How about some more inspiration to take you to the end of the year? George Tsakiris, winner of the October PleinAir Salon award for Best Drawing, was thrilled when he heard the news! 

“We artists often doubt our skills and become insecure. Winning a prize in such a competition with so many successful artists participating was a great boost to my self-confidence.”


George Tsakiris, "The Little Wooden Horse," pastel, 18 x 22 in. October 2022 Best Drawing.
George Tsakiris, “The Little Wooden Horse,” pastel, 18 x 22 in. October 2022 Best Drawing.


What was the inspiration for this winning painting by George Tsakiris? Let’s find out. 

“​​When I decide to set up a still life, I start by choosing a basic object that inspires me and then I try to complement it with other elements that form an interesting composition. In this case, the little horse with its beautiful curves and intricate details was the spark of the idea for this painting.

After I settled on the final composition, I took a photo, and with it as a reference, I sketched the outline of the shapes. I then created a watercolour underpainting with approximate colours and tonal values. I worked from top left to bottom right, finishing one area before moving on to the next. I painted the large shapes first with Pan Pastel and made adjustments on top of it with pastel pencils and sticks.”

Q. George, did you have any challenges?

The biggest challenge was that I wanted to create a composition with several objects that would have a focal point and some secondary elements to add interest but at the same time not confuse the viewer so that he wouldn’t know where to look. This was achieved mainly through the visual path I created with the arrangement of the elements of the composition.”

Q. What advice would you give others who are thinking about entering?

They should look as objectively as they can at their artistic work and put themselves in the shoes of the judge. Once they have decided which they consider the most suitable work to enter, they should not be discouraged if the results are not what they had hoped for. In art competitions, where there are no measures and timers, there is always the subjectivity of the judge. The same work that may not even be a finalist in one competition may be the winner in another. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about because I’ve been there.

Such great advice George!!

Now let’s look at a few other pastels by George Tsakiris.


George Tsakiris, "Fortune Teller," pastel, 16 x 20 in.
George Tsakiris, “Fortune Teller,” pastel, 16 x 20 in.


“This is a narrative painting. My inspiration came from a popular book in Greece that included a deck of divination cards. Also, tea leaves are traditionally used for fortune-telling. There are key elements such as the period doll, the image of the young warrior, and the love card that lead the imagination to create a romantic story of the past. A story that, like fairy tales, has a happy ending, as the card of the sun in the background implies. The details of the story are left to the imagination of the viewer. As for the design, I placed the most intense value contrast at the focal point, which is obviously the doll. I also tried to connect the shapes to create coherence, unity, and a visual path for the viewer’s eye to follow.


George Tsakiris, "Path of ransformation," pastel, 16 x 19 in.
George Tsakiris, “Path of Transformation,” pastel, 16 x 19 in.


Regardless of religious beliefs, the Buddha’s figure has been associated with spirituality and the archetype of the enlightened one. In this painting, the path of inner transformation of the human being is symbolized by the scattered rough stones that over time, form a single ascending pyramid at the top of which is the diamond-like quality of the enlightened one. The red ground which is linked to fire, danger, and passion, symbolizes the difficulties of this journey of the soul. In fact, for design as well as symbolic purposes, I have painted two repetitive triangular shapes connected by the rectangular shape of the incense burner. The support is white Pastelmat paper and I have used a watercolour underpainting upon which I have refined with my pastels.


George Tsakiris, "Tasty Color," pastel, 8 x 12 in.
George Tsakiris, “Tasty Color,” pastel, 8 x 12 in.


As hungry as I was when I opened the roaster lid, the first thing I saw was not peppers stuffed with cheese but rather abstract shapes, colours, and interesting textures. So I put my appetite aside for a while, set up the tripod with my Nikon camera, and took several photos by placing the lid and fork in different positions to get a balanced composition. Most care was given to the rendering of the different textures of the peppers, oil, and metal. I created a watercolour underpainting with the average local colours on sanded paper and painted with pastel pencils on top.

One might be surprised to discover that, not only does George paint these complex still lifes, but he also paints landscapes. (He reminded me that I’d talked about one of his pieces in my HowToPastel blog in July 2019!) 


George Tsakiris, "Sculpture of the Sea," pastel, 16 x 20 in.
George Tsakiris, “Sculpture of the Sea,” pastel, 16 x 20 in.


A couple of years ago I went on vacation to a beautiful place in southern Greece. Next to my accommodation, there was a cycle path that was 8 km long and ended in a nearby seaside village. The amazing thing about this path was that it ran alongside the rocky coast so I could enjoy my daily walk and admire the picturesque scenery. Its wild beauty challenged me to paint it so I took several photos at different times of the day. Every little bay was a potential painting subject. I have painted two pieces of this place with a somewhat different approach. The painting Sculpture of the Sea conveys the summer atmosphere as the sun is low on the horizon and bathes the rock formations with warm sunlight creating a complementary colour scheme to the blue of the sea. The edges are mainly hard to emphasize the rough nature of the rocks which to my eyes looked like abstract sculptures carved by nature’s great artist.

On the other hand, Rugged Coast depicts a moment of the day when the sun is high; therefore, most of the cliff’s surface is in the shade. To add interest in this area, I decided to have a less realistic and more colourful approach. I created a wet red underpainting that I let show in places to create unity. I also pushed the intensity of the colours beyond what I was seeing. I eliminated the details in the background and the sea so that the attention would be focused solely on the rock formations in the foreground.


George Tsakiris, "Rugged Coast," pastel, 8 x 13 in.
George Tsakiris, “Rugged Coast,” pastel, 8 x 13 in.


A huge thank you to George Tsakiris for taking the time to share his art and words with us!

Take a chance! Go ahead and enter the last PleinAir competition of 2022!!



Pastel Artist Canada Exhibition winner Susan Typert


Susan Typert took home First Prize from the 32nd Purely Pastel Exhibition held at the Federation Gallery in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Two weeks long, it exhibited the work of 57 artists. You can see the show here.


Susan Typert, "Vancouver Bound," pastel, no size given. 1st prize PAC 32rd Purely Pastel Exhibition
Susan Typert, “Vancouver Bound,” pastel, no size given. 1st prize PAC 32rd Purely Pastel Exhibition


Congratulations to Susan Typert and George Tsakiris on their awards!!

And that’s it for this time,



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