Pastel Landscape Mastery: The Sky

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Lesson Description

A look at creating a dramatic sky using contrasting colors and values. The importance of light and cloud structure is addressed. A landscape of the sun with clouds is created.

Lesson Materials

Toned pastel paper, soft pastels, masking tape.

Lesson Resources

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Lesson Discussion

  1. Once again I found your explanations of each step in the drawing to be clear and helpful. I hadn’t thought of clouds as being 3 dimensional objects before. But common sense tells me they are. The language the instructor uses makes all the difference to my understanding of the subject. Thank you.

  2. I am so glad to have found this site!!! I think the lessons are at an appropriate level for me and I can’t wait to start putting them to use!
    Many thanks!!! Betty Smith

  3. Help! 🙂 So I just went through this lesson, and the result was atrocious. Clouds are kicking my butt. I am trying to follow along, pausing often, and referring to the photo reference. However, your clouds look like clouds. Mine are a mess. Any tips on cloud creation? I understand the 3-dimensional aspect and using several layers of colors to create shadows and highlights in the clouds, but the stroke itself is eluding me. They either look like scribbles if I don’t blend them, or smudges if I do…neither result resembles the fluffy texture you created.

      • Thanks very much for your quick responce Matt. Unfortunately, I commited a cardinal sin…I tossed what I had. I don’t normally do so, but frustration got the better of me. I am taking a quick break from pastels and working on graphite (out of necessity, I am down to one sheet of pastel paper. I am deployed, it is hard to come by, but my wife has a package on the way with a new pad). My last sheet is gray toned, so tonight or tomorrow I am giving The Sky another shot. I will shoot the results your way. Thanks again!

  4. How do you get rid of the little piles of chalk dust that aren’t smudged in with your finger? Will you smear the drawing if you brush it off; if you blow it away, it’ll be everywhere. The videos seem to just magically have it disappear.

  5. again stunning. i really liked the way you made the clouds much darker and the oranges brighter almost redish; the photo was rather bland, you turned it into something i would be proud to hang in my home

  6. I was gifted a box of oil pastels and a pad of paper along with this course from my Son for my birthday! I have never tried this medium. I have been doing alcohol ink art for about a year now. I going to watch all of the classes in this course before I attempt a “painting!” I love what I have seen so far… Your explanations are excellent and I love the magic of watching the painting develop.

  7. My attempts are not turning out well. As one noted earlier, they are too smudged or look like childish scribbles. I cannot create the same “texture” as what you do. Will the paper color and quality also add to the great difference of results? I am more puzzled on how you create the textural illusion of clouds and how the highlights seem to really pop while mine just look flat and dull.

  8. I was also ready to give up on pastels, but was determined to continue the lessons. I paid much more attention to the details & also found it helpful to watch the entire video first to see where the painting was headed. Just adding that step helped tremendously. It takes much time & patience to continue to work an area. Your deliberateness is important; you are always going back & “seeing” with fresh eyes. I discovered that makeup sponges do a wonderful job of lifting the material in a particular troublesome area. Your lessons are invaluable & have added much pleasure to my art.Thank you!

    • I am a pastelist
      There are many things that change the way your painting turns out.
      The brand of pastels themselves can be a huge part of it.
      Plus the kind of paper you use.
      Get an artist grade pastel and use pastel papers. I highly recommend one with sand or a grit to it. I use Uart 400 grit.
      Patients are the most important thing when using pastels.
      It took me months to be able to create a dramatic sky!
      So if you use a paper with grit and good quality pastels, you won’t need to worry so much about the dust. It will work its way into the paper.
      Oh, and it is not chalk, there is no chalk in good pastels but clay is used as a binder with the pigment.
      Never BLOW the dust as you will end up inhaling it and it is harmful to your health. For this reason, I wear a mask and gloves.
      Hope this helped.

  9. Hi, Matt
    Seems like I am always asking questions!
    Do you work on an easel or on an angled or flat board? I appreciate it may be different when you are filming, but do you have a preference?

  10. The drawing at the end seemed darker in color. Was that caused by the finishing spray or lighting?
    Also how do you choose the color of the paper for the projects?
    Thank you!

  11. Hi Matt! Not sure you’ll see this due to the age of the video but…do you have any tips for creating clouds with pastels? I just can’t seem to get that wispy effect that makes clouds look like, well, clouds. I’m new to pastels and I’m having trouble finding solid tutorials for beginners who need to understand what strokes to use and how. Is there perhaps a better starting point that I’m not aware of?

  12. Hey Matt, do you know of a good beginner course to learn pastels? These follow along videos do not show how to lay down the pastels, nothing on blending other than using a finger.

    Since my fingers are rather big, how do I blend with my fingers in small areas?

    No discussion on layering colors either.

    Also, how are you cleaning your hands after you blend?

    Should we use an air filter or at least wear a mask?

    Is it really just as simple as starting at the top and working our way down the paper?

    Should we sketch out the composition before we begin rubbing pastel on the paper?

    After doing several other courses here at VI. I find this one to be exceptionally lacking in quality instruction.

    Thanks for any feedback you might be able to offer.

  13. This is incredibly helpful. I am just a few minutes in to the video and I am already seeing techniques and methods I never would have thought of doing. I hope I can create better clouds after watching this – clouds and skies are surprisingly challenging!
    What brand of pastel paper is this? Canson Mi-Tients (which I can’t spell, even though I work with it all the time, lol)?

  14. Hi Matt,
    Can you tell me why My pastels clog when I try to layer colours on certain pictures.
    I use 250gsm and soft pastels. but for instance on your sunset tutorial I found it impossible to layer without clogging, especially grey on blue.

    Thanks Mred

    • Hi Mred,

      It’s hard to say why your pastels are clogging. It could be due to the pastels or it could be due to the paper. What specific paper are you using and what is the brand of pastel?

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