View Full Version : Photorealism.....How Gaka gets his detail

11-01-2002, 06:31 PM
Hi Everyone

Firstly I would like to say that I have never been told how to use Pastel nor have I ever been shown how to use Pastels.....What I have learnt, I have learnt through trial and many many errors. It may not be the way that Qualified Artists or Qualified Teachers do it or teach, but it is how I do it and it works for me and I get the result that I desire.

The subject matter is Blue Macaws, firstly the color choice of the pastel Paper is very important, In this case it is a mid Blue Canson Paper. I use the back side of the Paper as it is smoother. The reason that color choice is important is that I totaly fill the grain of the paper with Pastel dust and the dust will blend into the same or similar color much easier.

I use Faber and sometimes Rembrant Pastel and to start I sharpen my Pastel on a Wood File, you can use a fine one or coarse as it does not matter. I use a toothbrush to brush all of the Pastel out of the File and onto a Board or Canvas Board as this becomes my Palette. I will then get all of the colors that I need onto the Palette and I usually start on the most difficult part of the painting first.

My Hands, Fingers do not touch the Paper to do any blending at any time during a painting, I can not remember when I last blended with my Fingers! I fold a Tissue into a 1in or 25mm square and I use this to dab into the dust on the Palette and apply to the background. You can see how I have blocked the background behind the Macaws with the Pastel dust. If you reall yflatten the Tissue and just put the sharp edge into the Pastel dust you can get a very fine line with it.

With the subject, I use the same principal as the background, I start painting the Macaws with the Blue dust in a mid tone range, you can see where I had done the L/H wing, darker shadow and lower Bird. This is done with a Tissue or Cotton Buds. This Photo was taken after I had done some detail work on the 2 Heads. Which I will explain Next.

11-01-2002, 06:57 PM
Now to the Tools...I use Tissues, Cotton Buds, Cosmetic applicators, Tortillions and Color Shapers. Color Shapers are perfect for working Pastels in fine detail, for those of you who do not know what they are...they are just like a paint Brush, but where the Hair is there is a synthetic rubber, This will not rub out like a mormal rubber. They come in different shapes and sizes, I use the Chisel version. they will eventually wear away, but you can get more life out of them by carefully cutting them back into shape. They are from England I think. We can not get them here in Australia any more as they were not popular enough. I must add that other than a Color Shaper the most important Tool for me is a Rest Stick or a Mahl Stick. This is a piece of Dowel about 800mm or 32in long which I plane down to make it thick one end and tapering to thin the other. On the thin end I put a little square of folded material and over that I put a larger piece and tie this on with String or fishing line etc. I use the Rest Stick to keep off my work and to steady my hand so I can be precise with the detail and application of the Pastel.

As you can see on the previous Photo I have worked on the Heads. I will use a cotton bud where possible, But if I cant then I will apply the Pastel by Hand using a sharp Pastel and then blend this into the B'Ground. Your detail can be as fine as you can keep the point on the Pastel and sometimes my Pastel is just laying on the surface of the Paper with very little pressure at all.

At this stage I am not concerntrating on detail too much, More on getting the colors tone right, you can see in the Photo attatched as to how I am working my way down the painting.

11-01-2002, 07:14 PM
A close up of the finished detail...sorry that the Photo's are not the sharpest.

In this Photo you can see where I have darkened up the shadows giving the Feathers depth and defined the Feathers more withfine lines. I decided to work on the eye more to make it more glass like and round, if you look into the detail you can imagine working the detail with a very sharp pastel or working the blend with a pointed peice of rubber. I do not use Pastel Pencils at all as I find them too gritty and scratchy.

If you took all of the Pastel of the Paper and added it up you would not have used 3/4 of a stick of Faber Castell Pastel....But having said that...You use a reasonable amout during shapening of the Pastels. I used fixitive once many years ago, But I never use any type of fixitive now.

11-01-2002, 07:27 PM
This is the Finished Painting, It is about 400mmW x 480mmH or 16inW x 19inH. I hope that someone gets somethig out of this post. I think that I have covered everything, If you have something that you may like to know, let me know and I will try to answer your question. This style will not suit everyone or a lot of People, but if it helps anyone in the direction that they are giong, then it has been well worth it for me >f anyone does any practice, please let me know how you went.

Have a great Weekend


11-01-2002, 07:52 PM
Gaka...thank you so much for describing your process and the generous amount of time that went into creating this post. A truely beautiful painting and an amazing process you go through to achieve it! :D

marilyn h
11-01-2002, 09:24 PM
This is spectacular! I have tried doing the same process with colored pencil so I know that your work is time consuming and very delicate. What wonderful information that you have shared. Thank you!

11-01-2002, 10:06 PM
Amazing. Thank you so much for this lesson! :clap:

11-01-2002, 10:15 PM
Thank you, this is going to help me with a portrait that i'm doing with pastels.
Thanks again

11-01-2002, 11:00 PM
Great Stuff Gaka!
I've only ever seen you work for about an hour or two but it opened my eyes . . amazing mate . . must get in another hour before I leave!!

11-01-2002, 11:40 PM
Thank you Gaka!!! Great information and brilliant work on this gorgeous pic!!!


Chooky :D:D:D:clap: :clap: :clap:

11-01-2002, 11:47 PM
Thank you for all those informations ! I'm still a newbie with pastels, this will help me a lot !

11-01-2002, 11:49 PM
:D Okay so how much is gonna cost me to fly ya over to the States to show me???????
If Sir Crumby gets to watch I wannnnnnnna see tooooooo:D:D:D
Thanks Heaps for all that info, now I need to save this so I can refer back to it!!!!!!:D:D:D:

11-01-2002, 11:52 PM
Hi guy's

Thank you very much for your kind appreciation for my post, It tickles me to no end to have you People get some use from my information post as I am a person who believes in sharing what little knowledge that I have in the hope that someone takes up painting, continues painting or broadens their outlook on painting.

I believe that one can not go on taking all of our life, One has to give something back and the rewards are immense.

Thank YOU very much!


Charles Perera
11-02-2002, 02:50 AM
wonderful, Gaka. The paiting is breath taking.Absolutely refreshing . I simply devoured them with my eyes. You are very generous too, Gaka. You have given all the working that goes into it in detail.
The end image is unbelievably real. I was struck by what you said about not touching the painting with your fingers. I thought blending the paint into the grain of the paper with the finger tip helps the paint stay embedded on the paper so that eventually the dust will not fall and make the painting (longtime afterwards) colorless !

I could not get what you said about the rest stick. Is that a sort of a crutch to rest your arm while painting. That means you are not keeping the paper flat on a table while painting, but uses it on an easel. (?)

The feathers are well done those tiny line on feathers, as you had doe on the mane of the Lion, were made bya sharpened pastel I presume. I paint in pastel but use my fingertips for blending. I heard of the 'tissue' method from Tom and now do it in the initial application of colour.

I hope I will be able to tell you one day that I have done a pastel painting without using my fingure-tips. This is a great lesson you are giving us, Gaka. We are grateful. I am an autodeduct too and your explenation helps a lot. You bet I am going to learn from and emulate you ( dreaming!)

Sorry for ranting.

Thankyou, for the gift you have given us,

'God' bless you !


11-02-2002, 03:19 AM
I don't know what to say Gaka, I am amazed by your talent. I work in pastel pencils (I thought they were colored pencils, but now I found out different). I would like to do more work in pastels, so this lesson that you gave us has helped. Just one question? What kind of surface do you work on? I work on my kitchen table because if I were to work off my easel the pastel dust would fall down my paper. I have read that pastelist work with their art tilted forward. Is this how you do it. I agree with the "no fingers".
Your work just amazes me. It takes my breath away. :D :clap:

11-02-2002, 03:38 AM
That is quite phenomenal; you must really love your subject matter to dedicate this level of commitment. Can I ask how long an average painting takes you to complete?
If it doesn’t take too much time and trouble would you consider going onto the “Community” pull down menu and submitting this post on Article Publisher so that it remains permanently on the pastel forum?
Thanks for sharing!

11-02-2002, 04:10 AM
Hello again and thank you for yor replys and questions

CP....I use the Pastel in a very fine dust and this will/does penetrate into every micron of the Paper, may I suggest that you apply some Pastels in your normal procedure to a piece of Paper, then make some fine Pastel dust and apply it liberaly onto the background of another piece of Paper, give both of the pieces of Paper a good shake and see how they compare.

She-She & Cp....I always have my Pastel Paper attatched to a piece of backing Board with clips and I paint it just like any other painting sitting on my Easel vertical, When you work with fine dust and sharp Pastels you do not get very much residue on the Floor. I take the painting off the Easel every now and then and give it a bang verticaly on the floor or I give it a thumping on the back of the Board to dislodge and loose dust or Pastel.

She-She....I only work with Canson Pastel Paper and I use the Back/smooth side of the Paper, I will try different Papers one Day!.

Zarthu....My Pastels take anywhere from 20hrs to 150-180hrs, The Macaws would have taken me around 80-90 hrs.

As for the "Community"I am new here and I will look into it. I am attatching a Photo of me painting with my rest Stick so you can see how I use it to steady my Arm etc.

11-02-2002, 04:21 AM
Gaka, that looks like a photograph that's just come out of the solution and is starting to develop! Incredible!

With the size of paper you are working on I'm surprised you can produce any of these within 180 hours.
Fantastic photograph - it really puts a context on the painting in progress.

11-02-2002, 04:22 AM
What a great idea!!! Thanks Gaka. I like the lighting above your head. I don't have a proper studio yet, but I will one day.

11-02-2002, 04:46 AM
Studio...mmmmmmm...That sounds nice!!! In the Photo I am set up on the edge of a public Footpath in an Arty Crafty former Butter Factory right next to the Womens Toilets and right now I work in the undercover Car parking area where I live. But that does not stop me from painting.

Studio...mmmmmm....maybe one day....Dream...one Day

11-02-2002, 07:11 AM
your studio is the whole planet.
if you decide to come to america for a show, we hope you will let us know where and when.
i have never liked the feel of pastels in my hand, but i like your technique of not working with the stick but with the dust.
some day i hope to try also
thanks for sharing and the best to you. you deserve it.

11-02-2002, 10:07 AM
WOW! your pastels are COOL! I really like how you achieved the texture of the hyacinth`s feathering.:)

11-02-2002, 10:33 AM
I find your feathers incrediable. Awesome work. :clap:

Please concider puting this into an Article for WC? Here is the link. (http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/Publisher/)

11-02-2002, 12:20 PM




Thank you so much for sharing your style.....


:clap: :clap: :clap:

11-02-2002, 01:51 PM
This is such a wonderful thread!

I learned from Crumby to use a tissue with pastels, didn't before, but now I wrap it around a tortillon, dipped in the pastel dust. I'm trying to keep my fingers out of my painting too. I even got a Masonite clipboard for underneath:D. I pay attention to success and Crumby and Gaka certainly have it. (His tips helped me complete by best pastel "Cocker puppy" in the Animal and Wildlife Forum.)

Gaka, you should try the sanded paper, it's terrific and I really think you can get even more detail (if that's possible :D).

Your Hyacinths are magnificent. Please keep them coming!! Hope we see that kangaroo. Very inspiring.


11-03-2002, 12:24 PM
*Falls of perch .......... absolutely brilliant....... thank you Gaka for sharing this with us all....... beautifully done (Im sure will come back to this thread many times)

11-03-2002, 12:54 PM
this is wonderful Gaka!!! I like working with pastels but dont like the dust and from what I have read u dont get much. I am going to try this. I have a love for birds , wishing I had a Hyacinth, and have done many of them but this method makes me want to try them with your technique. Thank u so much for sharing this and the knowledge u have. Off to find my pastels and hope I can come close to yours.


11-05-2002, 04:49 PM
Hi Gaka,

Your work is very beautiful, your technique interesting and intriguing.
I'm also a self taught artist, decided to take up pastels when we moved home and didn't have the room to continue painting with oils. I've never tried your technique, must give it try.
Thanks for sharing.


11-15-2002, 02:06 AM
WOW WOW WOW WOW !!!! I'm in awe of your perfect detail...incredible..thank you SO much for the wonderful progression teaching..we are truly blessed to have your imput!!!
We can aspire!!!!! (if nothing else :)
I am rating this thread best....:clap: :clap:

11-17-2002, 04:15 AM
You are an amazing artist, great job and thanks for posting all that for us.

11-17-2002, 01:19 PM
I am just speechless....Thank you so much:clap: :clap:

11-17-2002, 01:45 PM
Gorgeous piece, Gaka. I've been away from this Forum for awhile. It was wonderful coming back and seeing your work. Great thread too. It'd make a marvelous article (hint, hint). Thanks for being so generous with your time and techniques.