Express Yourself


When I started painting back in 2005, I wanted to have a more detailed realistic style,” says Karen Margulis. “I wasn’t happy with the progress I was making so I started a daily timed painting habit to improve my work. This practice allowed me to paint in a more uninhibited and efficient manner. My paintings became looser and more painterly. I embraced this newfound freedom and have never looked back. 

“Treasure By the Sea” (pastel, 5 x 5 in.)

“Being less concerned with detail has served me well for plein air studies in particular. In the field, I’m able to capture the essence of a scene quickly and efficiently. As I’ve gained experience, I’ve learned to slow down and be better aware of what I need to do to create more refined paintings in the studio. 

My goal is to tell a story with expressive mark-making and color. I prefer to suggest detail and leave some mystery, drawing from my memories and feelings about a subject rather than strictly copying what I see. I want to invite the viewer into my paintings and provide an interesting visual journey, allowing them to participate in the story.

“Seaside Delight” (pastel, 5 x 5 in.)

“I’m drawn to painting nature — the more wild and unrestrained the better. I love to paint wildflowers and wild tangles of grasses. Pastel allows me to easily build up complex layers of value and color. The diversity of pastel types and shapes helps me paint a wide variety of marks, from linear to wide whispers of color and thick impasto. 

“I like to work quickly, starting with large simple passages of pastel then laying down multiple layers of color, gradually refining the level of detail. Pastels are perfect for this way of working because I can easily change the type of marks I’m making by manipulating the sticks. I can also work with multiple layers without creating mud. Plus, I don’t have to take time to mix colors, set up painting mediums, or clean brushes — and I never have to wait for paint to dry. I just open my box of pastels and start painting.”

“Secret Marsh” (pastel, 8 x 10 in.)

In Expressive Pastel Painting: Loosen Up and Be More Bold Karen Margulis takes you through the process of painting a landscape with wildflowers, from the initial idea to the finished piece.

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PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.


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