Monday, February 13, 2017

Pastel Demo-Revisiting Botany Bay

After a long break from blogging about painting, I'm back at it. While spending the last few months in South Carolina, I was able to take a painting trip with a group of artists for a couple of gorgeous days in one of my favorite places in the world, Edisto Island, SC, to paint plein air and photograph some of the best Lowcountry landscape available. One of the highlights of this excursion was getting to see the wonderful work my former students are doing these days.

We spent the first afternoon at Botany Bay on Edisto, a 3380 acre wildlife preserve owned by the state of South Carolina. We were only able to access part of the preserve due to Hurricane Matthew damage to the causeway that leads to the amazing Boneyard Beach, which will remain closed until further notice unless you have a boat, but there were plenty of incredible painting opportunities. Various public hunts take place at Botany, so make sure that you call before making the drive.

We set up our easels at a lovely bend in the river with large live oak trees hanging over the water. Here's one of the pastel sketches I did "en plein air", or on location:

Several days later, I brought all my reference material to the studio to do a larger pastel.
Recently I've been using Sennelier La Carte pastel paper and a variety of soft pastels from Terry Ludwig to Sennelier to Unison brands. My go-to color for watery landscapes on La Carte paper is "Sienna".

1. Typically my process is to tape up my paper and block in the big shapes, after having done several value sketches where I make the composition decisions. I determine the horizon line, and the focal area (in this case the point where the marsh and overhanging tree meets the horizon line, and attempt to create an interesting trail or movement to the focal area.

2. Once I get the main elements down, I continue blocking in the big shapes, trying to keep it loose and leaving some of the warm paper color to contrast with all the cool blues.

3.  If you have a good design and composition, the painting develops with less of a struggle. I try to leave some of the "mess" and not be too careful, it is important to retain the energy of my initial marks, and use this calligraphy to draw the eye to where I want it to go in the painting. I added a lot   of rich dark blues in the water filled in the marsh/tree/sky areas.

4. Feeling the overall temperature to be too cool, I added a few more touches of orange/gold in the marsh, some mauve in the trees, and some brighter yellow/green in the tree line, and called it done.

                                                  "Botany Bay" 17"x20"(unframed size).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Plein Air Painting in "The Spirit of Browns Canyon"

As a board member of Friends of Browns Canyon, it is my pleasure to share this beautiful short film made by Salidan filmmakers Sam Bricker and Nathan Ward, "The Spirit of Browns Canyon".  I have a bit part in this movie, representing plein air painters who love to paint in the wild....

We hope that seeing this amazing wilderness, support will grow for permanent protection of the Browns Canyon area, as a National Monument. See how you can help at

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Landscape Workshop Recap

Last week I was in Charleston teaching a Landscape Workshop at the Artists' Loft School; here are some of the images by my workshop students highlighting the lessons....

We spent the first day working on selecting subject matter. The students brought in their photos of the landscape, and we discussed editing these reference photos, choosing a focal area, and crafting a composition where all the elements support and lead to the focal area. 

Much of the day was spent exploring the concept of "value" or the light and dark of a painting, and we did several value exercises, including a mostly "light-value" (High Key) painting, and a "dark-value" (Low Key) painting; both exercises painted in black and white plus two shades of grey:. 

Student painting exercise: dark-valued painting, 4 values

When the students were satisfied with their composition and value painting, we worked on toning the canvas, or paper, and "wiped out" the image, making sure we kept the values, or tones, consistent with our sketches; after this stage, the student was ready to paint. This is one way of getting the values right in your painting:

Student underpainting

Day Two was focused on Color with students working on various color scheme exercises, such as Complementary, or contrasting color, Analogous, Neutral with one bright color, and the concept of Color Temperature in painting.

I think the easiest way to think about the concept of "warm" and "cool" color is that (1) the temperature of a color is relative to whatever color is around it, and (2) warm colors generally have more yellow, cool colors more blue. 

Here is a student's work of a warm and cool version of the same image:  

Student work, Warm and Cool

We worked a lot with the color wheel and the concept of complimentary color, or those colors opposite on the color wheel. One of the students, Alice, was using pastel, and here is her Complimentary Color scheme exercise; she painted a toned background in a hot pink color in the first image, then a blue background in the second:    

Student work by Alice, Complimentary Color Scheme

Another student, Barry, also worked with a complimentary color scheme; he painted the background color orange in his first image, then a cooler raspberry color for the second, using a lot of the complement, blue, on top of the orange, for a vibrant contrast.

Student work by Barry, Complimentary Color Scheme

Some of the students worked on the following exercise: the students painted a mostly warm painting, using cooler color in the focal area and in the trail to the focal area.

Student work by Christy, warm painting with cooler focal area

Another piece by Christy, using mostly cool color, with highlights and focal area in warmer color:

Student work by Christy, mostly cool with warm highlights

Another student's work in mostly cool colors, with highlights and focal area in warmer color:

   Student work in mostly cool colors with warm focal area

Here is a piece by Paula, whose color scheme was a more neutral, greyed one, using mostly neutral colors, and one bright color, using the background toned color as an accent:

 Student work by Paula, neutral plus one bright color scheme

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

February 2012 Landscape Painting Workshop Pastel/Oil

 Landscape Paintings in Oil and Pastel                                    
 with Susan Mayfield               
 2/24, 2/25 & 2/26    2012 
  Artists' Loft School
  327 Folly Road  Charleston, South Carolina      843 637-4229   

Intensive, fun workshop for those artists with some experience with oil paint or pastel. We will work on the fundamentals of making a dynamic landscape painting. Through the landscape genre, we will learn how to create more interesting compositions, learn to use “value” to make more powerful paintings, and learn how to use color to make a powerful statement. The class will do several small paintings each day, learning methods of planning your painting, from choosing subject matter, editing and using reference photos. We will work with a set of
guidelines to help you critique your own paintings. There will be lots of hands-on, individual instruction with demos.
email :
Class limit 10
Times: 9:00 - 4:00 with lunch break
***Cost: $300...Early Registration discount if paid in full by January 31st...$265
Supplies: Suggested list to be provided
Please bring a bag lunch, or we can order out.
Along with your check, please include your name, email address and cell phone number.
Make check out and send to:
The Artistsʼ Loft School
327 Folly Road - Charleston, SC - 29412-2548

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thursday, November 3, 2011

December Art Workshops in Beaufort and Charleston

I will be teaching 2 workshops while in Charleston in December.... a Painting the Landscape Workshop in Oil and Pastel in Charleston, and an evening pastel workshop, Drawing in Color, in Beaufort. Hope to see you there!

Painting the Landscape in Oil and Pastel 
at The Artists' Loft, Charleston, SC 

Friday/Saturday, December 2nd/3rd
9:00-4, Friday/ 9:00-3 Saturday

Intensive, fun workshop for those artists with some experience working in oil or pastel. Students will work on the fundamentals of how to create a more dynamic painting by making more interesting compositions, learning to use "value" more effectively, and using color in exciting ways to make a big impact. Learn methods of planning your painting from choosing subject matter to editing reference photos, to how to critique your own paintings. There will be lots of individual instruction and demos throughout the workshop. Questions? email Susan at

Tuition fee: *Early registration by Nov. 15th, $190.
pay after Nov. 15th, $210
Call the Artists' Loft School to register :   843 637-4229
see website for more info: www.theartistsloftschool
Supply lists for workshop:
for pastel painters: Supply list for pastel painters
for oil painters: Supply List for Oil painters

Drawing in Color/ Introduction to Pastel
at ArtLofts, Beaufort, SC
December 6,7,8, 2011

A 3-session introductory course exploring this vibrant medium. Working with still-life and the landscape genres, students will explore the fundamentals of composition, value, and color in soft pastels. 
No experience with pastels necessary, although some drawing or painting experience is helpful. 
Professional pastel supplies will be available for a $15 additional fee; a supply list will be provided upon registration
Tuition fee is $210 for the 3 sessions. *Early registration discount of $20 will be given for those paid in full by November 15th
To register, please send check for full amount to the following address:
If postmarked by Nov 15th, $190.
If postmarked after Nov 15th, $210
Susan Mayfield c/o William Mayfield
212 Wandolea Dr.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
Classes will be held at the Art Lofts in downtown Beaufort, SC, 208-B Carteret St, 843 410-8815
For more information, email Susan at:, or see Art Lofts website:
Please look at the Suggested Supply List and bring the following. Don't go out and buy a bunch of expensive pastel supplies until you know you want to pursue study of the medium....You can use my pastels and paper for $15, or buy your own  : Supply List for Pastel Workshop

Pastel Supply List

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September 2011 Cover, Colorado Central Magazine

Thanks to Colorado Central Magazine for putting my pastel painting on the cover this month!

This is the mock-up for the September issue. Mike Rosso, editor of Colorado Central, asked to use "September, Nathrop", to complement the article on vintage campers, and old campgrounds here in Colorado.

I did this pastel "en plein air", painting on location in the community of Nathrop, a few miles from Salida.

Pastel Demo, from the Archives!

Monday, August 1, 2011

New Oils

Cold Front, October oil

Mesa in Morning Light, oil

Hollyhocks, oil

Monarch Park, above

Friday, July 15, 2011

Art Opening at the Fritz

Actually, it is more of an Art Closing!
Wednesday, July 27th

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Art Show at the Fritz

Recent Paintings ....
at The Fritz, Salida, CO

on display through July

Twin Lakes, September, oil

Paintings at the Fritz

Mesa, Early Morning

Saturday, May 28, 2011

New Paintings at Bay St. Gallery, Beaufort, SC

Here is one of my new oils hanging at Bay St. Gallery in Beaufort, SC...."Cold Front"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beaufort Workshop in May


Edition 3
May 2011

You may reach us by the Port Republic Entrance or down ArtLofts Alley off Carteret Street

Current Classes

"Making a Better Painting" Susan Mayfield, instructor

May 19th & 20th

Draw What You "See" Pam Hagan, instructor

Begins May 24th - June 28th

Future Classes

( complete class descriptions

and details at

Coming this Summer


with Laura Bricker

Coming in August



Instructor: Mary Segars

Coming in the Fall

Linda Sheppard's classes resume


Join Our Mailing List

Find us on Facebook

Member of Guild of Beaufort Galleries

"With two ArtWalks under our belt (in the first two months of our existence), we are now getting down to business and working on our creating and teaching....Come join us!"

Susan Mayfield painting

"Making a Better Painting"

Instructor: Susan Mayfield

Thursday/Friday, May 19th & 20th

Cost: $195

A two-day workshop for pastel, oil, and acrylic painters, exploring ways of making a more dynamic painting. This is a workshop for students with some painting experience.

From choosing your subject to paint, to discovering how to critique your own work, learn how to make your paintings stand out from the crowd wherever you are in your art journey.

Through specific painting exercises, learn to edit and simplify to develop more interesting compositions, learn to use values to your advantage, and make your paintings pop with effective use of color temperature and contrasting color.

Workshop and classes will be held at Art Lofts, in Beaufort, SC. Size will be limited to ensure lots of individual instruction.

Students are registered when full payment is received.

Make checks payable to:

Susan Mayfield c/o Bill Mayfield

212 Wandolea Dr.

Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464

For more info: 843 327-4193, or email


New Oils