View Full Version : Making better pastels

Samuel Rowe
11-11-2015, 01:56 PM

Well, basically, the only pastel that I've made that I've been satisfied with has been this one:



I know it's far from perfect, but I did it when I was 9-10 years old. It was at an art class/workshop done at a museum to teach children working with pastels, with two pastel artists/teachers.

They helped us do these (though they never actually did any of the actual "pastelling", they just gave us advice on how to represent something and then we did it, if you see what I mean), and my latest attempts to do something similar haven't been as good. My main problems are proportion, layering and blending.

I've never been able to do a proportionate human body, or even a nicely shaped head. The closest I've come to "realism" is in a pencil-drawn autoportrait, and even then it looks a bit funny in parts.

Sorry for such a long explanation, since it's a short question. How do I get better? I'm capable of doing it, yet can't do it.

Classes would be an option but I can't find any around where I live (which is in Western Europe, not in the US). I've not investigated E-classes.

I tried to follow a youtube video once for pastel-drawing a tree but it didn't turn out that well.

If anything doesn't make sense, or you'd like more info, please just ask!


water girl
11-11-2015, 02:49 PM
Hello, Samuel! Thanks for join us.
I wish there were a magic way to improvement, but it does take a bit of investigation and practice. May I suggest that you look through the WIP section in the pastel forum? Our artists explain their process, step by step, so that may be helpful. Here is that link.

The learning center also offers a lot of information.
If you have other questions, you have come to the right place. I hope we see some of your work soon.

11-11-2015, 02:56 PM
Lots of practice and sketchiing, life sketching if you can get a class or a group that's doing it. This includes setting up a mirror and doing figure sketches of yourself. You can hold a pose with your hips and legs while sketching, or move back into it in order to work on it. Take your time.

Don't expect great results at first, but doing lots of fast gesture sketches will teach more than spending the same amount of time doing one detailed figure. Also sketch your off hand, a lot. The first ones will come out awful in part by definition, when you outline a hand the lines are often thicker and darker than the creases they represent. Just try to get the shapes accurate for that pose. Sketch fast, then move to another pose.

A hard pastel in sanguine is good for this, you can smudge in middle value and remove highlights with an eraser. Lots of sketchbook work. Also find free classes here and at YouTube.

I did this with cats and it helped immensely. Eventually I got to where my grasp of anatomy let me sketch without a model or photo.

Your early sunset painting is beautiful, I especially like the dark sky and sea, it's got gorgeous colors and smooth gradations.

Samuel Rowe
11-11-2015, 04:55 PM
Thanks! I'll do a lot of sketching and post it on here.

11-11-2015, 06:06 PM
There are many books that teach the basics of drawing. Hopefully where you live there is a good library system. If not, used books are available all over the internet. I would start there - with learning to draw in monochrome. Learning to get proportions right and understanding light and shadow and using values (or tones) is easier to start with then jumping into color. Books by Andrew Loomis and many others will give you many tips on learning how to measure and judge proportions. Lots of things on Youtube or right here on WC. It's all about practice, practice, practice!

Good luck,


Samuel Rowe
11-12-2015, 10:52 AM
Thanks for all the advice!

I've bought some new supplies, and will post what I make on here.

Samuel Rowe
11-12-2015, 12:00 PM
Here is my attempt at a speckled egg: