Creating ‘Serene’ Leopard Pastel Portrait / Art Tutorial

You can find the full video tutorial along with 8 hours of real-time footage for this artwork on my Patreon in the ‘Tutorials’ tier.

What you will learn:

  • Tips and techniques for how to use soft pastels
  • Achieving depth in your artwork
  • How to elevate your drawing to look realistic
  • How to properly apply pastel for a desired outcome

You will also have:

  • HD reference photo that is copyright free
  • Full list of materials used
  • A huge range of other Patreon videos

This drawing is an exciting one for me as I feel that it allows me to show you a really useful insight into how I use pastels to create realistic drawings. I want to explain to you my process of how I do things in detail. This is also fun for me as its a large wildlife piece which I rarely get time to do in between pet portrait commissions. I want to go forward creating more in-depth wildlife pieces like this one, and I would love to hear any suggestions you may have.

To start off, the reference photo is from Unsplash.com which is a free website where you can use any image as they’re copyright free and this drawing is created on Pastelmat paper in the colour dark grey. To get an accurate outline work of your subject, I recommend the grid method. You can google how to do this, I’m in the process of making an in-depth tutorial on how to achieve accurate proportions but this won’t be out for some time. If you don’t want to draw the grid itself on your paper, you can use the grid method on tracing paper and then transfer your drawing from the tracing paper onto your pastel mat paper by transfer sheets which you can purchase from amazon. These are similar to the ones I have : https://amzn.to/3cT1tVy

For small detailed parts such as the eyes, I only use pastel pencils and never pastel sticks as I am able to get maximum precise control. For large areas, i use pastel sticks, mainly unison colour but I have since tried a couple of other brands. So far, unison seem to be the best quality and they have a huge range of colours to choose from so I highly recommend them. They’re also made here in the UK which I think is great! You do not have to press hard, just patiently lightly build up the layers and slowly fill in the tooth of the paper. For the deepest blacks, I use creta colour black chalk pencil https://bit.ly/393U9mV. I also find that Caran dache Chinese White pastel pencil is the lightest white https://bit.ly/2PD55lL.

You should aim for your base colour layer to generally be a darker shadowy area for your lighter detailed pastel pencil marks to sit on top of. This is how the depth of fur is created, just think of how fur sits in the real world on top of skin. The skin and fur underneath the highlighted fur on the very surface of the animal will be dark and in shadow. this is because it is behind the highlighted fur on top that we can first see. This is exactly what we want to achieve in our drawing. If you look hard between the highlighted fur details on top, you should be able to point out what colour you need your base layer to be. I will also link a video in the description on how to achieve correct colours in your artwork from your reference photos.

I advise you to practice different levels of pressure with your pastel pencils, lighter pressure will create thinner but slightly more transparent lines. Harder pressure will allow for opaque lines but they may not be as thin as you require.A constantly sharp pencil also helps a lot, i turn my pencil around as i work to help keep the nib sharp as best as I can.

Creating the background may take more time than most think. Patience is really important as the process can be very frustrating if you want to transition colours smoothly. I mostly create transitioned backgrounds with my pet portraits so I’ve had time time practice. For the background I use purely unison pastel sticks, here is a picture of the various pastel colours after I placed them on the paper and then after I had blended and smoothed them out:

The full video tutorial for this Leopard drawing is over on my Patreon channel in the ‘Tutorials’ tier, along with 8 hours of real-time drawing footage

What to do with soft pastel dust? Tips and tricks for safely removing pastel dust from your artwork

Dry pastel as a media has very few downfalls in my opinion, but one of the main issues pastel artists face is the extra dust debris that is left on the paper. This dust is not only annoying and obstructive to your work, but is also harmful to your lungs. I noticed over time that blowing the pastel dust off my work would slowly start to ruin my artwork. what’s worse is that it would also make my lungs wheeze as I unknowingly breathed the dust in. Artworks become ruined when you blow on the excess dust due to some of that dust falling over your work, getting re-placed to different parts of your art and sticking where it shouldn’t be. This is very easy to see if you blow a lot of black excess pastel dust on light paper, it will usually leave a feint black layer.

As you blow the pastel dust around your artwork over and over again, you’re actually depositing all kinds of unwanted colours to different parts of your work and they’ll start to make your drawing look flat and muddy. More importantly, as you blow the dust, the first think you’re likely to do is intake a deep breath of air to re-fill your lungs, sucking all of that pastel dust in that you’ve just blown and disturbed into the air around you.

How do I deal with pastel dust? Short answer: I carefully hoover it up. At first I used a small handheld hoover, this wasn’t the greatest option. As it was small it didn’t have a HEPA filter so the dust would just fly straight out the other end and still be breathable. It also didn’t pick up everything from the paper as it wasn’t powerful enough. I now use a household hoover, the high majority come with HEPA filters so they are sure to catch all of the fine pastel dust particles. When hoovering up the excess dust, You’re going to want to have your artwork taped down. Be careful not to hold the nozzle to close to your work, as the powerful suction will try to attach itself to your drawing. I learnt that the hard way by being left with a lovely circular nozzle mark left on a commissioned portrait I was working hard on. It may take some practice, but hold the hoover nozzle about 10cm away from your artwork, sort of waving it around to all the area covered with dust.

Hope this helps!

The MUST HAVE Art Studio Device! How to Avoid Smudging, Back Pain + Cramping

If you have trouble with smudging your artwork, or you have arm and hand cramps or even back and shoulder pain when drawing or painting, this post is for you. I mainly create artworks in pastels so I can’t rest my hand on paper on top of my work as that smudges the pastel underneath so this hand rest equipment right here has been an absolute life saver. Achieving the same results as a Mahl stick, this device is raised a couple of inches above your artwork to make sure your hand stays away from smudging what’s beneath. Keeping our oily and dirty hands off artworks is really important, especially when it comes to producing the highest quality work. It comes in 3 sizes; 18in,  24in,  31in.

I would like to say that this post is not sponsored in any way, I’m simply highly recommending this product as it has greatly helped me and I would like to share it with others. If like me you have a tilted surface, I easily apply masking tape to the edges to hold it up and stop it from slipping. There may be a better way to do this but this is how I keep it in place and it works well for me.

I also used to get back and shoulder cramps after a long day’s drawing, I’m 23 so hopefully I don’t already have a naturally bad back. However as I rest my wrist on this device to draw or paint, it takes the strain off my back and shoulders and avoids smudging any work. This device is also now an essential studio tool to me for adding in precise detail to my works, on larger pieces especially, my hand is able to hover just over the spot that I need to get at. It’s made of very sturdy acrylic so you don’t need to worry about it bending down and touching your work or breaking, I have been using mine for about 4 months now and the quality has been really really great so far.

The Best Way / How to Sharpen Your Pastel Pencils to a Super Sharp Point

Pastel pencils are loved by many, including myself, as they’re easy to blend and produce vibrant colours. But they’re also hated by many for their shockingly easy ability to break and snap, especially when trying to sharpen them with a conventional sharpener. This can be incredibly frustrating as they’re not cheap, I have sometimes in the past sharpened a whole pencil till it’s non existent without even being able to use it once, simply because sharpeners break them so easily. Well, I’m happy to inform you that I, nor you, no longer have to put up with this problem. For the past year, I have been sharpening my pastel pencils so quickly and effortlessly and with hardly any breakage. This method involves the use of a craft knife and a sanding machine and can be seen as quite dangerous if you’re not careful so I urge you to be. If you’re more comfortable with a safer option, I suggest using a sanding block / paper instead of the sanding machine to sharpen the pastel.

To begin the process, I take a craft knife and carefully shave off the wood casing of each pastel pencil. Using both of my thumbs, I guide the knife carefully down the wood casing, making sure to avoid the pastel nib. you will start to see the pastel emerge from the casing so you have an idea of how far to shave down. Just keep shaving small amounts off each time till you reach the pastel, this will take time to learn how to do properly, you may break the nib the first few times trying this. Just try to go slowly and patiently. This can be dangerous and will take some practice to get right, you need to be careful not to apply too much pressure to avoid snapping the pastel. Have a bin near by for the wood casings to fall into, hopefully most of the bits will fall in but just pick up the bits that fling off which always happens.

to achieve the sharp point, you may wish to use sand paper or even a nail file like so, firmly but lightly rub the tip back and forth at a very small angle to get a nice sharp point. This can be dusty so be conscious not to breathe any pastel dust in. try and hold it away from your face and over a bin to help. To safely sand the pastel to a point with my sander machine, I first make sure the outlet is attached to my hoover. I then turn my hoover on first before I start sanding anything down and leave it on until I’m finished, unfortunately this adds to all the noise. As the sander creates all the pastel dust, it is instantly taken away by the hoover and because of this I don’t even have to wear a mask in fear of breathing in pastel dust. You must make sure that your hoover is a good one that contains all the necessary filters such as HEPA so that it doesn’t just blow the dust back out into the room.

To begin, I hold my hand away from the machine as much as possible, lightly letting the pencil tip make contact with the moving sand paper and turning it around side to side. You can even use a pencil extender if you wish to keep your hand as far away from the machine as possible. I press the button down in quick concessions too, not only for extra safety so it isn’t at full power unnecessarily all the time but also for the loud noise that can be very disruptive. You may want to use headphones or ear plugs when doing this.

Sharpening pastel pencils this way has totally transformed my experience with pastel pencils. No longer is it frustrating and more costly than it should be. The process is a rather quick one after some careful practice and I can always rely on having a sharp pointed pastel pencil ready to go. My work has benefitted from this immensely too, before this method I would always try and work with blunt tips on my pastel pencil’s as I always dreaded going to sharpen them again in case they snapped off in the sharpener. Now, I always have the perfect sharp tips because sanding them down takes a few seconds with this method and rarely any breaks.

Oil Painting Study for Beginners – Water and Rocks

When it comes to practicing your skills in oil paints, I believe that painting random images that you have taken yourself is a great way to practice. This is exactly what this exercise, as I went back through my phone’s camera roll, I watched a previous video I filmed of the water crashing up on the rocks and took a screenshot. A single frame from a video that had little meaning, turned into something that I would end up spending hours on to study and paint. I also thought that this little scenery of water and rocks would be perfect for practicing to paint with oil paints. There are so many colours, tones and textures, you have the boldness and sharpness of the rocks and the smooth wavy texture of the water.

The Akoya Filbert brush size 0 from Jacksons Art is what I used to create most of the details. The shape and the length of the bristles are perfect and I highly recommend it if you too long for a perfect brush for small detailed work. I think it’s because it has the beneficial shape of being flat but not as harsh as flat brushes because it has slightly curved edges. You can check out this brush from Jacksons Art linked below.

Painting this random image was really fun and important for me. As I constantly draw animals in pastels for my job, I think its necessary I try out other subject matter and media in my spare time. I love so many different types and styles of art so I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible. I haven’t fully decided what kind of artist I want to be in the future or whether I will fully specify into one type of art. At the moment, I’m really enjoying creating realistic pet portraits in pastels for clients and I always find myself getting excited to start another one. On the other hand I’m really enjoy working on improving my oil painting skills and seeing the possibility and versatility with that media. I’m also desperate to practice more with watercolours when I find more time but I just have to be patient! I feel as though every artist goes through these thoughts, it would be interesting hearing if anyone feels the same way as me.

Materials used:

Lemur Drawing || PASTEL ART (with bokeh background) – Beginner Tutorial

In this drawing, I will be using Unison colour pastels, Carbothello pastel pencils and Faber castell pastel pencils to draw a Lemur on Clairefontaine Pastelmat paper.

I wanted to create a fun, dynamic background, similar to the reference photo. I took inspiration from the bokeh effect already seen on the righthand side of the reference photo and continued it onto the left (reference attached on Patreon). I loved the colour palette of blue’s, grey’s and dark green’s of the bokeh, I used a mixture of pastel sticks and pastel pencils to create it. I also used both the pastel sponge tools as well as my finger to blend it together to achieve the blurry out of focus effect.

I believe that one main thought to take away from this piece is that the lighting in a piece is what can help make it stand out. The reference had great shadows and highlights which really forces you to keep the contrast high and creates a dynamic atmosphere. Sometimes, lighting can be more important than details, it also makes for a more visually interesting portrait.

The real-time video for this painting can be found on my Patreon here. You can find the sped-up YouTube video here.

Oil Painting Study || Hare – Wildlife Art

The above image is taken from a tutorial on my Patreon showing the 2 main layers in the process of painting this Hare. On my Patreon, you will also find the colour palette reference photo + the full real-time video for this painting where I show how I mix my colours & also show my palette as I paint.

Main primary colours used: 

  • Black
  • Dark Umber
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Scarlett
  • Cadmium Yellow Hue
  • White

(These are used to mix into all the variations of colours I need)

Layering method:

  • 1 Base colour layer (leave to dry overnight)
  • 2 fur highlights

To achieve the realistic appearance of animal fur, I first put down a base colour layer for which the lighter fur details will sit on top of. This base colour layer has to be dark so that the highlighted details on top stand out and naturally look like highlighted hairs (as seen in the picture above)

The real-time video for this painting can be found on my Patreon here. You can find the sped-up YouTube video here.

(Reference photo used is by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash)

Tips and Techniques for Drawing a Photo Realistic Cat in Colour using Pastel Pencils

Creating realistic pet drawings for clients & capturing a true likeness along with all the detail is crucial. In this blog post I want to talk you through how I created this realistic cat portrait drawing using purely pastel pencils. I mainly draw in colour as I believe it makes for a more impactful portrait when compared to B+W drawings which are also great in their own way, but rather for a more formal result. A colour portrait on the other hand will bring out the many subtle colours and tones found in the fur along with the colour in the eyes which can really captivate a viewer and create a certain wow factor.

What materials do I use? For colour pet portraits, I draw with pastel pencils. Mainly, Carbothello & Faber Castell pastel pencils, on occasion I will use PanPastels or Unison pastel sticks but not always as I find they tend to block up the paper quickly. Pastels in either forms have great longevity (lightfastness) so you can rest assured that your clients artwork will stay in prime condition for many years. They are also very pleasing to work with in my opinion and offer great flexibility in technique.

How do I create my realistic artworks? To create my pet pastel portrait drawings, I always use the same technique of putting down a base layer of colour and finish off with fine details on top. Making sure my pencils are continually sharp will allow me to get the details of fur and hair highlights which can really make a portrait stand out. Below are links to videos on YouTube + Patreon to learn my process!

A time-lapse of this drawing process can be found on my YouTube here

I have also uploaded the real-time drawing process video to my Patreon along with a full materials list if you would like to watch my techniques in more detail

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A List of Knowledge, Supplies and Techniques for Beginner Oil Painters

Before picking up the paintbrushes and starting oil painting, I realised I needed more than oils and paintbrushes. I did a lot of research beforehand and I found it rather difficult to get easy simple answers for what supplies I needed to start so I hope to list them here for you and explain clearly what they are and what they’re used for.

  • Oil paint is also known as oil colour by many brands, it is the same thing. I thought this would be useful to clarify if you’re a beginner as I once thought they were separate types of oil paint.
  • Liquin – Manufactured by Winsor & Newton is what is known as and is often called an oil paint medium by painters. A small amount of Liquin is mixed in with the oil paint to create a smoother consistency and most importantly to quicken drying time. I mix Liquin in with the paint on my pallet, depending on how smooth or transparent I want the paint. The more Liquin mixed in, the more transparency and faster drying time. Liquin makes details such as hairs easy to paint as allows the oil the flow more smoothly onto the surface.
  • Glazing – A technique used by painters to incorporate a tint of colour by using mostly Liquin with a small amount of oil paint. When your painting dries and you want to add or change colours without changing or repainting your painting fully, Liquin creates a sort of thin transparent layer that tints an area a colour of your choice. Think of it as you have just finished painting a portrait and you would like to make the subjects cheeks more of a blush colour, once your painting has dried you can go back on top with a small amount of rose colour oil paint mixed in with mostly Liquin and it will tint the cheeks with the colour while keeping the under layers visible and intact.
  • Gesso – A white paint mixture used to prime a surface. To prime a surface just means to make the surface of whatever your painting on whether it be paper or wood for example, suitable for oils to then be painted on. . If oils are painted on any normal paper or unprimed canvas, they can actually destroy the paper overtime. Gesso is a bit like acrylic paint, it dries and hardens which effectively creates a foundation for your oil painting to go on which won’t be destroyed by the oil paint overtime. Gesso is white, sort of like a rough white acrylic paint and is great as you can mix in small amounts of different acrylic colour paints and make your gesso a different base colour. For example, I sometimes like to paint on a slightly grey surface so I will mix a small amount of black with a large amount of white gesso which leaves you with a light grey surface to paint on. You can also buy pre-primed canvas’ or surfaces which solves this problem for you so you don’t have to worry about it.
  • Cleaning Brushes – I simply use hand wash or washing up liquid in a small glass cup and swirl my brushes around, pressing them so that the bristles separate and open so that the liquid can get to all the oil in-between the hairs and then rince with tap water, doing this soon after painting when the paint hasn’t already fully dried is ideal. I repeat this step and then dry them with some toilet tissue or kitchen towel and if no paint colour comes off then I know the brush is cleaned. I then rub some hair conditioner into them and rinse one last time to keep them soft.
  • Lots of paper towels! – Paper towels are a cheap and great way of quickly cleaning up mess and wiping off your brushes. You’ll find its easy to go through many rolls of the stuff when painting with oils!
  • Disposable pallets – These have been a life saver, instead of having to clean my pallet each time to start fresh, I simply pull of a paper disposable pallet which is coated thinly with wax to avoid any bleed through so that your surfaces won’t end up messy with oil paint or medium. I purchase these: (UK: https://amzn.to/30lpmhJ) (US: https://amzn.to/3cJ4p5j)
  • Different size / shape brushes – There are countless variations of brush size and shapes available to purchase which is good as different shapes and sizes make painting different areas easier to paint. For example, small thin brushes are good for little details where as larger flat brushes will be useful to paint larger, less detailed sections. Speciality brushes like rigger brushes make painting fur details easier, this is due to the long shape of the bristles allowing more paint to be held and flow onto the paper which reduces the amount of times you have to keep applying paint to your brush. The greater variations in brushes you try, the more you can pick out your favourites for ease and control. I’m still learning!

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My Journey as a Beginner Oil Painter

Hi, my name is Shay and I go by the alias Shaymus. I am a pet and people portrait artist living in the UK, working mainly with pastels. I recently moved house and re-decorated my new one, while using gloss to paint the doors and skirting boards, it made me really nostalgic of oil painting! Soon after completing the renovations on my new house, I began picking up my painting brush in between pastel commissions. I soon realised how much of a beginner I was at painting, having been so used to drawing over the years.

I have decided to document my journey from the start to pick up on what I find difficult and what I know I need to improve on. This includes, colour mixing, understanding layers and knowledge of supplies. I thought this would be a great way to teach others who are starting out in oils so that they didn’t need to guess and fail, I decided I would like to be the one to trial and error to show you where I went wrong and what I learned. Saying that, I’m a strong believer that art is always self taught through your own practice so I highly encourage to practice on your own as well as learning from others. Your own fails are fundamental at teaching you, I just hope some of mine can assist you too.

Luckily, I have already spent years building up a skill on how to draw realistically, now all I need to do is learn how to paint realistically in oils. If only it was that easy! The straight fact is that wet media is different to dry media, I can only carry some skills through but learning new techniques and understanding how the medium works is key. As I practice throughout the next coming months, I aim to lay everything out what I think other beginners need to know and what I would of liked to be told to make life easier. I will also record my painting processes. 1, to watch my progress and 2, to visibly learn from my mistakes and improve. I hope to tell you where I know I’ve gone wrong and what I can do on the next painting to improve the overall desired outcome. I hope this method of tutoring will help as you may have similar mistakes also being a beginner in oil painting.

I will create a blog post for each video, listing the lessons learnt and what to keep in mind. I really hope this helps you out. Linking to each video will be below:

  • An introduction to oil painting. (difference between other wet & dry mediums)
  • What beginner oil painters need to get started (supplies & knowledge)
  • Lessons on painting fur

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