Happy Mother’s Day

I’m very blessed to be a mum to a gorgeous, clever and kind toddler who makes me laugh daily. I’m blessed to have a wonderful mum and a very kind mum-in-law too.

My latest project is a A3 pastel painting for another fantastic mum. So it was very appropriate that I finished it in time for Mother’s Day. Gayna runs TinyTalk classes for babies and toddlers and she brightens up the day of many mums locally, with her energy, enthusiasm and wicked sense of humour.

I decided to celebrate the arrival of her second baby with a pastel painting of him being held by his big brother. I have been busy since his arrival, so it’s a little late, but that only added to the surprise I think!

A3 Pastel Painting

A3 Pastel Painting

It’s my first full colour (human) portrait in pastels and I’m really pleased with the result. My friend Gayna is speechless – and that is saying something!

Whether you are a mum, or just appreciate your own, I hope you’ve had a great Mother’s Day!

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Baby in Pastel

I’m delighted to be able to share this new pastel portrait.

 

Baby girl in pastel

Baby girl in pastel

This cutie is based on a photograph by her mum who has kindly allowed me to share this sketch with you. My mum asked me to do this sketch quickly as a surprise gift for her colleague’s leaving do. It is a little rough in places, but I’m quite pleased with it given the quick turn around time.

It was completed on A4 using soft pastels and pastel pencils.

My next project is to finish the pastel painting of my son and then I plan to work on a wildlife project in oil pastels.

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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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Welcome to the Family

This is a drawing I completed last year to celebrate the arrival of my big sister’s second baby. I believe it was our little sister (now taller than us both!) who captured this awesome photo of him being greeted by his new big brother whilst still in hospital. Both my nephews are awesome little boys.

Family portrait with newborn

Family portrait with newborn

 

This was completed on A3 Bristol Board with 2B Graphite pencil. A charcoal pencil was used to provide the tone for the diffuse background.

I had completed two graphite portraits before this one, which I had worked in a disorganised way, pretty uncertain of what I was doing and had to repeatedly go back and correct for accuracy and deepen the tones. I am not saying that I didn’t ever need to correct bits on this or deepen tones, but generally I was more confident and organised and worked methodically from left to right. Which makes for quite an interesting set of in progress photos.

It was the first time I had tried to put in a shaded background. I used a charcoal pencil on a spare piece of paper and picked up the tone with cotton wool and gently applied it. The scary bit was that I lost all my edges so it looked ruined. But then I was able to regain the outline by using a kneaded eraser for the highlighted edges and using pencil to reinstate the darker ones. I wish I’d taken a photo of it at the ‘ruined’ stage now but I was too anxious to see if it would turn out okay and pressed on.

Not all of my drawings have progressed so methodically!

The finished drawing ready to be gifted

The finished drawing ready to surprise my sister

It was originally meant to celebrate the arrival of her new baby, but the timing meant it made an excellent house-warming gift as they moved into their new home shortly after it was finished.

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Toddler Portrait in Pastels

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.

Toddler portrait based on a photograph by her mother

Toddler portrait based on a photograph by her mum

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.

Close up of detail on face

Close up of detail on face