2 Keys to Unlocking Your Momentum

Miles to Go by Elaine Lierly Jones, pastel landscape
Miles to Go by Elaine Lierly Jones, pastel landscape

Pastel Landscape Power!

Engaging with my creativity is fun and yet can be stressful too! I set aside time and I am a big fan of the “creative burst,” in which I create a time-pressure situation to make a painting or do a series of sketches but if I don’t have a focus or a theme or prompt to keep in mind, I get absolutely nothing done. I timidly doodle at the corner of my paper and look for distractions. But when I do have a prompt, and today’s is pastel landscape, I can go, go, go! I get waaaaaaay out there and create like a house on fire.

Through the Trees by Elaine Lierly Jones, pastel landscape
Through the Trees by Elaine Lierly Jones, pastel landscape

Here are two crucial ways to unlock your momentum with pastel landscape painting. It involves key and varied mark making as well as experimentation and I think they go hand in hand, which is why I am talking them up together.

If you love pastel and want more on the topic from a top instructor working right in this sweet spot of pastel landscape, Landscape Painting in Pastel: Fall Color Video Download. with Liz Haywood-Sullivan is what we recommend for you. Enjoy!


#1 Varied Mark Making

You want visible strokes of pastel to set your painting in motion. Degas was a master of this. All the Impressionists were, really, because they applied pastel in a variety of ways. Degas occasionally blended to achieve delicate effects, but usually he applied pastels in pure strokes of broken color by hatching, crosshatching and overlapping broad gestural stokes. He used fixatives very often to build up layers of pastels and he wasn’t scared to experiment with combining pastel with other media to create unique effects.

In pastel landscape painting specifically, break down areas (sky, land, cast shadows within those places) into masses that can be presented with different mark making. Then, take each of those elements and really diversify your strokes within each so that your surface looks intensely alive.

The Guardian by Elaine Lierly-Jones, pastel landscape
The Guardian by Elaine Lierly-Jones, pastel landscape

#2 Experimentation

Oftentimes in pastel landscape work the pieces of the composition can start to disconnect. Land and sky and trees seem to sit separately. That is often because we tend to put blinders on as we work and don’t circle around to the other elements with enough frequency. Experimentation with color and forms is a great way to bridge areas of your composition that feel too far from each other, visually speaking.

I recommend keeping a squiggle sheet next to me as I work so that if I make a stroke and it makes me sit up and pay attention, I’ll try it out on a scratch sheet and see if it can leverage my visuals when I turn back to my more formal work.

Experimentation is also your solution in disguise! So if you are hitting a wall, start to play! You are going to come across something that turns you in a new direction and gets you over that wall so you can show your unique potential through your art.

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

One thought on “2 Keys to Unlocking Your Momentum

  1. Courtney,
    I live and paint in the Catskills – the Church painting featured in “2 Keys to Unlocking Your Momentum” is actually a view from here in the Upstate NY Catskills. I recommend landscape painters to come to this “Hudson River School” mecca and enjoy the amazing views, and visit the Father of the Hudson River School (Cole) and his only student (Church) Historical Sites.