At a Pastel Workshop

Saturday was such a fun day! I attended my first art workshop, and I loved it. For me, this was a completely new experience. Although I’ve attended “live lessons” at The Virtual Instructor site and have been able to chat with the instructor, this was the first time I’ve ever been in a workshop where an instructor could actually look at my work and make suggestions.

Pastel Workshop 4
Linda Wisely from our Tri-County art club was the workshop leader.

The workshop was on pastel portraits, and our instructor was Linda Wisely, a very talented artist from our Tri-County league.

The portrait she’s working on here was still in the early stages when I snapped this quick photo.

Linda was an excellent teacher, and as there were only four of us at the workshop, she was able to give each of us a lot of personal one-on-one time.

The workshop began with Linda demonstrating how she prepares for her portraits by drawing a good likeness of her subject.

I was a bit surprised when she told us she always starts with the hairline. Plus, she advised that we not draw the chin until later. She gave us a lot of good tips and stressed the importance of making measurements as we worked to ensure that we had the proper placement for the facial features.

Her suggestion was to get one eye correct — and then build the rest of the face around that feature, using it as the basis for the other measurements we needed to make.

Linda then worked with each of us individually, checking our drawings and helping us correct obvious flaws. I had drawn in the facial features for my portrait — our six-year-old great-grandson — and then I realized that because of the way his head was turned, those features should have been at a slight angle. Fortunately Linda had a ruler close at hand. She showed me how to place my reference photo beside my drawing pad and mark the angles. Her advice was very helpful.

Getting our drawings accurate was a pain-staking process for everyone, and especially for me. One woman in the group has been drawing and painting for over 60 years, another has about 30 years experience, and the other between 20 and 30 years. And there I was — having just started learning to draw 3 short years ago. All things considered, I was pleased that I was able to keep up with the rest of the group and actually complete a reasonably good drawing.

Once we had our drawings done, Linda returned to her easel and talked to us about the different types of pastels she used — pencils, soft pastels, and charcoal pencils — then demonstrated her techniques for bringing the eyes to life. We discussed highlights, the shape and shading of the eyeball, the color variations within the iris, as well as techniques for coloring the eyelids and adding in the darker eyelashes.

We returned to our tables and again Linda took time to sit with each of us, check our work, offer suggestions, answer questions, do quick demonstrations on scratch paper, and give compliments as we worked on the eyes of our subjects.

By this time, more than two hours had already passed. We took a quick break for lunch and chatted.

Pastel Workshop 2
Patsy is president of our HFAA art club and 1st place winner in our recent show. She’s enjoying her lunch.


Pastel Workshop 3
Sandy is president of the Tri-County art league and also a member of HFAA. She won 2nd place in the recent show. She’s enjoying the chocolate chip cookies we had for dessert.

Following lunch, we gathered around Linda’s easel as she began using skin-tone colors. She showed us how to leave white for highlights, how to add additional colors for a more life-like skin tone, and how to apply and blend colors for shadowed areas.

We worked on noses and then came what was the biggest challenge for all of us — getting lips and teeth right.

Mason, our great-grandson, is a special needs boy whose behavior is sometimes difficult to handle. Over the years he’s fallen more than once and has knocked out most of his teeth. Trying to accurately draw his impish grin wasn’t easy. It’s definitely the weakest spot in my portrait. It wasn’t helping either that my reference photo was small, making it difficult to see details clearly. I had the picture on my phone so we could enlarge it, but by the time it came to doing his mouth, my battery was gone.

The hours sped by, and all too soon it was time to pack up our art supplies and head home. No one was completely finished, but we’d all made a good start. I still need to do a little more work on Mason’s smile, and I might add in a bit of his blue shirt.

Pastel Portrait

I was pleased with what I was able to accomplish. With practice I can continue to improve, and I’m definitely going to attend more workshops in the future.


    1. Thank you. I really enjoy doing portraits and I love soft pastels, so I definitely want to do more like this. 🙂 I learned a lot at the workshop, so I’m excited about doing more portraits now.

      Liked by 1 person

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