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Portraits in pastel

Continuing her series on portraits, Ann Witheridge shows you how to progress from drawing with charcoal to introducing colour with pastels


Capturing a likeness is such an exciting part of art and drawing. It is amazing how we can achieve such a likeness, such psychology and emotion in a drawing which involves just charcoal and paper. Pastels are a wonderful medium for developing our drawing skills and adding colour without the complexity of brushes, paints and mediums. Pastels are so raw and real. They are arguably richer and more immediate than oils, and can be liberating in their handling. Many artists have used pastels alongside their oil paintings and drawings. It is because of their versatility and ease of handling that artists have used pastels, or toned paper with chalk and charcoal as a sketching medium and a preliminary to oils.

Technically pastels are known as pastel painting, not pastel drawing, as despite the lack of brushes and mediums needed, they still consist of the same pigments we use for oils but bound together with gum arabic rather than oil. Do try making them at home. It is a very rewarding process and not too difficult. It is also a great way of understanding your medium.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our June issue with plenty to inspire artists in all media. Watercolourists will love Amanda Hyatt's Five Steps to Watercolour technique with a 10-minute exercise to try, Ann Blockley's invitation to let go of reality and get creative with the medium, Jean Haines' advice on how to paint white flowers, while Julie Collins shows how adding ink can create definition and impact. For inspiration for oil painters don't miss cover artist Jason Sacran's step-by-step self-portrait, Patrick Cullen's article on painting in India and Paul Brown's advice on using just six colours to paint a landscape. For acrylic painters we have Michael Kidd talking about his stylised acrylic compositions, Jo Quigley's demonstration on how to paint successful reflections in acrylics and Marie Antoniou on how to transform a dull photo into an interesting painting, while Barry Herniman demonstrates the versatility of the under-used medium of gouache. With all this and much more, why not try a new medium or technique in the coming weeks under the guidance of our fantastic contributing artists!