Pastel: Going Full Circle


If you’ve ever worked in pastel you know you can never have enough space to work!

The good news: I recently received some cool art supplies for Christmas! Blue Earth pastels in warm and cool violets and neutrals, a wood box to organize them by value, a sturdy clip-on daylight lamp, and an assortment of delicious papers to experiment with.

The bad news: (Mostly for my family and friends,) I have temporarily relocated to my kitchen counter where I can spread everything out.

YES!  I’ve gone full circle and am once again working in pastels and I have to say, it’s been a wonderful adventure. This is due in part to my instructor Jane McGraw-Tuebner.  Not only is she an award-winning pastel artist, but also, a former art director I had freelanced for (back when hair mousse was all the rave!) We recently became friends on FB and after all this time, it turns out she lives five minutes from me! Life is certainly full of surprises.

I was so nervous during the first workshop. Terrified I’d fail miserably at pastel 1.01, I had to keep reminding myself, “Wait! You illustrated a picture book in pastel for Rizzoli Publishers!” Still, I was visibly shaken as I slipped that first pair of latex gloves on.

But that all changed very quickly. Jane had me start on a still life in two different styles. One drawing was done in pastel directly on the charcoal paper and the other, I brushed a layer of pastel with turpenoid. (Turpenoid melts the color to the paper, and as you brush it in a painterly fashion, it gives you an interesting surface to work on once it dries.) By the end of the first workshop, I had learned a number of techniques. I couldn’t wait to get back to my studio (Oops! I mean kitchen.) I was anxious to get started on a few illustrations I had originally planned to do in watercolor and colored pencil.


Illustration from “Ravita and the Land of Unknown Shadows,” written by Marietta Abrams and Peter Brill, Rizzoli Publishing


What I love about pastel is that it can be manipulated like paint. It’s very forgiving, which is great because it gives you more flexibility to play, (and make mistakes.) What’s really interesting is that it has a warmth to it— maybe its the texture of the paper, or the velvety quality of the pastel, but for me, it seems to evoke more emotion. Either way, I’m in pastel heaven, playing with colors and textures, experimenting with papers, pushing the limits of what I thought was possible with what will often just magically appear with a simple stroke!

The good news: I’ve been able to incorporate pastel in several picture book projects I’m working on. Stay tuned!

The bad news: I need to expand my studio. (The chef wants his kitchen back!)

If you’d like to see Jane’s incredible pastel work, check out her website at


One Comment


So glad you are finding your colors during winter’s grayness. Love your blog! So happy for you my little sis!


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