View Full Version : Snowy

05-18-2015, 07:41 AM



Title: Snowy
Year Created:
Medium: Pastel
Surface: Canvas
Dimension: 12 x 24'
Allow digital alterations?: Yes!

I've been playing around with soft/hard/pencil pastels over the last few weeks (previously only ever worked graphite and terrified of colour) ...

I found this piece hard as the bird is white ... I had to untrain my brain and then retrain it to see the colour that was really in the "white" ... that aside, im find myself struggling to get good lines with the pastels, although I am enjoying the medium ... any tips on how to get more detail in? (I have had absolutely no training ever ... all self taught so I'm probably not even using the pastels correctly! LOL)

Dana Design
05-20-2015, 12:20 PM
I will "copy" this over to the pastel forum and perhaps you'll get some good pastel help there.

This is looking very good and would love to see your finish!

water girl
05-20-2015, 01:24 PM
First of all, welcome to the pastel forum. I see that you have a solid background in drawing. This is a beautiful composition and your drawing skills are strong. A number of pastel artists who paint animals and birds use pastel pencils to achieve fine details. Also consider playing around with other pastel papers in the future. There are great sanded papers available, I'm just not sure which ones you can find in your area. As for color, particularly when painting "white", think value, not just color. We're happy you joined us and we're looking forward to more of your work.

05-20-2015, 01:32 PM
Lovely detail work, especially considering that you're working on canvas!

Welcome to the pastel forum. When you talk about shades of white, what came to mind was that white often reflects colors around it. I tend to prefer the blues, grays and violets when showing white in shadow. Just for fun, take a look at the Terry Ludwig set of 30 True Lights. I have the set and, in reality, almost every one of them is hard to tell from pure white when put on paper, but the online photos show distinct color to them. The set is a good example of some of the shades of white.

05-21-2015, 12:40 AM
Hello Given! This is pretty darned good for using canvas as a surface. If your concern is about detail, finding a surface suitable with the pastels you are using will make a great difference. I have a tendancy to slap on color over color, over color repeatedly, especially when doing intricate patterns like owls and other raptors have. I prefer a sanded surface because of my technique, your technique may not be the same or the hardness of your pastels might work best on a different surface. I use pastel pencils sparingly for hardening/softening edges and fine details.

05-24-2015, 07:01 PM
Hello everyone! sorry its taken me a while to find where this got moved to! (still fumbling my way around the forum)
The feedback is terrific so thank you so much!
I bought some pastel pencils a week or so back ... however im struggling to get them to lay down any detail over the soft pastels ... I think maybe im layingdown to much soft pastel to start with as I tend to work in the same sort of manner Mollerman mentioned. I also use the pencils in a similar way as he, but purely because ive had no real luck getting them to work on the top layer. I have looked at the papers available here and there is not a lot of choice ... choice in canvas is huge though which is why I have been playing with that ... I have a few different books with papers here, but the end results seem to be similar ... the paper certainly takes up the pastel easier though.
Thank you for the heads up, I will go and have a look for that today ... and thank you for that perspective on white and how it really is reflecting the colour around it .... I didn't think of it that way ... I used some blues, pinks and yellows in the above piece as highlights and I think it worked well, although the end result is a darker owl than my reference image.
It sounds like we work in a similar fashion .... up until a month ago I was terrified of colour and only used graphite and pen ... but now ive started with the pastels im not afraid to get that colour down!

So all in all if im looking for more detail I should look at moving my work back to paper ... and suggestions on how to get the pastel pencils to work on top of the soft pastels?

Lastly, I have been putting in my backgrounds after ive completed the focal point ... is this an ok method or will I find filling in the background first easier?

Thank you again for your kind words and helpful tips! ... ill make sure I continue to check back in here now I have located my post! LOL

05-24-2015, 10:31 PM
Welcome to the dusty side of the force!

This will run long, but I've posted much of this before so it's shorter than some earlier versions. Embedded is my materials thing.

Here's a trick that works for me on your next one - a sanded primer on canvas will give you the toothy surface needed but also give some of the canvas texture for texturing. I no longer work toward detailed realism but used to.

Sanded surfaces are better for layering.

Pastels come in degrees of softness. I keep mine in categories:

HARD aka SEMI-HARD: Long rectangular sticks like Nupastel or Pastels Carre' - pastel pencils also fall into this category. Often the cores are made wth exactly the same softness and colors as the hard pastels for the same company. Good for details and also for blocking-in. Lowest pigment to binder ratio, very much binder, less expensive usually.

MEDIUM SOFT EXTRUDED: Usually round, softer extruded sticks good for general purposes, can get a fair amount of detail but also allow more layering and painterly techniques. More moderately priced as artist grade ones go. Rembrandt, Art Spectrum, Winsor & Newton (discontinued), Richeson Soft Round sticks, Gallery Mungyo soft rounds. Good "workhorse" texture. Next layers over hard pastels when layering hard to softer. Girault are in this category but super dense and go on smooth as if much softer, a special texture.

HAND ROLLED: Mostly softer than medium soft: Richeson Hand Rolled, Unison, Gallery Hand Rolled, Mount Vision, all of these are usually big cigar shaped sticks. Diane Townsend soft form and thinline and terrages. Pigment crystals are less crushed so color sparkles more. More expensive, some of the really expensive brands in this category. Good as finishing layers because of their beautiful effect in unblended strokes. Don't blend these ones with fingers or a blender, only with other sticks. Heavy blending loses the effect that makes Unisons et. al. worth the money.

SUPER SOFT: Round or square sticks, sometimes labeled. Super Soft. Sennelier, Schminke, Terry Ludwig, Blue Earth, Great American, check the list by softness at Dakota Pastels and judge for yourself where the line is between medium soft and super-soft. All are much softer than the medium category and can add layers when the tooth of the surface is full. High pigment load and lowest amonts of binder make some of these among the most expensive pastels.

Terry Ludwig, Blue Earth and Great American come in short cubic rectangle shapes and so have eight corners to do details with. Round super-soft sticks can be used broken to get a sharp edge for details. Sennelier half sticks are thicker than their round wrapped sticks.

Finally, PAN PASTELS are so soft you're just applying powder with a micropore sponge. They go on in thin translucent veils or outright transparent and act a lot like dry watercolor. Great for first layers an anything can go over them, they're hard to apply opaquely over other pastels. Beautiful in their own right, painterly and love getting stick accents even with hard pastels. Simultaneously act like hardest and softest. I love them but it takes practice getting good results. Very very good for first layers.

So the trick to adding more color and detail is adding softer pastels over harder ones. You could layer more with softer pastels on your snowy owl. Terry Ludwigs are good for this.

One trick for whites is to choose only one important patch of white on the subject to be the actual whitest white and do all the rest with light tints. Or not even use pure white, which is titanium and usually cool cast. Warm whites and cool whites, tinted whites are much more powerful, you can use color for nuances and shade out with other colors. Layering a secondary triad of peach, lavender and pale green gives gorgeous grays that lean one way or another, touch of pink in it helps too. Another step or two darker still in the light tints range and you can play with it in all directions.

I think even without redoing on sanded ground you could shade the wings more. If you make a little model of your owl in kneaded eraser and mount it on a bent paperclip in flight pose, you can set it under a desk lamp and move it around to decide the angle of the light and see its big modeling shadows. I can't tell you where to put them, but the bird isn't flying over the sun so they're not going to come up under both wings.

Once you decide where the sun is, you can do a little sketch of where the big modeling shadows go and make the face that brightest white area, since that's so important. I'd blue and darken the modeling shadows, maybe a grayed violet-blue over what you have, and work over the white you have with softer pastels. Darken the dark bits a touch within shadow. Out on a cloudless day blue's going to be the strongest reflecting color but land reflection would mute it.

Anyway, hope that helps. i got the idea of maquettes from James Gurney's "Gurney Journey" blog and his "Painting from Imagination" book. It helps a lot to sculpt a subject small and be able to see shadows from a light you control, the result's so powerful. Little sculpted versions also don't have to be detailed for such a broad masses definition. details can show within the shadows but won't be as intense as in sunlit areas. A little palest gold in the sun areas will also make the light seem warmer and hint that it's later in day or earlier in morning.

05-25-2015, 02:05 AM
That was very helpful, im going to write all the names of the pastel you mentioned down and go shopping on Friday ... looks like im working with medium to hards which would be why im struggling!
What a terrific idea with the eraser! Thankyou for that :) The owl has gone to its new home now but ill be sure to try and apply as much as this as I can to the next piece which I started today ... thrilled with all the feedback and tips! Than you all so much!

05-26-2015, 03:40 AM
One thing to take into consideration if cost is an issue, is the Richeson and Mount Vision are considerably larger in size than many of the other brands. These pastels may be twice the size of other brands. If you use a sanded surface, you might have better luck with a surface with less grit like a #800 UArt compared to a much coarser #400. Sennelier LaCarte is excellent for detailed work but must be very careful not to get wet. Keep an eye out for detailed pastel work on WC and see what others are using. Another trick for detailing is using a rubber tipped color shaper. If you want to use a pastel pencil for detail, remember that you are using a hard pastel which I have found difficult to come over the top of softer pastels. Most pastelist, I think, probably have an assortment of different brands.