View Full Version : Explore Soft Pastels-Feb. 2005- composition 1

Deborah Secor
02-08-2005, 12:45 AM
Welcome to the February installment of ESP--Exploring Soft Pastels. This month I thought I'd get back to basics with you. When we asked what folks wanted some of you mentioned compositional needs. I thought instead of trying to do it all in one fell swoop--which is IMPOSSIBLE anyway--that I'd start with a good beginning lesson on drawing upside down.

Many of you may have done this before and might be thinking it's too basic, but even if you have, I urge you to give it another try! I find in my advanced classes that when I teach this 'reminder' class the drawing skills invariably increase. So read over my thoughts and get ready to try it again. :cool:

Draw Upside-Down

All of us need to develop our drawing skills, and upside-down drawing is a good way to do that. As we do it we begin to trust that our eyes can see and compute angles, the relationships of spaces to one another, and record them fairly accurately. It may make us uncomfortable, to a degree, because our minds want to criticize us.

Our brains have a shorthand way of seeing, using symbols to represent things conveniently and quickly. We look for patterns in things—the sailing ship in the clouds—and tend to recognize these things in a very simple way. Your brain has devised a set of symbols, some more universal than others, to represent the world.

For instance, Betty Edwards in her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain instructs us to remember our childhood landscape. She suggests that even at that early stage we chose certain symbols for certain objects in the landscape. How did you draw clouds when you were five? How about a tree? A house? Did it have a peaked roof and a chimney with smoke curling out? Whatever it was, chances are you retain some of those symbols when you draw.

Your brain has another kind of shorthand it uses: language. You have a word associated with a symbol and the verbal part of the brain will always want to use language to describe things. It’s so handy… but it really keeps you from seeing accurately. This part of the brain is also fairly critical and levies little barbs at you as you draw, suggesting that the house looks bad or that tree is a mess. Don’t listen. Drawing upside-down frees you from that.

If you leave an area of your drawing unfinished, it’s usually because you aren’t quite sure what should go in that space. Rather than struggle through the drawing, most folks, in a mad rush to get on to the fun stuff (usually the color :wink2: ), just leave it blank, to be filled in when you get there. But those are the pitfall areas of the painting. When you reach that spot you usually end up using one of your symbols—a tree or a bush that looks more like a five year old painted it than someone as mature as you are now. Your little critical brain will be unhappy but only suggests more symbols.

These symbols are very persuasive. We tend to think we have them beat, only to find ourselves using them yet again. Your brain argues with you. Why are you messing around trying to see that building when you know it’s a rectangle? Why struggle to see the three-dimensionality of a tree when a lollipop shape is just fine? Well, argue back! Because it doesn’t look like a rectangle or a lollipop to me as I look at it upside down!

So, as you draw upside-down you’ll likely find that part of your brain arguing and feeling uncomfortable at first. Just draw through it. I guarantee that at some point that verbal part of your brain will quiet down because you’ll be so busy analyzing angles and relationships of shapes.

I suggest you select a photograph to draw from—and eventually paint—very carefully. What you see is what will result in the drawing. (You can edit it later when you turn it right side up.) Begin by prepping your paper and placing the already upside-down photo where you can view it. Then go away and forget what was there. Give yourself enough time that you aren’t straining to see what’s there. Come back and allow yourself to see it as a series of shapes and lines. Do not name the things as you draw them.

It’s important not to get too distracted throughout this process. Try to set up some uninterrupted time to draw so that the verbal part doesn’t get a foothold again. If you hear criticisms in your brain, ignore them. Just let go and analyze, compare, draw and enjoy.

If you haven't tried this before, you might want to use this for a practice drawing:
Okay, first off, DO NOT name the things in this image. Just print it, keeping it upside down as much as you can. Then do a simple line drawing with it upside down. I suggest you use a 9x12" piece of Wallis paper, toned a neutral gray. (I use a foam house painting brush to briskly rub in a layer of pastel, toning the paper--rub hard and wipe off all the excess and you can do a nice charcoal drawing and then paint in color right on top of it with no problems.) Do an underdrawing right on your paper as the first step in a painting. As you draw find the angles and intersections, thick and thin lines, where they come together and go off the page. When you've finished turn it right side up and see how it looks. Because you toned the Wallis paper you can easily rearrange a few of the lines, if needed, recomposing the image to suit you, but I suspect you'll be surprised at how accurate this looks! You may not want to use this one for a painting, but if you do, here it is:
Don't look at it right side up until you have done the drawing! Then you can use the photo to complete the painting. You can paint it either upside down or right side up, your choice...

If you're a bit more confident of your abilities, here's another image you might use:
Again, don't let your nosy brain talk about what is there--just draw the shapes, lines and values on your paper upside down.

Here's one more for you:

I'd love to see your drawings before you go on to paint it! Post it upside down and then right side up for us...

You can use any photograph you want to to do this exercise, by the way.

If you have questions, I'd be happy to try to answer them. I know you may be wondering how this adds up to composing, but trust me! We'll go on with the lesson next month.

Have fun!


02-08-2005, 11:30 AM
Good lesson, Deborah- I know this will help lots of folks! I draw upside down when I'm trying to do something tricky- even if I don't get things quite absolutely right when I turn it right side up, it's usually closer than when I tried to do it normally, and shows me the *how* of the *where* I was wrong- if that makes sense.

Reiterating the toning basics of Wallis is good too- Folks, this technique really works, and saves you masses of time and frustration if you're like me and sketch directly onto your ground rather than grid, trace, project. A simple brushing away with a soft watercolour brush and voila`! Anything you drew is gone while the toning remains.

02-08-2005, 09:11 PM
Hi, this is the first time I have joined in on one of these. I haven't got any Wallis paper so I am using Colourfix instead.
I'm going to put some colour on it now :wave:

Deborah Secor
02-08-2005, 09:28 PM
Thanks Julie... :wave:

Looking good, Deanna! So glad you're joining me here. Colourfix is fine--I'm not dogmatic, just suggesting Wallis. Try it when you get a chance! It's a very forgiving paper (which is a trait I like in anything or anyone!! :D )

One thing you need to do is straighten that horizon line. The photo is crooked (hey--it's upside down! Who knew? LOL sorry... :o ) so you need to just be sure you flatten it out with the colors.

How did you find the experience of drawing upside down? Have you done it before? Does it make it easier? Hope so! I know that when I do it I usually have a short period where I feel really uncomfortable, and my mind keeps telling me I can't do this. I get a real urge to turn everything right side up so I can see it better (which is just my brain wanting to use language and shortcuts), but when I ignore it the feeling goes away and I can get into the shapes and lines...

If this was my painting I'd consider recomposing the clump of grasses thats along that bottom edge, maybe by shoving it back into the picture further or by massing the whole fore into more grasses. I'm always careful not to put objects on the 'windowsill' of the picture.

Can't wait to see how this one goes...


02-09-2005, 06:27 PM
Will playing the guitar upside down help me draw better? ;) :wink2: :D

02-09-2005, 09:39 PM
Thanks, I noticed that about the horizon, only after I turned it up the right way though :D. I haven't drawn upside down before but it didn't worry me, I think because I usually don't look at the whole thing when I draw, only the bit I am drawing.
I have put some colour on my picture and I have to say I looked better before, possibly when it was upside down, ah well I will look at it again later.

Deborah Secor
02-10-2005, 12:12 AM
Will playing the guitar upside down help me draw better? ;) :wink2: :D

No Dan--drawing the guitar player upside down will help you draw better... Playing the guitar upside down will just make you weird. :rolleyes: :D

Deanna, show us your progress sometime!


Deborah Secor
02-10-2005, 06:32 PM
Okay, with something like 110 views I'm now officially challenging all you lurkers (and you know who you are!) to come out and give this simple, easy, fun and helpful idea a TRY....... Wattasmatta? C'mon!


Natalie NZ
02-11-2005, 05:02 AM
Okay, with something like 110 views I'm now officially challenging all you lurkers (and you know who you are!) to come out and give this simple, easy, fun and helpful idea a TRY....... Wattasmatta? C'mon!


OK OK coming out with my hands up :clap: ....... CU Soon........Won't be long.....11 pm here so will try and make it tomorrow................

Deborah Secor
02-11-2005, 09:02 AM
....<clearing throat>.... Okay, didn't mean to get aggressive there... :o :D <giggle> You can put your hands down now, Natalie!


K Taylor-Green
02-11-2005, 11:26 AM
Hmmmmm, upside down drawing. You know, I haven't done that since I took a basic drawing class, about 10 years ago. It works, too! I check my drawings that way, turning it upside down.
Drawing upside down may seem like a silly thing to do. And many of you may be thinking, " I'm having enough trouble drawing it right side up!" But, it is one of those exercises that trains your eye for accuracy. On down the road, you will draw everything with more correctly, the first time!

Deborah Secor
02-11-2005, 03:17 PM
I learned this drawing technique way back in the early years of my art school training, at a time when I was most frustrated with my ability to portray what I saw. Betty Edwards, in her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, showed before and after drawings done by her students, with such dramatic and quick improvements that I had to try some of her ideas. This one is the most basic idea, I know, but it truly taught me a lot about drawing and in the long run about composing. It works because you literally shut off that critical part of your brain that wants to use the shortcuts and constantly seems to send mixed messages: “that doesn’t look right,” alongside the persistent urge to use symbols instead of seeing.

Let me illustrate this idea better. When you paint a face your brain does two things. It has filed away a symbol for eye or nose or mouth, a childlike drawing that isn’t based on looking but on a pictogram, of sorts. When you begin to draw the face, as you look at the eye you might use that symbol, but your mind hates that too! It tells you how stupid that looks…


But when you try to see it and draw it accurately the brain substitutes the symbol again and repeats how dumb that looks. You can’t win!!! When you turn the photo upside down you effectively silence the symbol loving part of the brain that criticizes the symbol and open yourself up to actually seeing. Since there’s no object to symbolize you begin to look at and draw things in terms of what is there.

It goes a little further, however. The dictionary defines composition this way: ‘To put in proper form; to create or produce.’ When you compose a painting you decide what to include or leave out, where to locate elements on the page, and how they’ll relate to one another. How can you do that without drawing skills? Oh, you may have graduated to using other techniques, but I bet you started by drawing--if you don't still draw! I know I do.

I usually tone my paper and use charcoal to begin my composition. This helps me in three ways. First, I find where the largest shapes will reside on the page. Second, I locate the areas of value, the darks, and lights. Last, I find where I want the details--and more importantly where I DON'T need details! I suggest doing all of this before painting one lick of color.

Here's one of my underdrawings. It’s on a 12x18" piece of Wallis paper, which I toned gray using the technique I described earlier. I used extra soft thin vine charcoal and a peach colored pastel pencil.


Here’s the photo:


I find that when I need to draw really complex things like the overlapping and intricately detailed branches of a tree, I can more easily see it when it's upside down. I looked for the dark masses first, then the light areas, slowly building it up into a complex underdrawing. This is a very rough illustration of what I mean:


Start with the big puzzle pieces, using shapes, then decide on the value areas, then details.

When drawing upside down, you tend to make a much more accurate rendering, including all you see, so it's a good idea to crop down to only the things you want to include. For instance, you might use this crop for your painting:


Or this one:


Then in drawing it upside down, you will only concentrate on what you want to portray, instead of having to try to ignore what's there. When you finish the upside down portion of the drawing, turn it right side up and tweak it. Take out the things that are distracting, or add some punch to the overall values.

Here’s the WIP of this one. The rough-in stage:


The second layer:


And the final painting:

Winter Pinon


Paula Ford
02-11-2005, 10:42 PM
Hi Deborah,

This lesson you are giving us is wonderful. Thank you for all your time and knowledge that you are sharing!!

I AM going to draw something RIGHT NOW and will be back in a flash.


P.S. That photo is gorgeous!! Is it one that you took? Or, is it in the RIL? <hint hint>

Natalie NZ
02-12-2005, 02:40 AM
Well it's not much but at least it's a start. I haven't done anything for so long, thanks Dee for helping me get started.


02-12-2005, 03:05 AM
I could not agree more with Dee's point that people have a tendency to draw what they think is there, generalising what they see, rather than drawing what is actually there, particularly if they are drawing something fairly familiar. They slow down, and become a lot more careful, when drawing something totally UNfamiliar and new to them.

An important point to bear in mind tho:

The idea of drawing upside down is terrific when you are working from photos.

But when you work from life, this is a tad harder, unless you are adept at standing and drawing upside down!!!!

So - for those who like to work from life, you may have wondered how you can usefully use this info. Well, don't switch off....because the second part of this lesson, is, to my mind, the valuable part for you ...learning to see the world as shapes within the rectangle, and learning to simplify what one sees down to essentials. Without using these ideas, there is a tendency to "see too much" of the world, and also to see it as a shopping list - 2 trees, patch of snow, pathway, area of sky. When the artist gets to the point of being able to see those elements as "shapes within the rectangle", he or she has a marvellous tool at his disposal, to help to compose, or design, his image.

I often use the upside-down idea to check my design...when I turn my image upside down, I start to see it as an arrangement of coloured shapes on the paper, it is harder to discern reality, as Dee so rightly says.

Even for those who prefer to work from life, this is a good exercise to practice anyway, from time to time; it will really train your patience, and your eye and hand to see and be more accurate in your drawings, and then, when you come to work from life, this training will help you to more accurately draw what you see with the naked eye, instead of generalising.


Ron Biggs
02-12-2005, 11:27 AM
If you haven't tried this before, you might want to use this for a practice drawing:
Okay, first off, DO NOT name the things in this image. Just print it, keeping it upside down as much as you can. Then do a simple line drawing with it upside down.

Hi Deborah,

This is the first time I've tried this, so here's my attempt :o


I think the little guy looks a bit chubby in mine, is this ok ?
I'm going to have a go at colouring it in now.


Deborah Secor
02-12-2005, 01:58 PM
:wave: Paula—Didja draw something??? You said “right now”, so…? Show us!!

Natalie—I assume you did this one upside down, so how do you feel it went? Was it easier, harder, fun, frustrating? It looks great! This little boy is adorable, to start with, and you’ve caught his vulnerable look, I think. Very good work. :) Let us see how it looks as you paint it, too.

Ron—Yay! You did it! :D Thanks! I was beginning to wonder if anyone would use my examples… I turned it right side up to see how you did and I think you should be pleased! I have no trouble seeing what it is. My question is the same to you—did you find it easier to draw this way? I’m looking forward to seeing your results… Hope you'll share your progress.

My question to all of you who have done drawings is: how might you improve on the composition? Maybe in the current one you'll go on without changing, but as you do, ask yourself how you might improve on it if you were to paint it over again. Could you move an element, leave something out, add a bit somewhere? How could you rearrange the SHAPES in the picture to improve it? Look at it upside down or sideways to see where you could strengthen the composition.

Jackie—You’re right. This doesn’t work much on location. Just try asking a tree to turn upside down for you…they never cooperate. :mad:

I find when I turn the drawing over I see a sort of slant to things, as if I did it with my off hand, which has to be corrected. As I’ve practiced this over the years, however, my accuracy has improved.

I also notice that this exercise helps me see things that I can't figure out otherwise...for instance, when I'm painting architecture I draw it upside down and that helps a LOT! I seem not to be good at geometrics (part of the reason I favor landscapes, I guess--so few straight lines and right angles to bother with!)

Okay, this is getting good! I can't wait to see what others have to contribute!!


02-12-2005, 03:01 PM
Hi Deborah,
Ty for this wonderful class. :)
Wow I read Betty Edwards book and do believe in this but always forget to use it. I am currently working on a horse with its mouth open (looks like a talking Mr Ed only in chocolate). My mind is drawing it the way I think a horse should look, instead of how it really is. I was just telling my JayD's 101 course, classmate Judi in a pm about this exact thing. lol
I am at a standstill with the muzzle and mouth right now.
I will turn both ref pic and my drawing over and work again.
After I am done and satisfied I will post the b4 upside drawing and after.
Thanks again for this. :)

Deborah Secor
02-12-2005, 04:56 PM
You're more than welcome for the reminder, Sultry! Can't wait to see your next post... I have a mental image of Mr. Ed with chocolate all over his mouth! I suspect your painting won't look at all like that, but...sorry..my imagination.... :D


02-12-2005, 04:59 PM
lol, no he is a brown horse with his mouth open lol. I think right now I made him look like he is eating chocolate and peanut butter lol his mouth looks so deformed. Or the batman Joker horse. lol but when I am done I will post ref pic, bad drawing and after drawing. I promise. lol its my BF birthday so it may not be till tomorrow. We have a party to go to :)

Ron Biggs
02-12-2005, 06:00 PM
My question is the same to you—did you find it easier to draw this way?

Hi Deborah,

Thanks for doing this thread. :clap:

Yes, as I'm not very good at drawing :( doing it upside down and just following what I was looking at, instead of trying to draw it, was much easier :)

I'll post a progress tomorrow.


Paula Ford
02-12-2005, 09:46 PM
:wave: Paula—Didja draw something??? You said “right now”, so…? Show us!!

OK OK. Here is one I did today (got too sleepy last night sorry). It was much easier to draw this up-side-down when my brain wasn't telling me that this image was a frog. It's still pretty bad though...but I'm trying. The original photo is in the image library and was taken by MonicaB (thank you!!).

original image

:D Paula

Deborah Secor
02-12-2005, 11:39 PM
Paula, I just had to laugh! I was picturing some guy dressed up in a frog suit when I saw this!! I think it's quite accurate and interesting. I like the way you simplified it, leaving out anything that wasn't BIG and green(ish). Thanks for sharing! :D


Natalie NZ
02-13-2005, 01:10 AM
Dee, thank you for your comments and yes I did draw this upside down and found it much easier, I did not use my eraser half as much as usual. This is on watercolour paper which I have not used before but thought it would be alright to practice on. I have now painted little Mr. Adorable - I hope you like him.


Ron Biggs
02-13-2005, 03:39 AM
I’m looking forward to seeing your results… Hope you'll share your progress.


Hi Deborah,

Progress so far.
Going to start work on the lighter areas today.

Sissy Riley
02-13-2005, 03:06 PM
Ok I tried it. Just a real fast one without too many corrections. I never changed anything after I flipped it over to show how it actually turned out. I was quite intimidating and since I was looking at my computer screen there wasn't a lot of detail to get bogged into which I think I tend to do.

Do you always tone your paper first. Is that the secret to blending and not having the little dandruffy specks? I'm new to pastel but loving it. 8 people so far have looked at my pony but no comments :confused:

should I take that as a sign?

Anyway I was impressed with how proportional it came out. I see many fixes and some things I missed but overall a good experience and I'll do it again.

Thanks for all the tips and will keep tuning in for more. Sissy

Deborah Secor
02-13-2005, 04:53 PM
This looks great, Sissy! :wave: So glad you gave it a try... It looks like the perfect kind of subject to use, since it's a figure and ground (which keeps it simple) but has the complexity of the folds. If over-detailing is a problem I think you've done a nice job of achieving enough here, without overdoing it. Very nice!! :D

You have a good opportunity to create some exciting color with this one too. (And your pony shows that you love color...I'll comment on it over there...)

I always tone white Wallis paper before beginning, because when it has a light tone of pastel across it the lines and colors laid down are essentially erasable. I use my foam brush (just the common everyday ones used to paint house trim) to briskly rub in a light layer of pastel in any color, then if I muff a charcoal line or stroke of color I use it to dab off the offending part and begin again.

What kind of paper are you using for this one? I'm not sure what you mean by dandruffy specks, unless you're getting some of the paper's fibers rubbed up. That's why I like to use a hard, sanded paper such as Wallis. No such problem with this paper. It's "victim paper", as Julie (SBJ) has dubbed it--it loves to take a beating 'cause nothing bothers it much!

Let us see the painting as it progresses, too!


Sissy Riley
02-13-2005, 05:25 PM
Thanks for getting back. This was just done in my sketch book Bienfang 70lb. 9x12. when I saw the photos side by side I saw how squat she is. I don't think I'll change that though. Maybe thin her out a little.

The horse is done on 60lb Strathmore sketch 400 series. 11x14.

I definately will do the toning because of the line correction. Also I wanted to ask in your landscape pic you did an underpainting do you always do this as well?

I'll go read my Pony comments now.


Natalie NZ
02-13-2005, 05:32 PM
I forgot to mention when I posted my painting that I would appreciate C and C's to help my learning.

02-13-2005, 05:45 PM
So Let me see if this is right. Take a piece of wallis paper, take say a light gray pastel rub it all over the paper then use the form brush to work it in. If you use vine charcol on it and make a mistake it will come right off. Do I have that right. I would like to try the sheep but am not sure if underpainting of grays should be down first. And if that is it then when the greens are applied it would be darker. Please let me know I am new to this.
Thank You Betty

02-14-2005, 09:43 AM
here's my go at the upside down. i've done it before, but like you said, a refresher is sometimes just the thing. i was trying to do some trees on a painting, ugh, frustration--so i put it down and did this. then my trees were working better too! so i am thinking, and wondering--how many do a sketch/warm up before actually 'working' on a 'real' piece? i am thinking maybe i at least should be!

this came from one of my kids' little flyer things from school.

Deborah Secor
02-14-2005, 11:25 AM
So Let me see if this is right. Take a piece of wallis paper, take say a light gray pastel rub it all over the paper then use the form brush to work it in. If you use vine charcol on it and make a mistake it will come right off. Do I have that right. I would like to try the sheep but am not sure if underpainting of grays should be down first. And if that is it then when the greens are applied it would be darker. Please let me know I am new to this.
Thank You Betty

Yep, Betty, that's right. I only do this on Wallis paper...others don't work this way. When you apply the pastel to the paper use the flat side of the stick and put down one LIGHT layer of color all over. Be sure to tape your paper to the board and lay it flat to do this so the pastel doesn't all fall off the page. You don't have to fill up the grain of the paper much, just a light, scumbley coating of the color with lots of the texture of the paper showing through. Rub LIKE CRAZY with the foam brush in all different directions, until all the pastel is thoroughly pushed down into the grit. You can't hurt the paper with the brush, so really rub hard. Then take it outside and blow it off (out of the wind) or use a clean brush to remove the excess pastel--which is why you don't want to use too much to begin with--and you're set to start drawing and painting. Because the pastel is burnished in place it won't pollute the colors you put on top of it, and you really can use the foam brush to erase.

As for the sheep, I'd do a drawing in charcoal over the toned paper, creating a tonal piece with the darks in place and ignoring the fact that the gray is not as light as the sheep will be, unless you want to draw the light in as I did in my tree drawing--but there's so much light in this one that I'd just skip all that and go on. Once you've completed the drawing, then begin with your darks first (not relying on gray but using a variety of dark greens and purples and blues in the grasses, and--oops! Not supposed to name that...oh well!)

In the light areas you could put down a lot of paler colors such as yellows, golds, lavenders, etc, reserving white for the very last touches. If you start with white you won't have any way to make the lights light enough, so go a bit dark and then lighten things progressively.

Then let us see how you're doing! :D


Deborah Secor
02-14-2005, 11:28 AM
Chewie, what a cutie! I love the quickness of the strokes you used, which describe the attitude of this little guy. I know what you mean about doing warm-up drawings. Like stretching before running....wouldn't want to get an art cramp! LOL I should do more of that. Let me know if it seems to be really useful to you--I may have to change my ways!


02-14-2005, 01:21 PM
That was right on point advice, thank You Now To do the picture. I will be out of town the next few days, when I get back I will give this a try and post my progress.

02-15-2005, 11:15 PM
Okay, here is my landscape. I did the colours the right way up but I haven't quite got it right yet, I've never done a landcape in pastel before, its not as easy as it looks.

Ron Biggs
02-16-2005, 03:41 PM
Hi Deborah,
Thanks for all the tips :clap: I look forward to the next lesson. :D

Here's my finished painting, it might not be very good but when compared to my efforts up to now it shows how much I'm learning from this site.


Thanks for everthing.

Deborah Secor
02-16-2005, 05:15 PM
Deanna, I hope you're pleased with this! I love what you've done with the colors in the foreground and your reflections are very believeable. Nice clouds, too... :D My only thought is that you might lighten the blue of the band of clouds along the horizon. Just layer in a drift of the sky blue to give them a bit more 'float'. So glad you shared this!! Are you on to the next landscape now???

Ron, I can't see what you have to complain about in this one! I love the fleecy look and the light you've created is excellent. I'm particularly pleased with the colors you layered into the mama sheep's neck and shoulders. :)

Great job, both of you and thanks for showing us what you've done... You make a teacher's heart beat... :D

Anyone else??? Hope so!


Natalie NZ
02-16-2005, 08:20 PM
Deborah, you seem to have missed my original painting which I posted on the 13th. Here it is again with a couple of alterations to the eyes and ear, as suggested by Kathy and Mikki.


Looking forward to the next lesson although I intend to do another upside down one too.

Deborah Secor
02-17-2005, 10:38 AM
Natalie, I'm sorry! I thought I commented... :confused: I think he is truly adorable!!! I'm not much of a portrait painter...(a real understatment--I've done one or two)...but I have to say that you caught the spirit of this child, his wistfulness and vulnerability. I love the improvements you made to his eyes, too. Your choice of green for the background is perfect--just the right tone to complement the skin colors. Very nice... :D

If you do another upside down one I hope you'll share it with us!


02-17-2005, 12:23 PM
Dee, Ron & Natalie great jobs I see likeness in all of your work :clap:

Deborah, I promised I would post my mess up on my horses so here is the progress so far. This is embarrasing, lol

1) Ref Pic of horse that JayD supplied for 101 class 12

2) My first try at sketching it (I did not really look at the shapes, I took it upon myself to draw a horse as I always knew a horse should look, hence reason I could not sketch his mouth open, is because I really never drew a horse with a open mouth before. Most of my work is from imagination by the way. Another reason this one looks so much differently then the pic).

3) I saw your thread Deborah over here and realized I should give the upside technique a try, but I did a big mistake by just erasing the bottom half of my horse because it ended up producing a double porportioned looking head of a horse.

4) I decided to try again on a clean white w/c 140 lb paper. I have started my line drawing with a F mechanical pencil.

I just want to say, what I learned from this experience was not to try and salvage what you have but to start fresh.

edited to say sorry pic of 2 headed porportioned horse did not come out. But here is link, post #170 is the pic

Deborah Secor
02-17-2005, 08:30 PM
Wow, thanks for sharing your horse!! I mean, you proved my point here... You did a much better job of SEEING when it was upside down. There's something about quieting down that pert of our brain, you know? You shouldn't be embarrassed at all about this. It just goes to show how this technique works and will no doubt serve to encourage some of the lurkers.
(You know who you are--come out with your drawings up!!!)

:D Thanks, sultry.


02-17-2005, 08:53 PM
Sultry, nice work. Class 12 is a horse pic ref??? :o Hard time for me, then!!

And I have been following through the all week the posts and nice things are coming up surely. Dee, thanks for putting up this thread.
I am not into pastels yet, just because I didnt buy them!! :D Pastel is another medium I want to try on. Just because I think is fun to play around with colours no matter what the medium is. But each one, is a different kind.

I bought a book from Betty Edwards that talks about drawing it upside down. I am in the middle of that book.

Can I join in to do just the drawings??


Rose Bard

Deborah Secor
02-17-2005, 09:04 PM
Rose, since we're so devoted to soft pastels in here you can participate as long as you raise your right hand and promise that you'll buy a little set of pastels and try painting with them!! Sure--you're welcome to post a drawing here. :) Maybe we can entice you into more after that... there's nothing like pastels for color, trust me! No other medium has the same sparkle or light to it, because the pigment crystals reflect back all the light in their color. I really hope you'll give them a try sometime.

Okay, show us what you come up with!


Natalie NZ
02-17-2005, 10:58 PM
Deborah, Thanks so much for your always encouraging comments. I don't know how you keep up with everything going on on this wonderful site. I spend hours just reading posts let alone painting and posting myself. I have just discovered the 'View First Unread' at the top of the forum pages which certainly speeds things up a bit.

Hi Sultry, it certainly makes a difference when you try the upside down method and paint what you SEE, doesn't it Your horse is coming along nicely. :clap: :clap:

02-25-2005, 12:53 PM
I do check my work in the mirror, and upside down, but drawing or painting was a new idea for me.

Deborah, I decided to try the upside down thing drawing a freehand portrait of my son (stepson), Scott, looking at a photo I took. I'm trying to make it look like him and although it needs more work I'm very pleased with how well it went doing it upside down. I'm shocked with how my focus while drawing was so different than normal; it's so hard to explain, but it's incredibly exciting! I suggest everyone do this! Thank you. Thank you.

Deborah Secor
02-25-2005, 01:16 PM
Grasshopper, this is really beautiful! I'm so glad the technique has sparked a new response from you... I agree, I don't know exactlywhat it is that happens, but drawing and painting upside down is a different focus. I love the delicate color work you've begun, and it really does look like him. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.


03-10-2005, 11:28 PM
Hi dee just bought a basic little set of pastel!!!

Tomorrow I wil post something here. Where is the march ESP? I dont wanna loose this everymonth. I think ESP will be a good way to have fun with SP.

I catchup if you guys tomorrow.

Deborah Secor
03-11-2005, 11:21 AM
Glad you want to join us, Rose! You can find the other ESP threads in The Pastel Library.

I hope to post a new ESP (for March--how did it get to be March already??) but it will be a couple of days, so show us what you do!


03-11-2005, 01:19 PM
Hi Dee thanks for welcoming me onboard on this new media. I am enjoying a lot all the media I have beeing trying, but my heart belongs to the oil I am afraid. Nevertheless, there is still enough room for other fun things. I am very flexible and I get bored to do always the same thing.

Hey! I just asked for the march because I couldnt find it. It was not an arrogant request. :wink2:

By the way the feb was supperb. Thanks for taking the time to put on such nice thread.

I did just a sketch on upside drawing, that is why not many details on it. I have that book. I think I said that before.
About the composition, I have put the animals a little bit higher, to have more room for the grass on the bottom. I picked something very difficult for me, never really tried this kind of texture before. Not even in oils. Another thing is the fact that when I put for example the dark green (there are only two in the set - dark and light), it looks dark. but when I blend it goes so light. in the bottom I used some black to see it could keep it dark. worked just about, but still made the green look dirty and not really darken it. so I just tryed the texture of the grass and did really blend it. Dont know if I did right on this one.

Sorry about the pics it is not so good.

Going to check the pastel library soon and wait for the march one.

Deborah Secor
03-12-2005, 12:22 PM
Rose, it looks very good! I love your compositional change--and that little lamb looks very fluffy all snuggled next to mama. The contrast of the textures is working quite well.

To darken the green you might try layering instead of blending. Where you need it darker use the big, flat side of the pastel to lay down some strokes of dark blue, purple or even black (or all of these!) and cover with strokes of your darkest green. Where the grass is lighter use yellow, peach or gold under the light green. You can then use the point or sharp edge of the pastel to stroke in the blades of grass with your two greens. You could apply this idea to any of the textures--the wooly lamb and the ragged mama sheep.

What kind of paper are you using? With pastels it really pays off to have more tooth, which is why I like sandpaper so much. Wallis is my favorite but there are others that are good, too. The pads they call pastel or charcoal paper really challenge beginners, because there is more nap than tooth. I always have my beginning students work on sandpaper--and, yes, you can try plain old furniture grade 600 grit wet and dry sandpaper, but it's not archival in any sense! PM Kitty Wallis and get a sample of her paper, if you haven't already.

I wasn't jumping on you about March, Rose! :) My brain is fuzzy with a cold and I thought you were asking where the older threads were located... I'll get to March before the month wanes if I get over the cold/allergies soon enough to make some demo paintings! If not, we'll make it April. Keep your eyes open.

Thanks for taking part. Anyone else have anything to share??? Now's the time...


03-12-2005, 02:04 PM
Hi thanks for the words on it and the tips.

The apple is just from my imagination. MY left side work. I believe I am putting some nice images over there, what do you think? :wink2: :wink2: Kidding.

The second one is the landscape reference.

Where I bought the pastel didnt have other brands of paper. I used canson dessin, says in the pad that is good for drawing, for pastel and even for watercolor. I dunno. There is 2 sides one it. ONe smoother, that is the back and the front one is kind of crysp, I dont know how to explain it in english.
I am going to check for the ones you suggest. Art supplies in Brazil is a nightmair to find the best ones. And to come from abroad, I never tried, mas be expensive and need international credit card to buy. Will look around and see. Need some good paper for CP aswell.

Sorry to hear about your cold/allergy, kind of same here. Wish you get better soon.