It’s Friday! Time for another pastel hack from our Advisory Board. Today we have Richard Suckling up and I know you’re going to find this one helpful!

Take it away Richard!

“There are times when any pastel painter whether professional, keen amateur or beginner, will hit a rough patch where despite your best efforts nothing seems to go right. Sometimes it can be one painting that tests us to the breaking point or it can be over a period of time like the artist’s equivalent to writer’s block. Paint for long enough and trust me, there will be times that you will experience this feeling of frustration. 

Many artists take a break from pastels, working in another medium for a change or they literally take a break from painting. I work exclusively in pastel so other than sketching with pen, swapping mediums is not an option for me. Taking a break is obviously always an option but I prefer to find a way to work through the problem otherwise I end up just feeling guilty for not having anything on the easel. 


Richard Suckling, "Penzance Harbour," mixed pastels on Sennelier La Carte pastel Card, 12 x 12 in
Richard Suckling, “Penzance Harbour,” mixed pastels on Sennelier La Carte pastel Card, 12 x 12 in.


What do I do to get my pastel mojo back? Here are just a few ideas.

  1. If I’ve been working long hours in the studio on larger pieces, I will change scale and work smaller for a bit and, if the weather allows, work outside from life. Working en plein air in pastel is a great way to refocus the mind and as you inevitably have to work faster and smaller, it doesn’t give you the time to over analyse and pause over every stroke of pastel you make. Also, all that fresh air and being right in the middle of your subject up close and personal is healthy and invigorating. Working in the field whether on the cliff tops of the Cornish coast or simply in your own garden will, I promise, reignite that creative spirit. And working en plein air can, I warn you, become a little addictive.


Richard Suckling, "Coastal Path Near Porthcurno," mixed pastels on reused Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card, 19 x 20 in
Richard Suckling, “Coastal Path Near Porthcurno,” mixed pastels on reused Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card, 19 x 20 in.


2. Pastel paper is expensive and wasting sheets when paintings aren’t going to plan only makes matters worse. I primarily use Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card and at eight to twelve pounds a sheet, if it goes wrong, that’s an expensive mistake especially as it cannot be washed off under running water like some papers. However, if you take a stiff bristle brush to the offending image and remove as much of the pastel as possible, you are left with a mere ghost image which can be painted over. The great thing is that this piece of paper is now used, secondhand, effectively already ruined, so the pressure of producing a masterpiece on a brand-new pristine sheet is gone. Invariably I find this then results in a less stressful experience and often a great pastel.


Richard Suckling, "Somerset landscape," mixed pastels on reused Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card, 10 x 10 in
Richard Suckling, “Somerset landscape,” mixed pastels on reused Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card, 10 x 10 in.


3. Painting something different from your normal subject matter is also helpful. It’s distracting in the same way that a change of medium is, in that you use a different approach and techniques depending on the type of motif. I am primarily a landscape and seascape painter but a few years ago added flower painting to my repertoire during the early lockdowns of covid. In effect, I discovered a new subject matter during what was a difficult and frustrating period for landscape painters especially those who like to paint en plein air as part of their working practice. Flowers are now very much a big part of my output these days and a subject I enjoy tackling.


Richard Suckling, "Comino Garden," mixed pastels on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card, 12 x 11 in
Richard Suckling, “Comino Garden,” mixed pastels on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card, 12 x 11 in.


4. One practice I do employ for studio work is to always have a number of pastel paintings on the go at the same time, usually at least four and often up to six. When you are struggling to make just one painting, your sole focus of attention is asking for trouble. With one point of focus, you will inevitably work this to a grinding halt and end up frustrated and disheartened. Having multiple works on the go means when one isn’t going to plan, you can put it to one side to ponder over your next move whilst working on another piece. Taking a break from a problem pastel means you can return with fresh eyes and make more considered decisions on how to fix things rather than blindly applying more and more pastel to no avail.


Richard Suckling, "Sardian Landscape," mixed pastel on Primed board (Colourfix Primer), 23 1/2 x 23 1/2 in
Richard Suckling, “Sardian Landscape,” mixed pastel on Primed board (Colourfix Primer), 23 1/2 x 23 1/2 in.


Hopefully, these ideas will help but, most importantly, don’t beat yourself up when painting seems hard. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun! Finally, if all else fails, visit your local art supplies store and shop for pastels. This is guaranteed to lift your spirits and make you want to get back into the studio and play with those colours!”

Such good advice Richard! Many thanks! 

We’d love to hear from you so do leave a comment on the blog.



Southwest Florida Pastel Society Show Winners


Need some visual inspiration? Then be sure to check out the winners in the Southwest Florida Pastel Society’s 2022 juried online show.

Carol Peebles took first prize and show judge, Desmond O’Hagan, had this to say about the piece: “The light in this pastel was skillfully executed. The scene has a timeless and unique quality that truly engages the viewer.”


Carol Peebles, "Drawing Together," pastel, 22 x 26 in
Carol Peebles, “Drawing Together,” pastel, 22 x 26 in.


And that’s it for this time!



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