Sailboat at Sunset: A Chalk Pastels Tutorial

This chalk pastel tutorial is Nana’s third lesson. One of our favorites from the archives, more than two years ago… Nana came by with a surprise. She had her latest pastel picture from class. This sailboat on the ocean, the sunset reflected in the sandy beach – a delight! Nana said this picture was influenced by artist Toni Grote.

We swept aside the dishes already set for supper. We had 30 minutes before the casserole would be ready. Just enough time. The girls gathered paper and pastels. Outside it was overcast, so we pictured those beautiful colors, imagined standing on the beach.

Nana passed out colors. Dark, orangey-brown, orange, yellow, ocean blue and white.

She said we should start with the dark orange curve of the mountains. Then the straight, blue line of the ocean. Fill in the mountains. Nice and solid.

This part was really fun! Take your orange and draw a line straight up to the right hand corner, making a triangle. You’ll be able to tell how this will turn into the sunset sky.

Fist it in. Use your fist to blend the colors together. (This also shows how, like then four-year-old, you could choose purple for your mountains and a deeper orange or red for your sky.)

Next, fill in the rest of your sky with yellow. Fist it in again.

It’s a good idea to keep some wipes handy (and a juice cup for the youngest child that might pass by).

Time to get your blue and fill in the ocean. Nice and solid. Then use your finger to smooth out the wave action.

Now use your orange then your yellow to reflect the evening sky in the sandy beach.

Fist it in really well. Then pause to take a look at your progress. What needs to happen next?

Fill in where needed.

OK. Now it’s time to add some waves. Get your white. Just a few swirly lines. The water is calm this sunset.

Add a triangle sail for your boat. Make sure the scale is right against your mountains.

Three finished sailboats at sunset. Eldest girl added a bit of purple into the waves. And Nana showed her how to make the sun reflect on the sail of the boat with just a touch of white.

by seven-year-old

by four-and-a-half-year-old

Be sure to pick a color and sign your name. Then put your pretty pastel picture in a prominent place.
Thank you Nana!


  • Print this lesson: Just click the green, ‘print-friendly’ button at the top, left of this post. You can choose to print the lesson with or without photos. By clicking the ‘remove photos’ box, you may print the text directions only.
  • A note on chalk pastels: Pastels are an easy, forgiving medium. Fun for children and adults alike! Details on the pastels and paper we use, how and where to purchase, and links to all of Nana’s other pastel lessons (over 45 lessons now) are all contained in the post Pastels plus links to tutorials. A simple set is very affordable. Nana also teaches acrylic lessons.
  • The practical aspects of a mess: Pastels are blessedly messy. We always have baby wipes close by to wipe hands. We wear something we don’t mind getting stained or don a smock.


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