Self-portrait using pastels

Self-portrait using pastels – version 1

Materials

Medium: Conté chalk pastels
Support: Watercolour paper with wash of yellow ochre and titanium white
Colours: Sienna, pale blue, ultramarine, white
Size: 28 x 44 cm (11″ x 17″)


Having done little figure drawing in a number of years I decided to start Module 3: Portrait and Figure, by doing a self-portrait using chalk pastels – a medium which I hadn’t used for a while.

For my first attempt I did a couple of larger sketches without any preliminary drawing.

First attempt at self-portrait using chalk pastels

First attempt at self-portrait using chalk pastels

I used only a limited number of colours, limited measuring (which shows) and worked relatively quickly. In many ways this is not a good look and, hopefully, there are not too many days when I look like this (though I can think of a few). In some ways, however, I prefer this to the second version when I tried a more realistic palette. This first version is looser and, despite my expression, has a more lively feel.

Self-portrait using pastels – version 2

Materials

Medium: Conté chalk pastels
Support: Watercolour paper with wash of yellow ochre and titanium white
Colours: Ochre, sienna, blue-green, red, Van Dyck brown, white, Naples yellow
Size: 28 x 44 cm (11″ x 17″)


Second attempt using more realistic colouring

Second attempt using more realistic colouring

For the previous drawing I applied fixative when I completed the image and that made the colours much darker. For this version I used a technique from Ettore Maiotti’s book ‘The Pastel Handbook’ where, after each session, a very light spray of fixative is applied – enough to ensure less pastel rubs off but not to darken the colours too much. Any adjustments to colour can then be continued in the next session.

In this version I did try to consider the features and proportions more but the result is still out of synch. In particular the right eye is much bigger than the left and the left-hand side of the face too wide and flat. I also look as if I’m looking down.

Despite the results I did enjoy using pastel again and could create an image relatively quickly.

At this stage, as I contemplated a painting using acrylics, I felt a bit of paralysis. I realised that I didn’t know where to start with a more developed painting and, for a while, felt really stuck. I did, however, find several useful books in my local library and researched measurement and proportion, skin colouring and muscle structure. I also spoke to a friend who showed me her sketchbooks and that gave me much more of a sense of how to tackle a more developed painting using acrylics.


References

Maiotti, E. (1989) The pastel handbook with charcoal and sanguine: learning from the masters, London: Aurum Press Ltd

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