Most of my work is inspired by wonderful dramatic clouds. Luckily, where I live, in the Peak District, we usually have a lot of ‘interesting’ weather. I have far reaching views from the studio, so I can find inspiration just by looking out of the window, or, as is the case with this one, out walking the dogs. This photo is from an early evening walking at dusk across the big fields below the moors that are behind our house. I was inspired by the light behind the hill and subtle colours of the evening, as well as the variety of cloud types in the sky. I want to recreate these details as well as try and capture the atmosphere and sense of place.

When working on skies, I use many layers of pastel on Clairefontaine Pastel Mat paper. I find that this paper is great for building layers and still being able to control colours and details. I will be using white paper, but the colour of the surface isn’t crucial as we will be covering it. If you haven’t got this paper type at home, try to find one that has a similar smooth finish whilst being able to take multiple layers of colour.

I have given you a list of colours that I have used, which are predominantly from my ’Sky’ set. However, feel free to adapt and change colours depending on what you have available, or if you just really like a particular colour combination and want to use it! However, I do recommend using Unison Colour pastels when at all possible – nothing compares to the buttery feel and their ability to blend and build on this surface.

I use my fingers to blend in the initial stages and for less detailed areas throughout the process. I use a colour shaper tool for controlling fine details and edges. My recommended one is made by Royal Sovereign and is a size ten, soft, flat chisel. If you are not able to get one of these, then a similar shaper tool would do, or you could try and experiment with something else that may help you get those sharp edges, like a small piece of eraser.

First stages are built up using layers of sweeping, flat mark marking with the side of the pastel. This is so we don’t fill the tooth of the paper too quickly. It also means we can mix colours on the surface. We will begin with harmonious colours so that the blending create a variety of lovely tints and shades. We will blend these first layers, then add further layers using more blocky mark making, then progress to different ways of handling the pastel, like slicing and using the tip. At each stage we will blend as needed and the shaper tool is used for final details.

I will introduce you to my ‘rule of three’ and the importance on ‘bridging colours’ in this technique. We will explore finishing touches and balancing the piece.

Above all, the emphasis will be on letting the work evolve and change as you progress; feel free to change or move away from the colours that I use. I interpret, change and adjust the piece as I am working and although we are all starting with the same photo, I looking forward to seeing a variety of outcomes, as we each explore the process and the piece in our own way.


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