We were delighted to welcome Dave back this time to show us how to create a portrait in pastels. Brian volunteered to be the ‘model’ and we watched in awe as his picture emerged. Dave uses a variety of pastel types including pencils for fine work.
He started by blocking in dark areas and the back of the head and shoulders using various blues and purples quite freely, the use of colour was striking and not necessarily ‘flesh’ in tone. By blocking in the colours the picture began to emerge. The mid tones were a range of reds and yellows, with a very pale blue in place of white.
Using his ‘Dave’s Rag’ to take off pastel, blend or clean his hands, and blending softly with his fingers whilst building up the layers of pastel, by the break time the portrait was looking very real, although when you looked up close there appeared to be little detail.
After the break Dave continued to build the layers and the final portrait of Brian looked great, he and we were very pleased with the result.
Dave is moving to new studios in the next couple of months where he will be doing demos and workshops in a delightful rural setting. So good luck Dave and thanks for a great evening.
Local artist Ian Risley demonstrated pastel techniques on April’s club night. His relaxed style and humour engaged us whilst explaining the merits of different pastels and how to use them, and the paper he used spending time on deciding which colour paper to use that would enhance the picture. He showed us the way he used blending techniques by placing a little pastel colour at the side of the paper and using a stump picked up a little colour to add into the painting. Also how to sharpen pastel pencils taking the wood away with a blade and using sandpaper to develop the point.
Ian explained how over the years he had developed his style from blending the whole picture to now blending the under-painting and not doing so on the top layers. The subject for the evening was a Barn Own, which Ian started off by drawing the outline with charcoal, then taking off some of the black to leave more of an imprint, as he didn’t want to spoil the white that would go on top. Then working from dark to light, and spending some time on the eyes and the main structure of the bird, using different colours and building up the layers. Finally he put on some white which completed the bird, then he finished off the perch.
Ian never fixes any pastel paintings as he says it dulls the colours, and if framed correctly they would be ok. In the final few minutes he asked if there were any questions and an interesting discussion took place.
He produced a lovely little barn owl, which he says are very popular, people always buy them, and lucky us, he donated it to the club! Thanks Ian.
I am not really a pastel lover, I have never really given the medium a thought, although I have admired work that others have done. I think I have always thought of it as messy, although it cant be that really as I love working in charcoal and look like a coalman when I have finished, so no it cant be that. A bit scratchy then…mmm…maybe.
For some reason it was difficult to get people to come on this workshop, whether it was the time of year, the subject or the medium I don’t know, but what I do know is that everyone who did come produced a very satisfying and lovely finished portrait, under the gentle guidance of a very experienced painter.
Rob started the workshop with a practical demonstration, explaining his technique for using pastels as he worked. His palette was limited to four tonal pastels from light to dark in flesh colours, 2 pastel pencils, a dark brown and a reddy orange, and a fine pointed dark pastel, he worked on a grey pastel paper.
Firstly he measured the face by using his hand, from finger tip to wrist and making a mark with the orange pencil on the paper at each point. He then divided it up for the nose and mouth lines. From there he measured a point for the left eye, the gap between the eyes and then the right eye, drawing in the vague positions of each. Concentrating on the eyes, forehead and nose areas which Rob described as ‘fixed’ positions, the next crucial point was the highlight on the end of the nose, and the gap between the eyes, if established correctly then the painting would ‘look’ right.
The lower half of the face was left till later as this area was the one that would change as the model got bored and potentially fell asleep, so if you had established it early on when the sitter was happy then the facial expression on the cheeks, mouth and jaw line would change and you would have to keep correcting.
After sketching in the rough dimensions, then Rob changed to the darker pencil and started adding in the shadowy areas on the cheek and around the eyes and nose areas, scuffing in a bit of hair as well. Then onto the pastels and concentrating on the tonal range he began to build up the layers fleshing out the skin and slowly bringing the model to life.
One of the major ‘no, no’s’ was ‘do not blend in with your hands’ as the image will become flat and lifeless. Just build the layers up using the different pastel tones.
Then it was our turn. We had two models, so there was plenty of room to get close to them, so after a lot of shuffling about and a coffee we tentatively put pastel to paper. Rob guided us through the process, encouraging us to look harder, it was the eyes that I found the most enlightening. I was just putting in the blue iris at the bottom half of the eye, when Rob said to shade over the top half of the eye socket as this is in shadow of the top eyelid, demonstrating this for me he then put a pin prick of light on the pupil, then said to add the white of the eye on the left hand side and on the right just a small line to indicate the inside of the lid. Your own eyes filled everything else in, it was very effective.
Little tips like this were invaluable. The emphasis on drawing and establishing the framework, measuring all the time, then filling out the flesh tonally with the pastel, it made you look hard at the subtle changes of tone, a very good exercise from life.
The final pictures were all very different, and we were all very happy with the results. Many thanks to Rob and his wife and to Amanda the model, it was a superb day enjoyed by all.
Oh, and it wasn’t at all messy, with clouds of dust everywhere, far from it… but it was tiring and a cuppa and a bar of chocolate when I got home was a very satisfying end to the day.
A skilful portrait artist Rob will demonstrate in pastel. Look out for the workshop in Sept.
‘Rob has been a professional artist for thirty years exhibiting and painting portraits in many parts of the world. He was born, and has spent most of his life in South Africa where he owned his own gallery for a number of years.’ Art Profile