Capture the Romance of Light & Color in Pastel

Painting light and color has never been this beautiful! As a painter of pastel and oils, artist Desmond O’Hagan loves the variety of options when working with pastels–with so many colors to choose from, pastel is the perfect choice for painting light and color. Balancing warm against cool, light against dark, and intense against muted colors, when you use pastel you can create contrasts that lead to dramatic painting results!

Pastel Painting: Light and Color with Desmond O'Hagan

Pastel Painting: Light and Color with Desmond O’Hagan

Peek Inside Desmond’s Working Process

As Desmond paints, he keeps in mind these 4 lessons to paint light and color in pastel:

  • Keep It Simple
  • Think Big, Bold, Broad
  • Leave Lights for the Final Stages
  • Leave Detail for the Final Stages

Watch this video preview from Desmond’s new video workshop on ArtistsNetwork.tv, Pastel Painting: Light and Color to get a glimpse into his pastel painting process, and then follow the steps below for more details on painting light and color with pastel.

Step One: Choose a Great Reference Photo

For an interesting subject, choose an image that has a range of values. This peony still life is backlit by natural light, giving it a nice mix of lights and darks, with a range in between. The photo also showcases reflections and shadows on the surrounding table which will  add to the interest of this painting.

Photo Reference for Pastel Light and Color Demonstration by Desmond O'Hagan

Photo Reference for Pastel Light and Color Demonstration by Desmond O’Hagan

Step Two: Start Blocking in the Darks and Darker Midtones

Feel free to simplify your photo reference–edit out the person in the background and simplify the petals of the flower to create a basic line drawing, then start painting by adding in the darks, keeping shapes abstract. Gradually add darker midtones, keeping strokes expressive and direct, and moving more into local color.

Dark Shadow and Local Color for Pastel Light and Color Demonstration by Desmond O'Hagan

Dark Shadow and Local Color for Pastel Light and Color Demonstration by Desmond O’Hagan

Step Three: Move Into Mid Tones

Continue to develop the shadow areas with warm and cool colors, and begin to refine the flowers with smaller shapes and lighter values. Don’t get lost in all the petals. Keep it very loose, using big, bold strokes. Add realistic reflections by paying attention to hard and soft edges.

Midtones for Pastel Light and Color Demonstration by Desmond O'Hagan

Midtones for Pastel Light and Color Demonstration by Desmond O’Hagan

Step Four: Lighter Mid Tones & Final Details

Move from dark to light to bring out the flowers and highlights in the vase. For the flowers you don’t even need to use a white pastel–work from warm to cool using orange to pink, and then cooling it off with just a little bit of lighter blue to give the piece the final brights. This creates a nice vibration that reads as realistic light.

Pastel Painting Demonstration by Desmond O'Hagan

Completed Pastel Light and Color Demonstration by Desmond O’Hagan

Desmond O’Hagan’s four start-to-finish art instruction painting tutorials (two in oil and two completed with pastels) are available as DVDs and Downloads at NorthLightShop.com and as Streaming Video on ArtistsNetwork.tv,

OHagan Pastel Painting Light and Color  OHagan Pastel Painting Bold and Direct  OHagan Oil Painting Light and Color  OHagan Oil Painting Bold and Direct

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