Thursday, 18 January 2018

Creating soft pastel thumbnail sketches

"The only source of knowledge is experience."Albert Einstein

Before starting off with the pastel painting, I always do a few thumbnail sketches or study works on small cut outs of Canson Mi Teintes paper. 

It is my way of doing a preliminary study of a complicated subject. By creating these small works using limited palette of pastels, I am able to simplify the scene by understanding the value masses, the composition, the additions and subtractions. If I am happy with the small sketch and if it looks good to me, then I go ahead and follow the same steps when I am recreating the work in a bigger format. Many a times I create more than one thumbnail sketch of the same subject in order to try out different compositions.

Soft Pastel thumbnail sketch/study work by Manju Panchal

Thnumbnail sketch, 3.5" X 5"

Soft Pastel thumbnail sketch/study work by Manju Panchal

Thnumbnail sketch, 4" X 5" 
Dubare Forest, Coorg

Soft Pastel thumbnail sketch/study work by Manju Panchal

Thumbnail sketch, 3" X 4.5"

Thank you for browsing through my artworks and if you are interested in joining me in my upcoming workshops do drop in a mail to me at

My upcoming workshop Schedule

26th of January - Charcoal drawing and sketching workshop 
3rd and 4th of February - Water colour painting workshop

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Cleaning and Organising my Soft Pastel Palette

"Drawing is not the same as form; it is a way of seeing form." Edgar Degas

Given below is an image of my "Soft Pastel Palette" with all my pastels put together in different boxes, grouped and segregated as per their hue. Earlier I would clean them up using a jar of old Rice/Semolina, but this time my pastels were not too messy, hence I used a partly moist cloth to roll up individual pastel on it. It worked and I could identify the exact colour of the pastel. CLICK HERE to see my earlier post on cleaning of pastels. 

Pastel palette, collection of different brands of pastels

Pastel Palette ( A mix of different brands )

Over a period of last six years I have purchased many different brands of pastels, experimenting and exploring, in an attempt to find the most suitable one. However I realized that each one them was good in its own way. Some are hard and I use them for initial blocking in of colours. Others are soft and work well to cover up the value masses. I have my favorites from each brand. The broken pastels as seen above in the pastel palette are from the following brands:
  • Mungyo
  • Gallery
  • Koh-I-Noor
  • Camlin
I also have one box of Sennelier pastels ( 24 Landscape colours ) which are very very soft and hence I use them for finishing touches as and when required.

How often do I have to clean my pastels? It is a question which has no definite answer. Sometimes I create a few works and then shift to my charcoal or water colour medium. In that case I keep my pastels well covered, so they remain clean for long. However if I am into pastels for long then after every few paintings, the pastels get jumbled up and dusty and then it becomes mandatory to clean it up or else it gets difficult to distinguish one colour from the other.

Now that my pastels are all organised, I plan to create a few forest paintings on Canson MT paper. I shall try to photograph them in different stages so that I can post the step by step technique that I use to create my soft pastel works.

Thank you for being a part of my art journey. I appreciate your support which means a lot to me. If you wish to see all my paintings together in gallery format, please visit my INSTAGRAM page.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Trying a cloudy sky using water colour medium.

"Avoid illustrating. Express the intangible, the atmosphere, the smell....the sound, the feeling of the place."Alvaro Castagnet 

It is important to know and understand water colour as a medium and reading quotes by master water colorists every once in a while helps. I enjoy reading quotes by Joseph Zbukvik, Alvaro Castagnet and others. I also take out time to watch them doing their paintings. It enlightens me and encourages me to never give up.

Today's post is a painting of a beautiful sun kissed sea and I am sharing a poem which I came across recently while I was browsing through PINTEREST.

The Sun kissed sea

A beauty rare, beyond compare,
is sun kissed sea,
No scene so calm, no scene so fair,
As this to me.
When floods of light dispel the night,
The morning kiss on waves
which sparkle with delight,
Is loveliness.
When ends my day, I trust and pray,
My voyage be
O'er the waters, where some golden ray,
May kiss the sea.

A water colour painting of s seashore in the morning by Indian artist Manju Panchal

The Sun kissed sea
Water colour painting on hand made paper
Size 7"X 10"

With my soft pastel palette, all organised and cleaned up, I am ready to begin with my pastel art. To begin with I shall be doing a few thumbnail sketches or study sketches, which will help me warm up. Small study works are great in order to understand the composition, value masses, colour etc. It helps you visualize the final outcome. If it looks fine in its initial stages then it encourages me to go ahead to create a bigger sized artwork on the same subject.

Are you into doing study sketches too? If yes, do write to me and share your experience. It will be fun to know more about it.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

At Benaulim beach, Goa

"Inspiration comes of working everyday."Charles Boudelaire

Today's post is a small 5"X 7"study work of a scene that I came across while I was at Benaulim beach, Goa some years back. It was this wild clustered growth of  foliage and dry thin branches against the backdrop of the vast ocean that attracted my attention. Another reason was probably I wanted to put my Winsor and Newton Cotman series, rigger brush to use.

Painting greens and foliage is always a challenge and painting such scenes from nature teaches you a lot. Rigger brush was of great help towards the end to pull out the tiniest of random branches which would have otherwise been difficult with the other brushes. I am loving the rigger brush and will write a detailed review about it soon.

A water colour painting of a scene from Benaulim Beach, Goa. By Manju Panchal

At the beach
Water colour painting on handmade paper
Size 5” X 7”

Hand made paper is great for wet on wet technique and is pretty economical too. I am using Petals hand made paper which is easily available in art stationery stores in Mumbai. I would have preferred using the cold pressed or Matt version but unfortunately, it is not easily available so I settled for the rough textured one.

Rough hand made paper

Petals hand made paper

If you are into water colour paintings, I would love to know about the papers that you use. Do leave in a comment.

Thank you for visiting my blog and browsing through my works. It means a lot to me. 

Charcoal drawing and sketching workshop - 26th of January, 2018.
Timings 10 to 1 pm. ( Only six participants )

Monday, 8 January 2018

PIXABAY - Free reference images for painting.

"It is in the silence of nature where one will find true bliss." j.j.c  ( Courtesy: Pinterest )

In December, I created a charcoal drawing of the scene as below to understand its basic tonal value structure.It is a beautiful landscape depicting "Fog and mist". I have referred to a photograph taken by Thomas B, Deutschland.( Courtesy: PIXABAY ) I am grateful to Mr Thomas for uploading this photograph and making it free for commercial use.

This photograph reminded me of my own visits to Mahableshwar and other hill stations during monsoon period when we would encounter such marvels of nature and hence inspired by the foggy lake scene, I created this water colour landscape using very limited colours from Camlin. The dark foliage and the drooping branches on the left pushed the other elements in the distance, creating depth. With this painting, I inaugurated my newly purchased rigger brush and Raphael mop brush. One of these days I shall create a post about the different brushes that I use to create my water colour paintings.

A water colour painting of fog and mist at the distance, by Manju Panchal

Fog and mist at the distance
A water colour painting on hand made paper
Size 7"X 10"

I am working on a few more water colour paintings before I make a switch to soft pastel medium, so keep browsing. Pastels are fun and I am very excited with the thought of getting back to them. 

To know about my upcoming workshops in different mediums CLICK HERE

Thank you everyone for visiting my blog and INSTAGRAM page.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

At Dalhousie - Charcoal landscape on toned paper

"To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles." Mary Davis

Today's charcoal and white pastel drawing on Canson MT paper is inspired by a scene from Dalhousie, a beautiful hill station in Himachal Pradesh. This road was leading us to our hotel and the entire pathway was lined up by tall coniferous trees and variety of other miscellaneous dense growth on either sides. 

Being a resident of a crowded city like Mumbai, I never get to witness such a sight and hence enjoy every moment of it while I am out there. Nature has so much to offer us and the least we can do is to take care of the environment so as to preserve it for posterity. Drawing and painting places that I have visited in the past gives me immense pleasure. It is my way of sharing the beauty and magic of nature with the rest of the people who have either been there or yet to visit.    

Charcoal drawing of scene from Dalhousie on toned paper. By Manju Panchal

Pathway in the woods
Charcoal and white pastel pencil drawing on Canson MT paper
Size 5" X 7"

This is first of my landscape forest paintings on toned paper. I am quite happy with the outcome and may go on to create some more in this series. Today I removed my soft pastel collection and sat cleaning and organizing them so that I can restart some colored works soon. I love charcoal medium too but working with the same medium for too long can lead to saturation and then a little change refreshes the mind. So keep looking for some new works which I shall be posting soon.

Thank you all for the support that you have provided me. My blog has now crossed 78,000 pageviews and it would not have been possible without the support of the viewers. Thank you all for the same. If you like my works and techniques do visit my INSTAGRAM page to view all my works together in Gallery format.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Stepping into 2018, a new beginning.

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow."Albert Einstein


The year 2017 has come to an end and this is my first post of the year. It was an interesting year with respect to my art journey and its time to share some of my favorite works that I managed to create in different mediums.

I am extremely happy that I could devote some of my time for my water colour passion and went on to create several landscapes and seascapes. It has been a struggle, trying to understand all about the different techniques involved in creating a single water colour painting and while doing so I am exploring, experimenting and learning a lot. The learning experience that comes with the process of painting is of utmost significance to me as it helps me grow as an artist.

Water colour paintings by Indian artist and blogger Manju Panchal

Water colour paintings created in 2017

Find below few "Portraits" that I tried out on Strathmore and  Canson MT paper. Both these papers have great textures and I plan to work with them for my future works too.

Portrait drawings by Indian artist and blogger Manju Panchal

Portrait drawings created in 2017

Some of my personal favorites in soft pastel paintings that I created in the beginning months of last year. 

Soft pastel paintings by Indian artist and blogger Manju Panchal

Soft Pastel paintings created in 2017

In conclusion 2017 was a great year and I am grateful to all those who have been supporting me in my journey of art. My family, friends, my art workshop participants, my blog and Instagram followers, a very big THANK YOU to each and everyone of you for appreciating my art and motivating me to further continue working with same enthusiasm.

Thanks a lot for stopping by and browsing through my works. Looking forward to reading your comments. 

Sunday, 31 December 2017

At Matheran - A Charcoal drawing

“The environment is everything that is not me.” Albert Einstein

When we are out in the wild in the proximity of nature, we come across scenes which capture our attention instantly. The painting actually begins in the mind, the moment we set our eyes on a beautiful scenic landscape.The forest pathway as below was a little away from our Homestay in Matheran and being early morning the sun rays found its way through the dense foliage to create a beautiful contrast of light and shadow on the forest floor.

It is interesting to create a dense forest scene using any medium. With charcoal medium it is mostly about getting the values right. I used kneaded eraser and Staedtler eraser to create the highlights on the pathway and at other places where ever required. Creating thin branches come easy using using any sharp charcoal pencil.

A charcoal drawing of a scene from Matheran by Manju Panchal

At Matheran
A Charcoal drawing on Favini paper
Size 6"X 7"

I have been working with charcoal medium for very long and I am a little saturated. It is not that I do not love this medium but at times we all need a change. So I am shifting to water colour medium to start with. Will be doing some seascapes and landscapes. No matter what medium, I personally feel that every medium gives me same amount of joy. It is this journey of art which defines me and I am loving every moment of it.

The year 2017 has almost come to an end and I shall be posting soon about some "New year  resolutions" that I have in mind for 2018.

Thank you for browsing through my artworks. 

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Drawing a forest scene in charcoal medium

"Art is a line around your thoughts." Gustav Klimt

We were at Karnala Bird Sanctuary when I came across this scene, a pathway leading deeper into the woods. The sun rays  lit up the trees and the foliage in the distance. The composition looked good to me and I decided to capture it on a paper using my interpretation.

I have used willow charcoal and charcoal powder to blend in the background and later used Camlin and other charcoal pencils to create a few details in the mid-ground. Creating a charcoal work is a  great way of doing value study which helps me a lot in creating a coloured painting later. As many other artists say, I too have strongly started believing in the fact that "Value is more important than colour."

Charcoal drawing of a scene from Karnala Bird Sanctuary, by Manju Panchal

Walk in the woods
A charcoal drawing on Canson Mi Teintes paper
Size 6"X 8"

Half way through the painting, I suddenly remembered to click a photograph of the drawing while it was still in progress. So the image below shows the initial block in stage where in I have simplified the large shapes and created the basic foundation. I have used kneaded eraser to lift out the charcoal from the paper. 

Charcoal drawing - initial stages

Initial stage of the charcoal drawing
Using willow charcoal, Camlin charcoal pencil and kneaded eraser

 "Fog at the distance" and "Monsoon at Malshej Ghats" are my two other paintings which I have recently created on Canson Mi Teintes paper. This paper grips the charcoal powder pretty well on its sanded surface. I use the smoother side of the paper for my drawings. 

On the 22nd of December I was invited to judge one of the Fine art competitions at MOOD INDIGO Festival, hosted by IIT, Bombay. The event was titled "MONOSTROKES"  and the participants had to create a sketch using the different grades of graphite and charcoal pencils provided to them. 

MOOD INDIGO is the annual cultural festival of Mumbai and the largest in Asia. It attracts a whopping crowd of 1,39,000 students from more than 1700 colleges nationwide. It was an honor to judge this event and a great experience too. I am looking forward to attending more of such events in future too. 

Thank you for visiting my blog and browsing through my artworks.

Friday, 22 December 2017

The Fence - A charcoal drawing

“As music is the poetry of sound, so is painting the poetry of sight.” James McNeil Whistler

I am blogging today after a long number of days. Last week was busy as I was preparing for my "Charcoal drawing Workshop" which happened on the 17th of December at Art Station, Four Bunglows. I had in all nine participants in different age groups who were keen on knowing the basic techniques that I use to create my charcoal drawings.

On the 13th and 16th, I was invited to judge three different events in the "Fine Art" category, by Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies. These competitions ie "La La Land""Wat-A-Waffle" and "Artathalon" were part of their annual "VAAYU FESTIVAL". Each competition was unique in its own way and it was a great experience to be a part of this event. The student committee who organised these events put in lot of efforts since last many months and I appreciated their efforts in making these events a success.

Today I am posting a charcoal drawing of a landscape which I completed last week using willow charcoal and my other basic charcoal drawing tools. It is a beautiful morning scene that I came across during my early morning walk, while we were at Coorg, also popularly known as Madikeri. It is a small hill station in Karnataka. The fence with the barbed wire running along the border had a great appeal and hence I wanted to keep that as my main focus in this drawing.

The fence, A Charcoal drawing of a landscape from Coorg ( Karnataka ) using willow charcoal

The Fence
Charcoal drawing on Cartridge paper
Size 6” X 8”

I have been working with charcoal medium for a long time now and getting very tempted to get back to my "Soft Pastels". Soft pastel being a dry medium is quite like charcoal medium and I have to more or less use similar technique of creating marks. I love pastels for its vibrant colours and if you are into this medium do browse through the works of EDGAR DEGAS, ( 1834 - 1917 ) a French artist who used pastels in many of his artworks.

Thanks for visiting my blog and browsing through my works.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Step by step, A Landscape Charcoal drawing using willow charcoal

"To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong." Joseph Chilton Pearce

Zero Point
, ( 15,300 ft ) also known as Yume Samdong, is a small mountain village in North Sikkim. It is about 118 kms away from Lachung. Most tourists spend a night at Lachung before proceeding to Zero point in the morning. Zero point offers stunning views of snow clad mountains and soaring coniferous trees.

The charcoal drawing as seen below is inspired by my journey to Zero point. This is one of the scene that I came across while we were on the move and it appealed to me a lot. The mountains, the low lying clouds and the coniferous trees in the foreground, it was nothing short of a paradise. These are the moments in life when you truly are in awe of nature's beauty.

For this drawing, I decided to use "Willow charcoal" as a tool because it helps to create a great texture for the mountain slopes. Apart from willow charcoal, I have also used Camlin charcoal pencil and charcoal powder to create the other elements in the scene.

A charcoal drawing of a scene from Zero Point, North Sikkim. By Manju Panchal

At Zero Point
Charcoal drawing on Cartridge paper
Size 6"X 8" 

I decided to photograph the drawing in stages so that the viewers can see the simple techniques that I have followed in order to complete this artwork.

Step by step charcoal drawing using willow charcoal

Step 1. Created a faint outline and then used willow charcoal
for the background mountains.

Step by step charcoal drawing using willow charcoal

Step 2. Additional strokes using willow charcoal to block in
 the darker values in the foreground.

Step by step charcoal drawing using willow charcoal

Step 3. Lifted out clouds in the distance using kneaded eraser
and used charcoal pencil in the foreground to
to create the coniferous trees and foliage.

In the final steps I added details where ever necessary. In conclusion I have used more of willow charcoal in this artwork and the more I use it the more I discover the advantages of using this tool in combination with the others. Exploring each tool by using it frequently in the artworks, helps to get a better understanding about it. Once you get to know it, you can use it at the right place and create marks that make all the difference. 

VAAYU, the annual festival of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management studies ( NMIMS ) is being held from 13th to the 17th of December, 2017. It was an honor to be invited as a judge for their event in Fine Art Category, titled "La La Land" on the 13th of December. The competition was unique as it was based on music and art combined together. The students were also required to sculpt a candle. It was a very innovative theme and I enjoyed being there and it was a pleasure to judge the participants. 

If you wish to know more about the events being held in NMIMS, you can visit their Facebook page.

Thank you for visiting my blog and browsing through my artworks.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Portrait of a woman from North Sikkim

"I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart." Vincent Van Gogh

Thangu is a beautiful small village in North Sikkim and I had the opportunity to be there while we were on our way to Gurudongmar Lake. Most tourists stop here for breakfast before proceeding ahead. The lady who owned the restaurant had very pretty features and as an artist I felt the desire to ask her permission to photograph her so that I could create her portraits.

She spoke very little, was immersed in her thoughts and I was not sure if she was going to like the idea of photographing her. However to my surprise she happily gave her consent and I went clicking her photographs from different angles so as to get the best composition. It was a sunny morning, so I could capture the light and shadows on the face which makes it interesting to understand the face anatomy while drawing it.

It was such a pleasure to meet her and know her. Travelling to remote places like Thangu introduces us to people, their life and culture and additionally we get the opportunity to see parts of our own country which are so heavenly. I have posted a few photographs of Thangu in an earlier post. 

Charcoal portrait drawing on toned paper by Manju Panchal

Inner peace
Portrait drawing on Canson Mi Teintes paper
size 6" X 8"

Of all the mediums I do, which one do I love doing the most?. I am asked this question very frequently by my friends and students. I find it very difficult to answer this because I truly and undoubtedly enjoy working with all the mediums. 

When I start off with charcoal, I get totally immersed in it with passion. It is the same with every medium that I am involved with. In conclusion, I feel one must do what one loves and let the passion flow on paper. Art should not have any limitations. End of the day it should make you happy.

If you wish to see all my paintings in gallery format, you can visit my INSTAGRAM account.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Making a mark - Using willow charcoal

"If I create from the heart nearly everything works: if from the head almost nothing."
 Marc Chagall

I have a big data bank of photographs and study sketches as a reference but at times when I am looking out to create a particular subject I never seem to have one in your collection. After doing my last foggy landscape I got interested in creating yet another one. So I decided to browse through PIXABAY which has a big collection of photographs and they are free for commercial use.

Today's charcoal drawing is with reference to a foggy landscape photograph taken by Thomas B, Deutschland. I am grateful to him for having shared his works on Pixabay so that artists like me can use them as a study reference. This scene gave me the opportunity to work on the background trees and bushes with lost edges, fog in the distance, reflections in the water and branches drooping low in the foreground. I have used charcoal pencil and willow charcoal to create the dark leaves and branches which pushed the background in the distance creating depth.

A charcoal drawing is all about "Mark making techniques". We all hold the a pencil in a different way, creating strokes and marks that we feel is appropriate for a particular element. For instance, in charcoal drawing as below I have used "Willow charcoal" extensively. I used its tip to create the foliage, whereas for the background I used it sideways. I am creating marks to convey the shape, the rhythm and the energy in the elements in the scene. This is my way of working with the willow charcoal and being self taught, I do not follow any particular rule. Tomorrow I may change my style a bit if I find it better. This the journey of art and I am enjoying every moment of it.

A charcoal drawing of a foggy landscape on cartridge paper. By Manju Panchal

The Haze
Charcoal drawing on Cartridge paper
Size 6" X 8.5"

In my next charcoal drawing, I plan to use the General's Compressed charcoal which helps create a very dark black and is great to create textures while using sideways.

Thank you all visiting my blog and keep browsing for more charcoal works that I will be posting soon.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Fog at the distance - A charcoal drawing

"Without good drawing, the foundation of a painting will collapse." Ken Danby

 Today's post is a charcoal drawing of a landscape with fog in the distance and a fence running along in the foreground. The inspiration for this drawing has come from a photograph by Garry Hayes, a geologist who writes a very informative blog  I go through his blog frequently and enjoy reading the contents.

I have used Camlin pencil, charcoal powder and willow charcoal to create this artwork. Creating the fog using the different tools was an interesting experience. What I enjoy more than the drawing is the exploring and experimenting that enables me to discover new techniques to handle different elements in a landscape. For example in this painting I needed to create the grass and I wanted a little texture in the foreground. So I used the charcoal powder, the willow charcoal and after a little blending created the strokes of grass. It worked well.

Sharing a beautiful poem that I came across on "The Fog" by Carl Sandberg

The fog comes 
On little cat feet

It sits looking 
Over harbour and city
On silent haunches 
and then moves on

Carl Sandberg

A charcoal drawing of a foggy landscape by Manju Panchal

Fog at the distance 
Charcoal drawing on Canson Mi Teintes paper 
Size 5” X 7”

My charcoal tool box is a collection of miscellaneous pencils of different brands which I have been purchasing for the last many years. When you enter an art store and come across something new and different you cannot resist buying it. Many a times it has happened that I have gone and purchased a pencil after reading a whole lot of reviews on the net and yet to my disappointment discovered that it is does not work for my kind of technique. Does this discourage me from buying more pencils? Not at all. I do that even today. It is a small investment compared to the happiness that I achieve by experimenting and exploring which in turn helps me to learn a little on a daily basis.

Charcoal tools used for charcoal drawing by Manju Panchal

Frequently used charcoal tools
in my charcoal tool box.

Thank you for browsing through my blog and if you wish to attend my Charcoal drawing workshop, you can register by sending a mail at