View Full Version : teaching teens pastels

09-10-2014, 12:22 PM

During the last school year I taught basic charcoal drawing to teen girls. This year I was asked to teach pastels which I have used a great deal. I am making my lesson plans, and would like to come up with the most useful sequence of classes. My plan is first to review the basic forms using charcoal still life, focussing on the range of values, from lightest to darkest.

Does anyone have suggestions on the most helpful way to move into teaching about color?
Thank you so much,

09-10-2014, 02:27 PM
Treat teens as adults, they love it!

OK, so they know about charcoal. That is, they know about value. Now they need to connect value to hue. I'd consider having them do the same type of excercise using respectively red, blue, yellow, for starters. Monochrome, one blue, one red, one yellow painting. That way they'll see that using one colour is the same as charcoal, but they'll also discover the inherent value of a hue. That is, that yellow naturally has a *much* lighter value, which makes it hard to do a proper drawing in yellow only.

Then, I'd add chroma to value and hue. And take it from there.

09-10-2014, 03:36 PM
Thank you, Colorix.

You are saying, then, to have them do a "charcoal" composition using one color only of pastel? If so, I think they would learn quickly that different colors have different values!

Thanks again,

09-10-2014, 04:47 PM
Yes, you got it! (Sorry for being cryptic...)

09-10-2014, 09:20 PM
When I first started classes, the instructor had me do charcoal drawings and then add just a little color with pastels to certain area (like green on an apple) and then I moved on to full pastels.
Good luck with the class.

09-10-2014, 09:59 PM
Thank you so much, Peg. Your post is practical and useful for me.

09-10-2014, 11:02 PM
I'd use something simple like an apple or pear and let them do complementary renderings after the monochromes - they get blue-orange, red-green or violet-yellow and then with that get some exercises mixing them in different ways - overlaid strokes, blended strokes, shading bars blending mixtures or crosshatching, using tints and shades of the colors or creating those with a white and black stick.

Set it up as a sort of Warhol looking thing with four or six panels all the same subject done with diffrent shading techniques from cross hatching, blending, scumbling, overlaying, come up with different textures and they can use different combinations in them. Choice of subject but they stay with that form throughout, so some are false-color fun and others surprisingly dramatic and accurate. Pepper, pear or apple as chosen forms, both peppers and pears can be surprisingly easy and have a lot of variety in values under good directional light.

Just came up with that one.

Also you could source some artificial fruit and veggies for them for the exercises with fruit so they can keep going back to the SAME forms over and over without worrying about their objects going bad. Life drawing various fruit that way can lead to a cool still life combining some. I have fake apples, orange, pears and grapes in a drawer that are really good, even if I have two identical ones positioning the slightly asymmetrical forms can hide that.

In a pastels class I'd really want to get them going with textures and with what different types of blending look like. I loved the smooth gradients of finger blending when I first started. I'm sure they will too. But there are so many other things that can be done with pastels and that also teaches color and optical mixing and a lot of other things.

I'd have them make 12 color wheels with the pastels and also take the pairs on it and do gradients shading between them.

I don't know what supplies you'll have for them, but even student grade pastels sometimes can fill out the 12 color wheel. Or they can combine colors for the tertiary hues, it'd be a good color theory lesson. The larger student grade sets do come with some tints and darks too.

09-10-2014, 11:15 PM
Ok you all, I want to take this class!!!

09-11-2014, 04:35 AM
If you can find a copy of either of my books, the "learning" is set out sequentially in both of them. You could use that information to help you set out some plans.


09-11-2014, 09:36 PM
Thank you so much Robert and Jackie,

I do like the idea of fruits; that is what I plan to do for the next lesson. Today,since I had some students who had not taken drawing, I did a review lesson for the students who had taken the drawing, and then allowed the new students to have a lesson in composition and accurate representation of objects. They did very well! I'm really going to focus on value for the next lesson.

Robert, could you explain a bit more about the different ways of mixing pastels that you mentioned in your post? I am using chalk pastels, and the mixing I know about is the blending with the tortillon, finger, and this is not really mixing, but it is like oil painting, when a small area of color is built up, and then different values are differentiated within an object.

Jackie- is your book about chalk pastels? Would it be sold on Amazon? I love a systematic way of learning and teaching. Paradoxically, a system is a springboard for creativity.
Thank you both so much,

09-12-2014, 01:44 PM
Okay! This is fun. You have chalk pastels for them, basically student grade ones. I have a new set of 48 Blick pastels, not the round artist grade Blick Artist but the cheap set of full range ones for sketchbook and pavement use.

I am going to do a short demo of those techniques right now WITH those, feel free to use it! I need to find a sketch pad or book with ordinary paper presuming you might not have Mi Tientes.

Gee, it looks like I no longer use anything like cheap drawing paper. I stocked up on unsanded pastel paper pads and watercolor pads but do not have any "Normal sketchbooks" since I started getting good ones. I've got some multi media sketchbooks but the least expensive papers I have are Bee Bogus Recycled Rough sketch paper - which I absolutely LOVE for pastels, any pastels, it has tons of tooth, and Aquabee Tree Free Hemp Drawing paper, 120lb sized for mixed media, light washes.

I'd really recommend the Bee Bogus Recycled Rough paper for your class. It's $5 or so for a pad of 50 9 x 12" sheets and has more tooth than smooth side Canson Mi-Tientes. It's 70lb but very strong and has a feel a lot like grocery bags but probably less acidic. I didn't see any Ph Neutral or Acid Free on it, it's suggested as "good for fashion drawing" but has a wonderful rough surface. So I'll use that for my demonstration.

I've also got a pad of Artagain paper.

Sorry, never did pick up a pack of cheap white sulphite drawing paper on my Blick orders. Meant to sometime but just never did. I think it's because I like the multi media books so much.

Here's the first page - color mixing methods all with bright saturated colors. Hopefully even if they only have 12 color sets, there will be a pink and a violet in it. Please do feel free to use this image in class or do one on other paper yourself, anyone reading this thread, go ahead and have a go and if you use the image just credit me.

For the scumbling I really recommend the Rough paper as it does good broken color with these extra soft student pastels. I wasn't sure about the effectiveness of scumbling with them, but if the under layer is finger blended first it'll work just fine.

Student Pastel Mixing Demo
9" x 12"
Blick student pastels on Bee Bogus Recycled Rough sketch paper

09-13-2014, 02:07 PM
I reread my post and did some demo sketches on 6" x 18" Strathmore charcoal paper, it's cheap recycled charcoal paper. Did a row of pears. First one I had it at a funny angle drawing it from life and decided it didn't even look like a pear.


So I turned it till it looked like a proper pear shape and did it again, charcoal pencil on regular charcoal paper.

Next I repeated it twice more, this is actually the one on the end but it's the nxt stage after charcoal. Just get some color in, not blended yet. Did the lighter color over the whole thing and then the darker over the shadowed areas, used stick blending to shade out the shadow on this one.


The blue-orange one was finished first - I did the above but blended it out completely, then added a couple more layers and blended and finished with a few unblended strokes where they'd do the most good. I used white over the background color of charcoal and blue to lighten it from the shadow and to add a white highlight on the lit side.


Here's a photo of the whole sheet seen together. This is what I meant by a Warhol kind of effect, the repetition of images with variations made it look cool enough to go on my sketch wall!

Pears Demo (life sketches)
6" x 18"
Blick student pastels and Prang charcoal pencil
Strathmore charcoal paper

The experiment worked - this sort of thing works okay with student pastels. Might even work better using fixative over the charcoal before adding pastels. Anyone could have a go at it either copying my drawing or draw from your own fruit. I couldn't find the plastic one though.

09-14-2014, 12:25 AM
thank you so much for the detailed explanation and drawings. I especially like the color mixing methods, which will a. help them understand color and how to create secondary colors, and also, b. will give them choices for types of blending.
Thank you for taking the time to explain!


09-14-2014, 12:55 AM
Glad I could help! It was a bit of an experiment on my side of things, since I hadn't actually used student pastels for a long time. I remembered getting very frustrated with them as I started getting better ones. I tried to stay within the colors they'd have if you got the 12 color Classpack sort of deal.

Also, I read somewhere that art stores will often give Clearance and overstock supplies to schools if teachers pursue that and go calling them up to ask. It's pot luck what they have but you can sometimes get something good donated to help write off their taxes.

I think it's awesome you're doing this. I had a good teacher in high school and I'll never forget him. Mr. Hodge actually gave me a box of half a dozen Conte crayons, white and gray and black and sanguine - I remember loving those things and being able to do so much with them.

I've learned so much more about pastels since then and wish they'd been available when I was in that class, a lot of things were focused on print making and oils, things that are harder to set up on your own after leaving school. Pastels are something they can continue with if they're at all interested and it doesn't take much sales to get to be able to get some artist grade ones and Mi-Tientes to sell more.