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Display until January 9, 2012
Winter Along the Foothills (detail; 20x24) by Lorenzo Chavez www.pastel
the colors
of winter
Lorenzo Chavez
demonstrates how to
paint snow in pastel
C1_PAS1211_Cover.indd 1 10/4/11 10:02:29 AM
any plein air landscape paint-
ers find it hard to return to the
confines of a studio after an invigo-
rating season of on-location painting.
The tactile relationship between
subject matter and artist when paint-
ing outdoors is so stimulating that
working back in the studio from
photo reference can sometimes lead
to creative malaise and a diminished
desire to paint. When I find myself
starting to feel this way, I turn to
innovative pastel techniques as
a way to get motivated, discover a
fresh perspective and rekindle my
enthusiasm for studio painting.
Since most plein air experiences
are limited to no more than a few
hours, painters must become adept
at working quickly and concisely. The
underlying challenge outdoors is the
fleeting light, not the methods of pas-
tel application. This is why beginners
can be especially frustrated when
painting on location, as they try
to confront at once the fundamental
structural components of painting the
landscape; the techniques of pastel;
and the physical logistics of the plein
air situation. Consequently, this isn’t
the time to throw in a new technique
or unfamiliar product.
On the other hand, the use of
familiar, well-practiced techniques—
which is so essential to a successful
outcome outdoors—can become
predictable over time and lead to
stagnation. That’s what makes
studio painting so vital even for
the most devoted outdoor painter.
In the studio, when working from
photographic reference or small field
sketches, there’s no urgency. I’m in
control of the lighting and climate,
and can theoretically take as long as
I wish to complete a painting. There
is, for this reason, more opportunity
‘Tis the Season to Mix It Up
Winter is the perfect time of year to hunker down in the studio,
get experimental and make new discoveries.
Winter’s Marks (18x15)
Working on Wallis paper, I applied pastel
and then wet it with denatured alcohol. This
embedded the pigment into the surface, creat-
ing a permanent underpainting. Once it dried,
I continued with watercolor washes, and then
used pastel to bring the piece to completion.
Pastel Pointers By Richard McKinley
8 The Pastel Journal • December 2011
08_PAS1211_PastelPointers.indd 8 10/4/11 10:13:12 AM
to experiment with products and
procedures that might have proved
too time-consuming or clumsy to
implement on location.
No Boundaries
Since the days of Edgar Degas, the
medium of pastel has been the per-
fect companion for experimental
artists. It has been applied to various
surfaces, spread with any number
of liquids, sprayed with fixative,
pressed into surfaces, painted over or
applied on top of all kinds of media;
and the list goes on.
The only consideration when
experimenting with a mixture of
products and procedures is the
archival integrity of the final paint-
ing. Some papers and surfaces that
are high in rag content, for example,
are prone to wrinkling when water is
applied. Some gritty surfaces can be
compromised by the introduction of
any alcohol-based product. If a pas-
tel surface has been glued to a rigid
substrate, the addition of liquid may
soften the adhesive. The best bet is
to test how the surface and liquid,
or media, interact before committing
to the process.
I’ve done plenty of experimenting
in my studio over the years, trying
out various pastel surface textures
and methods of dry and wet pastel
application, as well as mixed-media
underpainting techniques. Lately, I’ve
been especially interested in three
different processes for wetting an ini-
tial application of pastel, thus creating
a stable underpainting over which
to apply additional mixed-media and
pastel applications.
Wetting Pastel With Alcohol
When wetting a layer of pastel with
alcohol to produce an underpainting,
the alcohol (denatured or rubbing
alcohol) evaporates quickly and,
therefore, doesn’t tend to cause the
paper surface to wrinkle. The alcohol
can have the effect, however, of soft-
ening some sanded surfaces, such as
Wallis pastel paper. But rather than
avoiding the paper for this technique,
I decided to explore the possibilities
in allowing the softening to occur. I
found that the alcohol only softens the
surface slightly, creating just enough
tack for permanent adhesion of the
wet pastel. Once it’s dry, I can apply
pastel (or various wet media) over it
without fear of it mingling with the
underlying layer. And, the rapidly
drying nature of the alcohol produces
a more fragmented, loose brushstroke
appearance that I’ve found interesting
to work over. See my pastel, Winter’s
Marks (opposite), for an example.
Wetting Pastel
With SpectraFix Fixative
The use of fixative to “set” a layer
of pastel is a fairly common practice.
This isolation of layers stops the
blending of individual colors and val-
ues, producing a more vibrant outer
layer. But most commercial fixatives
are only available in an aerosol spray
can, which limits application possi-
bilities. The casein-based SpectraFix,
however, is a liquid fixative that’s
available in a pump bottle or as a con-
centrate, so a brush can be employed.
Liquefying an initial layer of pastel
with this fixative on a brush produces
a wet, loose underpainting filled with
serendipitous drips and runs that only
happen when pigment is made wet. It
dries to a matte surface that doesn’t
affect the color’s hue and has a mini-
mal effect on value. Subsequent layers
of pastel or even wet mixed media can
be placed over the top of this type of
underpainting, allowing for unlimited
creative possibilities. See the under-
painting stage and finished pastel,
Along the Slough, on page 12.
December 2011 • 9
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08_PAS1211_PastelPointers.indd 9 10/4/11 10:13:19 AM
Wetting Pastel With Clear Gesso
or Pastel Ground
Other surfaces that are fun to
explore include various grit-based
surfaces. There are several ready-
made grounds available, such as Art
Spectrum Colourfix Primer, Lascaux
Pastelground, Golden Acrylic Ground
for Pastel and Liquitex Clear Gesso.
Many of these come pre-colored to
create a desired surface tone for the
artist’s needs. Others are clear or
neutral, allowing the artist to control
the tone. Homemade variations can
be produced by mixing an acrylic
binder with a gritty substance, like
fine pumice power. Applying a pastel
ground allows artists to control
texture by the means of application
to the substrate and to control tooth
by the volume of grit.
Recently, I’ve used these clear
pastel grounds as a means for wet-
ting and spreading the initial pastel
application. I apply a light layer of
pastel to the substrate (etching paper,
watercolor paper or a similar white
rag board), and then apply the clear
pastel ground directly into the pastel
layer with a brush. By thinning the
ground with water, various creative
effects can be produced. Once dry,
the surface is permanent, and addi-
tional layers of pastel or wet mixed
media can be applied. This method
of underpainting can produce con-
siderable texture with which the final
layers of pastel interacts. For a step-
by-step example of this technique,
see “Morning Tone: A Demo” at left.
Creative Adventures
Since these methods produce a
near permanent underpainting,
I’ve had the ability to work more
monochromatically in initial stages,
freely layering transparent washes
of color over the top. Often, these
underpaintings lead to further
Morning Tone: A Demo
Stage 1: I started this painting by
applying hard pastel (Payne’s gray)
to a piece of Rives BFK etching
paper as a value drawing. I then
used Liquitex Clear Gesso to wet
it, producing a permanent value
Stage 2: I brushed over this value
underpainting with wet, colorful
washes of watercolor.
Stage 3: In the next stage, I used pastel over the watercolor
underpainting to complete the painting.
Morning Tone (16x18)
2 3
Pastel Pointers
10 The Pastel Journal • December 2011
08_PAS1211_PastelPointers.indd 10 10/4/11 10:13:29 AM
mixed-media experimentation
with the introduction of charcoal,
Conté crayon, pencil, India ink
and white acrylic gesso. Another
benefit is that if a subsequent
pastel layer isn’t working, it can
be washed off with little effect
to the underpainting.
The “medium of Degas” will
always inspire experimentation,
and contemporary pastelists will
continue to find new ways to mix
it up. Exploration is an ongoing
journey and one that always
provides new levels of possibility
and fun.
Richard McKinley (
is a columnist and blogger for The Pastel Journal,
and the author of Pastel Pointers (North Light
Books, 2010). Check out the “Richard McKinley
Value Pack” at
Along the
(16x12) and
For this piece, painted on UART 400-grit pastel
paper, I used SpectraFix to wet the bright tones
of pastel, and then finished with additional
applications of pastel.
12 The Pastel Journal • December 2011
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36 The Pastel Journal • December 2011
A crucial lesson in value helped
Barbara Courtney Jaenicke move
beyond theory to an interpretative,
more expressive approach to color.
36_PAS1211_Jaenicke.indd 36 10/4/11 10:37:20 AM
December 2011 • 37
Early Morning Refections (20x30)
36_PAS1211_Jaenicke.indd 37 10/4/11 10:37:25 AM
38 The Pastel Journal • December 2011
crafted color in the rolling hills and softly
shadowed trees of a Barbara Courtney
Jaenicke landscape, you might identify the
artist a “natural talent,” but the artist would
disagree. “Color wasn’t always intuitive for
me,” she says. “I had to really study how
it worked, and then I had to move beyond
applying the principles of color theory only
to local color.” Over the years, Jaenicke has
spent a lot of time examining the work of
other artists she admires, searching for their
secrets to a more interpretive approach. Not
surprisingly, then, she delights when others
describe her work as emotionally striking.
“I don’t think I have inborn artistic talent,”
Jaenicke says. “It’s a skill that I’ve developed
with a nose-to-the-grindstone vengeance.”
Necessary Obsession
Jaenicke describes her relationship with art
as an obsession. She always knew she’d be an
artist, although at first she headed into the
world of advertising as an art director. But in
Stretching Color
After having awakened to the possibilities
of interpretive color, Barbara Jaenicke no
longer seeks to copy local color. A com-
parison of the reference photo for Quiet
Morning By the River and the fnished piece,
which she painted on location, demon-
strates how the artist took liberties in her
color selections to create a meaningful
expression of the scene. “Most of the year
here in Georgia, we have an enormous
amount of green to work with when painting the landscape,”
Jaenicke says. “ This is something most people love about the
Southeast. I, however, don’t like the color green enough to
feature that much of it in my landscapes. It became motivation
for a more interpretive use of color.”
Quiet Morning by the River (12x9)
Reference photo
36_PAS1211_Jaenicke.indd 38 10/7/11 12:09:17 PM
December 2011 • 39
2002, when looking for part-time work pos-
sibilities, she was able to refocus on a career
as a fine artist. Then she was asked to teach
an art class for a church group. “I realized
I knew more than I thought I did, so I started
teaching classes,” she says. The balance
worked well for the artist, who also became
a new mother during this time.
Currently, the artist is so happy in her
present work, she says if she didn’t paint, she
would “shrivel up and die.” And she realizes
the importance of bringing this degree of pas-
sion to painting. “I’ve come to believe that—in
order to squeeze in the numerous hours of
painting time required to reach certain goals
and to push through the many obstacles and
creative slumps that an artist goes through—
painting, in fact, needs to be an obsession.”
Light Bulb Moment
Due to her years of design experience as
an art director, composition felt like a native
language to Jaenicke. Learning to paint
local color seemed the next logical progres-
sion. Her studies in color theory were useful,
resulting in credible paintings, but as she
improved, she became increasingly eager
to do more than copy nature. “I realized that
I’m the artist and I can interpret my subject
matter,” she says. “One of the key skills I
needed in order to achieve this was a better
sense of how to use color interpretively.”
Viewing a demonstration at a South-
eastern Pastel Society meeting precipitated
changes in Jaenicke’s work. “Margaret Dyer
showed us how the right value allows you
to use any color. A light bulb just went
off,” Jaenicke says. “Once I understood
more clearly how to prioritize values over
particular color choices, it was liberating.
I organized my pastels by value, which
immediately gave my use of color a big boost,
too. I found that using color more interpre-
tively in this way became not only easier,
but a whole lot more fun.”
Though her earliest explorations were so
bright she felt she needed sunglasses to look at
the paintings, in time, Jaenicke began to apply
her new approach to muted neutral colors
every bit as much as she did to the saturated,
sun-drenched ones. And, beneath them all,
value remains the workhorse. “When the
light, medium and dark values are where they
need to be, I find that color becomes my play-
ground,” Jaenicke explains. “But if the values
are off, even the most gorgeous colors won’t
help. In fact, they’ll make mud.”
Jaenicke calls color theory “the never-
ending lesson.” Although she learned about
the color wheel and how to utilize color
temperature long ago, it has taken years
to truly comprehend the complexity of the
subject and to grow. “The better I understood
the theory,” she says, “the easier it was to
experiment using non-local color, ultimately
advancing my skills.” Although it has taken
very deliberate effort, the artist has been able
to stretch and expand the ways she bumps
various colors up against one another in
order to achieve a greater level of expression.
Warm Sunlight on
a Cold Winter’s Day
(far left; 14x18)
Almost to the Lake
(center; 11x14)
Road May Be Slippery
(above; 12x16)
36_PAS1211_Jaenicke.indd 39 10/4/11 10:37:37 AM
40 The Pastel Journal • December 2011
Daring Color
In recent years, Jaenicke has been working
steadily toward ever bolder color choices. “If
I want to be daring and really stray from the
local color,” she says, “I experiment first with
small studies, about 5x7 inches or so. I some-
times do these in preparation for a painting;
other times I simply scribble out swatches
on a scrap piece of pastel paper to see what
works well together.”
To make her color selections, Jaenicke
chooses colors and combinations she knows
she loves. “I often make note of combinations
that I like by observing the work of other art-
ists,” she says. “I’ll play with complementary
colors or expand on color combinations that
are personal favorites. I like to highlight a
particular combination in a painting, which
I usually locate at the focal point and often
repeat more subtly in other areas of the
painting. I have to be careful not to overuse
it though, or it may lose its impact.”
Jaenicke’s paintings illustrate her success
using newfound, exciting color. Pointing to
Road May be Slippery (on the previous page)
she notes that she chose a definite color pat-
tern, seeking color harmonies throughout the
piece. “I was going after drama,” she says. “To
achieve it, I used bold contrasts in color and
light, as well as a high horizon with carefully
angled lines. In Early Morning Reflections (on
pages 36 and 37), I repeated colors in sev-
eral areas, working with color families. For
instance, I snuck the orangish reds into the
trees and the grass, and used some purplish
red in the greens at the bottom.”
Sometimes Jaenicke has a general idea
of the palette she plans to use in a painting,
but if she’s in need of inspiration, she curls
Sunbathed Field (11x14)
“When the light, medium and dark
values are where they need to be, I find
that color becomes my playground.”
36_PAS1211_Jaenicke.indd 40 10/4/11 10:37:41 AM
December 2011 • 41
up with her art journals and books. “It’s like
sitting down with friends to see how they’ve
approached similar subject matter,” she says.
She’s learned that often the paintings that
visually grab her are the ones that possess
particularly strong contrasting color com-
binations, “like striking shades of vibrant
colors contrasted against muted grays,” she
says. “My favorite paintings have nice har-
mony throughout, a balance of warms and
cools, and often use good transitions, placing
a particular color between two others, such as
along the edge of a shadow—between it and a
highlighted area.”
Jaenicke points to the color sense of artist
Susan Ogilvie (see pages 26-27) as having
been particularly instructive. “At one time I
went through a phase when I tried to increase
the color temperature I used in my paintings,”
Jaenicke says, “but after awhile I learned that
vibrant colors need to be balanced with more
subdued ones. That was the time when my
paintings seemed to require sunglasses, but a
nice set of Terry Ludwig grays helped me out
with that. When I learned to save the brights
and use muted colors first, I found the satu-
rated colors had more impact. They direct the
eye around the painting.”
Puzzling It Out
As an art student, Jaenicke hated taking time
for thumbnails; now she finds it an essential
first step. “I remember not really understand-
ing the goal of thumbnails. Why draw it
small and then just draw it all over again?”
she says. “But as an art director, designing
ads back in the 1980s before computers, we
used tracing paper to quickly design and
make adjustments, and I’ve come to like that
approach for my thumbnails.”
Today she prints out her reference photo
(at about 4x6 inches) on high-quality white
printer paper and then puts tracing paper on
top to redraw the elements. “I can quickly
see the overall impact,” she says, “whether
it helps to make the horizon lower or higher,
or helps to change a vertical to horizontal.
Quiet Stream at Sunrise (12x14)
Reference photo and thumbnail
Thumbnail Solutions
Making a thumbnail, says Barbara Jaenicke, “is a bit like solving
a puzzle. My goal is to map out the placement of each major shape
and decide where the focal point will be.” She does this quickly
by laying tracing paper (with the outer “frame” already marked
in proportion to the size of the painting) over her reference
photo. “I move the tracing paper over the photo so each element
is placed exactly where I want it,” she says. She marks the center
point on each of the four sides of the sketch to avoid placing a
noticeable shape or line directly in the center. Then, using the rule
of thirds, she decides where her focal point will be.
“Sometimes it’s simply a matter of shifting some of the shapes
here and there to place them nicely in the composition,” Jaenicke
says. “But if I’m unsure about the composition, or just want
to explore ideas—such as a vertical versus horizontal format—
this process allows me to quickly and easily envision those
options.” Marking where key lines intersect the outer frame
helps the artist quickly and accurately size up the thumbnail
to her painting surface.
36_PAS1211_Jaenicke.indd 41 10/4/11 10:37:47 AM
42 The Pastel Journal • December 2011
It’s a bit like working a Rubik’s Cube; you
shift parts over and over until all the pieces
fit together nicely. I find it’s an easy way to
quickly see all my options.” (See “Thumbnail
Solutions” on page 41.)
The thumbnail process also helps the art-
ist to interpret the photo, rather than copy it.
“I’ve found that some of my more successful
paintings were from photos that needed lots
of help during the thumbnail process, forc-
ing me to use more of my own artistic vision
to create a piece of artwork instead of a direct
copy of the photograph,” says Jaenicke. “Now
I actually enjoy making thumbnails.”
This crucial first step launches virtually
every painting. “Even when working en plein
air, I do a quick thumbnail in a tiny sketch-
pad just to see where my main shapes will be
placed within the four borders of the paint-
ing,” she notes. “On location there can be so
much pressure. I know things will go better
if I think ahead and plan. I draw out small
rectangular boxes in my little plein air sketch
pad ahead of time, using a proportional
wheel to make it easy and be sure they’re in
proportion to the size of the board I intend
to use. I then set my ViewCatcher so I know
the proportions will match.”
Preparation and Process
Jaenicke currently prefers to work on Gator-
board that she prepares with Golden’s Fine
Pumice Gel. First she tones the board using
liquid acrylic paints, in order to allow a color
to pop through from beneath, most of the
time choosing a warm color, medium-dark
in value. She brushes the pumice gel over
this tone, experimenting with various thick-
nesses to allow more or less of the brush
texture to remain apparent. “I can put the gel
on really thickly or thinly, making it more
watery and smooth,” she says. “I apply it
using random strokes, brushing in different
directions to give it an oil painting texture.”
Occasionally she prefers to paint on a white
gessoed panel coated with the pumice gel.
Barbara Courtney Jaenicke (www.barbara earned a B.A. in art and advertising
design at The College of New Jersey and worked
in advertising and marketing communications
before focusing on fne art. She has studied
with pastel artists Susan Ogilvie, Albert Handell
and Duane Wakeham, among others. Her work,
which has appeared in numerous exhibitions,
has received several awards including the
Connecticut Pastel Society Award in the Pastel
Society of America’s 38th Annual Pastels Only
exhibition and an honorable mention in the
12th Pastel 100 competition. She lives in Roswell,
Ga., with her husband and son.
36_PAS1211_Jaenicke.indd 42 10/4/11 10:37:52 AM
December 2011 • 43
She’ll roughly lay in pastel colors, over which
she’ll brush Turpenoid or alcohol to make
an underpainting.
With the ground prepared, Jaenicke
begins lightly with Nupastels, followed pri-
marily by softer pastels such as Unison, Terry
Ludwig or Schmincke. “I avoid caking it on,”
she says. “I put in very dark values because
I can layer over them with strong dark colors,
but I also add some of my light values. If I
go to the lightest lights too quickly the color
can get chalky, but I want to view the whole
value range right away.” She avoids using the
lightest of the light values, however, until the
very end, which gives her more information
when pushing the brightest highlight areas.
“I also try to avoid using too many highly
saturated colors until later in the process,
allowing them to pop out among the more
muted values, and to be sure I don’t overuse
bright colors,” she says.
Teaching and Persistence
At her home studio in Roswell, Ga., Jaenicke
hosts weekly classes for a few students, as
well as workshops and classes throughout
the Atlanta area. “I try to help my students
understand what I see,” she says. Sometimes
she uses magazines in the classroom to illus-
trate what other artists have done successfully.
“Now when I look in my copies of The Pastel
Journal from years ago,” she says, “I see things
I missed before. Teaching forces you to ana-
lyze this way. I believe that artists who have to
really work at learning and struggle to figure
out what makes a really good painting tend
to be effective instructors. I very much enjoy
teaching, and I fall into the category of artists
who learned the hard, painstaking way.”
Knowing this, Jaenicke is determined to
encourage others to persevere. “Learning to
paint is a process that takes years, one paint-
ing at a time, not simply learning a particular
magical technique,” she says. “Once I figured
that out, I relaxed and enjoyed the process
much more. I no longer look at a failed paint-
ing as a waste of time or materials, but as
much needed practice time.”
With an active 7-year-old boy at home,
Jaenicke has to carefully arrange her painting
and teaching time, but her obsession with
painting remains. “The gift I have is the pas-
sion,” she says. “I can’t imagine not giving it
my all and taking it as far as possible.”
Pastel artist Deborah Secor ( is a longtime
contributing writer for The Pastel Journal. She is currently on the roster
of art professionals offering individual critiques for Artist’s Network
Critiques (
Aspen Road at Sunset
(far left; 9x12)
To the Chattahoochee
(center; 12x16)
Across the Field
(above; 16x12)
To see more paintings by the artist, visit www.artistsnetwork.
36_PAS1211_Jaenicke.indd 43 10/4/11 10:37:57 AM
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