Pastel Technique: Planes, Color and Highlights


See below the latest version of my painting-in-progress, "Marsh Madness."


The view of this marsh extends from right below your feet, to distant trees on the horizon.

The challenge is to convey that sense of distance through the use of landscape "planes." I have defined the landscape planes of this painting as the following:

  1. Immediate location right below the bridge I was standing on.

  2. The middle zone where you see color and value but not a whole lot of detail except for the occasional spike of grass.

  3. The far pond, shrubs and "trees" that suggest foliage but are left with much less definition.

In addition to suggesting planes with varying degrees of detail, I have applied color in a way to accent proximity versus distance.

The blues and greens in the foreground are much more vibrant than the same hues in the distance. Applying the complement of a color or blending with a gray or blue pastel pencil can also help reduce a color's intensity in the distance.

As for the details, a sharp hard pastel does the trick for further refinement of the grasses and the interesting reflections in the water. Here I use a dark green pastel to sharpen the blades of marsh grasses.


Don't forget to embrace the vivid colors of pastel! I am a sucker for bold blues and decided to enhance the blueness of this scene with the color you see in Marsh Madness.

Next I will work on the reddish-brown shrubs to the left and right (I will bring this painting to our class "The Landscape in Pastel" at the Michigan Art Center tonight to continue).

I hope to have this painting completed by the time March Madness is over.


22 views