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.

An experiment in base colours

It’s amazing what a difference the base colour makes. I have two zebra pieces, both done on Art Spectrum’s Colourfix, a sanded surface. One previously posted which was done on the Terra Cotta colour, and a new one of 19 zebras done on the Storm Blue colour. Both are zebras in Etosha National Park in Namibia. Both were at different times of the day, in fact different days. One had some wind and cloud, the other had no wind and was nice and sunny. I wanted the single zebra to look like it was in a scorched earth, whereas the new one is a cool winter’s day, almost no reflections because of the light wind. The choice of base colour was crucial to get these different effects. Since I used coloured pencils for the most part (although I used pastels for the sky and water in the single zebra one) the base shows through a lot as the pencils simply can’t cover the sanded surface of the Colourfix as well as pastels can. It sure chews up the pencils too. It’s a great surface for pastels but possibly not as good for coloured pencils, you need to work much harder to get the colours bright.

Here’s the new one followed by the one I’ve talked about in an earlier post. Quite a difference!

Zebra in Etosha National Park, Coloured Pencil and Pastels

I love to get out in the wild and experience animals the way they should be. Etosha National Park in Namibia, like quite a few other parks, will give you that experience. However, it will also lay animals on a plate for you so if you are a lazy watcher, you can be guaranteed of good viewing without having to hunt all day for good opportunities. How do they do this? Well, there isn’t much water in Etosha, that’s why there are no hippos or buffalo, so if you dig deep enough to sink a bore and create an artificial waterhole, you will have animals coming from miles around. Then, the next step is to plonk a tourist trap like a very plush resort right next to that waterhole, build a fence round the water with viewing platforms and seats. Now not only will the animals line up but you will almost have to too, simply because every man and his dog is there for the experience.

I’m being a bit flippant here since I like to work for my experiences but in truth, Okaukuejo gave me some incredible shots. Zebra would literally wade into the water with no fear of being attacked by crocodiles (since they don’t live in Etosha either) and line up to drink like the ones in the photo below.

What else? I sat there and watched giraffe, elephant, rhino, kudu, jackals, springbok, oryx and quite an assortment of birds all use the waterhole. I even heard lion at night. I knew I had to paint something from here. The following piece is a zebra drinking in the still morning air, creating a clear reflection and an air of tranquility. I’ve used a combination of coloured pencils and pastels on Art Spectum’s Terra Cotta coloured Colourfix, which is a sanded paper. I deliberately chose this colour as I could then let it show through to help the ground and the dusty zebras coat with that colour. The previous day was windy (as the ripples in the above photo attest to) and zebra can pick up a light dusting of this colour on their coats.

Here’s a closeup of the zebra

I’ve used such an unusual composition as it’s a commission for great friends of mine. They have a spot for it which is long and thin. The actual art size is 26″ x 9″