After completing my first animal portrait in pastels (Highland Pony in Pastels) several weeks ago, I really fell in love with pastels. I loved the painterly process, how quickly I could work and the result was satisfyingly ‘solid’. So the immediate question in my head was whether I would be happy with using this looser way of working for portraits of people.
At this point I was in the process of trying to decide on a gift to get for the Secret Birthday Swap (Secret Santa style) in my antenatal group for our children’s second birthdays. I have created a drawing for someone in the group before (and that was what led me to take up drawing more seriously) so I decided to have a look through my recipients photos to see if one caught my interest and found one I loved. It was well lit, had a great expression and plenty of in focus detail.
I completed it on A4 in black, white and grey soft pastels and pastel pencils and I experimented with a dark background. Again I was impressed by the speed of working and the stronger contrast I could achieve with pastels than with pencil. I found it was easy to lose accuracy with her features because the pastels are messier than pencil, but relatively straightforward to correct because of being able to work light over dark.
Although it didn’t take much longer than the pony to complete in hours spent on it, I did find difficulty getting enough time to work on it because my own toddler took ages to put down to sleep that week. In the end I became a bit pushed for time to meet the postal deadline to ensure it arrived for the day we were meant to open the presents. Within 20 mins of wrapping it up I panicked that the likeness wasn’t good enough, so I was delighted when her mother loved it!
Now I do like the end result, especially her eyes and the whispy bits of her hair at either side of her face. I think if I hadn’t been approaching the deadline I might have left it for a couple of days on the drawing board and made some final adjustments, as I’ve done with all my other portraits. In this case I think some darker shadows on the curves of her face would have aided the likeness and given it more depth. I’d also have liked to spend more time getting details of her clothes right. But it is nit picking. I also need to be more careful with the can of fixative as it created some marks.