Sunday 29 May 2016

Tonal value study of a Landscape

Today's post is a tonal value study of a landscape with mountain and slopes.

The fun part is that I did not do it alone. I had an artist friend over at my place. She has done her
fine art from Chitrakala Parishath, Bangalore. Whenever we meet we create a small piece of
art. This time we had about three hours of time between us so we decided to try out a tonal value study sketch on Black Canson Mi Teintes paper. This work required the use of only white pastel pencils and a kneaded eraser.

So we went ahead and created this white pastel pencil sketch. Apart from the sketching we
had a lengthy discussion on art related topics. We also decided to meet more often as it gives
us an opportunity to interact, share and create more art.

White pastel pencil sketch of a Landscape with mountains and slopes. By Manju Panchal

Tonal value study of a Landscape
with mountains and slopes.
White pastel pencil work on Canson Mi Teintes paper.
Size 5"X 7"

"The first things to study are form and values. For me, these are the things that are the basics  of what is serious in art." Jean Baptiste Corot. ( French Painter )

The quote as above speaks a lot about what every artist feels and experiences in life. To get
better at anything we have to get the basics right. Value study helps in rendering the colours
in a very effective manner.

Thanks for browsing through my artworks. 

Friday 27 May 2016

The shadow at the beach - A soft pastel painting

"An artist must have his measuring tools not in the hand, but in the eye." Michelangelo

Simple quote that speaks a volume. All the painting starts in the mind itself. The eyes
see it all. The observation gets sharper and better with time.

I recently created a beach scene from Bamboo island ( Thailand ), using the charcoal medium.
The place was so full of colours that I could not resist myself from creating a soft pastel
painting of the same.

Therefore using my cleaned up Soft pastel palette I went ahead to recreate this memorable
scene using vibrant shades of blues and greens. The water of the ocean, changed colours from
green to shades of blue, as it receded towards the horizon.

I titled this painting "The light and the shadow" as the source of light played a predominant
role in the painting. Another appealing factor to me in this particular scene was the rocks that
were so clearly visible under the crystal clear waters.

The light and the shadow
Soft pastel painting on Canson Mi Teintes paper
Size 6.5" X 8"

I spent my childhood years close to the sea. Hence the affinity is pretty strong. It brings back
sweet memories. The love for the sea and seashore continues to exist but now I am into admiring 
the beauty of nature. Using my creativity and imagination, I am busy trying to capture it live on a blank piece of paper so that I can hear the sea waves splashing at the shore. The sound of the
waves in a continuous rhythm is so relaxing to the mind.

Having completed this painting my latest resolution is to add a few more "Seashore paintings" to 
my " To do" list. 

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Inspired by Gullfoss Waterfall ( Iceland )

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." Pablo Picasso

The soft pastel painting below has been inspired by Gullfoss Waterfall at Iceland. This is 
my second waterfall painting using soft pastel medium. To view my earlier painting 

Gullfoss is a tiered waterfall with a total height of 105ft or 32 mts. It flows with an enormous 
force and as it falls the mist rises to a great height. Painting this scene was a pleasure and I
completed it in two layers of soft pastels. I am not into fixing the final layer as I feel it
darkens and dulls the artwork. 

Through this artwork I have tried to capture the flow of the water, the energy, the rhythm,
the spray and the mist. It was a lot different from working on forests and mountains. 

Original soft pastel painting of The Gulfoss Waterfall at Iceland by Manju Panchal

The Flow
Soft Pastel painting on Canson Mi Teintes paper
Size 6.5" X 8.5"

With this painting I decided to  make a few changes in my step by step technique that I follow
because the last time I created the waterfall painting, I landed up using a lot different colours
and was not precise about my colour mixing.

Therefore instead of using my entire miscellaneous collection of soft pastels, I decided to 
create a "Small palette"  of only the required soft pastels. I pretested the pastels on a piece of  
paper to check out if I was getting the desired colour of all the elements in the painting, be it
rocks, mist or flowing water.Then I went ahead and placed them in a small cardboard box, which
in turn became my "MINI PALETTE". As the painting progressed I added a few more
colours but on the whole this worked out good for me. It avoided a lot of confusion and I 
managed to complete my work without overworking on it.

Mini pastel palette created by Manju Panchal

Mini Pastel palette with
desired soft pastels

Over a period of regular use the soft pastels gather dust at its sides. It then requires to be cleaned 
up. I have posted earlier about CLEANING PASTELS. you can browse through it.

My soft pastel collection right now is in a mess and I will be cleaning it up before embarking on 
my next painting. 

The art in me is my biggest inspiration. It drives me on to draw, paint and sketch. 
No matter how busy I am, I make it a point to take out time for myself and my art. Thanks for
spending your precious moments and browsing through my works. It means a lot to me.

Monday 23 May 2016

Willow charcoal sketching of a beach at Bamboo island ( Near Phi Phi Leh )

In December 2014, I used willow charcoal to create a few study works on cartridge paper. 
It worked pretty well in combination with charcoal pencils and the plan was to use it on 
professional acid free paper some day to create more permanent artworks. However in the 
course of time it never happened and this project went into the " Waitlist" category ie to be 
done on some other day at some other time. In the meanwhile I kept myself busy with other
mediums and subjects.

willow charcoal
Willow charcoal

Two study works using
willow charcoal and other charcoal pencils.
Created on cartridge paper
( Old works )

This week was the perfect opportunity to use my willow charcoal once again as I had just 
completed my charcoal workshop and all my charcoal sketching tools were on my workplace. 
Hence I decided to create a charcoal sketch of a simple beach scene inspired by a view at the Bamboo Island which was part of our Phi Phi Leh Tour. ( Thailand ). Bamboo island is
one of the most beautiful National Park island in Phuket.

This serene beach had the very basic elements like sky, water and trees/foliage. What I loved 
about the composition was the shadows on the beach and the scattered rocks.

Charcoal sketching of a seashore at Bamboo island , By Manju Panchal

In the shadows
Charcoal sketching on Fabriano Academia paper
Size 6.5" X  7.5"

Beautiful Quotation

"One must always draw, draw with the eyes, when one cannot draw with a pencil."
By Balthus  ( 1908 - 2001 ) Polish French modern artist.

Saturday 21 May 2016

Step by step - Charcoal sketching of a forest.

I recently conducted my Two days charcoal workshop. During the workshop I
demonstrated the steps involved or rather the technique that I use to create a forest
scene using the charcoal medium.

The reference for the Charcoal sketching came from a beautiful scene from Mahableshwar,
a hill station close to Mumbai city. I used Fabriano Academia paper to create this charcoal
work. I use different pencils, blending tools, erasers etc and will post about all of them
soon. Over a period of time ( I am using charcoal medium for more than fifteen years now )
I have experimented with many different papers and pencils. Presently I have my set way
of doing using certain brands but I am still open to trying out something new.

Charcoal sketching of a forest scene from Mahableshwar on Fabriano Academia paper by Manju Panchal

Forest path
Charcoal sketching on Fabriano Academia paper
Size 6.5" X 8.5"

While I was sketching this work, I remembered to take breaks in between and photograph
my work so I could write about my technique that I follow when I create a forest scene such
as this.

Steps involved in creating a forest scene from Mhableshwar by Manju Panchal

Steps involved in creating a forest
scene in charcoal medium

The steps I followed to create the Charcoal sketching can be seen as in the above 3 images.

The top image : I outlined the forest lightly using HB pencil and filled in the tonal values, 
                           also adding a few tree trunks, branches and the pathway.

The middle image : In the second image, I completed the background hills and rocks, keeping
                                 the values light as it is at a distance. Then I worked on the middle ground
                                 adding details, shadows, foliage, tree trunk etc. 

The last image :  In the final image , I added the details in middle ground and foreground. Using
                            eraser I created some individual leaves and branches, and highlights where ever

Charcoal medium continues to be one of my favorite mediums. I have been working with
charcoal for a long time now and every time I use it I get inspired. Art workshops therefore
are events that I look forward to because I get to meet passionate artists who feel the same
about this medium as me. Moreover I get a little break from my routine work that I am doing.

Presently my soft pastel painting on "Gulfoss waterfall" is in progress. This is my second
painting on the waterfall and I am going ahead in a pretty organised manner in order to
get better results as compared to the last one.                            

Friday 20 May 2016

The crystal clear waters at Phi Phi Leh

The more I travel, the more I get inspired to paint some beautiful moments spent in
nature. Sharing a small poem that I came across recently,

On Nature 

" There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
   There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
   There is society, where none intrudes,
   By the deep sea, and music in its roar,
   I love not the man less, but Nature more."

   By George Gordon Byron

Nature has so much to offer to us humans. We in return can appreciate and value the
wealth of treasure and take care of it by saving the environment from deterioration.

Continuing with my soft pastels, I completed my third painting in the "Phi Phi Leh" series
and I still have a long list to go. The soft pastel painting below is yet another magnificent
view that we got to see while we were on our tour around Phi Phi Leh island in the Long
tail boat. I have used colours as per my perception and interpretation of the scene.

Soft pastel painting of a scene from Phi Phi Leh by Manju Panchal

Soft pastel painting on Canson Mi Teintes paper
Size 6.5" X  8.5"

Every tourist who comes to Phi Phi islands pays 20 Baht towards waste management.
There are more than one thousand tourists coming to Phi Phi islands every day and we
were glad to see the place ( Phi Phi Don ) clean and well maintained.

I take art workshops from time to time in different mediums. If you are passionate about
art and are interested in learning the basics of Charcoal or Soft Pastel please mail me
at and I will get back to you.

Thanks for browsing my artwork.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Gullfoss waterfall ( Iceland ) - A soft pastel painting

Gullfoss ( Golden waterfall ) is situated in Iceland. This iconic waterfall offers a spectacular 
view of the forces and beauty of untouched nature.

This is my first attempt at painting a waterfall in soft pastel medium. The photograph that
I used as a reference has been taken by my husband while he was there a few years back.
Being a cloudy day, the photograph did not do much justice and it had mostly shades of grey.
I have added colours after doing my own study. 

The subject being a little out of my "Comfort zone", I reminded myself to go ahead step by 
step in a very patient manner.However as the painting progressed, the confusion increased.
I did manage to complete this work but it did not match my "Visualisation" or the image that
I painted in my mind. This work has an abstract feel to it. 

Nevertheless it was a great learning experience and I am ready to paint some more waterfall
paintings. Mistakes happen and they happen for a good reason. It helps you learn better.

Joseph Zbukvica world famous water colour artist said in one of his interviews
 "If you succeed everytime, you are not painting properly...."

soft pastel painting of Gullfoss waterfall ( Iceland ) by Manju Panchal

Soft pastel painting on Canson Mi Teintes paper
Size 6.5" X 8.5" 

" I don't say everything, but I paint everything." Pablo Piccaso

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Fading away - Sketching of a single leaf.

As an artist we are always looking for beauty in small ordinary things around us. My last 
leaf sketch inspired me to do another one.

This particular leaf had developed a few cavities between the veins which added to the interest. 
The lower edge had curled up. As the leaf was in its drying up stage the veins stood out 
prominently creating slight depth around it.

What I enjoy about doing these sketches is the "Instant Gratification" that it provides. The 
sketching of this kind requires the use of just a few pencils and an eraser. There is no mess of brushes, oil, palette, water etc. My work area remains  clutter free. In a very short time the 
suspense gets over. The final outcome is either as per the visualization that you made up in the 
mind OR it needs little working on it or change of technique. 

Charcoal and white pastel pencil sketching of a leaf by Manju Panchal

Fading away
Charcoal and white soft pastel pencil on Canson paper.
Size 4" X 5"

 "The only time I feel alive is when I am painting."  By Vincent Van Gogh

Monday 16 May 2016

A dry leaf and its shadow

When I started with my landscape paintings in 2014 I realised that needed to work on tree
anatomy, mountains, sky etc as these are some of the major elements in a landscape painting.
Therefore I went on to do a whole lot of tree trunk sketches on toned paper which 
eventually helped me a lot. 

Similarly doing a " Leaf series" has always been playing on my mind. So the the recent " DPW challenge " Explore your Garden" challenge kind of helped me achieve this desire too.

I took out one of my toned Canson papers and created a simple sketch of a curled up leaf
which is in its initial stages of drying up. I decided on the view as seen from top so that
I could capture the shadow as well which made a very neat composition with sharp edges.

Sketching this leaf reminded me so much of my still life works. I followed almost the same
step by step procedure using a charcoal pencil and a white pastel pencil. The movement of
the pencil on the smooth side of the paper gave me the desired texture that I wanted.

Charcoal and white pastel pencil sketching of a leaf by Manju Panchal

Curled up
Charcoal and white pastel pencil sketching on Canson paper.
Size 4" X 5"

A beautiful quote

"Art is the only way to run away without leaving home" By Twyla Tharp

I draw, sketch and paint on a regular basis. I decide on the "Subject" that appeals to me. There
is no rule, no regulation, no routine that I follow. What I follow is my heart. My mind speaks
to me. Decisions change in a few moments. Sometimes I sleep in the night after having
programmed myself for a pastel work but in the morning something catches my eye and I go
on to do a different medium altogether.

Today I am sketching a leaf but I know there are two pastel paintings which are in progress. 
However that can wait. It will all happen at its time. A hasty approach to a painting can
ruin it right at the beginning. I will be posting another leaf sketch soon.

Friday 13 May 2016

Dhankar Monastery in Spiti Valley

The soft pastel painting as below has been inspired by my visit to Dhankar Monastery which is
in Spiti valley ( Himachal Pradesh ).

From Shimla to Kunzum pass, we had a memorable journey three years back. On the way
we got the opportunity to see some spectacular mountain views especially in Spiti valley.
I have a great number of photographs shortlisted for painting and the one below is one of
them. The white houses against the backdrop of the mountains in shadow made for a
very interesting composition.

Dhankar Monastery is situated at an elevation of 3890 metres, between the towns of Kaza 
and Tabo, in Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh. It stands precariously on the fragile
mountains which are slowly weathering. There is a tar road connecting to Kaza, so one 
can visit this place by a four wheel drive. The place is quiet and the view is captivating
all around. 

Original soft pastel painting of Dhankar Monastery from Himachal By Manju Panchal

Dhankar Monastery
Soft Pastel painting on Canson Mi Teintes paper.
Size 6" X 8"

As of now I am taking a break from my forest paintings and am trying to do more of
Mountainscapes. Recently came across a beautiful blog GEOTRIPPER by Garry Hayes,
a teacher of Geology. The blog is very informative and I enjoyed going through it. is another great site for artists looking for information.

The next painting on my list is another scene from Phi Phi Leh with limestone cliffs
and turquoise blue waters. I also wish to paint a waterfall scene from Iceland ie
Gulfoss. Iceland was visited by my husband some time back and I have some amazing
photographs from there.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

The papers I use for my soft pastel paintings

I have posted earlier about the PAPERS I USE FOR MY CHARCOAL SKETCHINGS.

Since I am a lot into soft pastel paintings too I decided to create a post about the papers
I frequently use for my soft pastel art.

Soft pastels were new to me and I initially had no idea how to use them. The first paper
I tried them on was Fabriano Elle Erre which was available at the Art store near my place
ie ART STATION. I was at that time also into a lot of still life paintings. Creating still life
works from live objects helped me a lot in creating my original art works and I learnt a lot
about colours, values, shadows and perspective. The images below are some of my initial
attempts on Fabriano Elle Erre paper. This paper is available many different shades.

soft pastel painting of garlic by Manju Panchal

soft pastel painting of bananas by Manju Panchal

Two still life works using soft pastels
On Fabriano Elle Erre paper

Fabriano Elle Erre paper is made in Italy. It is an acid free paper, has one smooth side and 
the other side has rough surface ie parallel lines running across. It is available in many 
different vibrant colours. 

Fabriano Elle Erre paper from Italy, for soft pastel art work.

Fabriano Elle Erre paper 200 gsm
Available in different shades
( Photo courtesy: )

I used this paper for some time and then I came across Canson Mi Teintes which was
available at Art Lounge, the stationery shop at Churchgate. After using the Canson paper, 
I realised that it has a very sandy textured surface which worked very well for my soft 
pastel art. Furthermore it has the advantage of having a different texture on either side : A honeycombed textured side and a fine grain smooth side.  

The rough honeycombed textured side
of Canson Mi Teintes paper

The fine grain smooth textured side
of Canson Mi Teintes paper.

The different colours of 
Canson Mi Teintes paper. ( Around 50 colours )

Canson paper is manufactured in France. It is acid free paper and highly receptive with great
tooth which has a good grip on the pastels. As a result the pastels stick on the surface instead of falling off like powder. I normally create two layers of the painting and try not to scrub the 
pastels too hard on the surface. Also I try working more on the fine grain textured side instead 
of using the honey combed textured surface. Given below are two of my initial works in soft 
pastel on Canson Mi Teintes paper.

Two still life works done using soft pastels
on fine grain smooth textured side of
Canson Mi Teintes paper.

A Pathway in Coorg ( SOLD )
A Landscape painting
using soft pastels on Canson Mi Teintes paper.

So far I have been buying my Canson papers from ART LOUNGE but of late I have realised 
that some online stores in India have started selling it too. So one can check it out on
Flipkart, Amazon or snapdeal. I would any day prefer to buy it online as it saves a lot of time

Finally, the third paper that I came across for my soft pastel works was Fabriano Tiziano. 
One of my students introduced me to online art shopping and I had read about this paper while
doing my "Online study" about soft pastels. So I ordered my first pad of Fabriano sheets
( Black colour ) sized 12"X 16" through FLIPKART. 

I used this paper for a lot of my landscape works and fell in love with this paper too. Its very
much similar to Canson Mi Teintes and since my technique of working with pastels does not
require too much of layering, I enjoyed working on this paper. It has enough tooth on its
surface to fix the soft pastels applied in two to three layers.

Fabriano papers are manufactured in Italy. It is an acid free paper and is available in many 
different shades. However I have only used the black sheets so far. 

Soft pastel painting of a landscape from Coorg, Madikeri by Manju Panchal

A soft pastel painting from Coorg
created on Fabriano Tiziano paper.

The different colours as available in Fabriano Tiziano.

Fabriano Tiziano paper used for soft pastels, available in different colours

 Image courtesy : ARTEL

In conclusion, I am presently using both Canson Mi Teintes and Fabriano Tiziano paper for 
my soft pastel art. I use Fabriano Elle Erre for my thumbnail sketches or demo works
during Art Workshops as this paper in comparison to Canson cannot hold much of pastels
to its surface. The pastel dust keeps falling off the paper rather than getting fixed on it.

When I am not painting, I take out time to browse through the net to go through the soft
pastel art by artists around the world. Therefore I know that there are so many different
papers availabe like U Art, Wallis sanded paper, Ampersand etc. These papers are not
marketed in India so far but I would love to try them some day. But as of now I shall
continue using the papers as above to better my art and evolve my technique.

NOTE: I use papers and other stationery products that suit my kind of art work. So my
opinion and review is based on my technique. Every artist has her/his favorite brand
of products. As an artist it is important to experiment and explore. After some months or
years I may get into some new paper.

Therefore it may always happen that what works for me may not work for someone else.
What is more important to use the products that suits one's way of working and techniques.

Follow my latest works and techniques on INSTAGRAM and if you love my works and they inspire you, share them with your friends.

Thank you for browsing through my artworks.

Sunday 8 May 2016

Phi Phi Leh island - A paradise on Earth

My second painting in "Phi Phi Leh" series just got completed. This painting is a cropped up
scene from a bigger photograph wherein the entire island could be seen as a big boulder
emerging from the ocean. My mobile photograph is not too clear, hence I am posting an image Courtesy : ( This site refers to the island as Paradise lost and found and I totally
agree with it )

Approaching Phi Phi Leh . Photo courtesy Travelblog

Approaching Phi Phi Leh
Photo courtesy: Travelblog

We started out tour at around 11 am in the morning from Phi Phi Don in the Long Tail boat.
The next six hours were spent in admiration of the island, the cliffs, the crystal clear waters.
It was a visual treat. What I saw as an artist was a perfect harmony of colours in Nature.

The vertical limestone cliffs at Phi Phi Leh have a wide range of colours. As per my observation
and interpretation I have used the shades of blue, violet, green and brown. The crevices and
fissures have been painted with very dark colours. I have painted the distant cliffs in  much
lighter values to add atmospheric depth. There are sparkles of light on the water surface
which I have painted with a very pale shade of pink.

Soft pastel painting of Phi Phi Leh, near Phuket. By Manju Panchal

The Approach to Phi Phi Leh
Soft Pastel painting on Canson Mi Teintes paper
Size 6"X 8"

These days I try and use more of my KOH-I-NOOR soft pastels as they are soft, and work
well on Canson Mi Teintes paper. I have used fixative only for the first layer. The second layer is
normally the final layer for me and Canson paper cannot take more than two layers of paint.

To know more about these island and to view photographs taken by tourists 
one can visit TRIPADVISOR.

My next soft pastel painting in progress is of my favourite scene from Himachal,
ie Dhankar Monastery in Spiti Valley. This painting has been long due
but for some reason I never got to start it. Now that I am already into
painting mountain scenes, I decided to start off with this too.

Friday 6 May 2016

Limestone cliffs at Phi Phi Leh ( Thailand )

I painted the scene as below with reference to my photograph taken at Phi Phi Leh. Phi Phi Leh
is an uninhabited island that lies 1.5 km off the southmost tip of Phi Phi Don. The stunning
vertical cliffs capped with foliage give way to small sandy beaches and tropical coral seas.

We took a six hour Long tail boat tour which took us all around Phi Phi Leh. The view all
around was amazing. The water all around was so crystal clear that we could see the
submerged rocks and other thriving marine life underneath. As an artist when I look at the
marvel of nature I immediately begin to interpret the colours, the source of light, the shadows
and this acute observation combined with the reference photo helps me recreate the
magical atmosphere on paper.

Getting the colours in the rock right sometimes can be a struggle such as this one. But I have
been doing so many forest scenes of late that a change of subject is like a new beginning in
itself. after having done this one, I am doing another of "Phi Phi Leh" series. The next one will
probably require a little less effort.

soft pastel painting of cliffs at Phi Phi Leh by Manju Panchal

 The Vertical Cliffs
Soft Pastel on Canson Mi Teintes paper
Size 6" X 8"

What I enjoyed doing the most was the rocks that can be seen under the blue green waters.
Thailand is blessed with beautiful beaches. This place also reminded me of
my visit to Langkawi in Malaysia where we had similar tall cliffs.

Phi Phi Leh ( Thailand ) 
Image courtesy:

The next soft pastel painting that I am doing is from a photograph which I clicked while
we were approaching Phi Phi Leh by the Long Tail boat.

Sunday 1 May 2016

Painting the greens

We were at Kilim Geoforest in Langkawi, Malaysia, two years back. ( Ecotourism 
destination )The soft pastel painting below is from a scene at one of the beaches that we 
visited while we were touring the island. 

When I see something beautiful in nature I photograph the place so that I can create an 
original painting in future referring to the same. However some scenes are complicated 
and intimidating so I keep postponing my decision to paint them. This scene has been one 
of them but the place was so beautiful that I knew some day I would be painting it.

I finally took the decision of getting it started last week using my soft pastel medium.
It went through various stages of correction but nevertheless I completed it. 

Some art works become a source of great learning experience and this happened to be one
of them. I had to paint the foliage in background as well as in the foreground, taking care of
the cool and warm colours. The greens cannot be created by mixing of different pastels as this
is a dry medium and too many layers can cause the "MUDDY EFFECT". Hence I have to
depend on all the greens available from different brands. 

This particular painting has lots of greens and blues in it and to tone it down I have added
the warm browns at places. Overall it was a tedious affair but lots of fun too. Every painting
poses a different challenge and this challenge keeps the interest going.

Painting the greens in nature in a landscape by Manju Panchal

Amidst the greens
Soft pastel painting on Canson Mi Teintes paper.
Size 6" X 9"

Kilim Geoforest park is a beautiful place with an ancient heritage, countless natural wonders, 
home to myriad of flora and fauna, and a vibrant local community of Kilim village. It is a must
visit place for all nature lovers, artists and photographers.

One of my favorite paintings from Langkawi that I painted in 2014 is as below. 

Soft pastel painting of a seascape from Langkawi by Manju Panchal

Soft pastel painting on Fabriano Tiziano paper

My plan as of now is to continue working on both Landscapes as well as Portraits
and to blog more regularly. Will be posting another soft pastel painting soon
created referring to my recent visit to Phi Phi Islands.

Thanks for browsing.