Blog - Watercolor and Pastel Projects

Techniques in Watercolor and Pastel

Watercolor Project – Painting Flowers

June 28, 2017

Painting Flowers in watercolor is one of my favorite subjects. And of course in Spring there are usually plenty of willing subjects at my fingertips.   I plant mostly flowers that I like to paint. Peonies are among those subjects – they don’t stay around long and of course this year, they bloomed the only week I was out of town!!!! Oh well had to rely on other gardens for pictures.  My Day Lilies have outdone themselves in blooming this year.

Background layer


I do stretch my paper by wetting and stapling to a board. When its dry then I start with the drawing, making sure it’s what I want for composition. Most of the time I draw on tracing paper and them make the placements using transfer paper. This way I don’t leave pencil marks on the wc paper than won’t come up.

At this point, I need to decide if any part of the flower needs a mask. I use the blue Pebo mask. I also mask in my signature.

Next I put in a layer of the background – sometimes it is difficult to decide what color for a background.   I work with the color wheel a lot on this. The first layer is a light color which will probably have several layers on top later.  In this painting I did make a little change from the yellow to a more subtle Raw Sienna color.

The flower colors go on next – I usually start with the darker value parts of the flower as they will have several layers and it give me a feel if all will work.   Some parts of the petals have to be blended from dark to almost white. If you work on this slowly, it will come together nicely. Once the flowers are complete, check the edges and clean up anything that doesn’t look right. Most of the time if you will just wet the spot you want up, then dab with facial tissue, it will come up. You may have to do this a couple times to remove.

Watercolor 14×14 $250

Hope you have enjoyed this demo.  Contact me if you have any questions.






I am teaching a beginning pastel painting class this weekend at the John Campbell Folk School.  Full class with 2 standby’s.  Yah!!!  I love teaching these classes, meeting new students and making new friends.

We are going to do underpainting techniques to get started using dry pastel and pastel with Alcohol. 

Using the dry pastel method, pastel is applied to the surface lightly (not heavy) where you have made a simple drawing.  Main point is to get the darks where you want them.  Once the dry pastel is all over the surface, use a piece of pipe insulation to spread or push the pastel into the sanded paper.  Doesn’t matter if colors overlap and it’s not perfect – this is only an underpainting.

Dry Underpainting Technique

Dry Underpainting Technique

It’s hard to get everything into a short weekend but we do our best.

Alcohol underpainting will be next.

Alcohol Underpainting: Apply the pastel as in the dry method. Use an old brush, pour out a small amount of Alcohol into a container. Starting with the lighter colors, dip the brush into the alcohol and using a paper towel, wpe the brush on to absorb extra alcohol. Apply over the pastel going from light to dark. You may need to wipe the brush between colors. Go over the entire surface. Let dry and your underpainting is complete.

Here is the finished painting.




Puppy Painting Part 2



The composition was changed using the landscape view.  There is more of the boat in this composition.  I put pastel on the boat around the puppy. Now I can pull the fur out into/over the background.  Be sure not to leave a “halo” around the animal. The puppy pastel layers were put in starting with the head and working down through the body – dark values first.   Going back to the eyes and I make sure I have captured the puppy expression.  I use a very small chisel shaper tool (size 0) to help pull the color in the right place.  Eyes are very important!!   Good idea to use a piece of paper to lay over the side of the painting where you hand lays when working on the eyes so you don’t smear the body pastel.

Hope you have enjoyed the puppy painting.  I love painting them.


Painting a puppy

Another Animal portrait

Puppy in Boat

Puppy in Boat

I’m working on a puppy painting – commission. First I started with the drawing and very little detail.  Sometimes a photo will be somewhat washed out due to being taken during the middle of the day and not give you much as far as shadows so you have to get that somehow.  Otherwise your painting will be flat.   I use photoshop a lot in my artwork and find that I can sometimes draw out those shadows by using Image, Adjustment, Levels.  By using the slider, you can increase or decrease the light in the photo.  This will bring out the dark areas if they are there.   Next I put in the dark pastels, then the lights and mid-tones.  No detail is put in at this time.  I used block strokes as much as possible with this puppy.  Personally I like the painting as is and will pursue more of this in the future with other paintings

More detail in the next segment.

Painting Hay Bales

Painting a Hay bale

Hay bale demo

Hay Bale demo

               Recently. I painted a hay bale as a class demo so decided to use in the blog.  I used a reclaimed piece of Uart paper (reclaimed:  the former painting did not come out like I wanted so I brushed off the loose pastel and then gently washed off the remaining pastel using the water sparingly. When it was dry, I then put a coral red pastel and covered it lightly on the surface then brushed with alcohol. 

               Next I drew the hay bale and horizon in loosely on the Uart surface.   I started with the dark brush areas working down into the brush/trees behind the hay bale getting in the dark’s first. 

Hay Bale Demo 2

Hay Bale Demo 2

Next I put in the dark’s on the bale including the shadows on the ground.  I used the mid-value colors next in the brush/tree area and then on to the hay.  The sun was coming from the back right, so I darkened the side of the bale in the shadow area adding the layers of hay as they are rolled. 

Hay Bale Demo 3

Hay Bale Demo 3

Nice to put a little dark behind the top of the bale so you can add small sprigs of hay sticking out from the bale.  Only add a FEW!  This is the icing so should be added last. 

Hay Bales 8 x 10 $75

Hay Bales  8 x 10    $75

Painting Animals – part 3



I am going to continue adding the fur on the ears and neck.  The base color is down and now I need to add the curls or give the appearance of curls.  With curls, you only want to add enough to show that the fur curls or has a wave to it.  Do not paint in every curl!!   With the ear, I used a lighter off white color for the highlights.  In the neck, I added a light tan/gold color for the curls. 

Next to paint is the bird.  There are a lot of bright colors in the pheasant but I don’t want to detract from the dog so will down play those bright colors.  The feathers are somewhat like the curls, you don’t need to add every single feather on the wing or tail.  Give the illusion of feathers.

I hope you have enjoyed this series of post painting Joey.  Let me know if you’d like to see more.




Joey w/Pheasant 20 x 16 Pastel

Joey w/Pheasant
20 x 16

Painting Animals – Part 2


Joey-Ref Photo

Joey-Ref Photo

When the alcohol has dried, then you’re ready to work with the soft pastels.  I like to get the background in first and then I can tweak it later if necessary.  I’ve decided on a very loose background and the head for the dog with bird in mouth.

I begin on the eyes and around the eyes making sure to keep the right shape – at this point, sometimes it’s a good idea to lay the tracing paper over it to be sure you haven’t lost the position of the eyes, nose  and muzzle.  Keep referring to the photo.    I use a pastel pencil or black charcoal pencil on the eye.  Also use a very small shaper (see below).  The black is pretty harsh so will go over it with a dark brown pastel pencil.  I use the pencils on the inside of the eye too.  This reference has a shadow on the right eye so that goes in now too. 

Shaper w/rubber tip

Shaper w/rubber tip

Joey crop WIP_3382-x

Next I move on to the overall head fur.  Be sure to use the strokes as the hair grows.  Start out with the darks and you may have to go over the area a few times using one color pastel and then another and back again.  Use a light touch as you can always add more pastel.  I used a light lavender gray for the gray in the face fur.  These are my colors.

Tools for painting-Ludwig pastels-xx

Terry Ludwig and Girault pastels

Pastel brands and colors I’ve used on this painting:  I have a set of Terry Ludwig pastels which are very soft, I special ordered 11colors of gold, rust and browns that are just for painting the goldens.  I keep them in their own box so they don’t get mixed in with my other pastels. 

To this I add a few Girault pastels in similar colors (also added 2 lavender gray.  I like the Giraults as they have more grit and harder than the Ludwig’s – great for blending from one color to another in the fur.  If you paint a lot of one breed of dog, it is well worth the expense to get pastels that match your dog.   

I’m slowly working my way down the neck of the dog.  The bird will be last.  I’ve changed the bird to an upland game bird, the pheasant. 

Next will continue painting the bird.


Painting Animals with Pastel

Joey w/bird WIP

Joey w/bird WIP

 Painting Animals

The animal fur painted with pastel can be very soft looking and that’s why I choose to use this medium.

I’m working on a painting of my golden retriever, Joey who will be 15 ½ years old in a couple of weeks.  The idea in my head is a senior golden with white face retrieving a bird.  Joey is ideal as he has that white face and he loves the birds. 

Could not find the perfect photo as I had in mind, even tried to recreate but still had problems.  I took the closest representation and worked from that.  


  1. Drew out the dog on tracing paper then transferred to a 20 x 16 sheet of Uart paper and sprayed the pencil marks with workable fixative to keep the marks from smearing.  You could also draw with a pastel pencil w/o the fixative.
  2. Next I added hard pastel (NuPastels or Polychromos) to use as my underpainting and 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol.   Use a cheap bristle brush.  Note, I did not cover all the paper (let some of the paper show through) as the alcohol will blend or melt it into the surface. 
  3. What colors and values to use in your underpainting?

    First I put in the dark values and use this as a guide throughout the painting so they must be in the correct place.  Next I use a little darker color than I would use on the finished painting.  I worked my way through the painting being sure to not use a heavy pastel layer

  4. If you use too much pastel or softer pastel, it will get gummy and fill the tooth of the paper. Try a light layer first as you can always add more if needed.
  5. Brush in the alcohol – don’t worry about drips or staying in the lines.

More to come in next post.

Continuing with Flowers in Watercolor

Rhododendron -progression

Rhododendron Watercolor 11 x 15 $200

Rhododendron   Watercolor  11 x 15   $200

I enjoy painting the Azalea and Rhododendron.  They are abundant in my area with Hamilton Gardens close by.   Each petal is special, blending to get the correct values in each one.  The leaves are not as shiny as the Magnolia, but they still have the blue cast to them where the light hits, so I add light blue with the green.  I paint the leaves with a pale blue underpainting to start.  Then I come back with the green leaving some of the blue highlights.  Here is “Rhododendron”  The blue highlight is done in watercolor and pastel.

Southeastern Pastel Society International Show 2016

Harvest Time by Carolyn Molder Art

Pastel   16 x 20

Excited to say my painting “Harvest Time” has been selected to be in the Southeastern Pastel Society International show in May in Atlanta.   I feel very honored to have a painting in this show of 304 entries where 100 were chosen.   Thanks to juror Richard McKinley.

I plan to use this painting later in a demo with different underpaintings so stayed tuned…. 

Pastel Class at John C Campbell Folk School

Pastel 11 x 14 $350

Pastel   11 x 14   $350

I am teaching a week-long class in Pastel that begins March 28 at the Folk School.  There are still a few openings.

This class is lots of fun where you can learn, share, create and make new friends.  How to use pastel and to  learn new techniques.  After a brief talk about papers, pastels and how to use them, we’ll see how underpaintings affect your painting.  Come join us.



October 30, 2015

Harvest Time by Carolyn Molder Art

Pastel   16 x 20

On the Easel finds my trip to the Golden Retriever National Specialty in Ohio last October wonderful.  The beautiful farmland was begging to be photographed.  I didn’t realize there was so much farmland near Dayton.  We traveled each day about 35 miles to the show site via the back roads with wonderful opportunities for photos.  The evening sun was sinking fast when we found a partial cut cornfield.  The evening shadows and late sun gave the corn rows a wonderful sparkle.  I hope I have captured this on the painting above – “Harvest Time”.


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