- Lesson details
In this long-awaited demonstration, world leader in pastel painting, Ellen Eagle, shares with us her personal pastel technique. Ellen walks us through each and every step of her approach as she paints a portrait of child. You will learn how Ellen lays in her painting, develops local areas of color, makes important color decisions, and maintains correct proportions to create a stunning work of art. We encourage you to try your own portrait painting and follow along with Ellen through each of the stages of her process.
- Homemade Pastel Board (Using Crescent Cold-Press Illustration Board No. 300 or 310)
- Rembrandt Soft Pastels
- Prismacolor Nupastel Color Sticks
- Charcoal Stick
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shares with us her personal pastel technique.
Ellen walks us through each and every step of her approach as she paints a portrait of a child.
You will learn how Ellen lays in her painting, develops local areas of color, makes important
color decisions, and maintains correct proportions to create a stunning work of art.
We encourage you to try your own portrait painting and follow along with Ellen
through each of the stages of her process.
you are looking over my shoulder as I create in private endeavor.
My model is the lovely Marela.
She just turned 10 years old. She herself is an artist, a wonderful artist,
and this is the second portrait I’ve done of Marela, and it may not be the last.
While you look over my shoulder you will be seeing me making color decisions, decisions about
proportion, abstract shape. You will also be seeing me change my mind as every painting
develops in its own way, and every stage along the way tells us what our next step should be.
As you watch this lesson, I encourage you to work along with me and have your own
project going. Hopefully, that will help you towards the next paintings that you do.
Make this an interactive experience.
All the best to you. Let’s get started.
So my model today for this session is the beautiful Marela.
This photograph was taken by my photographer, Peter Jacobs,
who has been photographing my artwork since I began making portraits.
I’m going to being with the proportions of length.
So I’m beginning with the proportions of length,
and I’m determining that Marela is perfect thirds from chin to base of nose,
base of nose to bottom of eyebrow, bottom of eyebrow to hairline.
Now moving into my abstract shapes.
Continuing to check the proportions of length just to be sure...
and it’s important to me always to step back even at this very early stage...
to step back and see if the elements I’ve put in so far seem to be correct...
and supportive of the steps to follow.
Checking the width of the eyebrow.
Checking the width of the nose.
There’s hardly anything on the canvas at this point, but I’m checking to see if what
is there is in the right spot. I generally work from the inside out. In other words,
from the inside of the features outward.
Each step of the way I am determining what I to do next to further the building of the structure.
Each picture develops in its own way.
I’m feeling the need to get into the curve of the lower face.
It was just finding the distance of the bridge of the nose to the outer cheek,
and then I check to see if
I automatically fell into the right distance, the correct distance from the inner corner
of the eye to the bridge of the nose. It appears that it is correct.
It does seem to check out so far.
Whenever I put an element in I’m not only comparing it to the other marks that I’ve
made, but also to the shapes of the untouched paper. The untouched paper is as much a part
of the thinking and the strategy of the judging as are the marks. If the marks are in the
correct place then the untouched paper will also take on the correct shapes.
I'm saying paper, but this is the gesso pumice board that I make.
The process of judging the work along the way and making decisions is just fascinating because
you’re looking at your very stripped down record of the most primal elements of this
highly developed form, and you’re judging whether or not what you’ve selected and
where you’ve placed your marks are going to lead you to the finish.
You can't make the mistake of comparing your first marks to the finished—to your source material,
and you don’t want to make the mistake of looking at this as though it’s a finished piece of work.
This is just the foundation.
Many of the subtle drawing issues will be addressed in the color, but if I see something
that is incorrect at the moment, I like to address it as soon as I see it.
They can be extremely minor and still be troublesome.
For instance, the angle of the neck swings in a little bit more than I indicated with my initial marks.
This side is a little more vertical.
I want to lower the protrusion of the vertebra right here.
Check the distance from the outer corner of the lips…
And it’s correct. It’s correct.
The subtlety of the lip line will be addressed in the color.
Sometimes even when I’m using a hard charcoal it’s a little more crumbly than would allow me
to be as precise as I want to be.
Still want to do just a little bit more of the tone,
make the forms turn in their 3-dimensionality.
Then I’m going to be ready to begin my preliminary color lay-in.
As you can see I’m going nowhere near the degree of dark that I will with the pastel.
It’s not necessary to do a fully developed value lay-in.
I think it’s time to begin the color.
and they’re all at my disposal, even the ones that I haven’t set out yet because
I don’t know what colors to expect in my subject. But working out of my studio and
from a photograph I had the opportunity to study the colors in my subject in advance
and prepare my travel case accordingly.
So you can see that I have quite a number of bluish-reds and also a lot of ochres
and some more orangey-reds and raw umbers and gray-greens.
These are Rembrandts. In the Nupastels, my selections follow the same pattern.
These two bright yellow-green sticks are set aside
for the ribbon, which I will address later on in the development in the picture.
I have two half sticks here without labels. These are some of the new dark colors that
Rembrandt has manufactured, and I have just the half sticks of those. This is an even
darker raw umber than they had previously offered, and this is a deep plum.
I anticipate using the deep plum in this region. You can see in the photograph some deep plums in there.
Now, I will almost certainly switch out some pastels that I find I’m not using and replace
them with those that I discover that I need.
So I’m going to start with the shadow colors of the flesh even before I address the dark
of the hair. I just have a quirky need to do that before I get into the hair.
I just need to get some of the flesh tone in.
My first color selections are going to be for a deep raw umber.
Analyzing, I believe I see...
Going to start with a Rembrandt and a NuPastel.
Reaching for a slightly lighter raw umber to lay in.
Basically I’m following the shadow patterns that I laid in with charcoal.
Now I know that once I start to lay in these masses of colors that cross specific features that
I will then want to go in and reinforce the drawing that I did in charcoal
just to grab those forms again.
Picking up an even lighter raw umber.
Reaching for a NuPastel for a very slender shape.
Of course, I’m going to get much darker with obvious areas such as the eyebrow, but now
that I’ve started to put in tone and color more fully than I did with the charcoal, I’m
feeling the need to go back and bring out the features before they get buried by the color work.
I mean is should say not before they get buried, but to prevent them from
becoming buried under the masses of color.
I see that for the eyes I’m going to need to get out some very dark browns from
my NuPastel set. I did not take those out yet.
I’m still holding on to this deep pink that I intend to add to the shadow, but I wanted
to account for some of the value in this upper lip before I go any further with the surrounding flesh.
I can’t seem to get away from the raw umbers of Marela’s coloring.
It's really present everywhere in her flesh, in her flesh tones.
To at some point get into the fullness of the form here, but I don’t want to obsess
about that. I want to get the overall flesh tones first.
I will probably have to use quite a number of NuPastels sharpened to a point in this area because it is so small.
I want to work more broadly right now.
I’m just making a few adjustments to shapes as I work in color,
in color, so now I’m really considering everything simultaneously. For example, the
thickness of the lash line makes a difference to whether or not I think the proportions
are working. It’s time to thicken this up and take another look at this eyebrow, which
I think needs to be raised a little bit. I will return to adding the pink, but I was
seeing a great deal of gray. I love the grays in the flesh, so I moved into that. I’ll be going
back and forth, and then I will also be introducing this deep plum that I had mentioned earlier.
I like to hold off on the darks of the eyes, I should say the exact color of the darks
of the eyes until I’m absolutely certain of the placement of the iris, but I do need
to state that it is dark, so I’m going to do that in charcoal temporarily.
I want to insert some of the ochres.
easel before I pick up any art supplies I check my painting against the source material,
either my model in my studio, or in this case, the photograph of Marela.
I see if there are any issues that need to be addressed first. I see a little bit too
much of a dip in the underlid right here,
the eye closest to us, and I believe I need to bring the
bridge of the nose to the right a fraction.
I need to return to the lips. I need to be more firm
about the shape of the upper lip. I need to make some adjustments to the shadow shapes.
For example, I need to bring the shadow along the cheek to the left a little bit. And I
need to address the shadows here and move the shadow on the forehead to the left a bit.
During the course of today’s session, I will have to go in with my black pastel into
the hair. So I think my first move is going to be to address the bridge of the nose.
I’m reaching for two deep brick type of reds to shape the bridge of the nose.
Make an adjustment. I’m redrawing basically, not with charcoal but with pastel by eliminating
the dark line that was in the wrong spot. Just by laying a lighter color over it and
a color that’s appropriate to the flesh, of course.
I’m going to use this color to add some shadow underneath the light of the nose.
The light right here is an extension of the light right here.
Picking up a gray now.
The value of the upper lip is very close to the value of the flesh around it, and I haven’t accounted
for that value yet. So I’m going to add a little bit of gray just to lower the value.
I will be much more specific about the color later on.
Going back into my raw umbers using three different values, the darkest, the second
darkest, and the 3rd darkest. These are 4083, 4085, 4087 raw umber.
I want to get darker in through here.
We have this deep, deep red to reconsider even further shape here.
I want to move into the light areas.
Periodically wiping off the pastel so that it’s not picking up the color that I’m working on top of
and moving it to a place I don’t want it to be.
This is the deepest red in the NuPastel set.
I think they call it a garnet.
I’m going to address the shape of the lower lip with this color.
Lighten it up a bit with this.
Go back in with the raw umber to shape the edge of the lower lip.
Deep brownish-red again.
Bring back the ochre.
I think it’s really time to address the dark of the hair and
get into the eyes and the background color.
I think I’ll start with a little background.
The background is a greenish-gray.
I’m going to start with this Rembrandt, which is barely
lighter than the value of my board
so I think I will mix two shades and tints.
Because I want to be very careful about the edge, the contour, I’m going to go right
up against the contour of the face with the NuPastel because I can be more precise.
Getting the light background in necessitates the working towards the light in the face, which is an
exciting time. First I have to put in, I have to account for the dark of the hair and do a
little bit more, quite a bit more actually, with the form of the ear.
So I’m going to begin the dark of the hair with a black Rembrandt and also a burnt umber Rembrandt.
Hair is one situation in which I frequently find myself smoothing out with my finer in order to achieve the
dark mass that I need, more so with dark hair than with yellow or red.
I have to be very careful with this because it has to be descriptive of the shape of the skull.
And I’m going to leave a space a little bit wider than the band actually requires
so that I can make adjustments to the contour as I get a firmer sense of the shape.
Going into the hairline where the hair commingles
with the thinner areas of hair, where the hairline begins.
Reshape the ear. Black is very difficult to go over in pastel.
That's why I hold off on it.
Bring back this color to add to the shadows.
I need to reshape the ear, and I’m going to do my best to lift some black.
I was premature in working with the black around the ear because I really hadn’t shaped it yet.
I'm just going to put a little pigment there to hold it, and I’ll come back to the shape.
I really want to work in here.
I’m going to lighten this little mark here for the time being.
I hold off on my lights until later.
It takes a lot of discipline to do that.
Actually, before I place it there I want to get some of these warm undertones.
And I'll build toward the cooler light.
I’m going to be putting a raw sienna into the picture.
All along I’m just comparing what I see
in my source to what I see in the picture and making my adjustments accordingly.
Time to address the eyes.
I’m using a deep reddish-brown to lay it in, but I’ll make them much darker later.
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material, and I’m seeing a few adjustments that I want to make.
For example, I believe the cheek swells out just a bit too
much over here when I compare it too here. The nose
still has an appearance of being a little too short. I believe the angle of the eyebrow needs to
come downward a tiny bit. It rises up too much, and it possibly needs to be lowered a fraction.
So right now I’m talking just about proportions. Not values or colors.
I want to address these issues first. I think I’ll begin with the swell of the cheek.
I adjust that by taking the background color and working into the edge of the flesh.
As I did in the last session, just to be very careful, I’m going to start with this hard
pastel right up against the edge.
Step back and check. Needs to come in a little bit more.
I probably overdid it there for sure, but I can fix that.
When working on a relatively small scale just the slightest distance makes a difference
between correct and incorrect. I’m going to bring it in a little bit more here as well.
I am going to work now to lower the eyebrow a little bit and see if perhaps this distance
or this expanse becoming a little smaller will make the nose appear to be correct before
I lengthen the nose. I am going to do that in charcoal and the color of the flesh right above.
Work on that angle. I thought it rose too much.
So I’ll bring this down.
It’s a delightful jump up right here.
Looking at the curve now from the tip
of the nose down to the lower lip and compare it.
So my lower lip sits too far to the left in terms of this.
So I have to decide, is this too narrow or does this step out to the side too much?
Well, because I felt that this is too small all along, I’m going to address
this difference by making this a little bit larger, but first I’ll finish up here.
I’m going to stick with the charcoal again in case I have to make another adjustment,
so I won’t have trouble lifting the charcoal the way I do the pencil.
Okay, now is the all-important lengthening the nose.
First part of this is to work on the shape right here.
Now, I have it standing up, reaching up a little too high.
Checking the angle.
The outer corner of the eye to the lowest part of the shadow, and that’s going to
work, I think. See that the shadow comes down there.
It’s a brick red.
Tiny bit on the tip.
There’s a very slight suggestion of the edge of the nose.
I want to get that in. The volume, but not that much.
Now that works and that works with the eyeballing. I’ll step back and check.
This is a little clunky, but I’ll fix that.
Let’s check from here to here.
From there to there. Yep.
The forehead was, the hairline was a little too high, and that may have been also been contributing
to making the nose area look a little too short.
Okay, so now I’m going to stepback and get an overall reading of the proportions. If
they seem good to me, I’m going to go back to my color work. My goal should be to work
broadly and not get to fussy with details. Make sure that I step back often enough.
So I’m going to need to extend the light on the forehead a little bit to the
left. I want to relax the mouth some. That will come from working broadly.
While doing that I noticed that the chin, when looking at the mouth, I noticed that the chin could
have a little bit more of a roundness. Just a fraction.
I’m using the green just to establish the darkness,
but I’ll be adding some pink there. Let’s see.
Squinting to compare the shapes there and there.
I want to lower the value and warm up the upper lip.
Looking at the mouth in relation to the nose, I want to—I don’t want to get fussy, but
I want to restate that center line using a darker red.
Need some more light in through here, which will help the expression of the fullness
of the lips and the protrusion also, as the darker values here will come forward.
So I want to consider the colors I have used before in selecting colors to use here.
I'm using this very light lilac, like a red-violet, very light.
I’m hardly touching the surface because I don’t want to make it too light.
This little horizontal in the middle of the lower lip is not sensitive yet.
It's not sensitively done yet, so I’ll lighten in up.
I want to work on the transition from here to here, so I’m going to extend a little
raw umber over in warm colors. Most likely I will go back and forth and add some more
reddish on top. But for now I need to unify the two areas.
I think I need to bring the darker area toward the front plain,
a little bit more even more than I had done.
This area is where there is a lot of interplay between flesh and hair. I’ll
have to be working into the dark shape that I created.
I’ll be working in there with some flesh tones.
I see some beautiful lavenders, cool lavenders in here.
It’s not time to put them in yet.
I’m still establishing the large sweep of what I see traveling from here
to here, this deep green.
This is an Indian red that I used prior.
It’s a little too light. This is a Mars violet, darker than these. I’m going try it.
Then I anticipate laying one of the lighter tones on top of it.
I think it needs the darker foundation.
I went back to the raw umber to bring this dark further.
The darkest raw umber.
Going to need to bring the eyebrow—no need to hold off on this any longer.
Bring that out. It will help me to establish this curve of light right here.
It’s blotchy, but I’m going to get back to that when I pick up the pinkish colors over here.
I’m going to go back here now.
I’m thinking it’s possible that the ear is too far back.
I think it is, so I’m going to check. It’s just… Yes. The ear needs to start here.
This section out to about here.
The width of the ear is equivalent to the center of
the eye or let’s say the top of the lid to the bottom of the nose.
From there… hmm.
Actually, according to this it ends up in the right place but it starts too far back.
But, I question that. That would seem to make the ear too wide.
Here we got it going to here.
That makes sense to me because that’s the same distance of difference
here to here, here to here, here to here.
Okay, so I will move that in.
I’ll get back to the structure here, but I just wanted to basically establish the
colors and get close to the structure
then I wanted to come back here.
A Mars violet. Some black.
The upper lip seems too shallow.
At some point I’m going to lower that center line.
I'm just going to check. Yep. Yes.
This crease seems a little too high.
If I just obliterate the upper edge of it that helps.
I used a very warm color to do that.
I have to cool that way down.
Again, this is raw umber.
I think I want to use a warm gray to lower the value
here and then most likely go over it with some warm.
I raised the far peak of the lip and made it a little fuller over here.
Take a look at this angle. It looks just about there. These dark marks are too dark, but I just
put them there to delineate the change, and
then I will lighten them. I realized that the center line—I had mentioned earlier
that the lip was too slender top to bottom, but I realized that the center line looks
correct with the base of the nose and the chin, so it was actually the upper edge of
the lip that had to be lifted. And this is a neutral-ish red, which I think will be—like
a brownish-red—and I think it will be helpful in getting the tone here.
None of these touches on bringing the mouth to a completion, but it’s getting it closer.
This is the Mars violet.
I see that I’m going to want to lighten this value a little
bit, but I’m going to stay up here for the moment so I don’t get distracted.
It’s sometimes so hard to stay with something that you’re working on when you
see something else that needs to be done. I’m looking at this form. It needs to be—I
need to connect the upper lid to the underlid with more strength, so I have to have discipline
to stay with what I’m working on and not constantly run to something else that I see.
You just keep it in your memory that you do that and that you need to go there.
I think I need something pinker up here.
It’s a little pinker.
This is the madder lake that I used earlier. Little too light.
We’ll go back to this.
I’m thinning out the line that I made for the fold, which was too thick, so
I’m just, I’m chopping into it by addressing the areas on either side of the line…
putting color on top of the edges of the line.
Warm it up a little bit.
One thing I’m seeing in the flesh tones that I’m not seeing in my painting
yet is some ochre. There needs to be more ochre, something more yellowy.
I'm going to take a big risk and lighten, go across everything with this yellow.
This area needs a lot more work. It’s very flat right now.
I haven’t worked out the absolute shapes of the folds.
I’m just wondering if I have a darker version of this
for over here. I don’t, so let’s just hope it’ll work.
I’m just very concerned about going in here and lightening everything up too much.
What I might do is try this olive green, which will hopefully impart a yellowy feeling, a yellowy tone.
Back to the raw umber.
I’m going to bring some light down after I do this.
The colors in the reddish families have been predominantly cooler reds,
bluish, plums, blue-violet, Mars violet.
It’s the raw umbers and greens that are the warms,
except then I added some yellows.
I’ll still have to add some more yellow. Yellow being ochre.
I sense that’s going to be too dark because I want to lighten this a little bit.
The contrast will be too strong.
I’ll just take a little bit of this stroke on top of it.
A blue-gray, cool.
I think this shadow area got a little too thick.
Just a little bit more light.
This little fold here needs to end up more at the absolute corner of the eye.
Now, I know that the color will need a lot of work, probably in the next session.
This is a green-gray, lighter value than what I used in the background.
So I’m here for a new session, so as always I begin my
day by checking my proportions, my values, my edges,
and I decide what I need to do first to further the development of
the image. So I begin with a strategy, in other words. Something has been troubling
me about this section, and it’s really not always easy to figure out what is wrong.
At first I thought that this eye was misplaced, but now I’m thinking it’s the relationship
relationship of the two eyes. The discrepancy is, I would say, approximately 1/16 of an inch.
So I’m checking with plum lines from the inner corner of the eye to the corner of the mouth appear to be on
a vertical plum line. In my picture it’s extremely close, so perhaps this is not misplaced.
I am now going to check the location of the neck. Plum line up. I see where it intersects the eye.
Check on the other side.
I have a longer stick.
I think the neck could come back.
Check it against the mouth, and it’s very close, but the neck needs to come back the smallest amount.
I actually love redrawing. Not that I purposefully make errors in order to redraw, but redrawing
asserts my commitment to the project, so I have no problem redrawing until I’m satisfied.
It doesn’t matter how late into the painting it is. That’s why it’s very helpful to
layer lightly along the way so that you have the opportunity to lift the color.
I see that I have sloped downward a little bit more in this eye than we see here,
so that may be what’s problematic visually.
Come back to the shape of the neck later on.
So I’m going to give a little more width, just
check the distance from the outer corner of
the eye to the bridge of the nose and compare.
Trying to keep my fingers off.
Indeed, I did not bring the bridge of the nose in far enough.
Now, just to double check. You always want to use
more than one gauge. I’m checking to see where the bridge of the nose falls above the
mouth, and it’s behind. It’s to the right of the peak right here.
Let’s see if in mine it sits too far to the right.
I’m hoping so because that means that the distance that
I checked here will be affirmed by what I find here.
And yes, excellent.
So this needs to come back all the way to about here.
That’s quite a difference. Maybe even slightly more.
Wow. That’s a lot.
This will need to come up a little bit more. This distance has been bothering me.
This ought to address that.
Now I’m going to have to extend this eye.
Checking the width.
Okay, excellent. This is a little too narrow, and I can widen the eye.
Now I have the proper room in that this slope will be—I’ll be able to properly unslope it and extend it.
I’ll feel so much better when that’s done.
So I have to figure out how I’m going to go about this. I got fortunate this time because
I don’t need to lift black, which as I’ve mentioned is difficult. I actually need to
extend the black of the iris and pupil, bring that up.
Reshape the eye in that manner.
Very carefully. I’m going to go right into the black pastel.
I'm going to step back.
I’m also going to do a little reshaping of the other eye.
In this instance I will have to lift some black, but not a lot, and hopefully it will
work out. Anyway, we will go through that together.
No way around it without a maulstick,
I’m going to have to rest my pinky on the hair.
This will also have to extend, which is good because I see more of this horizontal here than I had.
Just checking where the edge of the pupil lines up in terms of the lips.
I still need more volume.
Okay, step back. I have to discern with the angle of the inner corner of the eye, the
little curve is not exactly correct, and the little sclera,
the amount of sclera, the shape is not quite right yet.
So I have to determine do I need to extend the top of the pupil or compress the lower part.
I’m going to bring the lower part in.
And then hand in hand with that is that I then have to extend
the little fold of the underlid.
What happened there was I didn’t move the pastel away from the board
before lifting it, and so I made a mark on the board. It came up very easily.
Now I want to soften the edge here with the shadow.
I’m going to get back to the highlight in the eye,
but I want to continue with the structure.
There is some light right in through here, fleshy part needs a little bit more light.
The eyebrow itself needs some more volume.
I'm going to add a little bit more volume
to the iris and pupil. I think it needs to be extended a fraction.
This eye I have to look at very carefully.
Any adjustments here are going to be so minor,
and they involve the repositioning of the black, so a technical issue.
Actually, before I do that I need to continue over here.
This needs to come to about here.
This is looking a little too wide to me right now. It seems to be okay.
I'm going to back into this form and maybe work on the eye based on what happens over here.
This color that I’m using is too pink, but I’m just using it to lighten up
and define the shape that’s happening there.
Yeah, I think this eye does need to move in a little bit.
Let me check the distance here.
Okay, I see this angle. I’ve got mine a little too short.
So deciding where to sign the picture is part of the image making, so there is going
to be an addition of a small shape. In my case, it’s small; five letters.
It's a matter of design. I think I’m going to put it, I very often put it towards the top.
I think I will. This time I’m going to put it on this side as a balance
to the glance in this direction leftward.
Keep in mind that if the artwork is framed and matted that the matte will come down,
cut a little bit of the artwork off, and may cast a little shadow, so you want to be down far enough.
I have to stand on my toes to see this.
By the time I get to the second letter my point has worn down a bit.
We want the letters to be of consistent thick or thinness.
And there it is.
Now, I’ve completed my work for this particular painting. If I working in my own studio I
would take the painting a little bit further. What I would be doing is developing this section
further, and I actually did not back to the lashes on this eye. I would very much be checking
all the edges even more than I have, and I’m quite sure that I would soften the lower edge of the lip.
All the best to you, and I’ll see you next time.
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30m 49s2. Lay-in of portrait
26m 27s3. Introducing pastels and beginning the color lay-in
33m 24s4. Day 2: Addressing proportions of the face
30m 56s5. Continuing preliminary color lay-in
20m 30s6. Adjusting tones of the skin
31m 52s7. Day 3: Secondary corrections of proportions
27m 17s8. Refining the neck and eye areas
30m 1s9. Detailing features of the face
34m 7s10. Day 4: Correcting final discrepancies
14m 44s11. Finishing touches, signature, and final thoughts