Friday, April 17, 2009

Pastel portraits

When I consider pastels, the words that leap to mind are, freshness, delicacy and spontaneity. It is the closest one can get to drawing and painting at the same time. They don’t require drying time , they don’t “sink” and the colours do not fade.( assuming you treat them carefully)
They have a relatively short history, being popularised in the 18th Century by artists like Quentin de la Tour, Perroneau and Chardin. In the nineteenth, Manet, Degas and Mary Cassatt were the leading proponents.
In this blog, I will demonstrate how I develop a pastel portrait and also show you a few other samples of my pastel work.

I work on tinted paper, the colour usually determined by the complexion, and character of the sitter. I initially block in with willow charcoal, trying to establish the likeness.
When fairly happy with that, I begin to apply colour.

I usually start with hard pastels, working boldly. It can be a little daunting, (particularly for the sitter), when this patchwork of bright colours appear. But I am thinking ahead, planning what I will overlay to modify them.

Here, I use a variety of techniques. I cross hatch, allowing the original colour to show through. At other times I apply solid pigment and blend with either my fingers, a torchon or soft cloth. As you will see I am now introducing a background, earring and jumper.

The process continues as I modify and adjust the colours and tighten up on the accuracy of my drawing.

” Mrs. Pat Motherwell”
In this final stage, I added stronger highlights and reflected lights on the nose, a bit more detail in the hair, and more modelling on the chin and neck. All that remains is to finish the jumper and necklace.
The following are pastel demonstrations or sketches I have done, usually in about an hour.

“The Commander"

“Young girl”

Pastels are also lovely to use for life drawing

Or, as I demonstrated in an earlier blog, for landscape also.

” Kirkcudbright Harbour”. A pastel drawing of Kirkcudbright Harbour. I did this as a short demonstration in the pastel medium for the group who came on one of our Painting Holidays in the town.
Tips. I use a combination of both hard and soft pastels. The general principal is that the soft are applied over the hard. Any areas, like the eyes where I need a fair amount of precision, I will use only hard pastels, pastel pencils, or conte chalks.

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