Chicken still life in pastels

I have used watercolour pastels (Caran d’ache Neocolor II) and oil colours before and loved using them at college. ¬†I have not really used soft pastels before (too expensive when I was student), so this is a new direction for me and its going to be long journey I suspect as I am a messy painter. You can not be messy with pastels, as I have discovered. ¬†Leaning on your painting (its considered painting, rather than drawing) leads to messy finger marks all over the place. ¬†Also instead of mixing your colour on a palette which allows you to keep adjusting, with pastels you are mixing on the paper or whichever media you are using. This can lead to rather dull colours as you create mud. ¬†A razor blade can help if this happens but obviously you can’t keep doing that.

So this is my first full soft pastel painting on Mi Teintes Pastel paper 98lb.



It’s not great but it’s not a complete disaster. I used a combination of mungyo soft pastels, Nu pastels and ¬†Conte pastel pencils. Despite having what seem to be lots of colours ( I also have a lot of cheap hobby pastels), I found I was struggling to find the right colours. ¬†I haven’t quite got use to the idea of mixing on the paper (although that is what you do with the watercolour and oil pastels as well so I am not new to the idea).

Anyway, the chicken will be there in 3 wks when I return to Austin as I am travelling to Brittany to visit my elderly parents. As I am going on my own (emergency visit) I am going to take my pastels with me. If the weather is co-operative I am hoping to do some landscape painting with them.  I have only done plien air painting in passing before as I find I struggle to focus on one particular spot. Seems to be too much to take in, so this will also be a new direction for me. Fingers crossed the weather in Brittany improves whilst I am there.

As I am new to softs pastels I am busy looking up bloggers who work in pastels and the one that stands out for me, is this blog РPainting my world РKaren Margulis.  I love the free and easy way she uses the pastel and she has lots of good advice. Another blogger work I am enjoying at the moment is the plein air paintings of  Haidee Jo Summers and again a blog with lots of good advice.

Better coloured in this photo

So I looked at the original photo and this is closer to the painting.


So the last 2 days have been non painting days. Yesterday, I just had to kick in  to the filing as tax year is beckoning and much as I dislike that task, it has to be done!  Still needs to be done but half way there.

Today, was a unusal day for us, Scottish dreich weather ( dark, mild and drizzly) and by the time I had arranged the next still life, the life was way too dark. However, I will draw in the structure before I start work at 7 pm tonight (only 2 hrs) and tomorrow I will be ready for the dull weather. Will need to do it in next 2 days as the weather will be the usual winter sunny day on Saturday.  The best time for the room I am working in, is about 3 hrs after sunrise as its  east facing with only the east wall having windows. So once the sun is high enough above the horizon, the light is pretty steady until about 2 hrs before sunset.

Anyway, time to make dinner. Looking forward to starting the new painting tomorrow.

On a roll, finished

well, this one is for now. I can see areas (lots of them) for improvements but time to move on another still life.

Today, I was looking after my young grand-daughter and normally that would be an excuse not to paint. However, I determined that housework, cooking etc could be deferred whilst Juniper slept and I could work on this during that brief window of opportunity. Wow, a break through for me!  To be honest, it was not that brief as she is still at the longer nap stage at the moment.

The one thing that I had been struggling with was the stripped material the still life was sitting on.  As can be seen in the previous stages of this work I had been painting in the stronger colour and then attempting to put on the yellow/mustard colour. Totally the wrong way to do it and in sudden flash, decided to cover the red/orange completely with  a yellow pastel and using a prismacolor pencil, drew in the stripes.  I just drew them as I saw them, the perspective is all wrong I know but somehow it works.

I worked on the problem area at the top of the painting, scrubbing in white, greys, reds, blues with pastels and pencils. It looks better but it still not quite right. looking at it at the moment, it definitely the large green area to the left that is the issue, more than that area. It lacks substance, maybe that is something I could work on.

I also work on the flower arrangement itself and the material immediately below the still life. The flower arrangement is better but I could never get the shadows on the material to work. I just ended up with a rather ill-defined shape with no real body, it just float very badly.

I added a few touches to the boldly patterned material in the background but not much as it seems to work apart from the odd triangle in the far right.


Wow, looking this image on the screen and its way too bright. My camera really doesn’t capture reds well. Safe to say it’s not as bright as this image. Think I will need to invest in learning to use my husband’s DSLR. Photography is not my skill.

Anyway, tomorrow, another life to create. This one is finished (maybe work on the bottom material) as the flowers are now too dead!