goody bag” items, and I taped the value arrow on the right side of my board as a reminder – color becomes lighter, cooler, fuzzier, duller as you work further in the distance… I needed to remember this as I started to build up color.


The second assignment began with a Notan thumbnail sketch, the concept of notan is simply to establish a black and white composition (the yin and yang). This sharp contrast allows for a more dramatic painting result.

soft pastel on UArt
9” x 12”

One of the important reminders from this lesson was that I have the artistic license to make changes and alter my photos in any way I see fit. I decided to add to the drama by creating a lone tree against the energy of the clouds and tall marsh grasses. Can you feel the wind?!

Another goody bag item from Karen was the yellow button you see on the top left side of my board, this was a reminder to think about the direction of the light source.

Notan underpainting on UArt 400

The third assignment may have been the easiest for me. I basically went with my instincts as we started with a watercolor underpainting. I reminded myself to work with complimentary colors and value shifts.

Dune Pathway
soft pastel on UArt
9” x 12”

It was important to me to change up the solid mass of green bushes even though the actual photo was a whole lot of green!

Photo used for Dune Pathway
Watercolor underpainting on UArt 400

All three underpainting techniques are exciting to me and I look forward to experimenting further, I will also be working on underpainting using clear gesso, oil paint, and encaustic as I pursue my love of mixed media with pastels and landscape painting.