Figures in pastel workshop

Yesterday I attended a very good workshop at the Lady Lever Gallery at Port Sunlight, run by Steve Hersey.

The subject was figures in pastel, and it was designed to accompany their current Rossetti’s Obsession exhibition, where you can see drawings and chalk sketches that Rossetti made of his muse Jane Morris. It's really interesting to see these pieces, they helped me to understand Rossetti's pre-painting process of pencil drawings, chalk tonal sketches, chalk colour sketches, all before he began his oil paintings.

In the workshop we began by looking at stick figures, dividing the body into 8 head lengths

which we then turned into block figures. I have studied these before but did have one ah-ha! moment when we used arcs (which I turned into circles as I find them easier to draw) to find joint positions.

Next we developed our block figures into robot figures and added shading, taking around 10 minutes on this. Something went wrong with the arm on the right here - I should have noticed and corrected it at the stick figure stage, but never mind, I'm pleased with the rest of it.

After a much needed coffee break, we completed 5 minute A3 sketches of each other, concentrating on proportions that we had learnt in the previous session and starting out with a stick-to-robot under-drawing.

Next Steve demonstrated a figure in pastel using an improvised sheet of paper (a piece of paper table cloth) and very basic reeves pastels, proving that you do not need specialist materials to get a good result.

And finally Steve posed for us and gave us half an hour to complete our own A3 pastel portrait. I really hate the feeling of chalk on my fingers so was not looking forward to working with pastels, but I can honestly say that we were working so fast that I didn't have time to think about it!

I really enjoyed this workshop and whilst I'm not converted to pastels, I did enjoy using them for half an hour. They create far too much dust for me to consider using them at home, I'm not overly fond of cleaning (!) and need relatively a dust free environment for my oils.