Note: This painting won the Pastel Award at the 2006 Gympie Gold Rush Annual Art Exhibition.
Photo has been blurred Please follow link below for original photo
For this Soft Pastel Demonstration I am using a double sheet of Canson Mi Tientes pastel paper, in a warm grey colour. I prefer to work on the smooth side of this, but I know many pastelists who choose the textured side. The smooth side still has a good tooth which suits my application.
The model is Sophie.... a favourite of mine, and I am working from a photo as it will probably take me several days to complete this to my satisfaction.
Here is the reference photo, which I cropped to achieve a more close up and intimate feel in the painting.
I'm starting with a willow charcoal drawing.... I like the willow because I can just manipulate it with the heel of my hand... wiping it off easily if I want to adjust the drawing. After each couple of strokes I step back to view it as a whole, trying not to get bogged down to much in the detail of any one area.
I'm happy with the start now, I can begin to add some colour.
I'm adding some shading here, using a deep purple..... I really want to just colour the paper at this stage and to mark where the accents will be.... bones beneath the skin, the darkest shadows, etc. This is still at the drawing stage.... not the painting stage.
Just getting a feel for the lights now, finding where the light falls on her body from the one light source. All those planes must be facing the light to create the illusion.
The shadows need warming up.....I'm putting a couple of warm skin tones in over the purple, still working loosely.
I call them 'hot spots'....where I see the warmest of the skin colours.... in the creases, on the elbows, lips, cheeks. Nothing is set in concrete at this stage.... I'm still feeling my way around.....tentatively!
Sophie has red hair.... so while I have the red in my hand....in that goes too!
I'm strongly leaning toward a dark background.
Yes.... I've made the decision to go really dark in the background, as Sophie is obviously sleeping so a night scene seems to make sense..... it is all part of the story.
I have this vision in my mind of a kind of glow behind Sophie....I need to make it richer. As an experiment I'll try to bring it to life with a bright orange over top of the dark purple. The first few strokes are a bit of a shock so I'll just leave that there for a while and do some work on the foreground...tucking the background away into the recesses of my mind for now!
Just as I put some of the foreground colour into the skin, I need to also put some of the skin colour into the sheets. This will unify the whole painting.
Back to the background! Will I.... won't I.... I will! I carry the orange through. I must now include some of this colour elsewhere in the painting as well as in the background.
I check to see how it will look with the mat around it.
Close up of Sophie's face at this stage.
These are all the pastels I selected as the work progressed. Included are some Schminkes, Windsor & Newton, Art spectrum, Holbein and some contes. I find the contes great for blending over the very soft pastels, rather than using my fingers or a stump.
I'm finishing off the skin tones using some pink variations, and lightening the highlights. The purple sheets go in, and I add some variation to the background using the same purples and blues from the sheets.
I've almost put Sophie to bed now, and I've a feeling this painting just might work out. (I never really know until the end!) Final details go in, and I use the lightest colours in my chosen palette to bring the skin to life.
Finally, Sophie is done and popped into a frame I already have. I had a few tense moments with this painting, but afterall.... that is why I paint....I love the challenge, the nervous start, the frustration, the exaspiration.... and the thrill at the end of having gained a little more experience and knowledge along the way.