Pastel Painting | The Three Stages

Artists come into their own personal technique and style with time. These cannot be purchased at the local art store but must develop through practice. Working with artists that we admire helps greatly by introducing us to their processes. Instead of studying just the finished painting, we get to witness the steps employed, allowing us to emulate and assimilate into our individual persona what works for us. Step-by-step printed demonstrations, DVD instructional presentations, public demonstrations, workshops, and ongoing classes all provide a means of seeing these techniques put in action.


The "stage one" sketch on UART pastel paper.

Over my 38 years of painting, I’ve worked in a variety of styles and techniques, and while I don’t know what the future might hold, I’ve developed three stages in my painting process that allow me to have better focus and control today. I refer to them as “The Three S’s: Sensitivity, Serendipity and Solution.”

Sensitivity: This first stage represents the concept and plan. This is where the idea and desire to paint is thought out. The compositional elements of shape, direction, and value are all analyzed in preparation for painting

Serendipity: The second stage represents the setup and underpainting. It’s where the mechanics of the technique are setup, often with a playful underpainting technique. The visual phenomenon of simultaneous contrast, atmospheric perspective, and edges are manipulated at this stage in advance of the final pastel application.


The "stage 2" underpainting in watercolor.


The final pastel painting.

Solution: The third stage represents the response and resolution. This is where a response is made to the second stage and hopefully by referencing the first stage a successful resolution can be accomplished. The painter gets to orchestrate all the elements of edge, value, and color as a means to facilitate the end result.

These stages are not meant to be a formula as to how to paint, but more of a staged progression to a successful outcome.

On November 30, at 1 pm (Eastern time), the kind folks at F+W Media—the company behind The Pastel Journal, North Light Books and the North Light Shop—will be hosting an online event with me on the subject of the three stages. “Three Stages for Successful Pastel Paintings” will be a free one-hour LIVE webinar event, in which I’ll share excerpts from my new book, Pastel Pointers: Top Secrets for Beautiful Pastel Paintings (on sale now in the North Light Shop). It will wrap up with a question-and-answer session during which you’ll have an opportunity to pose your questions.

You must register to participate. To do so, go to:

I look forward to sharing this hour with as many of you as can make it. And thank you to F+W Media for making it possible.


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