Tag: Pastels

Sketching, Life and Nature

Sketching, Life and Nature

What is she  gazing down upon?

What is she,  thinking and what is she feeling?

By inferring, or hinting at things  just outside their view,   my objective is to engage the viewer more.


sketches pastel, natural poses, soft portrait drawing, limit palette for impact, debiriley.com
Sketches natural life poses … 5 minute fast and loose



Sketches Fast and Loose

Photographs often, though not always,  spell out a subject with exact precision.  Recording textures, veins, size, color, width, weight. Documenting location, species and the individual. And some types… of art styles do as well.

Which is great, when that is what is called for.  When that is the feeling you are wanting to convey.

A cataloguing of the details.


However,  its different with fast,  five or ten minute sketches.

Sketches done on the fly, capture the mood and essence of the thing.

Conveying the ‘feeling.’

Impressionistic.  Interpretive.


Embracing  Simplicity.

Rather than struggling to achieve 5 star wonders with  ‘complexities.’




Natural Poses

I feel,  Subjects are more authentic, truer to their essence,  when at rest.  At ease.

When allowed to be in a natural setting.

In nature.  Out in the forest,  sitting amongst the rocks and logs.  Being at home upon the banks of the river.

These poses,  can give the viewer  more.   Whether its in the form of photography, sketches, drawings, paintings, or other art forms.


This sketch, reflects this.

The limited palette of earthy browns and forest green, simple yet sufficient.  Hinting at woodland themes.   My subject sat leaned up against the tree logs and branches, head tucked.

Maybe she was the young mother, or older sister, or aunt. Who knows?   But she kept an eye on the child in pink.    An active one at that.

The hike there,  to the bridge was fun.  OK  a challenge!  But obviously, the child in pink still had plenty of go.  Her watcher…. not so much.  I smiled.


pastel portrait sketch, 5 minute portrait pastel, debiriley.com
Matted Pastel    –         “downward  gaze”


Using this format, and this pose as well  “downward gaze”   shifts the viewers minds.   To make them, ponder a bit.


Make the Viewer … Wonder

Take the viewer out of the little box where it is all explained already and nothing has been left unsaid.  Take them out the world they are currently in,  and help them to imagine the world this subject resides in.

Allude to mysteries and things around the corner.

Hint of magic yet to come.


Contemplations  of the River



If a book has been so well explained and summarized, there is nothing new or exciting left to be revealed by looking further in the book,  we will not.

So too with our art.

With our paintings, sketches, drawings, photographs.  We will look for the exact time that it takes to define the plot.

And then, we move on. Period.


I think,  as an artist,  I prefer to try to keep the viewer wondering. Just a bit.

Wandering through the scene, through the book… looking for, more.





Riverside… child at play



I do not, want my art to be ‘all spelled out’ and perfectly revealed in every fine detail.

No.  I’d like there to be a lovely fusion of lots of soft edges tempered with just the right balance of  crisp edges to draw the eye.   With warm colors telling you what is front, and cool paler colors speaking of far distant things.  Lines that are curved to soften  the mood,  with diagonal directionals for subtle hints of movements.

I’d like my sketches to be authentic.  My art to be original, and real. And me.


I aspire to keep my viewers, wandering through my artwork.


Realising,  of course,  not all are going to be lovely frame worthy pieces. Thats ok.


I’d much rather you, let your imagination free and loose;  than for me to have a frame worthy work every time.





Drawing… upon the child within

Drawing… upon the child within


Maybe its as easy, as simple as drawing like a child again.  The pure unfettered self expressive freedom a child unleashes while drawing and creating is a joy to watch.

I believe I received just as much happiness from the watching as my granddaughter did as she created this.

Unfettered by rules, by expectations, by popular demands.

Yes, that is what art means….. for me.  And is what I encourage with such enthusiasm.



draw like a child, creative drawing, drawing with creativity and imagination, debiriley.com
Draw Like A Child…. free, expressive. happy!



Draw Like A Child

Draw like a child…. free of fear.


Picasso knew a bit about returning to the enchantment of childhood in order to create from within.


Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.



Its this,  drawing like a child, creating from within,  that is our True North.



The Story Line


once upon a time, when we first beheld the world

through our childhood eyes –


and the world was lovely

and we were happy


with the joy of a crayon in hand

we scrawled big splashes across the pages

as our mothers

proudly smiled with encouragement

and enthusiasm



but then we went to school

we learned to stay in the lines


we learned that the sky


the grass WAS GREEN


we learned there were

no dragons, no easter bunnies, no santas, no angels, no knights


we learned our ABC’s

and about those frightening  F’s



we went to work

and learned to toe the line


to cease our daydreaming,

to always pay attention

to The Bottom Line



we learned there were bills to pay,

family to feed,

and there was never enough  time



then if we were fortunate,

we retired



we dusted off the old brushes,

took out the faded paints and charcoals


and wondered….


did all our freedom go,

what happened to our creativity



why did the magic disappear?



The Artist Within – Hope, Encouragement, Freedom

This is the story line, over and over, of so many people who come to art classes.

I felt compelled to try to put their stories into words for all of us. To examine the issue closer.


It is not a case of “not being talented” or gifted.

It is not about “being no good”  as I’ve heard as well.


It is I think,  more like we need some word of hope, of encouragement from someone to get us started on our journeys.

Plus,  we Do need to throw out ‘perfection’ and return to a more childlike creative state.



See – Burn – Free 

When we return to looking, to seeing with our child’s eye, our imaginations and creativity will be restored to us.

When we toss away the school master’s lecture notes and burn them for the illusion they are;

we free our Imaginations.


“perfection is an illusion.”

Merely …..  a convenient measuring stick which others can be graded by,  judged by, monitored, labelled and dismissed by.



I so agree.

(Unless…..  you are a surgeon. or in another life and death profession.  then I advocate as much perfection as is possible. please.)

The world doesn’t require abstract expressionist surgeons.




But I believe it does need us to once again see the magic.

To see the dragons, santas, angels, bunnies and knights.

Even if they are only within our enchanted imaginations.




A warm thank you to  Andrew Seal at  thechangingpalette.com  for his humorous  “abstract expressionist surgeon”  phrase.  I found it wonderful, funny & handy!  Plus, if you check out his website – you’ll discover not only humor in his posts, but some of the most expressive work with ink, pen and brush.  Ink work that is not tight,  nor stiff at all.  But very free and gestural, with lovely rhythm.   the changingpalette.com

Gorgeous Gardens in Purples

Gorgeous Gardens in Purples

Gardens teeming with rich color and growing wild.  Audacious. Bold. Flamboyant.

These white gum branches with violet hued leaves in the wildling gardens,  look surreal against the mango backdrop.


Lavender purple leaves in digital painting, purple garden foliage, debiriley.com
Branch in My Garden



Purple Gardens



Its a Different way to seeing the garden.

Imagine and Create.



Envisioning.  Imagining color schemes.


Making the vision come to be.



Purple foliage leaves in the garden, digital art painting purple, debi riley art, leaf patterns
Purple Foliage


Loud Ladies of Vibrant Violet,   rise from the garden floor to take the stage!

Magnificently lined,  these boldly patterned leaves  are accented with small dollops of teal.





Posts on Garden themes

Waiting on a Friend 

Monet’s Garden 

The Neighbor’s Garden 



Posts on Purple Themes

Purple Vibrant 

Magical Violet 


Lavender Winters Glow 




Gardens come in many colors and in many forms.   But, today’s gardens come to you in a tropical style,  lavender purple on mango!



Pastel Mark Making

Pastel Mark Making

Vibrant, vivid, versatile!  Pastels,  actually  the  “Soft Pastels”   are brilliant learning tools for the beginner.  Why?  Their soft edges.  Their mark making power.   Combined with their sensitivity and their  immense range of techniques they can perform.    Amazing Pastels.

unison pastel landscape at dusk, mark making with pastels, debi riley art paintings, beginner drawing pastels, debiriley.com
Pastel Landscape at Dusk










A closer detail of the mark making line work of the pastels.

Mark Making with Unison Pastels, debi riley, beginners painting drawing tips, jacksonsart.com, debiriley.com
Pastel Mark Making





Soft Pastels

Today’s art time was spent using the soft pastels to lay down a foundation of warmth and creating some free, Expressive…… ‘wandering’  lines.    Calligraphic, zen, Wabi Sabi.

A Simple mark making exercise.  Nothing fancy, or complicated.




Pastel Artist


Margaret Parker Brown  yubagold.wordpress.com    initiated  the 31 Days of May painting challenge.


The very first painting I saw of hers…… I knew – she was at home, with the outdoors.

You can Feel It.

In her paintings.  Clear as day.

You just can not get that,  from duplicating a photograph.



Margaret is a kindred hiker.  A Walker.

A gifted pastelist.

She combines her wonderful pastel abilities with the  with the ability to convey the Spirit of the Land.

Landscapes painted from the heart.  Painted with heart.

Painted from years of intimate relationship….. of  Walking In Harmony With Nature.

Thats how you do it!

Margaret’s work is like a breath of Fresh Air!







Jacksons Art shop


I found a wonderfully informative,  delightful site I thought most of you would like to go see.   Yes, its a shopping site;  but,  it has so much more really Intriguing and educational information!  Have a look!



Unison  pastels

We all have favorites.

These have been my personal fav  soft pastels since I discovered them decades ago at in Seattle at Daniel Smith art store whilst teaching my watercolor workshops there.

Blissfully like butter, creamy. They merge and blend into perfect transitions of color.

Pure Color.

Super saturation. Bright, vibrant. Gorgeous.     I Love them.


Found at Jacksonsart.com  this is what they look like:

unison pastels
unison pastels







Just an update with the link to my friend Laura,  at createarteveryday.com     who is also taking on the 31 Days of May challenge.   I’d neglected to put this in yesterday’s post. My bad. Sorry.




Additional Posts of Interest

The Feeling, the Spirit of the Land 

Design with Lines 

Mark Making 

Creativity is a Walk Away 

Afternoon Walk 


SOFT Edges    Edges   

The 3 Edges 







Simplicity in Mark Making

Simplicity in Mark Making

What do I mean mark making?  It is a term that indicates the types and variations of brush strokes, drawing lines, gouge marks….. really, any visual evidence of your hand or tools upon the canvas or the paper.

Snowfields, oil painting abstract  debiriley.com
Snowfields oil painting debiriley.com

“Snowfields” is  featured once again, as it really does tick all the boxes for ‘mark making.’

The painting makes ‘mark making’  pretty evident even without enlarging the image. And, it happens to be one of my favourite paintings!  I find it has a most pleasing balance of calm area to busy “marked up” area.

The post it first featured in was Fred Williams master Australian painter.


Whether you are using pastels, inks, charcoal, watercolours, oils, acrylics or any combination of those, the marks you create on the canvas set a ‘tone’  and a ‘mood’ that the viewer picks up on.   Bold or timid; erased or non erased; outlined or inferred; coarse or delicate, those marks upon the paper are telling.


“A Golden Grove”  encaustic mixed media painting,  is another good example of Mark Making.  When enlarged, you will see the tiniest of brush marks, lines, drizzles of wax that gives you a great idea of what mark making is about.

This is a Mark dominated painting. Nearly all of this painting has quite visible marks, leaving little volume of space for calm and rest.

A Golden grove wax encaustic debiriley.com
A Golden Grove wax encaustic debiriley.com


Van Gogh, Degas, Rembrant, Seurat, Picasso, Matisse, Renoir each of these artist have very  unique mark making on their canvases and papers.  They way they slash, curve, downstroke, scrape, twirl, rub and blend…. are filled with individual nuances.

Delicate light airy feathery marks vs. big dark gouging slashes across the canvas… communicate two radically different stories.


watercolour landscape debiriley.com
Salt Pan Lake landscape watercolours debiriley.com


“Salt Pan Lake” landscape the only visible marks are the burnt sienna horizontal lines walking you back into the flat arid plains in the distance. It has a much smoother feel to it than the encaustic above.


Once you think about it and become more aware of the impact mark making has on the overall outcome of your image, you get more excited by the possibilities. Its like a new language to add into your repertoire.   A new spice for the stew.


Wabi Sabi

Simplicity  (Kanso) is one of the 7 elements in Wabi Sabi.

7 Elements of Wabi Sabi

  • Simplicity (Kanso)
  • Freedom (Datsuzoku)
  • Tranquility (Seijaku)
  • Natural (Shizen)
  • Subtle Grace (Yugen)
  • Weathered (Koko)
  • Asymmetry  (Fukinsei)

Wabi Sabi is a wonderful approach to art, see my previous article Zen of Art: Taming The Dragon, which will give additional insight into this lovely Japanese way of viewing the arts.


In Simplicity there is also Freedom (datsuzoku.)

There is no tight drive to coerce the natural forces to go against themselves “to Make the Paint do what it does not want to do.”  But in this Freedom we work with nature, co partners.


paint Flow Blues by sandra
Paint Flow Blues by Sandra

In Simplicity and in Freedom,  there is Tranquility (Seijaku.)

Seijaku, Tranquility.   A lovely calm inner serenity springing from simplicity and freedom, that works with us  to help us in creating more harmonious organic art images.

I love creating a sense of simplicity even while I explore a variety of mark making and tools on the canvas or paper.

I strive to remember to maintain a subtle  grace and elegance; and not overdo the mark making. This ‘overdoing’, is all to easy to do, for all of us.

tree ridge acrylic landscape debiriley.com
Tree Ridge acrylic landscape debiriley.com

I try to remember

“Less Is More!”

Impressionistic Landscape in Pastels

Impressionistic Landscape in Pastels

“Foulweather Bluff,”  Kitsap County painting was inspired by a simple morning walk along the shoreline with my dog Laura when we lived in the Pacific Northwest. We lived on a small hillside overlooking  Admiralty Inlet and the Olympic Mountains with the beach  a mere half mile away.

Foulweather Bluff, Kitsap Co. Washington,  pastel painting debiriley.com
Foulweather Bluff, Kitsap County Washington, overlooking Admiralty Inlet Pastel painting debiriley.com

I’d taken several photos which I’d tucked away and left forgotten. A long time passed and I finally rediscovered the photos.  Memories of the beautiful day and our lovely walk flooded in.

I composed these photos into one image, not trying to duplicate a photo.

Rather,  what I was trying to do, was to convey the mood and atmosphere I felt the day of the walk.  To obtain  “the impression of the place,”  not the specific rock, tree stump or mail box number.


Pastels soft, sensitive, evocative

Pastels are a soft, sensitive and evocative medium that delivers a colourful punch when needed.  They’re a dry medium, so they are very easy to just put down or pick up and start again at any time. I don’t have to worry about nasty hard edges drying with my soft pastels. I like the soft blurry edges for depth.

I have a favourite brand of soft pastels, Unison.

These are extremely soft and buttery, melt on the paper making colour blending and soft edges super easy.  Definitely worth the money. I also use other brands,  Art Spectrum,  Sennelier,  Schminke and Rembrant.  They’re good quality and have a good range of colours.


Colours in Foulweather Bluff, Kitsap County pastel painting

I’ve used White, cerulean, several lavenders, burnt umber, prussian blue, yellow ochre, burnt sienna –  all working together to create a cool dominance. The tiny bits of burnt sienna and yellow ochre balance it out and prevent it from going too cold.

These colours of  soft pastels were blended, merged together, for areas of distance and background.  Skimmed over the top for texture useful for foreground areas then,  used sharp &  tight without any softening for areas I wanted the eye to be drawn towards.

Pastel colours have a rich vibrant intensity that I find delightful. Artist quality pastels, the good brands are archival. These paintings will not fade!  It does depend on the specific brand and colours you are using though.


Versatility in Pastel techniques and applications

Pastels are quite versatile. If you wish, you can dampen your paper first and then apply them for a wet fluid look. They can be great tools for “hand-colouring” your black and white photographs. If you’re so inclined use them on cardboard, newsprint, cartridge papers for a non-archival product.

Pastels can be used on different types of papers equally successfully, depending upon what outcome you’re after.

Sometimes I use Hot Press watercolour paper when I want a fast quick drawing type of pastel painting.  I’ve used the gritty toothed pastel coloured paper and enjoy using it damp.  Stonehenge, Coventry Rag,  Roma Fabriano papers are also  great to work on.

 pastels on board debiriley.com
Delicate pastels on board debiriley.com


The delicate pastel sample colours above was worked onto a pastel board, which I actually liked. I didn’t have high hopes that I’d love it, but it had a rather nice feel to it, so I’ll be using it again.


I just have one small issue with pastels, the same one most everyone else does  –  they are a wee bit messy.

But,  really now.   Art IS messy.   So, lets throw caution to the winds  and paint, draw, splatter, spray  to our hearts content!

Go Ahead. Make a Mess.


Being Inspired

Being Inspired

Sometimes we wonder where to find inspiration, where to find beauty, where to find our muse in life. The daily tasks, unexpected emergencies, the routine daily grind seem to take their toll and leave us just a bit tired and jaded. I found my breath of inspiration early this morning, drinking my hot coffee watching the steam rise and and dance about in delightful patterns in the crisp autumn air.

cup of inspiration debiriley.com
A Cup of Inspiration photography debiriley.com


Tired from emergencies, family trips and non stop events plus with a touch of jet lag as well  I made myself a beautifully strong cup of Peruvian coffee. Expresso style. And sat down.   I’ve been bright eyed and wide awake each morning  at about 2am since returning home and my internal clock has not reset itself quite yet.  But today I was lucky enough to sleep in until 3:30 am. Wow.

Getting nice and comfy in my chair, I glanced at the coffee,  second cup,  and became entranced with the rising steam patterns. For a moment, I thought I’d just ‘memorise’ the scene for later use in paintings,  perhaps some abstracts…..   The more I looked the more excited and inspired I became.

(This could merely be a sign of a very tired mind,  I prefer to believe that the images are interesting!)

I decided this moment in time wouldn’t come by again.  I jumped up, grabbed the camera and shot off several photos.  I’m really glad I did, as I do not have that great of a memory recall to remember all these swirling dancing tendrils of steam.


I left these photographs quite large resolution so that they can be clicked on and viewed closer, if you wish to.

inspiration photograph debiriley.com
Filaments of Inspiration

I’m quite intrigued by the soft fuzzy background, out of focus, foggy.  This really describes me and my jet lag at the moment! Its a great parallel.  And then the cup itself is sharper but being  plain white is hinting at the ethereal… (in my mind.)

The actual steam swirls are so delicate and wispy, they are nearly intangible, yet their movement was completely mesmerising.


flickers of inspiration photo debiriley.com
Flickers of Inspiration photograph debiriley.com

I found myself saddened a bit, when the heat of the coffee had cooled and the dance of steam no longer entertained me.

It reminded me again,  beauty is everywhere.  I can find inspiration in so many of the daily activities and objects – if  I just open myself up to them.

Will I  Look?   Will I open my eyes and breathe the inspiration in?


tendrils of steam dance debiriley.com
Tendrils Dance debiriley.com

Looking at the photos, I’m quite pleased. None are vivid high detail, they’re quite blurred and ‘foggy’.  This out of focus effect won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but we all have our own muse.

I truly love these grainy backgrounds – gorgeous with the softly merging colours and tones.

These Inspiring images  will make excellent reference sources for  soft pastel  semi abstract paintings, which I look forward to working on in the near future.

Spirit of Inspiration photo debiriley.com
Spirit of Inspiration photograph debiriley.com