Old Man, pastel, work in progress

This pastel is a couple of years old but since I kept progress pictures, I thought it might be of interest to see how I went about things. It’s 16″ x 11″, soft pastels on Terra Cotta Colourfix.

I chose the terra cotta colour because I knew that, with his skin tones, this would do a lot of the work for me. It’s like an oil painter painting the whole of his canvas this colour before he starts.

The first thing I did was draw a grid to get my proportions correct. This involves drawing measured squares on my reference and also the paper. I do this on the reference in a computer program and then measure them to get the same amount of squares onto my paper. I then started working on my colour scheme and ‘finding’ my light areas, lightly erasing my grid as I go.

Then I add in some darks to give me something to look at.

I worked particularly hard on the eyes because I knew if I could get them right, his ‘story’ would be told through them.

When we see hair, we see many layers, so with white hair it’s important to start off dark to give the white something to be seen against and to give that illusion of depth.

Now it’s a case of working my way from right to left (I’m left handed) and working on the reflected light in the shadows. If you observe something carefully, shadows usually have light from surrounding areas bouncing into them, and this brings the surrounding colours with it.

And finally the finished piece again with a couple of closeups. I wanted to give him a wet eye look to emphasise age and a hard life.

Even though I’ve chosen terra cotta as the base colour and allowed that to do a lot of work for me, the colour pastel that I used most in this piece is also terra cotta. I find that this gives me a nice base to work the other colours into without interfering with the overall colour. This way I can blend my colours without using my fingers too much, something I couldn’t do if I only used the colour from the paper, and hence I can keep things as detailed as I want them to be.

I’ve used a combination of soft sticks and pastel pencils. I always seem to break the pencils if I use a sharpener so instead, I remove some of the pencil wood with a craft knife and then sharpen the pastel with sandpaper around a block.

I hope this has been useful to some.