Pastels for DAYS

Enjoy a recap of the 3rd Annual Pastel Live, an unforgettable event for artists of all levels of painting with pastels. Pastel Live is a virtual art conference that took place August 17-19, but don’t worry – you can catch the replays at now!

Pastel Live 2023 Highlights

What are pastels? What are they not? Laurie Basham walked us through the very basics of pastels (which are NOT chalk), including what types of pastel papers are available, and what makes it a painting versus a drawing.

How to paint with pastels
“I love to capture moments of beauty in everyday life,” says Laurie Basham. “I see something I want to paint every day; the way light dances on the petals of a flower, a lacy shadow cast by a magnificent tree, or the glow of light on the edge of a child’s face. When I get to my easel, whether it be outside or in my stud​io, I am in a place of alignment.”

Teresa Saia showed us how she does an underwash on UART 320-grit sanded paper mounted on Gator Board; she then began her painting with a black NuPastel while using a photo reference to guide her from her studio.

Pastel Live
Known for fluid, direct style, Teresa Saia captures the attention of many collectors with her expressive use of radiant and rich color.

“This is like watching an action thriller movie! So cool!” ~ Pat Q.

“There is power in knowing how to draw, how to capture what you see ‘out there’ in just a few lines,” said Gail Sibley in her session on drawing with pastel. She said that two important lessons are knowing how to measure and knowing how to see and use negative space.

How to draw / How to pastel
Here we see Gail Sibley demonstrating how to use your pencil to measure lines for your drawing.

Albert Handell combined two reference photos to create a nature-inspired scene of a mountain stream, using light marks in the beginning because, he says, “If you work lightly, you can change things easier.”

Using a photo only as a general guide allows him to take more creative freedom, and to open his “memory box” for a unique painting.

Pastel Live Albert Handell
Albert Handell is a Master Pastelist of the Pastel Society of America and was the third living artist to be inaugurated into the Pastel Hall of Fame. Click here to learn about a pastel masterclass that will show you the strategies and techniques Albert uses to create his gorgeous pieces.

Sometimes pastelists overlook the color of the substrate, Jill Stefani Wagner explained: “Part of the beauty of pastel is seeing the paper sparkle through your pastel strokes – I very rarely cover my entire paper with pastel. Because of that, I make a very conscious decision about what color my substrate is going to be.”

She continued by explaining the variety of colors available and why you might choose one over the other.

Pastel Live - Jill Stefani Wagner
Jill Stefani Wagner is “a plein air painter at heart,” as she loves to paint nature outdoors. She also creates larger landscape paintings in her studio in both pastel and oil.

When plein air artist Peter Adams paints, he takes (along with his pastels and other items) his 14 x 18-inch art board, his portfolio of the same size, and his paper – always a 19 x 25-inch sheet that he cuts down to fit within his portfolio and his frames.

We watched Peter take his setup to a beach for seven different pastels that he began on site in order to catch the light, atmosphere, and mood before him.

plein air pastel painting
“I am particularly interested in unique lighting effects and how these effects reflect, refract, diffuse and obscure detail. It is the ethereal quality of light that intrigues me. In painting natural or inanimate objects, I am constantly trying to discover and interpret interesting design, shapes, and color harmonies to stimulate the eye. Elevating the human spirit and arousing a sense of discovery is what excites me as an artist.” ~ Peter Adams

Working from photo references and an oil study he created in New Mexico during the Plein Air Convention, Aaron Schuerr led us through the final demo of Pastel Live.

He says it’s important to anticipate quickly changing light conditions when painting on location, and helped us understand the passage of light during a sunset.

how to paint a sunset
Toward the end of his “sunset journey” of a landscape demo, Aaron Schuerr added that he would look at his pastel painting over the next few days to see if there’s anything that he might still change. Click here to listen to Aaron Schuerr’s interview on the Plein Air Podcast with Eric Rhoads.

We closed each night with our famous Cocktail Hour and Paint Along, where we chatted over Zoom while many painted from a shared reference photo; and there was an ongoing art auction with paintings from our faculty – an unbelievable opportunity to own a contemporary masterwork.

“Pastel Live is beyond incredible!!!” ~ Marilyn C.

In addition to the pastel painting demonstrations, we heard a major announcement about the next Streamline-sponsored epic online art event: Realism Live, taking place November 9-11, 2023 (with an Essentials Techniques day on November 8 and a new art auction!). You don’t want to miss it!

We’d like to thank every single one of our attendees and sponsors for being a part of this event – you are the ones who help us keep going, as we all continue to inspire each other to grow, learn, and connect in this incredible world of art. We hope to see you at Realism Live, along with more incredible teachers that we’re bringing to you.


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