Dreamy Drifting at Malibu Creek – new painting art by Karen Winters

“Dreamy Drifting at Malibu Creek” – 11 x 14 – pastel on board

Today I had the pleasure of taking a workshop with master pastellist Bruce Trentham, and this was the result. I had missed a demo by him several months ago, so this was a good opportunity to see him at work.

It was surprisingly similar to working in oil – much more than watercolor. The pigment is formed into sticks rather than being applied with a brush, but the manner of working – from dark to light and using opaque layers in a series of refinements and corrections – felt very familiar.

I think that I will be exploring pastel more – not to the exclusion of oil and watercolor, of course – but as a way to treat a subject quickly and in a painterly way.

When it comes right down to it, most of painting is about composition, value, shape, color and so forth. Whether one uses a brush or a pastel stick is not the main thing – and the principles of painting are the same for all color media that I’ve experienced so far.

For this painting I used a variety of different brands of pastel – from hard square ones to extremely soft and buttery ones. Pastel pencils helped with ome of the fine line work of the branches.

And yes, a pastel work is generally called a painting, not a drawing!


  1. Sherry
    May 24, 2008

    The water here is really good. Gosh you seem to be a versatile artist.

  2. wendy
    May 24, 2008

    I used to do a lot of pastels on coloured paper, but these days I have trouble getting fine lines. Peceli has been having a go lately and oh, he does get into a mess. Fortunately he bought some fixing spray that helps settle the dust a bit.

  3. nina johansson
    May 25, 2008

    Beautiful work, Karen, I love this! I like it so much when you can see the “brushstrokes” like this. This landscape is very much alive, you can feel the wind going through the grass in the foreground.

  4. Luba
    May 25, 2008

    This is beaurtiful. The ripples and reflections in the water look so real.. Nice color combination in the surrounding landscape. Glad you had the opportunity to participate in the workshop.

  5. E-J
    May 25, 2008

    Your pastel is gorgeous!

  6. Cathy (Kate) Johnson
    May 25, 2008

    I love the distant trees standing out against the shadowed hill…just lovely!

  7. Jennifer Lawson
    May 25, 2008

    Beautiful painting, Karen. I love all the texture and movement from the strokes. Is it oil pastel?

  8. Katherine Tyrrell
    May 25, 2008

    Very nice Karen – you should do more work in pastels. I think the drawing/painting things is a bit dependent on the degree of finish and not everybody agrees. I’d just find it simpler to call it ‘work’ if it weren’t for keywords!

  9. Casey
    May 25, 2008

    The way I’ve heard it explained, a pastel painting is where the whole surface is covered in pastel, a drawing has bland space on the page.
    This is a beautiful one – it looks like you’ve been working in this medium for a long time!

  10. Eva
    May 25, 2008

    Beautiful — dreamy in truth!

  11. Karen
    May 25, 2008

    Thanks, everyone – to answer some questions …

    Jennifer – it is dry pastel – the kind made with pure pigment and a chalky binder, not oil pastel.

    Katherine – I quite agree – “work” is easier.

    Casey – that’s an interesting definition – coverage of the paper determining drawing or painting. Good to keep in mind, thanks.

    Wendy – I find that I can get the fine lines with a broken edge of a pastel – or occasionally using a pastel pencil.

  12. Pat
    May 25, 2008

    This is just great. Every time I see your blog in my email I know that it will be something special. This is particularly a surprise, as I also have been using pastels for several months. Now I am really hooked. Check out my new blog http://www.paselpat.blogspot.com for some of my new work. I agree with everything you have said about the medium and love the way you have said it. Will give your blog address to some of the ladies in my class. Happy pastel painting.

    PS any hints about keeping it fixed on the surface. I use pastel paper but using the pastel like paint means a lot of pigment that does not always stay where you want it. Espcially plein air with a lot of wind. Any help is appreciated.

  13. Karen
    May 25, 2008

    Pat, regarding getting it fixed, it was suggested to use a very very light spray of fixative, not too much nor too close. I tried it and it helped somewhat. I don’t want to take the chance of changing the hue or texture so i will not spray too much.

  14. Nancy Patterson
    May 28, 2008

    This is just beautifuly Karen! I would be interested to know what pastels you chose to bring–brand, colors, shades, tints, etc. I love pastels, but I tend to want to bring ALL of them outside for plein aire work.

    What do you do????

    Pastels are a nice diversion from oils, yet the work flow is very similar. I know many plein air artists who traditionally do both. Have you ever gone out to Wet Canvas in the Plein Aire forum????? You would love it!

    Another plein aire lover in NE Wisconsin,


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