Demonstration of painting still-life in pastels

Stephen Hand

Stephen started the demonstration by arranging the items within the still life to give a pleasing composition.The individual items were chosen to provide a wide range of surfaces and textures to demonstrate different techniques of using pastels.

Here the still life contains two types of Christmas baubles with matt and gloss finishes, a plain black cloth and a gingham check, a pewter mug with interesting reflections, a glass candlestick and some pine cones.



Stepen started by lightly drawing the composition on the mid toned background paper using a pencil, taking care not to press too strongly as this would indent the paper and show up in any applied pastel. Because the pencil drawing was not easily visible to the audience he then drew over the pencil guidelines using a white pastel. Stephen said you should always be prepared to adjust the composition during the painting in order to improve the overall effect. Here he has drawn alternative lines for the rear edge of the table, and has also shortened the candle.


Here Stephen has added red pastel to the three baubles and added the strong shadow to the middle one. Instead of using black pastel he applied ultramarine over a dark brown base.


Here the reflections of the studio striplights have been added to the centre bauble. A start has been made on the gingham tablecloth using red and a very pale yellow pastel.

Here the candlestick and two of the pine cones have been added. Some softer reflections have been added to the bauble nearest the tankard,


The candle has been added using a pale grey pastel and the black cloth started using a dark blue pastel. This was also used to provide the darkest areas of the pine cones.


Attention was then focussed on the tankard where the form was tightened up and the reflections added.


More of the gingham cloth was added. The middle tone of the gingham was created by gently rubbing a fingertip over the red squares along the warp and weft lines.

close up of the tankard

At this stage Stephen paused and reviewed the picture from a distance. With assistance from the audience it was agreed that the candle did not stand out sufficiently from the background, and the pine cone on the right was too large and did not look much like a pine cone.

Some darker areas were added to the background to improve the visibility of the candle and the pine cone reduced in size and drawn from another angle. A touch of violet was added to the dark cloth area.

The finished demonstration when mounted in a frame.

Stephen with his finished demonstration