Creating a Tonal sky in Soft Pastels Tutorial
Welcome to this Step by Step Tutorial of a Northumberland sky in Soft Pastels on Canson Mi-tientes 'Touch' paper in Brown. The Tutorial below is aimed at those interested in learning how to create soft and delicate tonal backgrounds in Soft Pastels and is aimed at those new to Pastels. The high quality Unison Pastels have been used for this tutorial but you can try this exercise out using any Pastel brand (not Pastel pencils) using the colour guide beside the reference image to select your own choices, however it is not important to match them exactly. Pastels work well on textured paper to minimise 'pastel drop' and are easier to blend on papers such as PASTELMAT or MI-TIENTES Touch but there are many others out there which are preferred by Artists as they suit their style the best. Although it is not the only way to work with Pastels, this tutorial is based on my own preference that I have found works best for me. Pastels are a great medium in that you can easily cover up mistakes by simply applying another colour over the top and are fun to work with, obviously they can be messy and I do always stipulate that this medium can produce a lot of dust so ideally wear a mask or if you plan working with Pastels on a regular basis ensure you work in a well ventilated room and do some research on safe working spaces for Pastellists. Although it does not matter too much what colours you apply first, it is recommended that you work light to dark if colours will overlap one another simply to avoid muddying lighter colours. Use the photograph below to work from and feel free to E-mail me your drawing upon completion, I would love to add them to this page and I hope you enjoy this tutorial!
This reference image was chosen because we really do get some stunning, colourful skies here in Northumberland and it makes an ideal subject to trial Soft Pastels, especially if you have never tried them before. The 3 birds in the image are so small that they don't really add anything to the composition which is why I did not add them but if you're feeling expressive you can elaborate and maybe add a larger bird to your pastel painting which can offer additional interest, make sure you draw the outline on to your paper first and work around the outline when applying the pastel. Why not draw and cut the shape of the bird onto a piece of masking tape so you can simply stick it onto the paper then you can gently peel it off having completed the background without losing the outline of the bird on your paper, this works exactly the same way as masking fluid but always make sure your paper will not tear when removing it before applying it.
Stage 1 - Application
Stage 2 - Blending
Stage 3 - Additional Detail
The 3 steps in this tutorial can be applied to any tonal subject you create in Soft Pastels although it will depend on the amount of detail in a composition, this tutorial was selected for its simplicity, especially if this is your first trial with Soft Pastels. I hope it helps to distinguish any concerns about working with Pastels to someone who has never used them before and maybe it is the start of a new and fun loving relationship with this medium for you! Thank you for giving the tutorial a go and if you wish to share your completed painting with me, please drop me a line as I would love to add it to the Gallery on this page.