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How to Paint a Moody View of Moorland Using Pastels

Updated on February 27, 2019

Moody View Of Moorland

Moody moorland view completed
Moody moorland view completed | Source

Ingleborough, North Yorkshire Moors, Moody View Pastel Painting

We recently spent a week in a cottage in North Yorkshire with friends. Strictly speaking, we were on the Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire border, so we could say we visited three counties in one day, quite easily just by driving a few miles down the road.

We set out on this particular day to find Gaping Gill, a 322ft deep pothole in the Ingleborough hills. Fell Beck flows into Gaping Gill, creating the tallest unbroken waterfall in England. However, the weather had other ideas. The day turned from misty and chilly to fine drizzle and gloom, which meant that the rocks we had to climb over became slick and slippery.

So, we settled for a walk in the Ingleborough foothills and a pub lunch at High Hill Inn. Part way along our walk, the mist in the valley cleared a little and the sun tried to fight its way through, and this was the view, which just begged to be painted.

Moody Moorland View Getting Started

I chose a long, narrow piece of Pastelmat paper for this painting, to mimic the panoramic, landscape style. The paper was also a dark grey, because I wanted to leave some of the original paper grinning through to suggest murky, drizzly sky. The top right hand of the painting demonstrates this quite well.

I kept the pastel palette fairly limited to variations of greens and greys to suggest damp vegetation, but with a selection of lilacs and purples for the exposed limestone, which glows lilac in low light. I kept a few brighter greens and golds for areas where the sun was catching grass and bracken.


Flat white, yellow white
dark green, grey green, mid green, yellow green
Drawing board
pale blue-green
bright gold, dull gold
Masking tape
dark grey, pale grey
dark, mid , pale lilac
Pastelmat paper

Pick a mid tone for each colour, then choose a half or full tone pastel either side of your mid tone to ensure good depth of colour range

How To Make Your Own Pastels

OK, I'm digressing a bit from how to paint this picture, but it seems a good time to jot down how to make your own pastels, as one of the grey green pigments I used in this painting was home made.

Once you've done a few pastel paintings you will be left with lots of little bits of pastel that are too tiny to work with. I save each piece in a small plastic bag, loosely divided into colour groups, for example, pale blues together in one bag, greens in another. When I have a little pile of each, I grind them finely in my pestle and mortar. I then add a few drops of water and mix well. The consistency needs to be like a thick paste. I scoop this onto a palette and shape it into a vague sausage shape, using a couple of palette knives, and leave it to dry.

I'm sure there's more to making professional pastels than this, but they hold together well enough and you can create some lovely soft hues. PLUS it's a great way to save money and recycle.

Sky Over Ingleborough In Pastels

Start your pastel painting with putting in the sky.
Start your pastel painting with putting in the sky. | Source

How To Paint Sky In Pastels

When using pastels it's best to start with the background layer first, and work from top to bottom, so that any dust created as you work doesn't spoil what you've already done. For the same reason it's also better to work on an easel.

Start blocking in the sky in the top left hand corner with the greys, working paler as you get towards the horizon, which is the main area of highlight in this piece. At the horizon use the very pale yellow, and pale blue green, to suggest the sun and blue sky breaking through the clouds.

Once you have the skyhow you like it, go back over it with the flat white, to suggest rainclouds. At the right hand edge of the sky, leave the grey paper showing through.

The overall aim is to suggest a dense, heavy sky full of layers of clouds.

If you want more information, I've written an entire article full of tips on how to paint sky.

How To Paint Moorland Landscape Mid Ground

This is where you can use all those lovely soft greens. Start blocking in the mid ground landscape beginning at the horizon and working towards the lower edge of the page.

The vegetation towards the right hand side is less distinct than that on the right, so use the bluer register of the pale greens here, as blues tend to fade into the background, and you want the eye to focus on the horizon.

Keep the dull, darker grey greens to the left of the picture to suggest duller, darker weather on this side of the picture.

Add bright greens and golds in the centre of the painting, towards the horizon, where the sun is bursting through the clouds. Cover the paper entirely, leaving nothing grinning through, to suggest solid ground.

How To Paint Rocks With Pastels

Using pastels to paint limestone rock formations.
Using pastels to paint limestone rock formations. | Source

How To Paint Rocks Using Pastels

People often find painting rocks difficult, but it really isn't. Most often, you're not aiming to paint every crack and crevice, but attempting to just suggest the nature of the rocks. The rocks on the left hand side of the painting were done with three basic lilac colours.

First of all begin blocking in the line of rocks where the limestone has been exposed, using a mid lilac colour. These rock formations are known as steps, and they really glow when wet. Keep your pastel strokes vertical, to follow the form of the rocks.

Next block in the darker shaded areas using the dark lilac pastel, making sure you put more of this at the base of the rocks to ground them and make them appear solid.

Finally add highlights to the very adges of the steps, where they're just catching the light using the lightest of the lilacs.

Painting A Moody View Of Moorland Landscape Foreground

Often the foreground of a painting holds the most detail. However in this case, we don't want the foreground to lead the eye away from the main focus of the painting, which is the centre and horizon, so our foreground is dark and relatively undetailed.

Use the range of dark greens and charcoal grey and smudge the pastels well into the paper, giving a smooth finish. Areas of shade can be painted with the charcoal grey, and this should be used along the base of the painting and a little up the sides to further lead the eye towards the centre of the picture.

How To Draw Detail In Your Pastel Painting With Charcoal Sticks

This is the time to use fixative, because we now need to put the finer detail into the picture. Give the painting an even spray of fixative all over, making sure to keep the painting flat, so that you don't get runs and dribbles in your work.

Go and have a cup of tea while this dries.

There are a few ways to add fine details to a pastel painting:

1. Sharpen your desired pastel to a point by rubbing it on sandpaper to create an edge, then use this edge, keeping it sharp at all times. The bonus of this is that you get rich colour and density of pigment, but the downside is that you waste a lot of pastel on the sandpaper, and it takes some skill.

2. You can use pastel pencils. They are easy to use and you can get a good sharp point using a craft knife and sandpaper, but they are usually much harder than soft pastel, so it's difficult to get a deep, well pigmented mark.

3. Use a charcoal stick. If the fine details in your pastel painting are in the grey register, it's just as easy to use a charcoal stick. Charcoal is cheap and easy to make into af fine point. It's also soft, so you get a well pigmented line.

Use a charcoal stick to add the fine details of the bare trees and to add little nicks of dark shadow here and there.

Watch How This Guy Does It!

Moody View Of Ingleborough

The final painting.
The final painting. | Source

Tips For Realistic Moody Sky

A couple of finishing touches make the sky more realistic.

To finish off, I took a very dark grey blue pastel and scumbled this over the top left hand side of the painting. I then began smudging this in with my fingers to make it smoother and cloud like, then, using the side of a balled fist I swept my hand downwards from right to left to suggest sweeping rain.

Do the same with the flat white pastel too, but slightly closer towards the horizon, again to suggest sweeping rain and low cloud.

You could also add a little pale lilac into the sky to add drama to the clouds

In fact, you could fiddle about with this or that bit of pastel forever, adding a bit here, removing a bit there, but I have a foolproof technique for knowing when a painting is finished. If you're interested, read on!


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