My Lessons | Sky & Clouds | Supplemental Videos | Student Critiques


In this month’s collection of lessons, I’ll illustrate the essential techniques for painting dramatic skies in a variety of lighting situations, at different times of day. The light from the sky pervades every landscape.

Painting Clouds & Sky

It’s easy to get the sky too dark and turn the clouds too muddy if you don’t know how to go about layering your pastels. This lesson illustrates 5 proven steps on how to knit sky and clouds together to create a luminous and atmospheric pastel painting.

A Sunset Sky

Marla gives you a thorough survey of the many paper choices and gives recommendations for getting started.

Clouds and Silhouette

There’s pleasure to be found in painting bodies of water of every kind—from lakes and rivers to coves and oceans—but the invented colors are particularly satisfying. Marla shares her step-by-step tutorial of painting water, as featured on the cover of Pastel Journal.


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.

Carlson’s Theory of Angles

This theory provides a guide or system to establish the values of the primary planes or masses in the landscape. The key to this theory is that the elements in a painting that an artist must deal with have different values not because of any color they have but because they present different angles to the light that falls on them from the sky.

Aerial Perspective

Think the effect of aerial perspective as looking through curtains of atmosphere. The more curtains (e.g. dust, moisture, smoke) we are looking through, the more pronounced the effect of aerial perspective will be. This video will help you use this phenomenon to strengthen your paintings.

To Blend or Not to Blend

The video is going to address a big debate among pastelists: to blend or not to blend. With blending, you’re making a gradation within a form or soften the edge of where two forms are meeting up. One of the reasons pastel is so beautiful is because of its luminosity, and over-blending can kill that luminosity. One of the basic skills you need to learn in using pastel is blending. You can use your fingers, a cloth, tools, solvents just to name a few. But each has its pros and cons. For example, using your finger breaks down a pastel’s crystalline structure and can dull the surface. Therefore, no matter what method you choose, the most important thing is the technique.

How to Paint Beautiful Clouds in Pastel