My Lessons | Dealing with Foregrounds | Supplemental Videos | Student Critiques


A frequent issue in many paintings is that most of the artist’s attention is on the focal area, but the foreground remains unresolved and the painting suffers for it. Just as often, the foreground can attract too much unwarranted attention by containing unnecessary detail. Why are foregrounds so difficult? This session seeks to address this dilemma with solutions to make your paintings stronger and more dynamic. The foreground is the beginning or entrance to your painting. It should invite your viewer in, but not be the whole story. It shouldn’t dominate. You want your viewer to seek out the rest of the story, to be led to the main part of the show!

Color Fields in Pastel

Color fields, division of space and inventive mark making let this simple yet powerful composition come to life. This lesson is inspired by abstract expressionism and color field painters such as Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. It leans on division of space and the juxtaposition of complementary colors. Although the imagery is recognizable as landscape, the thrust of the piece is color and space. If you have an interest in moving to a more abstract expression of the landscape, this lesson is for you!

Foreground Grasses

Learn to treat the foreground simply so it doesn’t detract from the focal point or “star” of your piece! Just because something is close to the viewer doesn’t mean it should be more detailed! How do you deal with a large mass of foreground grasses without drawing too much attention to it? How do you keep it from being a barrier? They are not the main focus of the piece but we want this area to serve as the beginning or entrance to the piece. This lesson will show you how to keep the grasses simple and airy so your viewer can gaze beyond them to the true area of interest.

A Field of Flowers

How do we depict a vast field of blooming flowers without painting every flower and petal? I’ll show you how I used an underpainting to create spontaneity and interest without getting caught up in the little details. There is something especially captivating about a field of flowers. We are taken aback when we come across them; a shock of color and fragrance. They reel us in, even if they seem trite and overdone, we can’t seem to help ourselves; we have to paint them. Such was the case for me when on an afternoons drive came across field after field of flowers being grown for seed. The light was soft so the intensity of color was heightened. A series “grew” from the days outing. In this lesson I’ll share what I’ve learned about painting this popular subject.


These videos will extend your understanding of the key concepts presented this month. Spend some time with these. Some of them are YouTube videos available to the public but they fit nicely with our study, so I wanted you to be aware of them and take a look.

The Influence of Light

Often we are discussing color as though we were in direct sunlight, unfiltered daylight where the full spectrum of color frequencies are present, but often we are viewing color under different conditions. We have to talk about local color as uninfluenced. If we throw an orange light on a green apple or we want to make the green apple appear as if it had orange light on it, we have to change the local color and add orange to it.

A Little Color Theory

Does color theory make your eyes cross? In this quick overview on the topic, Marla makes sense of basic color theory and explains how you can use it to add excitement to your pastel paintings. With a greater understanding of hue and intensity, value and contrast, color temperature, simultaneous contrast, and more, you'll handle color in your paintings with greater confidence and control.

Oaks Park

Wine Country

New Mexico Pastel Painting