Pears in Pastel


In my first post on drawing in charcoal I demonstrated a tonal study of two pears. This time I am preparing for a pastel drawing, of two different pears (I ate the other two). I begin this time with a tonal study in pencil. I’m using a graphite stick and two erasers: a hard and a putty eraser.

pencil pears 1

I’m working on white cartridge paper. I have shifted my viewpoint so that one pear overlaps the other. I begin by sketching in the pears and the background, then I work on the shadows on the left side of each pear. I’ve exaggerated the tonal contrasts, to increase the 3d illusion. Note the darkest shadows are directly underneath each pear. I’ve also deliberately darkened the background behind the lighter side of the right hand pear, to increase its luminosity. The light side of the left hand pear is already highlighted by the dark side of its neighbour.

In the second stage, I softened all the sketchy marks by lightly rubbing the paper with kitchen towel. I only do this once: if you continue to ‘smudge’ your drawing you will end up with a confusion of smudgy marks. In the final stage I worked into the shadows with more pencil marks which I then left untouched, while  I lightened areas in the background with the erasers, to give a stronger impression of surface. The line at the top of the picture gives the illusion of the edge of a surface, with a lighter area behind. I chose to make this line follow the angle of the shadows, rather than making it boringly horizontal.

Now for the pastel version.

Pears in colour 1

I’m working on a warm grey pastel paper, Canson Mi-Teintes.  I start by sketching my composition, deciding on the dominant colours I am going to use for the highlights and the shadows.  Why am I using blues for the shadows behind and under the pears? They are cool colours, which contrast with the warm yellow brown of the paper the pears are sitting on. Cool colours tend to recede, while warm colours come forward. The left hand pear is green, which can also be a cool colour unless it has a large dose of yellow in it.

Pears in colour 2

I’ve smoothed out my initial marks with a blending tool (a piece of foam works well) and from now on I will be working with layers of pastel, with little or no blending. I have several sets of pastels, which are not all the same degree of softness, but I can usually find a combination that will do the job. It’s essential to have a number of darker pastels in a range of blues, purples, greens and browns, as black is not an option!

These are the three combinations of colours I’ve chosen to use: the pears are mostly yellows and greens with a dark blue and brown for the deepest shadows on the pears.  The shadows behind and underneath the pears are a mixture of blues, purple and browns. The surface that is not in shadow is rendered mainly in a warm yellow and brown. I will add small touches of colour from the other sets to each area, to give a feeling of harmony.

In the drawing on the right, the pears are almost finished. I now have to balance the colours of their shadows and the surface they are sitting on, without drawing too much attention to the background.

final image, cropped contrast enhanced

This is the final version. I’ve added brown and purple to the pears’ shadows, but also a touch of green. The shadow behind the lightest side of the right hand pear is now more subtle, but it still helps to emphasise the pear’s ‘bright side’. I decided to make the background at the top of the picture darker, rather than lighter – it is in fact the bare pastel paper with a touch of the warm yellow rubbed across it. It now not only reflects the direction of the pears’ shadows but it also echoes their tone and colour. I only spray the pastel lightly with fixative at the very end. Sometimes the fixing process darkens the pastel, but on this occasion it doesn’t seem to alter it.

I’ve called this ‘Conversation’.


One thought on “Pears in Pastel

  1. Pingback: Pears in Pastel | Mi Mi Designs

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