Colored Pencil vs Pastel Pencil (with Fur Seal painting)

Colored Pencil vs Pastel Pencil (with Fur Seal painting)

I’m back with more about Mom today, I hope that’s okay! She’s given me her art supplies over the years as she downsized, and while I visited her recently she also passed on the last of her vintage pastel pencils.  (Read more of that here.)

Today – I have an art piece to share! It’s a pastel painting of a fur seal; and yes pastels are called, by most artists, paintings, and I think the technique here will show you why. Because I used a paintbrush for the technique!

Tutorial: Colored Pencil vs Pastel Pencil (with Fur Seal painting)

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Colored pencil vs pastel pencil

In the little exercise below, I used Stonehenge – just to give colored pencil a leg up. I could have done this on Pastelmat, but it’s expensive per sheet, plus the pastel REALLY rocks on Pastelmat, so my Prismacolors needed an assist.

I do still love my colored pencils – there are some things they’re better for. Like cards, or any art that’ll be ‘handled’ in any way, because the pigment doesn’t move nearly as much as pastel. For colored pencils, wet blending intensifies color, helps to fill in the white gaps in the paper so it looks smoother. But – once you get a certain amount of pigment on the paper, you reach a point where you can’t add a lighter color on top.

Pastel (sticks or pencils) keep on a-moving – any dry pigment drawn onto paper will move with the slightest touch of a finger, especially if no fixative is used. When wet-blended with isopropyl alcohol, pastel turns into a mushier color rather than brighter. The pigment breaks down and moves with a watercolor effect, but does the opposite of colored pencils. However the technique restores the texture of the paper; think of the pastel as “filling” the valleys between the texture, and when dry, you can only put so much in. But once wetted with alcohol, the peaks and valleys are once again workable.

Both mediums can be sprayed with a fixative – though with the way I use pastel, I have yet to find an excellent fix that holds everything in place without yellowing or changing the color. If anyone has a good suggestion that does better than Delacroix Fixatif by Sennelier – let me know, I’ll be researching it!


Fur Seal painting

This was cobbled together from a variety of references – one of a different kind of seal in this position, another for the rock, and another for the fur seal markings. I created my own lighting situation too which meant imaginging colors!

I’m still torn on whether to add a background – more rocks on a coastal shore. I kinda like him just as is…..

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Vintage art supplies from Mom

Vintage art supplies from Mom

At the risk of sending people running for the hills by talking about Mom again…I’m talking about Mom again. 🙂 I mean, how many people can say they celebrated their 60th birthday with their mama after not having done so in over 45 years!? (Not because we didn’t want to, but spring has never been a time we’ve gathered. It’s always Thanksviging to Christmas.)

First, in non-vintage, Mom had sent my birthday package weeks ago. She’s on top of it! I set it on the counter, and when packing for the emergency trip, I entirely spaced it, even though I had some consciousness that my birthday was going to fall in the middle of the trip. On the day, I had dinner with my sisters at a nice Italian restaurant, then we traipsed to the hospital for cake with Mom; though we couldn’t figure out if candles would be okay since Mom had an oxygen tank and we weren’t sure if we’d blow anything up! So we pretended.

Mom did tell me what was IN the package she had sent, and how she’d looked for a  yellow one, even orange, but the best she could do was maroon. And, well, that will show less dirt so I’m great with it! I might add my yellow flower pin to it.

But the best part of my 60th? That was looking over at Mom, in her hospital bed with a huge grin on her face, singing to me. She was hurting, she had tubes all over the place, uncomfortably in a hospital bed – but celebrating with me for the first time since I was a kid. That’ll stay with me for all the rest of my birthdays.


Tutorial: Vintage art supplies from Mom (and cards from YOU!)

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Pencil Sharpening

While this video was about sharpening pastel pencils, the same applies to colored pencils. There are lots of ways to sharpen, lots of ways to break the pencil pigment, and it’s all a matter of the time and effort you want to put into it.

I have a variety of sharpeners, and this isn’t even all – but here’s how I use most of my sharpeners:

General’s All-Art Sharpener – I picked it up recently, and it works pretty great aside from pencils with thick barrels.

Quietsharp Pencil Sharpener– Electric, so it’s good for a quick sharpening.

Afmat Long Point Pencil Sharpener  – a good long point is my preference since it lasts longer – not possible for pastels, they’re too soft.

Dahle Sharpener  – Standard 2-hole options (longer and shorter points). Blades on any brands of these will wear out so get new ones often.

Dahle Chubby Pencil Sharpener  – Anything called chubby so boldly gets my vote. Only one sized hole though.

Xacto Sur Grip Utility Knife  – for old-school sharpening! Get a new blade, you won’t regret the sharpness.

Pastel vs Colored pencils

Soft pastel moves more easily than colored pencil – so be prepared for that. Not great for cards (though a shaker card with no shaker bits can really protect the pastel) and if using in a sketchbook I lightly tack a sheet of glassine on top to keep pastel from moving around. Framed pastel pieces should have the mat lifted above the surface of the paper using shims – that way if any pigment lets go and drops, it falls behind the mat and won’t dirty it.

Colored pencils are harder, and will stay in place better, though can also move. Thus why I love using it in powdered form where it behaves more like pastel. Lighter pressure keeps the pigment floating on the top of the paper, so it can move, but harder pressure or wet blending techniques make the pigment stick to the paper and not move around.

Both can be “fixed” (sprayed) but few fixes that I like are immovable. Those kind can change the color of your art, they might yellow, or become weirdly shiny. I use Delacroix Fixatif by Sennelier.

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Mom’s advice

When talking with Mom for the last two weeks, I asked her so many questions! Knowing this would likely be the last time I could sit and just talk with her, I soaked up all I could from her. A recent newsletter contained a number of my learnings, and hopefully in coming months I’ll share more of her ideas as I create art using them. 

The biggest takeaway that has me stumped is what she thought I do best: I wanted to know if it was watercolor, marker, pencil, etc. But what she wanted to know I would pursue: portraits. And secondly animals. “Not so much landscapes. You do people so well.” Now frankly, she doesn’t see all of what I do; she no longer watches YT or visits my blog. She only sees when I post art on my personal Facebook page, and since I don’t go post things there very often, it’s most of the time when I do a portrait of someone who died! What I plan to do more of is to post more of my regular art on my personal page, not just the biz page……so that my friends and family see more of the breadth of my work. Plus….I’ll try more portraits, because Mom said, and I listen to Mom. But she also said animals, and I’m hanging onto that tidbit. (And will continue my randomness too!)

BTW this little tangerine was begun before I left for the trip is still not finished, but hopefully will be soon. 

Thank you all

I am deeply grateful for all the lovely comments and emails during this last couple weeks! So many of you have told me your own stories of loss of parents, some who were present for it, others who regretted not being able to be. It means so much to hear from you and know I’m not alone; it’s simply my turn.

Mom is still in hospice as I’m typing this, and we don’t know if it’ll be days or weeks. She still wants to get herself down to bingo, and to art group, and join her bff for scrabble or the whole gang for bridge. I worry over so much activity that could include falls – and yet I celebrate her passion to keep up with the things she loves! I can only hope to be as energetic as she’s been in her elder years.

How to mix the perfect cat’s eye green hue

How to mix the perfect cat’s eye green hue

Ever need to mix the perfect green for a cat’s eye? (Or anything that’s an olive green?) With a little basic color theory, you can mix ANY color you want!

A little side story: while working on these two pieces I was on the phone with  my Mom. She was SO EXCITED that I launched my Commissions page finally! And excited that a bunch of applications came in right away too! And that there are a bunch of pieces that sold in the big SALE currently going on. I mean, seriously. This is a milestone. Mom doesn’t do computer stuff and watch my videos or anything. She was giving me advice on pastels. Celebrating a MILESTONE here. 🙂

If this photo doesn’t convince you that eyes are what makes a drawing work…nothing will!

Tutorial: How to mix the perfect cat’s eye green hue

Quick question: what do you think about the thumbnail? I’m not worried as much about what it looks like here embedded in the blog, but in the grid you see on YouTube. Would it catch your attention more than my usual?

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Mixing colors for wet media

Watercolor, gouache, acrylic, oil….anything that is mixed on a palette before being applied—mix them on the palette. A warm yellow will turn a cool green into an olive color, desaturating it.

Mixing colors for other media

If your media doesn’t get premixed on a palette – think alcohol markers, colored pencils, pastels – then mix ON the paper. Either apply and blend like shown with pastels, or layer them atop each other in glazes. 

Note: you can use this for watercolor too – if the color isn’t olive enough that you mixed in the palette, paint a thin wash of yellow on top of the green to glaze it.

What colors do  you struggle with mixing?

I’d love to help out – what color do you need to mix, and in what mediums? 


Some product may be provided by manufacturers for review and use. Compensated affiliate links are here at no cost to you. I appreciate your support of my work with your purchases! Full affiliate and product disclosure | My trusted partners in art

  1. Pastel:
    1. Mom’s random pastels
    2. Clairefontaine pastel mat pads
    3. Faber Castell Pitt Pastel Pencils  (I’m looking for softer ones. Not sure on these)
  2. Gouache:
    1. Scrap board
    2. Daniel Smith Gouache 
    3. Joybest airtight palette 
    4. Jack Richeson travel brush set 

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What I do when watercolor won’t work

What I do when watercolor won’t work

Believe it or not, I have some tragically awful art days, too.

I know some of you think that someone who’s an artist for a living doesn’t suffer that. Maybe you think we don’t get impostor syndrome. That we can draw or paint anything. Not so!

I had a tough day yesterday, and I’ll tell you all about it in the video!

Tutorial: What I do when watercolor won’t work

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Get back on the horse!

For some people just leaving the studio helps overcome a rough art day. Not for me. I take the failure-feeling with me, and next time I walk into the studio, I’m nervous about getting my mojo back!

Instead, changing medium, subject matter, or project helps to dispel that failure and prove to myself that yes, I can still make art! 

What works for you on a bad art day?

Let me know in a comment…..and if your method isn’t always just what’s needed, try mine. Get back on the horse and prove to your inner voice that it’s time to hush up with the insults. 🙂 


Some product may be provided by manufacturers for review and use. Compensated affiliate links are here at no cost to you. I appreciate your support of my work with your purchases! Full affiliate and product disclosure | My trusted partners in art

  1. Mom’s random pastels
  2. U-Art pastel paper 
  3. Photo reference

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Be fearless and try things: four sanded papers

Be fearless and try things: four sanded papers

I hope today’s video will be an encouragement to you….I hope today’s video will be an encouragement to you….I know a lot of us struggle with just trying crazy new things without fear. But the best way to learn and grow is to step out – and maybe watching do wacky things will stoke your courage!

I don’t have much to teach in these four drawings, since I don’t know pastel very well – but I was so curious about all the different papers. So over the last 6 months I’ve been collecting pads of different ones….and it was now time to test!

Severak of this week’s pieces are for sale; I’m framing the big chick face for me!

PS I’ve got a birthday coming up this weekend. So I’m giving myself one of these drawings – the big yellow chick is at the framer’s!


Watch the video below or click here to see it on YouTube.

The papers:

First up is the least expensive of these four, UArt Premium Sanded Pastel Paper Pads . I really did like it, but be aware the minimum price on any of these is pretty high – $3.10 for this one on the day I checked, for a 9×12″ piece. It comes in either black (charcoal actually) or a neutral, and you can get it in sampler packs like this one so you can try out a variety of grits.

Next up is the Clairefontaine Pastelmat Card Pads which I liked a lot – very nice surface and a pleasing touch to it. Pads can be bought in a mix of colors which is nice. I still have no idea why it’s called “card” but whatever, eh?

The Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card Pads were a disappointment, but – I do have to accept plenty of the blame myself. I’m a noob! So maybe I’m missing something. I’ll be trying it again, but for now will set it aside as I try to develop whatever my style is in pastel.

I think the most pleasing of these was the Ampersand Pastelbord – but being over $10 for one, that is a lot of why! It’s a hard surface too, so needn’t be handled as gently or taped down to work with it. This is the one I’m getting framed for myself!


In case you missed the chickies all week, here’s the list!


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Hello, 2020! Three things I learned from 2019

Hello, 2020! Three things I learned from 2019

Welcome to 2020!! Anyone taking bets on how long til I learn to write “2020” on my checks? LOL!

As the new year begins, looking back over the old can have some really valuable lessons to carry forward. While there could be a temptation to kick ourselves for mistakes, regret things done or left undone, or revel in victimhood over events beyond our control….none of those will help us have a better, healthier, or more creative year in 2020! So I’m choosing to look at lessons learned and make some plans to put my feet in motion!

While listening to my ramblings, enjoy a pastel drawing I created recently – it’s available on Society6…if my admonitions in this video inspire YOU to learn from the past and move forward, a little print of this hanging in the studio might remind you to look to the future and not the past. (I am putting this in an auction at church so I’m ordering a print of it myself!)

Watch video on YouTube.


-Sandy Allnock

In the past year I’ve finally gotten to the place where I am not intimidated by blank paper. I used to stare at it and would have to force myself to make the first mark. . . but now a blank sheet makes me anxious to get going! The 40-video project last month made that REALLY clear to me; I was raring to go early each morning, and created 2-3 pieces in a day sometimes! It brought home to me the thought that I have a different perspective when creating a tutorial: I need to consider the supplies and the view of them, the concepts to be taught, the availability of materials, the marketing of it all – and that takes a different mental energy than creating “just because.”

PLAN: Integrate more playtime into my creative life. That means cutting out some “must-do” things here and there and prioritizing my own learning and experimenting.

A new project coming up for 2020 will be part of that – stay tuned for news of it next week!



Yes, even a professional artist goes through the same thought process as a hobbyist! My sinking YT views have been hanging over my shoulder for years now, and the little voice of doubt has been taunting me. “You’ve lost your edge. No one wants to see what you’re doing any more.” GAH! That mental cycle is death to creativity, but I didn’t know how to get OUT of it. Despite lovely feedback from viewers, and encouraging comments on social media and beyond, the doubts were killing me slowly with their lies.

Creating IGTV videos in the last few months has begun to dispel those inner voices – I’ve been garnering thousands MORE views there than on YouTube – despite having less than 1/3 the followers! While on YouTube I could barely scrape together 3% of subscribers to watch – I can get 30% of my Instagram peeps to peek! Hundreds of comments rather than a dozen or two contain gems from people saying they don’t even MIND that it’s not a tutorial, because they learned so much from seeing the process in a compressed time period. YEAH!

PLAN: Create more IGTV videos in 2020, two per week as time allows. Make whatever is inspiring me rather than worrying about all the things that go with tutorials. And stop beating myself up!


-sandy allnock

All advice, whether from professionals or just friends or relatives, has to be weighed against your own goals. Which means that the wisdom to know which to take and which to leave takes some work ahead of time to understand what’s really important to you.

My desire is to help people release their God-given creativity which was planted inside them at birth. I want them to make, in whatever form that takes! Anything I can do to teach and inspire helps me fulfill that goal.

That means that anyone advising me to quack like all the other ducks in the pond are likely giving me generic advice that may not help me reach my goals. Sure it may be good business advice, but it’s advice for someone else who does what I do. It’s not advice to get me to my own desired ends.

My own choices that I make about where I want to go are ones that may limit my success; I’ll never be as ‘big’ as some of my competitors, never have the same standing in the community, or the same opportunities as someone working toward the same goals as everyone else. I choose to sacrifice things that are all about pumping me up; I left the 9-5 world to get out of the game of comparison to peers. Their goals would take me away from what I consider success in my own life: focusing on how I can help others to be creative. I fully trust that if I do what I’m called to do – enough success will follow, and the bills will get paid. So far so good!

PLAN: Out of the advice mentioned in the video, the bits that resonate with who I am called to be: posting a little less on YouTube, more IGTV, and make space in my life for the other good things that will keep me happy, growing, and creative.

How about you?

What did YOU learn in 2019? What positives can you take from even some tough things, that will make you happier, healthier, and more creative? It may take a few days to think about it and make a plan – just because it’s January 1, don’t force decisions on yourself today. Take it seriously, because this could set up 2020 to be your best year yet!