This lesson is a nice warm up for all levels! It’s a simple composition that can be taken in an abstract direction if you are moved to do so. It’s an opportunity to explore mark making and color and texture in the large shapes. Follow along for a first try, find your own forgotten piece of reference, one that you maybe discounted as not a good candidate for a painting.

This is a two-part lesson. First a Follow-Along Demo. Follow along at your own pace but remember my suggestions for time limits!

Next is an Independent Assignment meant to expand on some of the principles presented in the Follow-Along Demo and to personalize your work. When you have completed both parts you can upload one or both images to receive a personal video critique on your work. Remember that the more mileage you get, the more progress you make, so I recommend that you complete both parts before submitting your images.

Who it’s for – This lesson is a nice warm up for all levels! It’s also a great beginner to intermediate lesson. It’s a simple composition that gives you lots of opportunity to explore mark making and color in the large shapes. Follow along for a first try then find your own forgotten piece of reference, one that you might have discounted as not a good candidate for a painting.
What’s it’s About – Dividing space with unequal masses and playing within those shapes with color and texture to create a mood!

Set a Personal Focus – Try to focus on just a couple aspects of the painting. For instance if you really are interested in color, focus on that and don’t worry too much if you don’t get the drawing exactly how you’d like it. Take it a step at a time!

Set a Time Limit – Keep it simple and don’t spend more than an hour on it. If you find yourself spending two or three hours on it, it’s time to STOP and try another version! I recommend looking at the video on the Stages of Learning, Creating Thumbnails and Scaling a Sketch.


  1. Your pastels
  2. An 11 x 11 piece of Colorfix paper. I used Olive Green for this lesson, but you could use a different color or different brand of paper if you like. Please use sanded pastel paper!
  3. Sketch book and pencil or pen


  1. Easel
  2. Baby wipes
  3. An apron

Part I
Follow-Along Demo

Before You Start, a Few Tips on Following Along

  1. Stop the video whenever you need to – it’s one of the greatest things about learning this way. Plus you don’t need to take notes!
  2. Don’t feel funny about copying my pieces! It’s a time-honored way to learn and I know you’ll develop your own “style” in due course. I give you lots of ways to take off on your own and expand on the demos/lessons.
  3. Take your time, but not really! I want you to speed up a bit so you can start to develop the “whole” piece all at once.
  4. Do it differently. If it feels uncomfortable, you’re likely on the right track.
  5. Remember the three “P’s” Perfection, Procrastination, Paralysis. There is no such thing as a perfect painting, so don’t even worry about it.
  6. If you have trouble ask for help! My team and I want you to have a great experience doing the lessons!!
  7. There are 5 stages in each lesson. The beginning of each stage is a good time to pause the video, take a short break and check in on how you’re doing.

Red & Green Notes: I really enjoyed painting this, and did it fairly quickly, so you should too! I wanted to capture the feeling of a moving storm in the clouds and developed the focal point or area of interest around that idea! The division of the space with unequal masses was also an important aspect of this piece. We want to have a variety of sizes of shapes of different values. Otherwise our pieces will be pretty boring and static.

We want to vary the proportional amount of area occupied by each value. Think baby bear, mama bear, papa bear or a little bit, some and most; whatever words works for you. The idea is to create a variety of sizes of shapes in each value.

Part 2
Independent Assignment

Do a second version from you own forgotten reference material. Dig around in your stash and see if you can find something similar; something with 3 to 5 simple shapes and a variety of sizes of those shapes. If possible, take a photo excursion! I’m a firm believer that mileage is one of the secrets to progressing as a painter, so the more the better!

When You’ve Completed Both Part 1 & 2
When you’re done, click here to upload pics of your painting and I’ll send you a Personal Video Critique. I’m curious what you’ll come up with! The first critique request is a free bonus for you. If you’d like additional critiques, normally a Personal Video Critique is $97 but you can send a message my support team to get a discounted critiques package – I’ve already told them that since you are taking lessons from me, you get at least 40% off.

If you aren’t ready for a personal critique from me, then be sure to upload your work to our Community page where your peers can take a look. I often comment on the Community submissions as well – it won’t be a video critique but I really enjoy seeing your work and helping you when I can.

The Stages (applies to both part 1 & 2)

    1. Planning
      • Crop your reference, (feel free to crop it just like mine or change it up a bit).
      • Do a quick 5 to 10 minute thumbnail. This is a great way to get a feel for the piece and visualize the final version. It’s well worth the small investment of time.
    2. Drawing
      • Scale up your thumbnail to the correct proportion Watch my video on scaling a sketch!
      • Lightly sketch in the essential shapes.
      • Use your thumbnail sketch more than your photo reference at this point.
    3. Blocking In
      • Establish the essential shapes of the piece, (3 to 5 largest shapes). Use the sides of the sticks.
      • Establish values for each of the main shapes. What is the overall or average value of each shape?
      • Get a feel for how the piece works as a whole.
    4. Adding On
      • Add a variety of hues (colors) of the same value to each shape.
      • Add texture and smooth out gradations where needed. Watch my video To Blend or Not to Blend.
      • Add a light source or direction of light.
      • Add detail.
    5. Finishing
      • Resolve any areas that need attention or TLC.
      • Slow down make color adjustments where needed.
      • Go the extra mile and exaggerate contrast and intensity where needed. Give yourself permission to do this!
Red & Green
Download the Lesson PDF

Enjoy “Red & Green”!

To Download the PDF file:
Ctrl-Click (MAC) and choose “Save File As”
Right Click (PC) to download files.

Click Here to Download the PDF

Download the Images PDF
To Download the PDF file:
Ctrl-Click (MAC) and choose “Save File As”
Right Click (PC) to download files.

Click Here to Download the PDF

Skill Builder
Stages of Learning
Scaling a Thumbnail Sketch


Lesson 15