The Process


Pastel Painting begins with preparation of the surface, which must have adequate "tooth", or roughness, to hold the pastel. I tend to use board primed with a mixture of Gesso and marble dust, then overpainted with a Gouache, to give a matt coloured surface to work on. Alternatively the board can be primed with a mixture of dilute coloured acrylic paint and powdered pumice. This gives a slightly more even texture that feels like fine sandpaper.

The Model

Practically, it is easier to work from photographs, particularly when painting children. For a good portrait it is essential to capture a well-lit high definition image, preferably lit naturally from one side. I prefer to do the photography myself, as I know what sort of lighting and pose work best for me. I usually work from a high quality A4 glossy print.

The Painting


The painting begins with an initial outline sketch done in either charcoal or light pastel, depending on the colour of primed surface. This enables me to determine roughly the composition and position of various aspects of the painting before adding colour

Establishing tonal values and colour

The next step involves roughly colouring the entire painting with broad strokes of soft pastel, starting with the darkest colours and moving to light.

These are then blended on the page using fingers and hands. This stage helps to establish large blocks of colour and light and dark areas from one another.

The detail

The painting is then entirely reworked, adding detail such as lines, highights, texture such as hair, points of reflected light etc. During this process some aspects of the composition can still be changed, reshaped and reworked.

The entire painting is usually completed in four seperate sessions, taking in total anything between 10 and fourteen hours.

This image will give you some idea of scale.

When finished, a pastel painting must be properly mounted and framed behind glass. Like a butterfly's wing, the pigment can be smudged, streaked or removed if brushed against. I always insist that the finished product is delivered in a frame to prevent any accidents occurring.