Painting Sunlight & Shadow with Pastels, a book review

For a long time I struggled with creating believable shadows and light using oil pastels (OPs), few credible resources exist for Op artists.  I wanted a source  with easy to understand explanations and demonstrations for painting sunlight and shadows.  I saw a lot of books written on the topic, with good intention, but none caught my attention as immediate as this book.  It’s author, Maggie Price, is a soft pastel artist known for her illustrious landscapes.

Outside of a meaty introduction to soft pastels, Maggie limited the book to only four chapters:  The basic principles of light and color; observing the color of light; creating realistic shadows; and painting lifelike reflections. Not only did she use her own paintings as the basis of explanation in the book, but Maggie introduced five successful soft pastel artists who brought their own techniques to achieve the effects of sunlight and shadow within in their portfolio of work.

It’s not so much about painting with soft pastels, as her objective is to help artists understand how to describe form using color, light and shadow.  This book taught me a lot.  For example I observe nature very differently now depending on the time of day, year, aerial perspective and weather;  I no longer just use whites and blacks for expressing light or darkness, these two are achieved using a spectrum of colors; recognizing color temperatures during the day has taken on a whole new meaning; shadows are exciting elements to paint in my work – it’s fun discovering their colors; and finally water and reflections have become interesting (and my favorite) subjects that end up pulling me into my paintings.

This book has become a staple in my studio library that I reference whenever I find myself struggling to create a certain effect in a painting.  I love this book!

Below is a pastel that I painted following one of the demonstrations in the book called, Come this Way.  This is not contained in my archives since it was painted for learning only.

Come this Way

Come this Way

About Mary

Oil Pastelist
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13 Responses to Painting Sunlight & Shadow with Pastels, a book review

  1. I would like to come this way – thank you for showing the way!

  2. poppytump says:

    It’s always good to hear who has influenced and helped people along the way Mary . I shall go have a look at your link .
    Love ‘ Come This Way ‘ … a wonderful light suffused path anyone would enjoy wandering along … glad to hear it’s now in the archives 🙂

    • Mary says:

      Hi Poppy! Thank you so much for your kind comments. I never met Maggie, but her work and tools have greatly affected my art. Glad you enjoyed Come this Way!

  3. The painting is lovely, and the loss, sad. A lovely tribute Mary.

  4. Mary says:

    Reblogged this on Oil Pastels by Mary and commented:

    It is with great sadness to write that Maggie Price, one of the most talented soft pastel artists around passed away over the weekend. Maggie was greatly admired by many artists around the world, giving back in numerous ways to the art community. She won countless awards, was the founder for the Pastel Art Journal, was President of an International Artist Association, was a teacher of soft pastels, produced teaching videos on soft pastel techniques, and authored several books – one of which I wrote a review, Painting Sunlight & Shadow with Pastels.
    My work has been influenced by Maggie, I learned a lot about painting from her instructions with pastels (even though my medium is oil pastels) and in general how to illustrate sunlight and shadows.
    You can see Maggie’s work at

  5. exiledprospero says:

    Oh, Mary, I love this one. Your intention may have been to create something as an exercise, but I think it deserves a place in your archives. It’s one of my favorites. The colors are sumptuous and the composition is very satisfying–it is so well balanced.

    • Mary says:

      Oh my, thank you so much for the comment and encouragement. As this was an exercise from the book, I’ve labeled it as such. I took your suggestion and posted it in the archive under landscapes.

      Thanks for the push!

  6. violetski says:

    So beautiful! Inviting to pass along the road and I like to walk there😃

  7. I like this painting, and the title is so suitable. I feel like I really want to come that way. 🙂

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