Pastel painting techniques and tutorial with Amanda McLean I Colour In Your Life

Pastel painting techniques and tutorial with Amanda McLean I Colour In Your Life

G’day viewers, my name’s Graeme Stevenson, and I’d like to invite you to come on a journey of creativity and learning and adventure through the series Colour In Your Life. There’s an artist in every family throughout the world. Lots of times there’s an artist deep down inside all of us as well. So grab your kids, your brothers, your sisters, your aunties, uncles and mums and dads and come and see how some of the best artists do what they do. (Music Plays) (Graeme) Well hi folks, well we are in Murrumbateman today. Murumbateman is about twenty-five minutes from Canberra, our Australian Capital Territory. And we are with a Master Pastellist, Amanda McLean, welcome to the show. (Amanda) Thank you, Graeme. (Graeme) Great to be here. Now Amanda’s got a very interesting history, I mean a local girl coming from the whole of this area, but originally was a graphic designer for television. And basically went from television into pastels and Art, and became you know, one of Australia’s great Master Pastel artists. And has been doing this for thirty years, has been teaching for twenty years. But your first inspirations really came from your mum and dad, (Amanda) That’s right. (Graeme) who were, your dad was a sketch artist and your mum was a potter, and literally brought up in the Tumut area, (Amanda) That’s right. (Graeme) which is about two hours south of where Canberra is. It’s a really, really pretty area. Tell me about the upbringing with your dad, and his influence? But also the fact that you are a fantastic landscape artist, seascape artist. I mean there’s obviously a lot of love for the local landscape, and that’s was really a passion that was given to you by your father. (Amanda) That’s right, well both my parents. As a child I spent a lot of time in the bush. (Graeme) Yeah. (Amanda) And I was always really frustrated by the feelings that I had, and I didn’t really understand it until I started to paint. That was just my way of connecting with the landscape, and I just love it. (Graeme) That’s beautiful. I mean it’s a magnificent area, and when you see Amanda’s work as we go through, she really is incredibly, incredibly creative at what she does. We do need to thank some people. I mean part and parcel of what we do these days is sort of reaching out to the art communities, and the artists. But there are a lot of people that are gathering around us this days, even with Amanda, assisting you on being part of the show, and that would be Mr Eddie Tillotson, from Framing Pieces, which is a fantastic store in Canberra. It’s probably one of the best stocked art supplies and frame stores in Canberra. And also, Mr Graeme Shaw, from the Shaw Vineyards Estates in this local area, that actually stepped up, and assisted Amanda in being part and parcel of Colour In Your Life, so we’d really like to thank them. We’ll talk a little bit more about that as we go through as well. And Amanda’s also been part and parcel of designing some fantastic pastels themselves. She’s worked with Art Spectrum in doing that, and also designing some fantastic pastels papers as well, so you are going to get some fantastic knowledge from this lady. She’s been involved in a number of situations as far as developing the actual products themselves. So I’m going to step out of here, and I’m going to let Amanda talk to you. (Graeme) Okay Amanda, well I know that you’re using Pastel Premiere paper there, which is a fantastic paper. It’s made by Hand Book Paper company which was recommended by National Art Materials, who you actually work closely with as well. Why do you like that particular paper? (Amanda) It’s quite different to any of the other papers I’ve used. I can only describe it as describe it a ‘grabby.’ It has a fine texture, and you don’t need to put a lot of layers, so it’s great for demonstration pieces. But it makes, you can make corrections on it very, very easily. (Graeme) Probably most people aren’t aware that the actual tone of the paper really is the foundation of the way that the pastel is going to go anyway. (Amanda) Choosing a paper’s really important. If you get paper colour wrong, you can still create a lovely picture, but if you get the paper colour right, your pictures half painted before you even start. (Graeme) And a great example of that is the Burgundy Colourfix paper by Art Spectrum, which is obviously a burgundy colour. And you’ve got a picture called Fink River, and the majority of that burgundy that you see in that picture’s actually the paper itself. (Amanda) That’s right. (Graeme) That’s fantastic. (Amanda) That’s the paper working beautifully for you as it should. (Graeme) Yeah, that’s amazing. (Amanda) I don’t see the point in using a coloured ground if you’re going to cover it all up. (Graeme) And I did notice before we go any further that you’ve got a little pocket that you’ve made, because obviously pastels falls down a lot. (Amanda) They create a lot of dust. (Graeme) Yeah. (Amanda) And yeah, I mean I use butchers paper so I can just scrib all my colours, or clean my pastels, or test colours, but the little lip at the bottom (Graeme) Yeah. (Amanda) which is just pinned up, collects the dust. (Graeme) That’s a great idea, absolutely great idea. So where do we go from here? (Amanda) So I’m going to start to block in this picture, which is, it was a place called Tumut Plains, and it’s very near to where I grew up. So yeah, I’m just going to – I always start at the top, and just rough in (Graeme) That’s a great idea, you’ve got a photo, but you’ve got a couple of photos, but you’ve also got one of the, it’s an iPad? (Amanda) ipad, yeah. (Graeme) Yeah, fantastic idea, because one gives you the shape and the consistency, but the light coming through on the iPad makes such a difference doesn’t it? (Amanda) Yeah, and I’ve got you know, a copy on this regular paper, I’ve got a photograph, and they all give you different aspects of the light, so I tend to use what’s available to me. I usually just start at the top and work my way down. It’s you don’t have to do that but it’s just something I like to do. (Graeme) And Amanda, I think part of the reason that you loves pastels is the immediacy that these colours give you. (Amanda) That’s right. It’s what you see is what you get. There’s no drying time; it’s very tactile. (Graeme) Yeah. A little bit like laying down a tapestry of colours initially, and then building it up from there. (Amanda) That’s right. You’re basically just drawing yourself a map to show you what’s where. (Graeme) Aha. (Amanda) And once you’ve got that map drawn, the rest is relatively easy. (Graeme) Now these mid tone greys that you’re working with, (Amanda) Yes. (Graeme) you actually helped design those with Art Spectrum. (Amanda) I did, I did. A lot of these colours are greyed versions of colours that I kept reaching for but they weren’t necessarily there, and so I made them myself, and shared the recipes with Art Spectrum. And they’re now making them in these new square range of softer pastels then their regular range. Beautiful, beautiful colours – not necessarily pretty, and people tend to buy pastel sets based on how pretty they are; they’re the colours that you don’t use. You know, you look at a set after you’ve been using it for a few years, the ones that are the most used are the ones that aren’t the pretty colours. They’re greyed, they’re just ordinary colours, but they’re the ones that make the bright colours sing. (Graeme) So how many colours did you actually do with them? There’s about thirty- three I think, (Graeme) Wow. (Amanda) shades in this new range of one hundred and eighty really useful colours. (Graeme) Well done, absolutely well done. On paper that you helped design as well, it doesn’t get much better does it? (Amanda) So I’m just working with lots of shades of grey. I do a lot of cloudscapes and I rarely use white. It’s just a nothing colour. (Graeme) And it’s really about just putting the foundation down without rushing the process. (Amanda) That’s right, it’s probably the slowest part of the work, but you really need to get it right. If you don’t get it right you’ll struggle. I always advocate that you keep the picture as loose as you can, for as long as you can. (Graeme) Yeah, I think a little bit about watercolours as well, is that people get so nervous more so with watercolours, because if you make a mistake it is hard. (Amanda) There is. (Graeme) But with pastels it’s really not that way is it? (Amanda) Pastels are very forgiving. There’s really not much that you can’t fix. (Graeme) Yeah, I mean some of the stuff that you’ve done is really quite beautiful, being brought up in the Riverina myself, as a young man. The piece Murrumbrigee Backwater, and those fantastic refractions and reflections in the water that you get there is quite amazing. (Amanda) Well yeah, I love to – clouds and water they’re are my favourite subjects. (Graeme) So pretty. (Amanda) So I’m just going to start blocking in the trees now, and these are my darkest darks. (Graeme) So explain the difference if you could, to me and to the folks out there – soft pastel and hard pastel, in what does it do for you in the picture? (Amanda) I predominantly will work in soft pastels, but there is degrees of softness in the pastel spectrum I suppose. I prefer the pastels at the harder end of the soft pastel spectrum, because it allows me to build up lots of layers, and glaze, and yeah, it just suits the style. (Graeme) So I have noticed since you’ve actually started this that you actually didn’t put a sketch down at all. (Amanda) No, I rarely draw in. You may notice I’ve got some marks around the edge of my paper (Graeme) Yeah, (Graeme) and I also put the marks around the edge of my picture. So it’s just a cue so that I know where my thirds are, because compositionally your focal point should fall on the intersection of your thirds. And also so that I know where the middle is, so I can keep the focal point away from the middle, because it does tend to gravitate there. But I use the marks so that I can say right, this tree comes just below that third line. It just helps me with placing the elements in the picture. (Graeme) A lot of your pieces are either very long vertically, or very long horizontally. You’ve got one called Hidden Valley Woodlands which is a really beautiful piece. It looks like a dam or a little lake, but the colours, the way that the colours are dappled along the water and even the shadows, it’s really a gorgeous piece of work. (Amanda) Yeah, that was a commission for somebody who was retiring. (Graeme) Aha. (Amanda) It was a little, little dam at the back of their property, just here in Murrumbateman. (Graeme) One of the great parts about coming to Murrumbateman is being part of your workshops as well. and you’ve done some fantastic workshops. Now Norfolk Island for a start, going over there. (Amanda) That’s fabulous. (Graeme) It’s pretty place isn’t it? (Amanda) Gorgeous, everywhere you look there’s something to paint. (Graeme) Just beautiful, and how many people do you normally take on those excursions? (Amanda) It’s limited to twelve, but we I think last time had about sixteen. We had some partners as well, (Graeme) Yeah. (Amanda) and they all went off and had a lovely time fishing, and doing all sorts of different things. There just so much to see there, it’s really a fascinating place. (Graeme) Yeah, it’s very pretty. So if anybody out there across the world that would like to come to Norfolk Island, or even the area that Amanda lives in, Murrumbateman’s a beautiful place as well. And you’re also doing overseas trips as well, with people doing pastels, so if anybody would like to enquire, what’s your website again, Amanda? (Amanda) It’s www dot Amanda McLean dot net. (Graeme) There you go. Come in and see Amanda, and ask her about those fantastic workshops. And one of the things you have done over the years is written many, many articles for various Art magazines. Australian Artist Magazine, and International Artist Magazine. (Amanda) Yeah, I’ve written yes, extensively, and most of the articles I’ve written are about – well they’re instructional – it’s not just about me as an artist. And I get a lot of feedback from people, that they really appreciate the instructional aspect of it. (Graeme) Yeah, I’ve heard people say that your instruction is very positive and empathetic, and generous towards the knowledge that you give to people as well, which is extremely important. (Amanda) When I teach I don’t set out to create a clone of myself, because that’s ridiculous – everybody, everybody’s style is different. What I do is encourage, and support and you know just give feedback constantly as people are working, (Graeme) Yeah. (Amanda) and share my knowledge. I think well what’s the point of keeping it to myself. (Graeme) Yeah. part of the philosophy of your teaching as well is just simply to enjoy doing that. (Amanda) Exactly, you know, people stress about that you know, and expect to be great right from the start, (Graeme) Yeah. (Amanda) and it’s more once again, it’s a bit of a clique, but it’s, it’s about the journey. And every picture is a voyage of discovery. Sometimes rather than slavishly coping a photo, at some point I like to just take the photo away, and listen to what the painting tells me, because things happen and you think, oh, that’s a really nice effect, I like that, and you can peruse that. And it maybe isn’t happening in the actual reference work, but it can take you somewhere that you’ve never been before, and that’s kinda of a nice thing to do. (Graeme) Yeah, a great way to record your life and your journeys. (Amanda) Well, I like to that. I use my sketch books a lot. I sketch most days and that’s you know, it’s a record of my life. (Graeme) You actually do sketch book workshops apart from pastel? (Amanda) I do, yeah. I actually teach sketch book making, where you can put the papers that you particularly want into your books. But I use them like this one was my holidays for the year, and all the lovely places that I went to you know, Broom, and Norfolk Island. This is the sketch books that I make. (Graeme) And these are actually seperate workshops that you do apart from teaching the pastel? (Amanda) Yes, yeah, sketch book workshops, cause I think that being, your self-expression is really important, and just, I think everybody should sketch. (Graeme) Yeah, it’s a great idea, absolutely. (Amanda) It’s lovely. (Graeme) So if anybody wants to find out about your Master Pastel Workshops, they can go to your website, once again? (Amanda) www dot Amanda Mclean dot net. (Graeme) Okay, go in there and have a look at that guys, because they’re very, very worthwhile. And the area that Amanda lives in is absolutely beautiful as well. I mean so many scenic places that you can go to to get fantastic inspiration, so absolutely go in there and put that on your bucket list without a doubt. Yeah, you seem to be really good at, well a lot of things, but two is clouds, and the other to me, is the reflections. And you’ve got another two pieces I’d love to bring up, the Murrumbidgee Boambolo, (Amanda) Boambolo, yep. (Graeme) Boambolo, we get that right. Just the magnificent reflections in that, and the sheep on the other shore. I mean it looks like you could walk out of that, and just swim in that water – it’s amazing. And then the other one is Uriarra Corridor, once again a fantastic piece displaying you know, what a true Master of water refections can do. (Amanda) Well look, I find water so relaxing and calming, just being near it; I love it. (Graeme) I mean one thing from working from photos, you’ve got to be careful that you don’t fall into those really dark, darks that they have in photos, which a lot of people do. (Amanda) Well photos, camera’s normalise the light, so they, you get the light at the expense of the shadow, or the shadow at the expense of the light. So if you’re going to work from photos, you’ve got to understand that you know, that black hole isn’t a hole, its actually got things in it. So yeah, it’s a bit of a trap for you know, when you’re working from photos, to not just slavishly copy them. You have to have experience working plein air – it’s just invaluable. You see so much more than the camera does in terms of colour and things. (Graeme) So how do you find plein air with pastels, it’s okay? (Amanda) It is yeah, it’s a bit challenging, but I think working plein air is challenging for a lot of people. But it’s lovely, pastels great. You don’t have to carry water with you, (Graeme) There you go. (Amanda) and you don’t have to worry about wet pictures. You may notice I’ve stuck in an extra tree here; that’s called artistic licence, and you’re allowed to use it. I just felt that it helped to balance the picture a little better. Blending’s one of a myriad of techniques with pastel, but everybody seems to think that you need to rub, rub it in, or blend it, but the texture of the paper’s really important, because pastels you can’t apply impasto, so you don’t get texture. (Graeme) Yeah. (Amanda) You have to use the texture of the paper to give the illusion of texture. So if you’re covering up the entire surface of the paper and then rubbing it, you loose that texture, and once you’ve lost it it’s pretty hard to get it back. I always strive in a picture for contrasts. So contrast of texture, so you can have some smooth areas and some textured areas. Contrast of tone or value, so you know, your dark and your light. Contrast of colours, so if I’ve got a lot of blue, then I’ll make sure I put something that’s complimentary, so a little bit of orange in there somewhere. (Graeme) Yeah, I mean that’s a good example with the picture, The Road to Wee Jasper, you can actually see a lot of the paper coming through the clouds. You haven’t covered the whole thing up by any means. (Amanda) Yeah, that’s right. So the contrast of temperature too, so warm and cool. It’s all, it’s like the balance – the yin and the yang. You sort of have to have the opposites, so contrast of temperatures, so you’ve got cools and warms in your work. (Graeme) Now there is a different way of framing pastels compared to other pictures. And Eddie Tillotson, from Framing Pieces in Mitchell, in Canberra, have got to be the best art store in Canberra. They’ve got a whole bunch of stuff there, but Eddie does your work. What’s the difference between normal frames and pastel frames? (Amanda) Pastels need, they need space between the glass and the picture. They also need a bit of space between the mount and the actual picture, because pastel, being a powdery medium, will rub off on the edge of your mount. So you but a seperate mount that you don’t see, in behind your mount, that just keeps – it gives you an extra layer between your picture and the mount. That if there is any dust falls off, it will fall into that little space hopefully, yeah. It just requires a pit more care than just framing a regular picture. (Graeme) Sure. (Amanda) So the shops great, there’s a great range of art supplies, and fine art supplies not just student grade or craft stuff, but for serious artists. Anything that you can’t get, or that they don’t have they’ll get for you, mostly. (Graeme) Yeah, so for all of those budding artists and hobby artists, professional artists, go down to Framing Pieces and see Eddie, it’s basically a one stop shop. (Amanda) So we’re getting into the latter stages of this picture, and going to try and pull it all together. And trying to keep it fairly loose. (Graeme) I just wanted to over a couple more paintings, got, Uriarra Reflections, which is a magnificent piece as well; dead trees in the water. And we also have one of Amanda’s seascapes called The Shoreline to Malua Bay, which is a beautiful piece as well. Fantastic reflections on the water there, very, very nice. (Amanda) Yeah, I love, love seascapes. I love it, an excuse to go to the beach. (Graeme) So the Murrumbateman area is also very well known for its wines, its cold, (Amanda) Cool climate, yeah. (Graeme) cool climate, yeah. (Graeme) And once again, Graeme Shaw, from Shaw Winery Vineyard Estate, a fabulous man who loves the Arts. (Amanda) He does, (Graeme) A big supporter (Amanda) a big supporter of the Arts. (Graeme) of you and the Arts. He needs some applause for stepping up to the to the mark as well, and being part and parcel of your ongoing Art exposure across the world. (Amanda) Yes. I’m very grateful. (Graeme) And actually, they make award winning wines as well, so if you wanted to go in and have a look at the Shaw Wineries Vineyard Estate, you can do that through? (Amanda) They have an online presence (Graeme) Yep. (Amanda) making inroads across the wold with their wines. (Graeme) Yeah, through their website and have a look at what they’re doing, but fantastic area and great, great people who support the Arts. (Amanda) I’m just using that edge of the pastel to roll on a few grassy edges. (Graeme) Aha. (Amanda) I’m pretty much done. And the one-second house. (Graeme) And that’s it, just a suggestion. (Amanda) Just a suggestion. (Graeme) The rest of its in shadow. (Amanda) Yeah. (Graeme) That’s fantastic. Great, great piece of work. (Amanda) Thank you. (Graeme) Okay, fantastic day with one of Australia’s Master Pastelists. Amanda McLean, thank you so much. (Amanda) Thank you. (Graeme) Very, very impressive guys. Like I said, Amanda’s one of those people you really should have on your bucket list by any means. Your website is? (Amanda) Amanda McLean dot net. (Graeme) And we also want to thank again, Framing Pieces, with Eddie Tillotson, and also Graeme Shaw, from Shaw Wineries and Vineyards, also Art Spectrum, and also Pastel Premier Papers, for being part and parcel of Amanda’s Show today. If it wasn’t for people like that stepping up to be part and parcel of Colour In Your Life. I mean this fantastic woman, a lot of other people wouldn’t have a chance to be on the show, so we really thank them a lot. If you want to come and see more of these amazing people, you can come to colour in your life dot com dot au. And come into out Facebook page, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, we’re on just about all of these days. So for everybody out throughout the world, Murrumbateman – great place to be. Come and see Amanda, do a workshop with her, I think you’ll really, really enjoy it. But until we see you guys again next time – remember: make sure you put some colour in your life, and we’ll see you next time. Bye now. See you. (Amanda) Bye. (Graeme) Bye.


  • beach life says:

    Just recently found this channel and it is a wealth of information. I learn so much from all the different artists, simply amazing.. Subscribed.

  • Rabi Mondal says:

    Hiiii..I love to see your all videos ..I am from India..and all things of your Chanel tell me to creat some new and interesting..I have request ,if a conversation or a video get on portraits artist Mr.Stan really very help full for us..and I love your Chanel..just oswm..

  • Lou says:

    Amanda's skill is amazing, definitely someone anyone interested in pastels should watch, loved this episode

  • Lori Smith says:

    Been waiting to see this, Amanda! Wonderful to see your work on show, and to hear your emphasis on texture. Well done! Thanks for coming to Canberra, Graeme.

  • James Holder says:

    Amazing work Amanda!

  • Heloneida says:

    Fabulous, thank you.

  • Hannelore Rack says:

    Loved this video.

  • plein aire says:

    lovely work!!…but no gloves??!! are you concerned about toxicity of pastels?..happy trails from across the

  • Rhonda Willington says:

    Wonderful! Thank you Amanda for sharing your knowledge, tips & tricks. I love pastels and learnt a lot from watching you paint today, you are a fantastic Artist. Thank you Graeme and Colour in your Life, I always look forward to watching your show.

  • Lori Kendrick says:

    Amanda's art is wonderful. I was disappointed that there wasn't more time on her drawing close up.

  • Third Dimension Jewellery says:

    The one thing I hate about pastel paintings their fragility. The need to at least double mat, and frame behind glass makes them very expensive to produce and to sell (i.e. ship). The few t times I have used pastels I ended up spraying with an acrylic medium and mounting like an acrylic with no frame. Of course the colours can change so you have to be careful of that, and you can no longer enter the work into a pastel only competition (as far as I know). Just wondering if Amanda has any thoughts on that subject?

  • Marjorie Harwood says:

    Really beautiful work – thank you Amanda

  • Vickie Hingston-Jones says:

    Love this, I feel very fortunate to  have been taught by Amanda on numerous occasions including Norfolk Island,  reviewing her beautiful work at leisure is such a valuable ongoing  learning tool.

  • Jennifer Fleming says:

    Wonderful to watch you work Amanda. Thank you!

  • Stephen Turner says:


  • Thomas Felix says:

    Fantastic Work – and wonderful People!
    Greetings from Germany👋

  • Maysoon AlDooriaines says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed Amanda paint in pastels. A nice technique and wonderful skills. Thank you for sharing your wonderful skills Amanda and thank you Graeme for introducing this fantastic artist.

  • Nkosikhona Mnamatha says:

    Hello check fund for fitness calendar on Facebook. Draw FFFC FOUNDATION for me please

  • Libellula Washington says:

    Wonderful, thanks for all the info. What brand are the massive round pastel sticks please?

  • Борис Хионин says:

    Браво, Аманда!

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