Spend an afternoon, full day, or weekend painting with Tracy en plein air in soft pastel in the picturesque village of Montague, MA. Workshops cover the following:

  • Essential elements of composition; choosing 3-5 main shapes and the main focal point, inviting the viewer on a visual journey, scale, and balance.
  • Thumbnail sketches; working out the details of the composition before committing your ideas to the bigger format.
  • Value mapping; understanding aerial perspective, warm and cool colors, local colors, the interplay of light and shadow, and choosing your palette.
  • Under-painting; wet or dry, complimentary or analgous application of first layer of pastels.
  • Blocking in; dark to light, large to small, distant to proximal.
  • Building and refining; subsequent layers of pastel, details, pops and splashes, and knowing when the painting is done.

*Private lessons are also offered.



There are many beautiful pastels on the market. This is something you don’t want to save money on by buying lesser-known brands. The brands that I recommend and use are Jack Richeson, Terry Ludwig, Sennelier, Unison, Girault, and Mount Vision. For harder pastels I use Nupastel. Ideally, you’ll want a range of values in each color on the color wheel.

If you are just starting out half stick sets are available through companies such as Sennilier, Unison, and Great American. These sets are economical, great quality, and offer a range of colors and values that create a base from which you can add as you go.


There is a variety of pastel papers and boards (sanded and non-sanded) available on the market. Choosing which type is your favorite will require trying many until you find the one(s) that best suit your style. I use UART 400 grit sanded pastel paper because of the number of layers of pastel it can hold, it's ability to handle wet underpaintings, and I love the relationship of pastel to paper.


This is a very personal choice, much like luggage for travelling. For me, the simpler and lighter my plein air set-up is the better. In the studio I don’t have to worry about carrying things from place to place so can benefit from everything nearby. With outdoor painting there are two categories; the essentials and the what if’s? I tend to leave the later behind.


  • Pochade box with a tripod attachment and an easel (I use a Heilman box with their attachable easel)
  • Tripod (I purchased a quick-release plate to make getting my box on and off the tripod faster and easier. These are available on line).
  • Hard and soft pastels arranged in the box so that you know where they live and can find them quickly. (I keep my Nupastels in a separate box)
  • Pastel paper (3”x4”, 5”x7”, 6” x 6”, 8” x 10”, and 3” x 15” – pre-cut)
  • Gatorboard or masonite to attach your paper to. (The size needs to be a couple inches bigger than the largest paper all the way around.)
  • Paper towels and hand wipes and a little trash receptacle.
  • Color wheel and view finder (available in art stores and on-line)
  • Sketchbook, vine charcoal, charcoal pencils, or 2B - 5B graphite pencils.
  • Artist’s tape (acid-free, preferably black, 1 – 1 ½” width)
  • Foam pipe insulation cut into 1” pieces. (Available at a hardware store.)
  • A camera (your phone camera is fine for taking reference shots.)
  • Reference photos, in case of inclement weather and we end up working in the studio. You can bring prints of your references and/or bring your laptop or tablet for studio work. Images on phones are generally too small to work from effectively.
  • Personal care items, such as sunscreen, sunglasses, bug repellent, water, snacks, and a sun hat.


There are wonderful resources available for pastel painters. I own and recommend:

  • Pastel Pointers: Top 100 Secrets for Beautiful Pastel Paintings by Richard McKinley.
  • Painting Brilliant Skies and Water in Pastel by Liz Haywood-Sullivan
  • Composition of Outdoor Painting by Edgar Payne.
  • Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting by John F. Carlson
  • Pastel Journal (magazine)
  • I love Gail Sibley’s blog. She is very generous with her support of pastel artists of all levels. Sign up.


If you have any questions regarding supplies, feel free to contact me.