The Plan is Subject to Change

I am a planner (and not ashamed to admit it).  While I may spend time sketching for fun, when beginning a new painting, I always have a plan.  While I am a strong advocate for planning (in particular, using thumbnail sketches), my plans are always subject to change.  At any point during the process, it is alright to say “this is not working.”

Planning for “The Watcher” began with observation of a snowy owl, videotaping, reference photos and several thumbnail sketches.  After selecting the most dramatic sketch, the painting process began with an underpainting to tint the paper, selection of the pastels and laying in the initial dark values.

The Plan is Subject to Change 1
The Plan is Subject to Change 2
The Plan is Subject to Change 3

But something had gone awry.  As commonly happens when a face is tilted, the beak had become misaligned.  These types of errors can be discovered by frequently stepping back from the painting, viewing the painting in a mirror, or turning the painting upside down.  Catching these types of errors early on makes correction easier.  Even with the best of plans, adjustments might be needed along the way.

By the time I was laying in the mid-values, I noticed that the painting was starting to lose focus from my initial intention.  The drama of the owl’s eyes was being diminished by the amount of area committed to feathers.  The original dimensions of the painting were 11×14”. 

The Plan is Subject to Change 4

No problem!  Crop it!  By changing the dimensions to 9×12”, it brought the focus back to the reason for the painting, those piercing golden eyes!

The Plan is Subject to Change 5

I may begin with a plan, but I am not bound to that plan.  If I have to brush off pastel or even take a pair of scissors to a painting, I will do it to make the painting stronger.  Any plan is subject to change.

Inspiration & Transformation

Inspiration can come from anywhere and at any time.  But rarely does our source of inspiration provide us with perfection.

A Kitchen Tool and Pastels?

Over the years, I have learned that there are infinite ways in which pastels can be manipulated as a drawing and painting medium.  Examples range

Announcing More New Associate Artists

We can now announce our second group of new Associate Artists to Unison Colour. Our Associate Artists perform a fantastic role for Unison Colour and we are proud to welcome the following people…

A pastel painting of a bison on a dusty plain

Exploratory Sketches

Do you work from photos or from life? This is not an either/or question. There are pros and cons to either approach and I prefer the best of both worlds.

If you enjoyed reading this…

Please consider subscribing to our mailing list to receive updates about our Associate Artists, and any other Unison Colour news, and exclusive offers.

Use the buttons below to help spread the word.

9 Responses

    1. Thank you Rosemary! Taking the time to research and create preliminary sketches guides the way to creating the character and telling the story.

    1. Thank you Barbara! Some artists prefer to complete the eyes first. I prefer to same them to the end. It’s the reward….like dessert.

  1. (Translated)It feels like a great master! My first portrait was also planned, but then the changes came, and I had to completely shift my work, and I liked the hands and face of my first female oil portrait so much. An experienced artist told me that if I redid my work on the same canvas, my level would be much higher. And I did redo it! We must stick to the plan!

    (Original)Чувствуется большой мастер! Мой первый портрет тоже был запланирован, но потом пошли изменения, и мне пришлось свою работу полностью смещать, а мне так понравились кисти рук и лицо моего первого женского портрета маслом. Опытный художник сказал мне, что, если я сама на этом же холсте переделаю же свою работу, то мой уровень гораздо станет выше. И я таки переделала! Надо придерживаться плана!

  2. Thanks Sharon! The eyes of this particular snowy owl had so many different expressions. A wealth of inspiration for future paintings!

  3. Excellent article Tracey! This is a great lesson for painting and for life. Let go of that which is not serving us.. or a painting. I’m so new, I think I would have had a hard time deciding to crop away from my work. Yet, when you did, you really brought the drama back with those eyes! Beautiful work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Blog Posts

Australian PASTEL EXPO 2022

Unison Colour sponsored this year’s Pastel Expo in Australia and they’ve produced a wonderful video of the event. There’s lots of stunning artwork on show and it

Dexterity and Mark Making

How we use and hold our pastels will determine what amazing marks we will make. Eventually, with practice and discovery through play, this will create our style.

Customer Enquiries

Got a question?

Please don’t hesitate to send us any questions, and we’ll get back to you ASAP.
If you’d rather send us an email, please get in touch at:

Or give us a call on +44 (0)1434 240203 and choose option 1, for Liz.

Trade Enquiries

For trade enquiries, please contact us as below:


[email protected] or call Liz on +44 (0)1434 240203 Option 1

China and Russia
North America
ROW (Exc. China and Russia)