Pastel Project in Progress

I managed to make some progress with my current project yesterday. I’m around three and a half hours into working on the actual portrait – I didn’t time how long it took me to choose the reference photo, decide how to crop it, choose my palette and paper. The first two and a half hours were spent getting an accurate drawing to work from, this was so light on the paper that it wouldn’t show up well on a photo so the first one I’m sharing here is after I’ve started to add the dark areas of pastel.

The first application of tone.

The first application of tone.

This is a portrait of my son nursing. I have thought about celebrating our nursing relationship with a drawing for some time. But as I said in my previous post about starting this project, as it was a personal project for myself with no deadline, the idea got sidelined in favour of gifts for other people’s birthdays which needed to be finished on time. Then this month I happened to take a reference photo that I really loved and I received an email asking for art submissions for a calendar for La Leche League a charity which supports women with breastfeeding.

Laying in the first layer of pastel

Laying in the first layer of pastel

I was glad that I had chosen the pastels I was using and had laid them out in order of value. It really made this part of the painting straightforward, I was able to work methodically from the darkest tone to the lightest and didn’t need to waste time trying to decide on which colour to select from a whole box of pastels. I definitely think I’ll work like this in future. Its not overly regimented, obviously if I feel I need to drop in a different colour I can do that, but on the whole it simplifies the colour selection down to which value to use.

Then I blended this first layer with my fingers

Then I blended this first layer with my fingers

The difference blending these early layers makes is amazing really. There is still a long way to go building up the layers and details, but it really does begin to look like a painting at this point.

What I love about the reference is the moment it captures. That moment when we have made eye contact and shared a smile and he starts to laugh and looks away because he’s trying to maintain his latch which he can’t do while laughing! I did also have an image where he was looking directly at me – and I do love looking into his eyes – but the smile wasn’t quite as pronounced and it was that I really wanted to draw.

As an aside, it is really difficult to capture the lovely views of her baby that a nursing mother sees because there isn’t a lot of space to get the camera in between mum and baby and the baby frequently wants to touch the camera! I hope I’ll never forget all the wonderful little moments we have together. I know it won’t last forever so I’m glad to capture some of the magic and I feel lucky that we have been able to breastfeed as long as we have. I so wanted to but was so nervous that I wouldn’t be able to. Pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding have given me much more body confidence – I am so grateful that they all went so well because I didn’t have much confidence in my body beforehand.


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