How To Draw Portraits with Dramatic Light & Shadow

Your excellent questions have led us to take a closer look at the subject of the portrait. In this lesson, we’ll explore methods for creating dramatic light and shadow effects in the portrait using only a few pastel pencils on toned paper to capture the likeness in a monochromatic approach. This timeless technique has been used by great artists throughout the ages from Michelangelo to Caravaggio. You can take advantage of this wonderful technique as well!

Enjoy this full portrait demonstration, as I answer many of your questions on the subject of portraits while we create a dramatic light and shadow drawing together. 

How to Paint Trees Part 1

Want to paint loose, impressionistic trees in pastel?


We’ve all struggled to convey those pesky little leaves at one time or another. And if we’re really honest, we'd admit that we have fallen prey to the perilous trap of painting one leaf at a time! 

Well take heart, because in this lesson I’m going to show you how to harness the power of suggestion by creating the impression of leaves without actually rendering each of them. Let freedom ring!

By the end of this two-part video lesson, you’ll know how to create loose painterly trees with wonderful color and bold fresh marks that sparkle against the sky. 

Make sure to sign up below to download your, “How To Paint Trees Step-by-Step Guide,” so you can follow along at each stage of development. 

Are you ready to be liberated from the leaf-induced shackles of painting foliage? 

Watch Part One of, “How To Paint Trees”!

P.S. Look out for part two of this video lesson coming to you on April 17, 2019!

How To Mount Your Pastel Paper

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received questions from artists asking me how to mount sanded pastel paper to board. While delegating the assignment to your local framer is a valid option, there is a DIY approach.

Sanded papers like UART are produced on rolls and have a tendency to curl up at the edges over time. It’s definitely no fun to fight those curls while you’re trying to paint, not to mention the problem of buckling the paper during washes! 

Well, get ready for buckle free bliss, because I’m about to show you my personal method for mounting pastel paper to board right in the studio without the use of an expensive dry mount press. By the end of this video, you’ll be empowered to mount your own pastel surfaces like a DIY pro. 

Want to create stable, buckle free boards that can take the abuse of wet underpaintings, and frame up beautifully?  Then be sure to sign up for the DIY MOUNTING GUIDE below, because it’s time to conquer the curl together! 

Let’s do this. 

What Pastel Paper Should I Use?

Believe it or not, the paper you use has a dramatic impact on the overall look and finish of your work. Yet it can be overwhelming to figure out what to buy with all the materials on the market. The truth is, not all papers are created equally! 

Don’t worry though, I’ve developed this video and the accompanying pastel paper supply list to help you understand which surfaces I recommend in order to accomplish a painterly style.

Simply watch the video to see my full explanation, and click the link below to download your pastel supply list and follow along! 

Painting Clouds in Pastel

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the season, I hope you'll take some time to enjoy this relaxing and inspiring video that will lift your eyes to the clouds. Enjoy "Painting Clouds in Pastel” as my special gift to you this Christmas, and learn how to paint big billowing clouds in a loose and painterly style. 

In this painting we’ll explore a beautiful late afternoon cloud-filled sky over the pristine lakes of Sweden. These sunlit clouds are the true stars of the show. Let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed the video, and whether you like to paint clouds as much as I do. 

Have a Merry Christmas!

From Ashes to Glory

My last blog post and video, “5 Ways To Cultivate Your Creative Voice,” generated a lot of interesting conversation from you all around the theme of artistic inspiration. I’d like to share a story in response from my own artistic journey, hoping to reassure you that we all go through difficult times creatively, and struggle with a lack of inspiration. 

I was 25 and just a couple years out of college with a degree in Illustration. I was renting a commercial studio space in Danbury, CT and engaged full-time in the noble pursuit of becoming a working artist. One evening, while I was working alone in the studio, an electrical fire sparked across the hall in our building, engulfing half of the second floor in flames and leaving my entire studio—and all my artwork—covered in a black blanket of ash. While very thankful that the fire was extinguished on the other side of the wall, I was left with a feeling of real loss as I moved my studio into a small bedroom at my parent’s home for a few months during renovations. Even though I continued to work, this was one of the darkest creative periods of my life. 

Attempting to get my creative juices flowing again, I drove three hours to attend an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston by the great Anglo-American artist, John Singer Sargent. I had no idea how profoundly this day would impact me. Sargent’s one man exhibition illuminated my senses with a combination of bold painterly realism and experimental impressionism spanning subjects as broad as seascapes, landscapes, figurative paintings and society portraits. The sheer scale of Sargent’s work alone stunned me, with life size multi-figurative canvases bursting forth with artistic energy and technical wizardry.  I was laid bare. There was no turning back now. 

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose  Oil on Canvas by John Singer Sargent, 68.5 × 60.5”

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose Oil on Canvas by John Singer Sargent, 68.5 × 60.5”

One of the featured works in the exhibition was this wonderful large scale painting, “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.” I can still recall how moved I was by Sargent’s treatment of these two children with such grace, style and sensitivity. I bought the exhibition book and brought it home with me for further enjoyment and inspection. This encounter set me on a new trajectory in pursuit of bolder, more emotive portrait and figurative paintings that combine subtle realism with expressive impressionism. This pursuit would take decades to fully realize. I’m grateful for the difficult time I went through that allowed me to open up to a new creative discovery. 

Edouard and Marie Louise Pailleron  by John Singer Sargent 1881

Edouard and Marie Louise Pailleron by John Singer Sargent 1881

Home Fields  by John Singer Sargent 1885

Home Fields by John Singer Sargent 1885

So how about you? What unique works or experiences have inspired you? Please share them in the comments below, and post your favorite painting. Let’s fuel our inspiration together!