Monday, August 03, 2015

Pastelmat vs Uart Paper ...Test Results

'Sanibel is Calling'            8x10            pastel            ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting $145
Let's go to the beach this week!  I am taking a short break from my Europe trip report to spend some family time at the beach. It is always wonderful to visit one of my favorite places...Sanibel Island in SW Florida. I've painted the beaches of Sanibel many times. In fact when I first started painting, most of my paintings were of beaches and shorebirds. (that is another story!)

Ive been cleaning my studio and came across two paintings of the same scene. I do that often if I am drawn to a place. But I noticed something interesting right away. Even though the paintings were from the exact same photo reference and had a very similar palette.....they appear quite different.

Look carefully at each painting and notice the differences....some subtle.

'In Search of Shells'               10x15           pastel          $165
 What did you notice?

  • The top painting appears to have more texture.
  • The marks in the top painting seem to be applied with a lighter touch.
  • The top painting has more evidence of layering...the colors underneath are visible
  • The top painting feels more painterly and delicate.
  • The painting at the bottom seems bolder
  • The marks in the bottom painting are heavier and seem to be applied with more force
  • The bottom painting has a variety of colors but the layering isn't as obvious.
  • The bottom paintings seems smoother overall.
Did you notice anything else? Why are they so different? It is because of the paper!
The top painting was done on UArt 400 grit sanded pastel paper. The bottom painting was done on a gray piece of Pastelmat sanded paper. Paper choice does make a difference!

This was not really an official paper test. It wasn't intentional but the results give me food for thought. I happen to love both brands of paper. But I have discovered that my painting approach is different when I work on Pastelmat. This paper takes a lot of layers but I don't usually do many layers on it. I love the way it grabs the pastel and keeps it in it's place. It lends itself to bolder and more direct work.

Conclusion: If I am feeling bold, fearless and want to paint directly with no fiddling I turn to Pastelmat. If I want to play with layering and interplay of color or create texture, I turn to UArt.

What do you like or dislike about either of these papers?

Make time to paint this summer! Save 25% on my digital demo PDFs this week only. Paint along with me in these step by step demos. Available in my Etsy shop. See them all here.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Food and Friends....Impressions of France part 8

'On the Way to Normandy'             6x8           pastel           ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting here $75
It was billed as a painting expedition. The artists who join a Painter's Passport trip can expect to make forever memories. Yes we paint and work on becoming better artists. But we also explore and get to know the country we visit. We live as locals and cooking our own local foods.

In the end it probably won't be the paintings I did that I will most remember. It will be the friendships I made.  They will forever color my memories of my trip to France. We came together as strangers for the most part (some of us were alumni from other PP trips) but in 10 short days we left as good friends.

Bonds were made through art. We supported one another, painted together, learned together. Bonds were also formed over food. What would a French trip report be without mentioning food!

Our welcome to Normandy dinner
I enjoyed my meals in Paris though jet lag prevented me from fully indulging. When we arrived in Normandy, Stan had reserved a room in a wonderful little seaside restaurant. It was amazing. The food was delicious and it was truly fine art.

My selection was awesome!
Meals were taken together in our big house. It was often a group effort with some wonderful food prepared. I thoroughly enjoyed the plentiful baguettes and croissants! It is always fun to discover new and different foods.

Cory and Frances cook a big breakfast for the gang

Gathering around the table for lunch
We were lucky that the weather cooperated for the most part for the workshop part of the trip. We did have one rainy day and we painted inside but otherwise the weather was great for painting....not too hot or windy or buggy! If anything it was a little chilly at times. We enjoyed the area around our house so much that we decided to forgo a day trip to stay home and paint!  

Stan leads the group...learning how to see and become better painters

My turn...after lunch entertainment!
Food and friends. This is the stuff that make for the best memories. Our 10 days in France went by quickly but there were days where time seemed to stand still. These moments I savored. I was fully present and will always remember the sweetness.

Special friends
One in a million

Chocolat at Mont St Michel

The best pastry ever!

Canadian friends enjoying a Paris breakfast

I hope you have enjoyed my trip report of France. After 10 days we returned to Paris and the Charles de Gaulle airport. My adventure was not yet over though. I was on my way to Sweden! My report on Sweden will continue after a short beach break! Stay tuned!

Make time to paint this summer! Save 25% on my digital demo PDFs this week only. Paint along with me in these step by step demos. Available in my Etsy shop. See them all here.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Beaches of Normandy ...Impressions of France part 7

'Peace'                8x10              pastel                ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase $150
We were in Normandy. The connection we have to this place was palpable.  From the US, Canadian and British flags flying alongside the French flag to the expressions of gratitude from the locals, it was hard not to be reminded of history....of D-Day. Even at the manor, a mile form the beach we imagined what it must have felt like to be in the village of Meuvaines during the invasion. Was the home used for the war effort?  We were reminded of history everyday. We felt it and it became real.

D-day was no longer just a movie or a book. The evidence was all around us. It was incredibly moving and emotional to stand on those peaceful ... and imagine the bravery of those who fought.

'Normandy Beach Impressions I'            5x7         plein air    $75

 We took a day to visit the beaches of Normandy and pay our respects. We began with a stop at Juno beach. This was the Canadian beach and since there were four Canadians in our group it was important to visit.  Here in an excerpt from

"On D-Day, June 6, 1944, “Operation Overlord”, the long-awaited invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, began with Allied armies from the U.S., Britain and Canada landing on the coast of Normandy. On D-Day, the 3rdCanadian Infantry Division landed on Juno Beach. The Canadian assault troops stormed ashore in the face of fierce opposition from German strongholds and mined beach obstacles. The soldiers raced across the wide-open beaches swept with machine gun fire, and stormed the gun positions. In fierce hand-to-hand fighting, they fought their way into the towns of Bernières, Courseulles and St. Aubin and then advanced inland, securing a critical bridgehead for the allied invasion. The victory was a turning point in World War II and led to the liberation of Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany."

Juno Beach

Next we stopped at the American Cemetery memorial.  The cemetery sits high on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. I was surprised at how high the bluff was. It was hard to imagine what it must have been like on D-Day. Seeing it firsthand was sobering.  Hearing the bells toll and seeing the rows and rows of crosses and stars was difficult. It was not an easy visit but I am glad we did it.

The bluff overlooking Omaha Beach

"There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: 
those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here."
Colonel George A. Taylor - 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division

For an interesting read about the beaches of Normandy and the D-Day invasion check out this article from the Smithsonian Magazine. Click here to read. 

The beaches of Normandy are now at peace. They are some of the most beautiful stretches of sand and sea that I have ever seen. Children now splash in the surf and play in the sand. Artists come to paint. I never really had Normandy on my bucket list but it now holds a special place in my heart and soul.

Make time to paint this summer! Save 25% on my digital demo PDFs this week only. Paint along with me in these step by step demos. Available in my Etsy shop. See them all here.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dancing in the Wheat Fields...Impressions of France part 6

'Dancing at the Edge'               8x10               pastel            ©Karen Margulis
 I wasn't really expecting wheat fields. I was hoping for poppies and flax and maybe even some canola fields. In the end the wheat fields won me over. Our home in Meuvaines France was right in the middle of rolling wheat fields that seemed to go on for miles.   Stepping outside the manor you could choose any direction and within a few steps you would be in the midst of the magic.

How can wheat be magical? Individually they are as interesting as any flower. But there is more to it as I discovered on my daily walk through these fields.

See for yourself. Have a look at this short video clip taken on one of my evening walks. Listen to the wind and watch the wheat dance.


It wasn't just the wheat that was magical. It was the setting and the light. Every time I set off down the dirt road leading up through the fields it was different. The light was special. Sometimes the wheat seemed to glow with the evening sun. It is interesting to note that the magic hour in June lasted for hours. The best light was in the evening after dinner. The best time for an evening walk was around 8:00pm. The sun didn't set until around 10:00! Our evening walks became something I looked forward to. 

Just outside our door

This is a tree with character!

Walking up the gentle hill we would pass a large area of Queen Anne's Lace dancing at the edge of the wheat. (the subject of today's painting) Then we passed a lone tree, a sentinel on the way to the top. I took many photos of this very interesting tree.

At the top of the hill the dirt road intersected with a paved road. Within a mile this road would take you to the beach. The view from the top was unexpected and breathtaking. Perched above the village and our cows we could see for miles. In the distance the sea beckoned. It was amazing!

The sea in the distance

Of course, being in the middle of this magic inspired us to paint the wheat fields. I set up at the edge of the field to paint several studies. This experience only clarified the experience. I was officially in love with wheat!

I did discover a few lingering poppies. My poppy fields would come later in my journey.

Painting notes: Today's painting is on Uart 400 with an alcohol wash underpainting. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Cows Next Door ....Impressions of France part 5

'The Cow Next Door'           5x7         pastel             ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase here $95
***Note...if you got an earlier post with an ad or link don't click on it! I was hacked! I apologize!**

There was a certain fascination with the cows. They were exceptionally pretty cattle and very photogenic. But more than that I think it was the magical setting that made them so appealing. We all fell in love with the French cows of Meuvaines. 

We were surrounded by pastures and wheat fields. It was the ultimate fairytale bucolic setting. Old stone and stucco farmhouses on quiet dirt lanes that led past the meadows filled with fat and happy cows. No matter what road you chose you would see them and hear their moos and bellows and snorts and grunts. Cow sounds along with the buzzing of bees made up the soundtrack for our week in the country.

We didn't want to leave our cows. Like them, we were quite content staying near the Manoir St. Paul.

They posed for us!

'The Cow Next Door II'             5x7         pastel          $95

Kathryn makes friends in the back pasture

Curious Cows

After observing them for a few days and taking many many photos, I was compelled to paint them. Painting cattle en plein air can be a challenge. They don't often stay still long enough. It becomes a matter of capturing their gesture. I worked quickly and blocked in the large shapes with a dark value. I then quickly moved to a middle value and finally the lights. I painted the background last.

It was simply my impression of the cows in the meadow. I could have painted them all week long!

'The Cows of Meuvaines'   5x7   plein air pastel    $95

Not all of the cattle were sweet and gentle. There were several pastures that were home to some very large (in every way) bulls. Several of the artists in the group had some close encounters with one bull in particular. His pasture was next to the church. It was the ideal location for painting the church but the bull made that a dangerous proposition.

Watch out Stan! This bull means business!
 I probably took over 100 photos of our cows. Yes there was a fascination with them but they added the spice in a very peaceful and beautiful landscape. They will certainly be the subject of many more paintings.

Early morning frisky cows

 Today's paintings are 5x7 on Sennelier LaCarte paper with a mix of pastels, mostly Terry Ludwigs. Visit my Facebook page on Thursday to see step by step photos of the paintings. Be sure to 'like' the page while you are there!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Haunted Manor... Impressions of France part 4

'Laundry at the Manor'            6x8             pastel              ©Karen Margulis
It would be our home for the week. It was better than any grand hotel. Maybe it was a little rough around the edges but it oozed character. The Manoir St. Paul will forever remain in my memory....for many reasons. Manoir St Paul is a large manor home constructed in the 18th century. It was large enough to comfortably house all of the artists in our Painter's Passport group with room to spare.

The Manoir St Paul. My room is the window on the top left
The house was full of nooks and crannies. The nooks and crannies were filled with an odd assortment os stuff....a military hat collection. Old trunks full of costumes. Bookshelves filled with books in French of course. China cabinets with very old china. Lots of stuff to explore. 

The house was old and it looked as though it had seen a lot. The stone steps were well worn. I imagined the many footsteps that went up and down these stairs. There were 38 steps. I know because my roommate Elinros counted them. We were on the third floor....up these stone steps and some very creaky wooden steps. It was always a good idea to bring everything needed for the day down to breakfast!

The back of the manor opens up to a large field and pastures
The house was interesting to say the least and the grounds were even more interesting. There was a large courtyard filled with roses and calla lilies. There was a greenhouse and and a big garage full of more odd things. And there was a wonderful little laundry house. I'm not sure what it was used for originally  but it now housed the washer and dryer. I found this little house to be most interesting. Especially in the late afternoon light. (which by the way happened around 9:00 pm!)  This little house just glowed. I chose to paint this little building a few times.

The best thing about Manoir St. Paul was it's location in the wonderful little town called Meuvaines. Meuvaines is in Lower Normandy. It has a church. That's about all. There are a some homes and lots of pastures full of cows (and bulls). All is surrounded by wheat fields. Miles of wheat fields. I loved Meuvaines!

Welcome to Meuvaines!

The view of Meuvaines from one of the wheat fields. 
 There is something else about our home. We weren't the only ones living at the Manoir St. Paul. In the beginning of the week we joked about it. It sure looked and felt like it could be haunted. But as the week progressed it became clear to many of us. We were not alone.

We heard her several times. Elinros heard her one night. She told me she spoke to her and that the spirit was a good spirit. The next night I hear humming.  Everyone was sleeping though. Pastels were moved mysteriously and window shutters slammed shut with no wind. Oddly I wasn't afraid ... even up in the attic room. Perhaps she was an artist.

Staying in a haunted manor certainly added to my experience in France. It was a great week here and I will share some of our adventures in the next installment. And by the way, this would not be my last brush with spirits on this trip.

The only photo I have of my room. One of the artists checks out our view.

The view from our room. In the distance we could see the sea...the English Channel.
 If you would like to see my video tour of our manor home, check out my Youtube video. Click here.

Today's painting is 6x8 on watercolor paper with orange toned pumice surface.