This is a portrait of Heloise in soft pastel – a Scottish Black Face sheep living on common grazings in Sutherland.
Soft pastels are my medium of choice, mostly Unison pastels, a high quality handmade product from the UK. Opening a new box of pastels is comparable to lifting the lid on a box of chocolates, or entering a wool shop for the first time ! A feast for the eyes. But whilst there are many colours available, I work with only a few on any one portrait. Similar to how an oil painter might pre-mix her colours, I select a limited palette at the outset to help achieve a harmonious result.
A pastel painting will take many hours to complete, spread over a period of time to avoid tiredness and eyestrain. I work at an easel and make a great deal of dust ! The pastel is applied in a number of layers and has to be handled and stored with great care to protect the surface and retain the appearance of each mark made by successive applications of pigment. The image above shows the progression of Lydia, my Homepage photo.
Recently I’ve used Sennelier oil pastels to produce some small studies. These are produced in one sitting and allow me to explore a composition before committing to a larger painting in soft pastels.