Robyn sent in her picture of the Peaches project asking for some advice. Robyn writes:
“So…a few things…
1. I am still new at pastels and so I’m not always sure if I’m pressing too hard;
2. Blending edges is hard for me. I didn’t have as much trouble blending inside the peach, but the outsides look very “fake” to me;
3. What sharpener does he recommend for the pencils? His seem a lot sharper than mine will get.
4. Again…I keep trying for that “realistic” look – but I’m still a novice. I draw from scratch instead of using the print-out for practice. I guess it all takes time.
Also, I had my paper turned the other way…the teeth ran up and down even though my picture was horizontal. Lol. That also made it hard.”
Colin offers his advice and feedback on Robyn’s points in his recording below. We’ve also included the transcription below this.
Hi Robyn. Colin Bradley here. Steve sent me your email that you sent to him regarding the few difficulties you’re having so I’m going to tackle each question you put to him. And first of all when you said that to your new to pastels and you’re not sure whether you’re pressing too hard don’t worry too much about that. That’s something that will come, some people press too hard. Some people don’t press hard enough and you’ve got to find a balance. One of the things I would suggest you do here is play with the pastel pencils on spare paper and just anything just doodle really and just play with them so that you get an idea of how your pencil is reacting to certain pressures. Now I can’t give you a physical example of this you just have to find it out for yourself. But it’s always a good idea to practice on paper anyway before you tackle something even if you come across a particular part of the picture that you’re doing and you think oh I wonder what I should do here. Go to your spare paper and play with the pencil until you get what you think is right pressures. So that is the best way. But really there’s no hard and fast rule. It’s just a question of the experience really.
Now blending the edges you said that’s hard. You are doing obviously a peach and you could do the inside but the outside looks very “fake”. That’s probably all to do with the base colours you’re using. If you put a strong colour say a red or an orange and you use the raw colour as opposed to building it up, sometimes that can give you a very harsh edge. When you see me do it if you look at the videos again you’ll see that I’ve always got pastel underneath that. So therefore the edges become softer and that’s something that again with practice.
You also ask me what sharpener to use well I always use a blade probably the best blade to use is the stanley knife because a stanley knife is sharp and it’s safe as well. And if you put your thumb right on the the blunt end of the blade you can do a really really sharp point. You’ve got to make sure though that the blade doesn’t blunt because once it blunts you’ll start to crack the pencils. So a nice sharp stanley knife I don’t use that I use the safety razor blade. That’s the single edged blade. But sometimes they can be a bit cumbersome when you’re starting out. So that’s that’s the best. People use all sorts of different pencil sharpeners. Some use the crank kind, some use the electric kind and of course the manual kind but I’ve always found those to be short lived rarely you find that they can crack the leads too. So a blade/knife is much better.
Now you said you keep trying for that realistic look at and this is because you you’ve only just started. Now obviously that’s going to come in time but I can assure you that one of the great things about the pastel pencil is that it is a great teaching aid. And the more you do the better you become. Unlike many other mediums where sometimes you never master them the pastel pencil you will eventually do that but you’ve got to keep at it. Anyway I hope all of this helps you. There’s one other thing you did say about the teeth of the paper – the tooth of the paper should theoretically always run across the paper. However if you’re going up and down and you have that showing that can be disconcerting. So always try if you can to work with a tooth horizontal. I hope this helps and I wish you well with the rest of your work. Bye for now.
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