Our guest Blogger is Ugo Paradiso, a wonderful artist and friend of PSWC. He is sharing some of his tricks and tips for pastel painting. He makes bold use of color and the result is a strong, powerful painting the really revs your engines! (All photos and images are the property of Ugo Paradiso and cannot be used without permission.)

Here is is a short step by step on what I did on my painting titled – Take a Ride.

I had a black and white reference photo of an old 1956 Pontiac Chief Star that I took during my travels. My job requires travel for 2-3 weeks at a time to various part of the United States. I bring my camera with me so that any chance I have I take photos of what I find interesting.

Stage 1: Planning Stage

Planning stage is very important to me. Choosing the subject and having a connection to the subject is critical. I paint what I have an emotional connection with. It becomes easier to create your own input. Also, during the planning stage, I carefully evaluate the information I see in the photo. Because I have seen this car, and I remember it very well, I cremember its warm colors. The car was asking me, “What are you waiting for? Paint me!!!”

 A. Do a pencil sketch. decided to do a  pencil and ink sketch (on an 8X10 Master multimedia Pad) to give mean idea of what strokes to use. I do a fast study of the form, stroke directions, etc. I make this a relatively quick sketch. I don’t get all the details, but I  I draw what I think is important.

Tools I used a  ruler, my o.5 ink MICRON 1 archival ink Pen and my HB pencil.

B. Decide the size. In this case if I make it smaller than 16X20, I will not get the details I want. So, I decide to go 16X20 and mount my pre-cut paper on an acid free, black board I have, and I tape to secure the corners with blue painter’s tape. (Note: I use it only for the painting. As soon I finish it I take it off as is not acid free).

C. Detemine the palette. After the sketch I am ready to think about what palette to use. I decide at this point to use warm orange colors as my main palette.

D. Prepare palette. I get my palette colors all together and quickly try these out on a piece of extra pastel mat.  I love these colors. I think it gives me a good value to work with. Knowing that I willAdd more values and colors as I go. I have Included in the photo a dealer a Rowney a lemon Yellow and a blue Ink bottle of Ink thinking I may use these In my painting as underpainting but I am not going to use them as I realized late that it didn’t work well onThe dark paper I have. 

E. Determine Painting Technique. I decided also that I am going to do a more loose approach to my painting. I want the feel of movement in my painting. So the way I make the strokes and use of edges is very important to know. I want to keep that in mind as I go.

Stage 2: Drawing

A. Starting in black and white.  I have printed out a black and white photo. Its 8X10.  I did my sketch on a 16 X 20 pastel mat paper mounted on an acid free board with tape to hold it on. I place it on my easel and accurately sketch the car using as reference my ink sketch (size 8X10) and the photo reference (8X10). I use the grid system, and I use my PROPORTIONAL DIVIDER to correct measure distances between areas as needed.

 I use my professional divider tool to accurately correct distances between the various shapes. I don’t draw everything, just what I consider the main shapes.

Note: The professional devider is a fabulous tool to draw any image from different scale: 1 to 1, 1 to .5  or 1 to 5 X etc.  It it adjustable, and I found it fabulous to accurately measure your drawings. I found it on Amazon for less that $ 20. Is made of plastic and very light. Perfect for drawing.

My approach in most of the  painting is that I draw the fine details as I go because there may be some parts of the information in the photo that I don’t want to draw or paint. I may add some parts or take some out later. IT ALL EVOLVES AS I GO.

F. Finishing the drawing. I finish the main part of the drawing and do any needed corrections. Doing a good drawing is vital for an accurate painting, especially if you’re trying to make realistic work. I use the sketch I did and the photo reference. (It is easier to see the ink sketch than the photo in drawing and this helps me tremendously  in the drawing on my canvas!)

G. Underpainting, yes or no. I usually do an acrylic or water underpainting but because the paper is dark, I decided to use pastel pencils for this.

Stage 3: Painting!

A. Starting to paint. . I am starting with pastel pencils. I want a section of the underpainting done to see how all the colors come together. I make sideway strokes. I roughly draw part of the headlight and upper part of the hood. I use at this point only few pastel pencils,  yellow. orange-red  and purple. I look at the color relation on Poker Color Wheel as a reference.

 I am adding a Rembrandt pastel and make few markings. I add a red violet on top of the fender. I know in my vision that this car will be in a closed location, so I have to consider the light source; therefore, I choose a cooler color.

 Here I did some more and so far I have pullout these pastels. 

I take a photo with my iPhone and make it black and white so I can see the value.

 I refined the headlight a bit more 

Here I decided to start working on the background because I want to see how everything comes together. I add two signs and decide that I am going to place the car in a garage. I need to decide where the light source of the background is. I know where it is in the foreground. I decided to add  another light source. I want to add three light bulbs somewhere on the ceiling with good spacing between them.

By now I know that I need to add purple and blue hues to the background. It all comes together. I decide to put a red beam on top of the ceiling and create walls with correct proportions. I can see my vision is coming to life! I love seeing the cool and warm colors together. I make strokes with pastels based on the direction of the prospective and space. The red beam I added separates the two walls, and I like to see that separation. Once I decide what warm colors to use, I clip the color swatch to the side of the painting.

Here is a photo of the pastels I have so far: Carbothello, Cretacolor, Faber Castell pencils, Rembrandt, Unison, and MYNGO pastel sticks.

Now, I  flip the painting sideway (to avoid pastel dust going to the painting) and I add some details and texture to the meta beam. 

As I continue to work, I use a paint brush to rub off the pastel in some cases to make a thin layer. I added some dark values (using dark value Rembrandt) to the grill of the car.

I decided at this point that I need to get more layers done on the background as this will determine the contrast, light source, and the general appearance of the painting. So I add layers of pastel with pastel pencils and pastel sticks and play around until I see the general tone. I see that because the car is inside, the colors in the background need to be softer with less details than the front of the car. I work more on the car, adding layers and layers of pastels going from dark values to lights. At this point, I keep adding light layers of pastels using both pastel sticks (Rembrandt) and pastel pencils. I intentionally use side strokes and keep my strokes uniform.  This gives a soft and calm feel to the painting. I am building texture. Not all the strokes are the same but try to keep UNIFORMITY. This is where the creativity of the strokes kicks in! I try to keep the colors of the car somewhat similar based on the light source. 

I continue in this way, adding layer after layer of color, making adjustments, taking value photos with my iPhone to get it just right.

NOTE: I don’t like to make any final correction at night but rather during the day with the daylight.  I have spot light I have added to my ceiling, but it is more on the warmer side of the light spectrum. (I need to change them to daylight)!! As  I feel satisfied with my painting. I can now take a picture with my Nikon camera and put it away for few days till I see if I need any corrections to be done, then I will sign it and put it away.

I clean up my work area by now as it is a mess! I also make notes on my Art NOTE BOOK of when the painting was completed, and anything I want to say about the painting. This is something that I am doing so that if one day I want to go back to that painting I have a recollections from the notes I took.. Here is the finished painting:


  1. Thank you for your lovely comment! Practice and experimenting is a wonderful way to get your hands dirty and learn. Not every painting will be you masterpiece but every painting is a learning process. I love art because you have no limits on what you can do. Is an open table. Just let your creativity and imagination take you along the way. Techniques you will improve as you do more and more studies! Be open to learn and you will have fun on the way!

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