Timothy Holmes demonstrates a pastel portrait and shows how he makes his own 'sanded' card.

Meet the artist

I have been painting with oil paints since my school days. Mainly landscapes and portraits. I only really started using pastels more recently. I know some people don’t like to use them because they can get a bit messy, but the effects can be interesting and on the whole I find them quicker to do than my oil paintings.

I am a bit of a messy painter but I usually have a plan and I tend to do my own thing more than follow a rule book. But for me making art is simply great therapy.

I started making pastel paintings and sketches of landscapes and seascapes on card and pastel papers, but soon wanted to try portraits and I found that quite challenging.

How to make your own pastel paper

You will need:
  • Coloured card
  • Golden Pastel Ground
  • Water
  • Brush
Preparing your card:
  • Make sure your coloured card is flat and thick enough (270 gsm) to apply a pastel ground.
  • Mix one part Golden pastel Ground to about three parts water then apply with a brush.
  • The card will bend when damp but will flatten out as it dries.
  • Apply one or two coats depending on how much ’tooth” you require.
  • When the ground is completely dry lightly brush off any excess dust from the card.
Precautions when using Pastel Ground:
  • Make sure you use disposable gloves when mixing and applying the ground
  • Never breathe it in or get it or get it on your skin.
  • Ventilate the room really well.
  • Store in a safe place out of the way.

I wear a mask when applying inside, though I usually make a batch of ‘sanded’ cards in summer when I can do it out on the patio where they can also dry quickly.

Portrait painting demonstration

Choice of paper

The choice of coloured paper for this portrait was deliberate as I felt using a cooler colour would help deepen the darker shades and the overall cool low light feel.

These decisions don't always go to plan but I like happy accidents in art so it's worth taking risks.

I don’t really like blending the colours too much as I find it can make them a bit flat and lifeless, so this way I have the chance to let the colour of card come through a little in places and complement the shades around it.