A Portrait of Robert De Niro step by step in Pastel on Velour paper

This is a demonstration of my personal progression in the making of a portrait from a photograph. Forget all you know about oil painting technique if you have some, pastel painting steps are totally different. You can work the way you like, you don’t have to care about oil constraints. One rule, work the very highlights at the end, and sometimes, over the sprayed artwork. 

Beware, unlike oil painting, It is not easy to cover very dark areas with light colors. As information, I give the closest Rembrandt (R)Sennelier (Sen)Vang (V) or Quentin Latour (QL) , reference for any color I use when it is possible, to allow artists to use their traditional palette, but it will be only an approximation. I remind you, most of the colors I use are home made.

Start with a sketch on a 18′ x 25′ velour paper with a Koh-I-Noor Sepia hell lead. It is very important to catch the most likeness possible at this stage so you ‘ll just concentrate yourself on the colors and value in the next steps. Work slightly, no heavy strokes that would mark the paper.

With the flesh tone 2(~R.339.5+R.409.8) or (~Sen.71) Or (~QL.69) cover all the skin area and start the background around the face with a grey-green tone (~R.709.7). You’ll always work the background and the portrait at the same time, it is important for a constant evaluation of the color balance.

State the shadows and the transition halftones first with Light Shadow tone (~QL.122). Don’y worry with details here. Use a dark grey-blue (~R.727.3for the jacket. White area, here the collar, will be filled at the end to keep it clean.

Accentuate the shadows in the darkest parts of the face, and state the base for the beard with Medium Shadow tone (~R.408.3+R.538.7) . Mark also the hair root that will make the transition to black hair. You can darken the eyes at this step if you want.

Here, warm the central part of the face with Orange tone (~R.411.8). Don’t cover evenly, just let the basic tone come out here and there. This will avoid a stiff like painting.

The lower part of the face is alway cooler than the rest, especially on men’s portraits. A touch of Neutral1 (~R.538.7+R.709.7) on the beard and on the eyes’s shadow to cool it and on shadowed area of the neck. Here I have added a touch in the background as well.

I go on cooling on a larger area of the lower part of the face, up to the cheeks, suggesting the beard beneath the surface of the skin and slightly over the eyes and the temple’s hair with the Neutral tone2(~R.538.8+R.709.7). Using the same tone, mark the light shadows on the shirt, add some transitions in the background using a light brown (~R.409.8)

Using a Koh-I-Noor Sepia dark lead, key in the darks to define some details. You can start showing some hair at its root and on the beard and mustache.

Now state the evenly lightened areas of the picture, use Flesh tone 2 (~R.339.5+R.409.9)to state them. Notice how this bring some relief to the tip of the nose. Add some spots of blue-green (~R.640.8+R.709.8in the background to contrast with the overalls warm flesh tone.

Before going any further with the face, lets paint the hair. Use Brown tone (~R.409.3) for the base and add a touch of dark grey-blue (~R.727.3), same thing for the jacket.

Using black tone, darken slightly the shadows areas and the jacket, mark the hair in the beard and mustache and keep some light part as a base for up coming grey hair.

Since the previous step, the background need some stronger values. Here use a dark grey-green (~R.709.3) over and on the left shoulder to fade it with the background. Add some previous colors to the background.

Unlike Oil painting, each time you add a layer, you cover partially the one underneath and don’t mix with it, so at this point, we need to enhance the previous Orange tone and the new beard area.

With the Light tone (~R.409.9), state the highlights all over the face. Give some details to the ear, the forehead and lines here and there by adding a dark reddish tone with a Conté stick #2453. We must see the blood color through the thinest part of the ear.

Now, put the grey hair, use a 1 inch edge of a very light grey-green (~R.709.9), you can break your stick in 2 half circles to get a sharp edge. You must draw the hair in full strokes, don’t hesitate or stop in the middle of a reflection and draw again, this would ruin the effect. Avoid the use of the pastel tip, remember, use an edge. Add black on beard, mustache, eyes, eyebrows. Use the Conte Pierre Noire for the thinest details.

Draw on the grey hair on the beard and the mustache, here you can use a sharpened Carre Conte white 2b. Add also some pure white hair on temples. Darken the background on the right side with black and the jacket down to the bottom limit of the portrait.Before going to the next step, I modified the left eye a little bit, and darkened the eye-sockets.

Close-up of the previous step to see more details, we are almost done.The noze has to be better defined, the area between the eyebrows too.

Lets fix some values first…

State the shadows and the transition halftones first with Light Shadow tone(~QL.122). Don’y worry with details here. Use a dark grey-blue (~R.727.3for the jacket. White area, here the collar, will be filled at the end to keep it clean.

This is the final step after a lot of small touches around the eyes, the forehead, the bridge of the nose. The up lip was darkened. I removed some grey hair from the beard, added some blue highlights in the background and their reflection on the skin to fade the right face’s edge in it. This bring some depth to the artwork. I sprayed the portrait in several slight layers.

Just e-mail me if you want to know more about a specific step, or about my pastels..

Depending upon you requests, I will put some more lessons. If you are interested in video lessons, just let me know. There are on the way.

A last thing, I apologize for my average english.

Thank you.This

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