Intro to Pastel: Sessions 1, 2

Session One: Monochromatic Pear with Achromatic Underdrawing


Pick a simple form with a distinctive local color. Our entire drawing will be monochromatic; one color.

We begin with an achromatic study; no color.

Tone your paper with vine charcoal and a soft cloth or chamois. Rub the charcoal into the heavy textured paper in circular motions. I’m using Arches watercolor paper 140 lb.

DSC_0987 DSC_0989

Use vine charcoal to make a measured contour drawing. Use a chamois to rub out and place lines correctly.


Look closely at the light. Where is the most light? The least? Use an eraser to remove charcoal in the lighter areas. Place charcoal in the darker areas. This is called a value sketch.


Dust off eraser debris with a feather.

Choose a palette. The local color of this pear is yellow. I choose light yellow, rich yellow, dark yellow (greenish brown) and white.


Use the darkest value first. Lightly lay in dark areas. Next, use the mid tone which is the rich yellow. You can mix the two together.



Place highlights  on the pear with the lightest yellow.


The background is cooler than the yellow pear. I use a white stick to lighten highlights behind the pear. White will always cool a saturated hue.


I darken areas with vine charcoal. Blend. To blend use another stick of pastel to scumble over top or fingers or cloth.


Continue to check the value relationships in your drawing and fine tune as much as desired. It’s okay to leave it loose and impressionistic. For really fine detail you will require more precise drawing tools such as pastel pencils etc.


Session Two: Complementary Color with Localized Toning


Choose a simple form with an obvious local color. I’m using a transparent object to study the color nuances in the cast shadow.  In class we used a silk flower as a model. Flowers and glass bounce light and color around in unexpected ways.


Make a measured line drawing using a pastel pencil or vine charcoal.

Choose a complementary color combination with blue as the key color. Blue and Orange are complements. You might also like blue and yellow.  Before you begin to work with color find the main sticks you will use so you don’t have to stop and hunt in the middle of your work. Choose a tint, tone and shade for each hue.

(If you aren’t familiar with tints, tones or shades  think about taking Intro to Color with Betina Fink or Deb Steinberg.)


Block in shapes with mid tones of color.


Push the pigment into the paper with a blending tool: q-tip, tortillion, fingers, or rags.  This way you won’t need to use spray fix as much.


Use complements instead of black to darken and dull areas of the drawing. You can use gray if necessary.


Use lights and whites to bring the value up and blend with rich color for a pastel effect.


Reestablish darks with the shades in your palette. Continue fine tuning the value relationships in the drawing until you are satisfied.


You can increase the complexity of this exercise with a more nuanced subject.

Make sure to set up a still life where you can control the light!

I began this study of a peony in class. I’m still developing this study-it may take awhile!


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