This summer I took my first pastel painting class.  I was not familiar with this medium of art, and I was excited to explore and learn something new.  I fell in love with them! They are like adult versions of chalk with endless potential.  Right after I learned how to use pastels, I became fascinated with learning how to draw the human body. In August, I was fortunate to attend an art, writing and yoga retreat in Bali.  I used my time there to learn how to draw the human body using charcoals.  Yesterday, I decided to use pastels to take a stab at drawing the human form in a setting.  At the suggestion of artist Jade Webber, I used pastels to recreate Degas “Kneeling Woman.” Here is the unfolding of my lesson.

Readying my workspace


I started by using a fine tooth artist paper by Art Spectrum.  I used a Terracotta color as the base.  This was the first time I used this brand of paper and such a dark base and I was excited to see how it would turn out. I used a white artist tape to adhere the paper to a drawing board.

Starting to Sketch the Outlines


My first goal was to sketch the general outline of the work.  I used both Derwent and Stabilo pastel pencils in a nude color which would blend nicely with the pastels once I started to create.

Filling in Background Color


Now, for the fun stuff!  I started at the top and filled in the background color. You want to start at the top because the palm of your hand rests below and you can smear any colors you place mid and low on the page.  The alternative is to place some type of paper guard on the lower half of the paper if you have already worked on it. I was using both Sennelier and Faber Casetll pastels.  I really love the Sennelier pastels. They are extra soft and creamy when you apply them. They are so yummy to use they remind me of dessert!  Here is some more filling in of the background color:

More Background

Background Taking Shape

Adding the Head to the Background


Now, it was time to do some “under painting.” The concept of under painting is to select a complementary color to the color that you want to use for the painting.  I used my color wheel and since I was ultimately using a skin-tone nude for the body, I chose a nude color on the wheel and then looked across the wheel to find its complement. In this case, the complement is a lavender. I used a lavender pastel and filled in the body.

Under Painting In Lavender


Once I had the under painting filled in, I used turpenoid, a solvent, that was applied with a brush over the lavender and it created a wash.

Turpenoid Wash


Once the turpenoid dried, the under painting had a smoother texture to coat the sketch.

Dried Turpenoid Wash


Once I had the wash prepared, I started to fill in the colors with my pastels and fine tuning with the pastel pencils. While the edge of the body is very fine tuned, I actually used the edge of the pastel – not a pastel pencil. Here is a series of stages during my painting process:


I stepped away from the table and the cats walked over the work and left the brown paw prints to the right of the body


Adding nude color to body


Adding More Color


Letting her form take shape


Adding Some Side Character


Body is Taking Shape


Nearly Complete


My paper was larger than my photocopy of the art, so I had to adjust proportion and add some additional white space to the bottom of the page.  I really liked the impact of the under painting – the complementary color of lavender really caused the nude color to “pop” and look real. It was a super fun challenge to capture the human body, her wonderful curves and the flow of water/fabric over her arm. Here is the grande finale:

Joan’s Version of Degas Kneeling Woman


Comparison with the Degas Original