A Change of Medium

I have been very clear about wanting to stick with pastels as my medium since I started painting about six years ago. I am relatively new to art and felt that there was so much to learn about pastels that I did not want to muddy the waters with another medium. But this past fall I was looking at the Community College catalog and saw a watercolor painting class. “Why not?” I thought. When you are 65 or better you can take any class in the state college and university system for free, meaning just the registration fee. I signed right up!

It was a great experience. The teacher was encouraging and knowledgeable, the other students diverse and enjoyable. I struggled with the medium, especially at first. It’s not very forgiving: you cannot erase or layer over any mistakes very readily. You can do both with pastel and no one’s the wiser. It took some practice to begin to get the drift of how much water to use. And it does not necessarily stay where you put it!

That latter quality, however, can be a strength of the medium, and I discovered that it makes beautiful skies, water, and snow: all things that are not very defined and that benefit from the loose transitions from color to color that is easy with this medium. It can have a particularly luminous quality, because of the transparent nature of the pigment. I liked that quite a bit. I can see that I have a long way to go before I develop any real expertise, even the level of expertise that I have with pastel. But I at least got friendlier with the medium and am happy with some of what I produced. Here are a few examples:

Jamie's House

“Jamie’s House” This is a large painting (about 21″ x 29″) and certainly took a lot of time. With watercolor, you have to plan out carefully how you will approach the painting, because once it’s down, it’s down for good. I worked more or less from back to front, with sky first, then the distant hill, then the house and barn, the foreground grass and leaves, trees, then finally the cars, the person and the dog. You can use masking fluid to cover things that you want to keep paint off, and that was necessary for the tree branches and some of the details. The painting sold right away, hooray!

watercolor 1

Here is a watercolor version of the pastel painting “Gentle Evening.” (9″ x 12″) You can see the lighter quality of the image compared to the pastel.

And finally, perhaps my favorite…..


“Cupcake!” 9″ x 12″. We did still lifes in class, which of course are terrific exercises, but I do loathe them. I rarely like them as paintings. They just seem like a collection of dead objects to me. So I asked if I could bring in something, and this is the result. It was not easy….well, I guess none of these paintings were easy, given that I did not know what I was doing. But it was fun, because I liked the subject. And when I was done painting it, I ATE the subject! I actually framed this one and have it for sale on my “Town Scenes, Flowers, and Food” page. I may well frame the prior painting too.

I am off to Tucson in a couple of weeks and will be there a month. This is an experiment in shortening winter. I have various friends joining me throughout that time. I will be painting the Sonoran desert, which is a landscape that I particularly love. I will report when I get back!


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2 Responses to A Change of Medium

  1. Karen Grace says:

    Good for you Mimi! Thanks for the reminder about taking courses for free!! Hope you have a great time in Tucson! Love, Karen

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Very interesting about your process. I also wrote something under the painting “Jamie’s House” but I’m not sure where that will show up – tell me if it does. Hope to see you before you leave. Don’t know my exact schedule this coming week…

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