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Art Masterclass - 110

How to Paint a Snowy, Winter Landscape in pastel with Les Darlow

The Golf Course was inspired by the beautiful snow we had in 2010. Believe it or not, Blackpool actually got some! So I spent as much time as possible sketching, painting and taking photos for future work – and, of course, just enjoying being out in it.
When painting with pastel, I mainly use the side of the stick, especially for those larger areas. I suggest therefore that you rip off the wrappers and start to block in simple directional shapes. As always, try to keep it simple. Have fun playing with colour and light, and shake off the stress that preciseness can produce. Let go, be expressive and creative, and concentrate on the main elements of painting.

Demonstration – The Golf Course
You will need:

• Canson Mi-Teintes Touch, indigo (14x47cm)

Unison pastels:
• see colours below

Step 1

Make an initial sketch. This helps you to develop the design, composition and flow of the painting. Use the sketch to develop light and direction. All the rough sketch-like pencil marks you see in my drawing help draw you into the focal point, which is the job of an artist. By keeping it simple, it is far easier to work on the design elements.


Step 2

1. On a sheet of indigo Canson Mi-Teintes Touch paper, block in a series of colours, placing the light in the top left third of the painting. The colours I used in the sky – light blue, pink, peach and soft yellow – were continued throughout the painting, but with different values added.

2. After placing enough colour on the paper, use either your fingers or a piece of pipe insulation to blend the colours together. (Using a piece of pipe insulation gives the effect of a brush.)

Step 3

1. Place the distant trees using grey purple. Mix with a little light blue and yellow to add atmosphere, as you don’t want a completely flat surface.

2. Add light blue, peach and purple to the right-hand bank of snow. Look at the direction of the pastel strokes; use the direction to add flow to the painting, which in turn helps with composition.

Step 4

Using Prussian blue, purple grey, blue grey and turquoise, add the trees on the left-hand side of the painting. Notice how I increased and varied the tonal values of this area to create a surface that is not flat; this adds both interest and atmosphere to the painting. In many of my paintings you will notice the limited detail at the edge of the artwork; again, this is a simple technique to draw the viewer into the scene.

Step 5

1. It is time now to add the darkest tonal values to the painting. Use lots of colours within the trees on the right: Prussian blue, turquoise, a series of different browns and blue grey. The main emphasis is on tonal values here.

2. Notice how the less dense trees behind them add interest and depth. Using either a sharp pastel, pastel pencil or Conté pastel, add a suggestion of branch work to this area, placing the main detail toward the centre of the painting.

3. Using your lightest soft yellow, add the light to the focal point now then add colour into the foreground area.

Step 6

Continue to draw the viewer into the focal point using simple directional pastel strokes of the same colours you used in the sky. Constantly referring to your original sketch (Step 1) will help you with this.

The Finished Painting

The Golf Course, Unison pastel on indigo Mi-Teintes Touch paper, (14x47cm)
Looking at the textures in the finished painting, you can still see some of the fantastic indigo coloured micro-abrasive surface coming through, which helps so much when you are painting with pastel.


Les Darlow

Les runs pastel workshops throughout the UK. He also offers demonstrations and appraisals for art groups, and leads painting holidays in the UK, Spain and Croatia. If a group of ten or more artists would like him to run a workshop, telephone him to discuss details. Les also has several instructional videos on YouTube. Telephone 07900 576 840, email or visit

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