The first task I set myself with drawing flowers in pastel was to try drawing a white flower. Once you are working in colour, you notice the myriad colours that are in a white rose, but how do you make sense of them? It’s important to make a tonal study first, but if you have your camera handy then take a black and white photo of your subject to help you see the tonal values.
I worked from the real flower, but maintained the degree of tonal contrast that is demonstrated in the photograph. I used a neutral dark grey paper. I began by putting in the whites, which were the parts of the rose that were catching the light. Although I could imagine all sorts of colours in the shadows, I stuck to using two shades of blue, tempered in places with a burnt sienna brown to create a grey. I also used yellow to add warmth to the lighter shadows. The leaves were a whole variety of greens depending on how they caught the light, and I mixed purple, dark blue and black in the background to make the whites stand out even more.
I continued to refine the lighter parts of the rose, while emphasising the darkest parts, the small cast shadows under the petals, with my darkest blue pastel. Then I applied more of the lighter blue pastel over the background, leaving a narrow margin of dark colours at the edges of the petals.
Is it finished? How far do you take a pastel? Do you add every tiny detail? I felt I could refine it a little more, so I lightened the petals to give the rose a lighter, less heavily sculpted feel.
This is the final version. As always, I’m never sure which version I prefer.