This week I have finally got stuck back into the Cassowary I started months ago. I know I have been slack, it’s been staring at me since before Xmas, but I made a point of getting back into it on the weekend and I must say I am so happy that I did. It has been too long since I have worked with my favorite medium (soft pastels). The feeling of getting your hands into it is incredible and the brightness of the pigments in them always blows my mind. As you can see in this picture the blues are just beautiful. The next step is the reds in the neck which will also be extremely vivid. Hopefully by next weeks blog, I will be able to show you all the finished piece.
I worked on the background a lot and am pretty happy with where its at. I wanted a muted dark look depicting the dense bush and rainforest these guys are native too. So I chose dark browns, greens and blues to achieve this. To keep the colours visible over the black, you put them down first and blend them in. The black gets added at the last stage around the other colours and then blended up to them. If you laid a solid black down first and then tried to put the lighter colours on top, when you blended them together the black would always come to the top and you would lose the brightness of the lighter colour giving you a muddy effect. You can always go darker but it is much harder to make something lighter.
Another tip is, I have used a white sanded pastel paper as the substrait. Even though the majority of this drawing is dark, most would assume that I would use a black pastel board. However white works best to keep the brightness and vividness of the beautiful colours in the cassowary. They would all be a bit duller if I drew them over black. So if you want a pastel to stay really bright, then always use white. 🙂 I am actually going to start another leopard pastel soon which I will use a black sanded pastel board because I want it rather subdued and looking like its just getting the light as its walking forward. So stay tuned for this to see the difference.
So now I’ve probably bored anyone who isn’t into pastels haha but I hope to give many tips and insights into all the different mediums I use. Don’t be shy to shoot me a message if you have any questions.
Okay so here we go, I will try and explain how I achieve a Fur look to my animal portraits.
I think this is much more achievable in Pastels than most other mediums due to their softness, but the basic principals apply to all. To start with you need to figure out your Light, Medium and Darks.
In this Leopard Drawing I used basically these range of colours in both pastel pencils and soft pastels. I always use about 20 different colours but these are the basic Light , Medium and Dark range.
Once I have figured out what colours I’m using I then put down a fairly solid cover in the Medium range. This then gives me a base that I can work the fur up with by adding the various darks and lights as pictured below.For thick fur you need to look at the shapes within the fur, try not to look at it as heaps of fine lines, you really need to try and section it into clumps and work on a small area at a time. For short hair I find that it works best to build up the colours with short strokes but always make sure that these strokes are going in the direction of the fur.
Remember that fur strokes are not perfect so this is crucial in making your fur look realistic. Try not to use repetitive strokes in a straight line. Although if you step back and it looks too straight you can always go over this to fix it. The beauty of Pastels 🙂
This above demonstration is very basic but you can see the use of the dark, medium and light in giving the fur depth. You can build this up and up by increasing the amount of difference between the darkest darks and the lightest lights, however too much can make it look clumpy, kinda like wet fur, which the bottom demo is getting close too. For softer fur you wouldn’t use the extreme ends of the dark and lights but rather use a smaller range of middle colours as below.
I will try and explain better in the steps as shown above.
Lay a ground of a medium colour with some darks. You really need to study your reference image here as it is crucial to get an idea of where the darks will be right from the outset, you will make your life a whole lot easier.
Its a bit hard to see in the next image but still using a medium tone colour (a bit lighter than the background) you can start to mark out where the clumps of fur will go. Again this is another important stage. Be sure not to make the marks too uniform. Pay close attention to which way the hair is moving.
Once you are pretty happy with your sections of fur its time to start adding some dark to give the fur depth. So this is added where the clumps of fur would recede into the animals skin, causing shadows. So basically anywhere you think a shadow would form you can add some dark. Make sure you go lightly here as it is best to build up the layers rather than try and get it dark in one go.
Next for the lights. The lights should go on the top and ends of the fur clumps, wherever you think the light would be hitting the fur. Again go lightly so you can build up those layers.
In this step I have added another medium to dark colour. Now you have your darks and lights marked in you can start to see where the fur is falling. By adding some other medium to dark colours helps to create a more realistic look. So at this stage I just lightly add a few strokes here and there as I think is needed. Remember to always step away from your work to judge this.
The final layer. This is where I would add my lightest highlights just on the sections that I think the light would be hitting the strongest. I will also add some squiggly fine hair lines here to really bring out that realism.
Ok well if you can’t understand what the hell i’m talking about here just leave me a comment and we’ll chat haha. I think I have kinda covered all the do’s and don’ts that I can think of so until next week.