A pastel woodland scene



• Abrasive paper P400
• Unison pastels in colours listed
• Charcoal pencil for initial drawing
• Pastel pencil for detail: dark purple grey
• Colour Shaper flat chisel size 6 firm



Blending. Using finger tips to blend colours together to merge colours and soften edges.

Using long edge of pastel for trunks and branches. When a pastel stick has been used to block in a large area it wears a flat edge on one side. The narrow ridge at the edge of this flat area makes narrow, broken lines for creating trunks and branches. These marks are more pleasing than drawing heavy, uniform lines with the point of a pastel.

Using a Colour Shaper to blend colours and tones to create the shape of the tree trunk. A Colour Shaper can be used to blend areas that are too intricate for the fingers.

Drawing detail with pastel pencils A pastel pencil sharpened to a fine point with a craft knife can be used to create fine branches.

Scraping pastel from the stick with a palette knife onto the horizontal painting and then pressing the flakes of pastel into the surface, to create 'random splatter'.



Approximately 90 minutes

This painting of the bluebell woods near my home has just a little detail in the foreground and is kept simple in order to emphasise the colour. Many trees have been left out so that the woods do not look too cluttered.

How to paint a bluebell woods


Figure 1

Step 1 On a sheet of abrasive paper, I sketch in a rough outline of the trees with a sharp charcoal pencil. As all this drawing will be absorbed into the pastel I am not concerned about mistakes, but merely creating a few guidelines. In the foreground I indicate a path as a lead-in to the painting.


Bluebell woods

Figure 2

Step 1 With A7, A33, A51 and grey 9 I block in the sky and distance. Without trying to avoid the charcoal lines, I establish a simple background and begin to hint at distant tree trunks using the long edge of the A51 pastel. To achieve a broken rather than solid line, I gently press the corner of a 2" long pastel stick (which has been worn on one side to create a ridge) into the surface. When covering a large area with the side of a stick of pastel you will find these ridges on the pastel stick are created naturally.

Step 2 Some distant sweeps of muted blue violet 3 are blended and softened to hint at the distant bluebells.


Paint wood with bluebells

Figure 3

Step 1 Slightly closer and larger trees are indicated using the same colour and technique as Figure 2, but with a bit more pressure on the pastel.

Step 2 More sweeps of bluebells using blue violet 3 and areas of shade using blue violet 16 are added, keeping the edges ragged to indicate the blooms. A hint of a pathway leading into the wood is added, with green 14, green 17 and A20 (a warm colour) plus A45 and A46 for the shadows.


Figure 4

Step 1 The two closer trees are worked in. The left-hand tree is kept simple and slightly smaller so that it does not compete with the right-hand tree, which is the focal point. On both of these trees I indicate the shadow with A30 on one side of the trunk, and the light with green 17 and A10 on the other, blending the two tones together with a chisel-ended Colour Shaper, size 6, stroking the pastel around the trunk to indicate the cylindrical nature of the tree.Bluebell woods by Jenny Keal

Step 2 I then add a few small branches with the very sharp dark purple pastel pencil, leaving a slightly broken line rather than a clumsy, heavy one. One or two highlights of A10 are added to the trunk of the main tree to give the effect of dappled sunlight. The foliage is blocked in with green 14, A45 for the shadowed leaves and green 17 and A10 for the sunlit leaves. Dabs of pastel indicate stray leaves. The foreground bluebells are worked in using blue violet 16, blue violet 3, plus A30 and A45 for the shadows in the foreground.

Step 3 Finally the painting is laid flat on a table and flakes of pastel blue violet 3, A33 and A28 (white) are carefully scraped from a pastel stick with a palette knife to indicate individual bluebells caught in the dappled sunlight. This method allows the 'splatter' to be random rather than contrived and is usually more pleasing. If the flakes do not fall in the correct place, just tap the board vertically onto a table to dislodge them and start again. Using the flat of the palette knife I gently press these flakes into the surface so that they do not just fall off when the painting is upright again.


This extract is from an article in the July 2005 issue of Leisure Painter