Thursday 30 April 2015

A view from Komic village in Himachal - soft pastel painting

We were touring some beautiful towns in Himachal in 2013. Komic village was one of them. We went by road climbing uphill to one of the highest villages of Asia ( 4513 mts above sea level ) and the route upwards enabled us to see a stunning view of the mountain peaks around and the valley below. We started our ride from KAZA where we had booked our hotel for the night stay.

The soft pastel painting below is one scene from Komic village, where we could see the mountains across. The chilly winds were blowing across the hills and the timeless beauty of the place cannot be described in words. We could just about spot a few houses scattered across the dry land and the religion followed is primarily Buddhism. I am planning to do more art works based on my Himachal trip.

Looking across
Soft pastel painting on Canson Paper
Size 6" x 9"

Painting mountains is something new to me. Anything new in the beginning is always intimidating.
But with time things always get better.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Study sketches for my future paintings of Spiti Valley

For quite some time now I have been busy creating landscapes with emphasis on forests, trees etc. Now for a change I want to make some paintings from the scenic Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh. We made a trip there in June 2013 visiting some amazing places like Nako, Tabo, Kaza etc. 

Before embarking on a new subject I try to get comfortable with the elements in the landscapes by doing a series of Quick study sketches OR thumbnail sketches. Given below are a few sketches mostly sized 4" x 5". Doing these sketches helps me in to understand the colours and values, the light and shadow and in general it helps me to take a decision regarding the scenes which I can enlarge 
to create a bigger art work.

Once I have handled the difficult issues while doing a small sketch, creating a larger painting gets a lot more easier and that way I I know for sure that I will not be overusing my pastels on the paper which in turn creates a muddy effect. 

Thumbnail sketches or quick study sketches of places in SPITI valley in Himachal pradesh by Manju Panchal

Study sketches created from my journey to SPITI valley in Himachal Pradesh

Monday 27 April 2015

Cleaning pastels using a jar of rice

The last time my pastels ( All different brands ) in the palette got coated with dust and dirt, I cleaned it up in a bowl of rice. This time I decided to use an old plastic bottle filled with rice to do the cleaning and I found it much more convenient.
I just had to put all the pastels in the bottle and shake it up vigorously. The rice scraped off all the different coloured pastel dust from each individual pastel.

Instead of discarding the rice which gets heavily coated with different colours, It can be reused by doing the following
  • wash it in water 
  • sieve it
  • place it on an old newspaper to dry
  • fill it again in the jar for next cleanup procedure
Cleaning up broken pastels by shaking up in jar of rice. By Manju Panchal

Broken pastels in old plastic bottle
for cleaning purpose

After the clean up, the pastels show their original vibrant hues.
( I have placed the pastels on tissue paper so that the pastels remain
clean for a longer duration )

When painting with pastels, they continuously touch one another on the palette and therefore get coated with different colours on its sides. This makes it difficult to judge each pastel by its right colour, hence I find it absolutely necessary to clean it up after an interval of fifteen days or so.

Sunday 26 April 2015

A scene from Dubare Elephant camp ( Near Coorg )

While we were in Coorg on holidays we made a day trip to Dubare Elephant camp, on the banks of Kaveri river. The soft pastel painting below with light between the trees, illuminating the slopes in the distance, is a scene from the banks of Kaveri river. Coorg and around is covered with dense forest and it is a place where one would want to visit again and again. The weather is pleasant throughout the year. I have not had the opportunity to visit Coorg during monsoons but some day I would want to do that.

Soft pastel painting of a landscape by Manju Panchal

Light through the trees
Soft pastel painting on canson paper
Size 17" x 24"
Available for sale

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Thursday 23 April 2015

Trying out the underpainting technique using a wet brush.

 This scene is from Karnala Bird Sanctuary, which is about nine to ten kilometres away from Panvel ( Navi Mumbai ).

For long I had been wanting to do an underpainting with pastels and water hence I went ahead and tried out something new this time. ie after applying the initial colours I ran a wet brush over it value by value. ( In order to avoid too much of colour mixing on the paper ). After the paper dried up, I did not have to put any fixative and I immediately started with putting in details in the foreground.

I have not done any blending in the final layer and kept the background with very less details and contrast. The foreground is a lot in shadows. Since I was more keen on working out with this new technique of underpainting, I did not really spend a lot of time completing this work.

Soft pastel landscape painting of Karnala Bird Sanctuary by Manju Panchal

Through the forest
Soft pastel painting on Fabriano paper
Size 6" x 9"

I quite enjoyed this technique but since the paper is about less than 220 gsm ie it is not very thick so there is a little crumpling that takes place after the underpainting is done. Nevertheless for a small sized painting, I think it will really not make much of a difference. What I liked in particular about the second layer is that the pastels settled well and the dark bright lustre got retained very well.
I will definitely be doing more works with an underpainting rather than just blending with fingers.
( The dry method )

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Drawing and sketching - using charcoal and white pastel pencil

Drawing and sketching plays a very important role in any artist's life. In fact from my personal experience I know how I have ended spending hours and hours rectifying a painting only because right at the start I did a drawing which had errors.

This present work on exposed roots of a tree, is done using

  • Conte charcoal pencil
  • General charcoal pencil
  • General soft pastel white pencil
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Staedtler charcoal pencil
The paper used is a textured hand made paper.

Charcoal and soft pastel work on hand made paper. by Manju Panchal

Exposed roots
Charcoal and soft pastel on hand made paper
Size 5" x 7"

Trees are an important part of landscape drawing. I find it very challenging. Each tree has its unique features, barks, character and an identity of its own. It feels great to define its form and shape by using charcoals and pastels on paper. The more I draw and sketch the more it helps me in my understanding of landscape paintings.

Sunday 19 April 2015

Trying out a different coloured Canson Mi Teintes paper

Of late I have been creating soft pastel paintings on either black or other dark coloured paper.This time I decided to try out beige coloured Canson Mi Tentes paper. This is a scene from Mahableshwar, a hill station close to Mumbai and Pune. The lush greenery, the winding roads, and the beautiful view around is mesmerising.

Original soft pastel landscape painting by Manju Panchal

Light at the distance
Soft pastel painting on Canson paper
Size 8" x 12"

I have used a white pastel pencil for signature on bottom left of the painting. Last week I picked up few soft pastel KOH-I-NOOR pencils from ART LOUNGE as it was running its annual sale. Sometimes I need to create thin branches in my landscape and I will see if pencils can be of use.

KOHINOOR soft pastel pencils

KOHINOOR soft pastel pencils

To know more about KOHINOOR art products you can visit their site 

Saturday 18 April 2015

Using Fabriano Elle Erre paper for creating Thumbnail sketches

Over a period of time, I have collected a whole lot of different papers, experimenting with the surface, the colours etc. Now that I have settled finally with Canson and Fabriano Tiziano as my choice for soft pastel painitngs, I decided to look into the unused collection of different papers.

When I initially got into soft pastel art works, I began with Fabriano Elle Erre as it had texture. I still have these papers with me so I decided to put it to use to create my "Thumbnail sketches"
or "Study sketches"

Fabriano Elle erre paper, grey colour with parallel line texture

Steel grey coloured Fabriano Elle erre paper
Parallel line texture on it

Thumbnail sketch or study work of a forest scene done by Manju Panchal

Thumbnail sketch of a forest scene
on Fabriano Elle erre paper

Since creating a thumbnail sketch has become a habit with me, more out of necessity as it helps clear a lot of confusion before doing a bigger painting, therefore I also have to constantly think of storing ideas. I posted quite some time back about how I use old albums to store my thumbnail sketches. ( Mostly for size 4" X 6" works ). It is fun to flip through the works some time later to realise how much efforts went into the variety of quick works created in a short time.

An old photo album for storing thumbnail sketches

Old photo album

Storing thumbnail sketches in an old album. by Manju panchal

Slipping the thumbnail sketch into the 
album for long term storage

I have collected a whole lot of such albums which are filled up with my sketches done in charcoals and soft pastels. 

Tuesday 14 April 2015

KILIM GEOFOREST - A painting in soft pastels ( Malaysia )

While we were in Langkawi  ( Malaysia ) in July last year, we took a boat ride from Tanjung Rhu fishing village which took us through the mangroves and later to KILIM geoforest area, rich in flora and fauna. Beautiful carved ancient rocks, next to the blue green waters made for an amazing sight.

The scene below is on one of the islands which we visited and we spent an hour here all by ourselves.
I have used soft pastels to create this 11" x 15" painting and this time I just remembered to take a picture after my first block in of colours. After the blocking in is done I spray the painting with fixative and then I go ahead to create the further details.

First layer of block in using soft pastels. by Manju Panchal

The first stage of block in of the colours.

Kilim Geoforest, a soft pastel painting by Manju Panchal

Soft Pastel Painting on Fabriano Tiziano paper
Size 11" x 15"
Available for sale


"Art is not what you see but what you make others see" by Edgar Degas

Sunday 12 April 2015

From the past - Acrylic painting on canvas

Recently found prints of some of my old portrait works which I did for my 2006 Leela Gallerie Exhibition. These works are sold. I used Camel acrylic paint tubes for creating these beautiful faces on 6" x 6" canvas. 

Later I went on to do still life paintings from live objects to get a better understanding of colours and values. Presently I am engaged in my landscape works and am developing my own technique and style, hence even though I get very tempted to other subjects, I restrain myself from doing so as I need to do a lot more landscapes or rather nature works which will be my concept in my upcoming exhibition in May this year.

Prints of portraits done using acrylic paints. By Manju Panchal

6" x 6" Portrait Paintings on canvas.

While painting the above portraits I used the acrylic paints in diluted form ie quite in water colour way. A lot of glazing technique was used. 

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Completed another soft pastel painting of a Landscape as seen in Coorg

Finally completed this Coorg Landscape painting, which was incomplete since last month. ie I had just blocked in the major values and sprayed it with a fixative ( Winsor and newton ). Later because of my busy schedule of last exhibition I could not pay much attention to it.

It took me a little longer than usual to complete this work as I feel that when a painting is done in one go then it gets done faster( As you are totally immersed in the study of the work and are mentally prepared with all the ideas of the techniques etc ) . But if there is a break, then somewhere the rhythm, the momentum is lost and then I have to restart with a lot of self motivation.

This particular scene as in Coorg ( Karnataka ) appealed to me a lot and I wanted to take care to put in my best. I paid attention to aerial perspective or rather I call it " Colour perspective" where in things far away or in the background have hints of blue and violet in it. Every landscape that I choose is a much thought over deliberate decision because it has something new and different, and when I try doing it I know for sure that I will learn a few important lessons.

Original soft pastel painting of a Coorg Landscape by Manju Panchal

Walk in the woods
Soft pastel painting on Fabriano Tiziano paper
Size 11" x 15"

I have used couple of Camel soft pastel chalks on this art work. I found them pretty good. They are soft and quite like MUNGYO in many ways.

Next I am working on a Langkawi- rocks and reflection, painting which should be completing soon.
If you have any queries with respect to PURCHASING my available paintings you can write to me at or call me at 0091-22-9820683983 ( Mumbai, India )

My paintings can also be viewed on my facebook page

For most of my soft pastel paintings I normally use a fixative and after having used several brands my personal favourite is Winsor and Newton. I have never had any issue handling it and it falls sprays very uniformly on the paper without breaking into droplets.

winsor and newton fixative for charcoals and soft pastels

Saturday 4 April 2015

New addition in my soft pastel collection - CAMEL pastels

In one of my recent soft pastel workshop a student happened to bring her CAMEL soft pastel set
which has 20 different soft pastel colours. A few colours drew my attention ie Navy blue, the Vandyke brown, the greens and once again I could not resist buying this set too. I think most artists go through this dilemma, to buy or not to buy. Eventually we give in to our temptation.
The art materials keep growing and sometimes I feel that a limited palette saves a lot of confusion.

May be in one of my next landscape paintings I will try picking up a few colours which are actually going to be used to create the work and will keep my main palette aside. Because some pastels become all time favourite and then it so happens that I am mostly using the same greens and the blues etc.

Camel soft pastels ( twenty colours )

Camel Soft Pastels ( Made in India )

Camel soft pastels ( twenty colours )

The twenty soft pastels in the collection.

Camel soft pastels

The three colours I particularly liked a lot.