Recently, my partners' 11 year old grand-daughter, Abigail, visited and wanted to paint with me again. So I set her up with an A4 sheet of “NOT” SAA practise watercolour paper and I prepared a sheet of “Arches” 140lb “hot pressed” paper. The choice of paper surface can aid this method, e.g. rough paper suits a snow scene.

We had a lesson where she followed me, step by step, using water with soft pastels. Basically soft pastels are similar to watercolour in that they are slightly coarser pigment bound with gum Arabic, so are water soluble. We drew out the composition, lightly, using a grey pastel and then immediately painted base coats by laying dry pastel onto the paper. Then used large oval mops and water to blend the colours on and in. By using the tip of the brush and varying thicknesses of pastel it is possible to make textures and hint at detail, also.

Fun and further surfaces may be made by literally “finger painting” whilst the pastel surface is wet, it is plastic just like acrylic paint! You will see what fun, and a mess, she gets into!?

Messy hands!

Once dry this first coat becomes fixed an d will take succeeding coats of pastel surprisingly well. You may use water with the dry pastel work at any later time, even to “drag out” fine details such as branches or grass with a smaller brush. There are many combinations of using water with pastels and this method, although not as transparent, maybe used in conjunction with watercolour, over acrylic inks and over black Indian ink or Black Chinagraph pencil for snow scenes.

Abigale 3
This is Abigail's completed image and I'm sure we can all agree she's done a wonderful job.

The softer the pastel, which usually means better quality, the better this method works. Cheap and hard pastels tend to cut into wet paper. On the other hand some very vibrant pastel colours seem to only come in cheaper brands, so it may be better to save those until the paper is, finally, dry. The film of this lesson, and more, may be seen via my website.


Abigail has since been back to do yet more art work using acrylics with rollers, sea sponges, fingers and brushes! We feel it's wonderful she has such an inspiring relative to give her so much creative encouragement.

abigail 3