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Equusketch 11-07-2009 09:43 PM

My very first soft pastel drawing!!! (art journal)
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So Katy has inspired me to try out soft pastels. I bought a set a while ago, but just now decided to give them a go. I have no idea how to use them, so anybody who has experience with them, any advice would be very much appreciated.

I decided to start my own art journal in hopes that people can critique my piece as I go along. I am pretty sure I have screwed up already by doing the entire background first instead of sticking to the upper left corner to lower right corner rule in order to reduce smudging, but so far I am doing a very good job of keeping my hand off the paper. Though that may al change as I go into more detail on the horse. I purposefully kept the background simple, but I will do he best I can to make the horse pop out.

One thing I have noticed already is that blending washes out the intensity of color a lot. So my question for you pastel experts is, should I do any blending at all or just focus on many small precise strokes? I was thinking about doing an under layer of color and shading and blending that, then going back and adding more layers.

Any advice on layering/blending?

Also, is it fairly easy to cover a dark color with a light color for highlighting effects (sort of like acrylic paints)? or do light colors not show up well over dark colors (lik water colors)?

Anyway, here is what I have completed so far.

Equusketch 11-07-2009 09:45 PM

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Oh yeah, here is the reference photo:

APHA MOMMA 11-07-2009 10:02 PM

OH WOW, You are AMAZING, you just be a natural at any drawing or painting you do!! I am so speechless and I would LOVE to see the end result!! You have talent beyond words!

Equusketch 11-07-2009 10:29 PM

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Well, I just started working on the horse, but I am going to give it a rest for the night. I am taking pics of this drawing with my camera and the colors are not matching the actual drawing well, but you can get an idea of where I am going with this. Any critiques?

Equusketch 11-07-2009 10:41 PM

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Ok, I took a couple more pictures in the bathroom where the lighting was better. Not a perfect representation, but much closer than the last pic I posted.

cowgirl4jesus94 11-07-2009 11:05 PM

wow! that is incredible. can't wait to see the finished product. you are a natural!

Kayty 11-08-2009 09:31 PM

Love your background Liz it's excellent! Much better than mine, I don't even bother with realistic backgrounds with my pastel, hence why when I finish my last 3 commissions I have at the moment I'm going to spend a couple of months on my own work doing people and backgrounds for a while!

Now onto your drawing...
What type of paper are you using? The paper type can affect how you are able to blend your pastels.
You chose a tricky one for your first pastel drawing! I still struggle with bays still, chestnuts are the easiest to do in pastel colour wise.
You can probably see in your drawing, that you have alot of white patches coming through where the pastel is not covering? This will make your drawing look flat and a bit lifeless when you finish. To bring th horse out of the page, you will need to put a few 'base coats' before you start adding detail. Once you start to use pastel more often, you will work out what colours are best for a certain photograph, but for this one, I would have put a reasonably deep blue for around the eyes, muzzle and darker areas, then a deep red for the other bits. From that, layer a little lightish purple/red over the blue, and a darkish orange over the red. This will come through in the finished drawing and make it stand out.
A big mistake people make with pastel is to just draw the colours straight on, so with yours you have just put brown on straight away. You'll struggle to get the coverage and life in the drawing doing that, so as I said above, always lay down a foundation colour to start with that will come through the drawing and make it stand out off the page.

As for blending, what are you using? Some people like to blend pastels, and for backgrounds this can look good (your background looks lovely!) but if you are focussing on a person or animal don't blend! I lay down solid backgrounds until I start to get into the more detailed layers, then draw the hairs in. Not as fiddly as with graphite though, you can draw less hairs and get away with it. Just layer the strokes on top of each other until you get the coverage you want.

With layering lighter colours onto dark ones, you can do the basic fur that has slightly highlighted areas easily enough by layering light onto dark, but be carefull because it can smudge. If you want to get white whites, leave the area blank, and put down a very very light blue, then the white on top ;) One downfall of pastels is how hard it is to get your whites white but blue is what I've found to work best for me!

One more little tip I've learnt is to use charcoal pencils for alot of the darker areas, they give you alot finer detail than black pastel and you can control the intensity of the colour more. Also, a set of pastel pencils would be a worthwhile investment as you can work on the eyes and such with more precision- it's a bugger trying to get detail in the eyes once your pastel sticks have worn down a bit!!!!

Good luck and looking good so far, if you start off this good a few more drawings later and you'll be fantastic!!

Equusketch 11-09-2009 01:40 AM

Kayty....thank you thank you thank you so much for the advice...I have since gone on to the first eye, but was struggling with the fine detail of the eye. I talked to my sister tonight who took art in high school who admitted to not knowing much about soft pastels, but advised me against combining this drawing with charcoal. I personally thought about using charcoal pencils for the fine detail in the creases of the eyelids and the nositrils. I actually trust you, and will take your advice on the charcoal pencils for the fine details.

As far as the layering goes, I just got too anxious with this drawing and as you can see I have already gotten going on the horse without advise...bad me. Even still, the provider of the photograph has already committed to buying this drawing, even though it's my first attempt...yay.

I will take a pic of what I did today and post it in a minute.

Again. thank you sooooo much for the advice. I am going to do a few more practice pieces in the near future following your advice. I LOVE this medium and eventually want to advertise commissions with soft pastels. I have already discovered that I can cover up areas with lighter colors to a limited degree, but not nearly as limited as with colored pencils.

Hang on...getting the camera now...

Equusketch 11-09-2009 02:09 AM

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Well, here is what I got done with this drawing. I did strugle with the details of the eye, but I do plan on going back later with a charcoal pencil as Kayty advised.

as for paper, I bought a pad of pastel paper that ranged from white to black, a couple gray pieces in between. I also bought a charcoal sketch pad which I have yet to use. I may go back later and get the pastel pad that offeres different colored paper.

Anyway, here is what I have so far

Kayty 11-09-2009 03:29 AM

Hahaha no worries at all more than happy to help you out!!
As for using charcoal with pastel, some people do it some people dont, it depends what works for you and I find that the charcoal works well with pastel for highlighting the darker areas and getting some finer detail in the fur. Only draw back is that it's a bit trickier to cover with pastel, so only use it on the final layers ;)

You've done a fantastic job of the eye!! It's a difficult one to draw because there's not much detail and it's from the front so you can really mess them up and make them look kto bulgy in pastel so well done!!!! The foal's owner will most certainly be happy with this portrait you're doing a beautifull job for your first go at it, you should see some of the shockers people have brought off me for my first attempts at it! You've definately got talent there to be able to achieve this in your first attempt, very impressive, keep it up and make sure you keep overloading us with photo's of your progress! :D

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