One of our members Neil sent us his picture of the Two Victorian Girls subject on our website. Neil requested some advice on how to improve his picture. Neil writes:

Good afternoon Steven/Colin.

When I retired 18 months ago I decided to take up art. Because I like drawing with pencils and crayons I decided to follow the advice and instruction that you give on your web site.

It has been a complete revelation being introduced to pastel pencils and the way that Colin teaches and explains everything.

Although the picture of the girls is probably a little advanced for me I feel as though I need to push myself to see what standard I can achieve. If possible I would welcome some critique on the picture, my main issue is getting the colours correct.

Best regards,


Building up facial features in Portraits using Pastel Pencils

Listen to the advice or read the transcription below:

I think you’ve done a very good job and I should think you’ll probably pleased. Now always you compare this with the original picture that I’ve done and this is a good thing because you see where you’re probably going wrong. But you were concerned about the colours. I think the colours are pretty good to be honest – you’ve got them right. All you need really is lots and lots of practice at this now and not just the girls – in other subjects too. Use the experience you have to advance your ideas.

Building up Details

One of the things that I see on your picture is it’s too cut and dried you know when you look at the faces you see the eyes the nose and the mouth with a little bit too much prominence. What it needs really and this is something will only come with experience – you need to soften that a little. In other words use lighter touches to start with and then only bring the dark colours in and the strength in when you’re sure you’ve got it right.

If you were drawing with a graphite pencil you tend to just draw the eye as an eye and then nose as a nose and lips as a lip. But that doesn’t work in pastel pencil. What you have to do is progress slowly towards the end of that. And if you check the video again where I’m doing an eye or a nose, lips or hand or fingers any of those and see how I actually build it up.

I don’t put those dark colours on straight away. I develop them and I think you’ll find that will help you a lot but certainly I tell everybody this – practice. Have a go at things like this – it’s a very difficult subject especially when you’re starting out. But I think you’ve done really well at it.

Improving the Background

The background again I compliment you on that because that is really hard a lot of people don’t do that. They don’t do the backgrounds they leave it or do a rather poor job of it but you’ve done a very good job. What you could do with that background and this is where you can practice this if you’ve got a colour shaper or some other kind of blender and one small part of it don’t do the whole thing just one small part. Just use your blender to soften the edges so it kind of goes into a melt you know into it rather than hard and you’ll find that will give you a better background for the girls.

What you don’t want to do in any situation is make the background as strong as the girls or the subject and I think you’ll find that will work but I do compliment you. It’s a good effort and with practice I think you will do very well. I hope that helps.

If you would like to learn how to use pastel pencils and receive feedback on your work, please have a look at our membership where you can access hundreds of lessons across a range of subjects.

By | 2018-11-20T11:40:02+00:00 November 20th, 2018|Picture Feedback, Portraits|0 Comments