pastel self portrait

I am loving working with pastels at the moment. I have used them briefly at various points over the years but have a renewed interest and love for them now. I spent the day a week or so ago (where is the time going?) and worked quite large – concentrating on being expressive.

pastel and charcoal self portrait

In the morning I worked on 2 self portraits which I think took me around 45 minutes each to do. Sometimes when working from life it does not come out the way I want or expect it to. I find it hard to separate myself from trying to replicate the subject too closely and cannot be as expressive as I wish. But I know it is a really valuable exercise for me to do as each piece from life ultimately helps me when I am working on my more imaginative pieces.


I then spent the afternoon working on a larger portrait from my imagination. This is the first time I have ever used a proper pastel card that has a sandpaper like grit to it and I absolutely fell in love with working on this texture. It takes the many layers of pastels so much better than a drawing paper would – and there are layers and layers of work in this piece. I also love the fact that you are really mixing your colours and tones on the substrate which for me means more freedom in mark-making. It is difficult to really get a good image of the finished texture of this piece in a photograph and I am not sure she is done yet. I cannot wait to work more in pastels and have treated myself to a couple of boxed sets.

girl in blue

We will be focussing on pastels for a whole week in Unearth Gather Create and I am excited to see what I can achieve with my own pastel work before the course starts. I had not even considered pastels as a medium for my upcoming exhibition but the cogs are definitely turning now as to how I can work with them to create that dreamy atmosphere that is key to my style. I just need to do more! I have been obsessively reading the blog of Karen Margulis who works primarily in pastels and offers so much advice and inspiration. I have so much to learn.

girl in blue detail

Have you ever worked with pastels? If not, give them a try – you might really love them. I guess for me the only real downside to them is the amount of dust they create – there is so much! But I am going to start collecting it as I have read that you can mix it with water to create backgrounds for your pastel paintings. I am excited to explore more.

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