Bluebell Wood in Pastel

with Sue Williams



SAA Artists Soft Pastels

  • White
  • Lemon 8
  • Burnt Sienna 5
  • Cadmium Yellow Pale
  • Raw Umber 5
  • Permanent Magenta 8 and 5
  • Burnt Umber 5
  • Dioxazine Violet 8 and 5
  • French Ultramarine 8 and 5
  • Flesh Tint 7
  • Cerulean Blue 7
  • Raw Sienna

  • Turquoise Blue 8
  • Yellow Ochre 5
  • Sap Green 5
  • Permanent Green 5 and 3


  • Canson Mi- Teintes Touch, sand colour


  • Charcoal
  • Cotton buds or torchon
  • Kitchen roll or paper handkerchief

Indicate the basic structure and some dark areas using charcoal. Pastels will grip well over charcoal.

Raw Umber, Sap Green 5 and Violet 5 are useful for the first block in of the tree. Take the paper off of half of the pastel. I try to leave the colour information on the remaining wrapper. Break the pastel in half and use the pastel on its side for the initial laying down of colours. At this early stage, don't press too hard and keep the pastel feeling transparent. It is useful to have a thin under painting as a base to build on. I have used a warm sand coloured paper which is an opposite colour to the bluebells and may be useful in the sky.

The bluebells are mixes of blues and violets, and a few areas of turquoise were added. They are just an under painting for what is to follow. Using vertical marks helps to describe the direction of growth. The path is indicated with Permanent Green 3 and Sap Green 5. The dark growth is Permanent Green 5. You can add a little Violet into the green if you like. The sky, again, needs to be thinly applied at this stage as leaves will need to go on top later. At this stage you can use Turquoise Blue and graduate it into Flesh Tint near the horizon. We will return to the sky later.
If the pale colours get too thick, the dark colours will skid over the surface and not grip making it difficult to add twigs or leaves on top.

The bluebells were painted more thickly using the pastels on edge. You can layer one colour over another. It is easier if you have the dark colours underneath. Ultramarine 5 could have Magenta 8 or Dioxazine Violet 8 added on top. You can try lots of different marks as you add more colours, scribble into the tree to describe bark, dots and dashes using the broken edge of the pastel to show leaves and twigs. The distant trees are mainly Violet 5 and 8 and Sap and Permanent Green 3.


As the pastels build up you can press more firmly. You can blend and soften the pastels by using a a cotton bud or torchon, soft tissue or your clean finger. You may need to clean the pastels by wiping on a piece of kitchen roll. Blu tac can remove pastel from your fingers. The lighter colours are added more thickly and should cover the first sketch easily. Occasionally the pastel becomes too thick and a little needs to be removed before you can continue painting. A clean stiff oil painting brush is useful for removing excess pastel. The sunlit leaves were added using Sap Green and Permanent Green 5. You could also use Cadmium Yellow 5 which is a sunshine yellow. The field is Lemon


There are a few dashes of Burnt Sienna which help to make the green more lively by adding an opposite colour


More colour was added to the bluebells. Ultramarine 8 painted on top of Violet 5 gives a good Bluebell colour, but try to keep varying the colours and sizes of areas of colour. You can dot and dash and scribble into the Bluebells. Press hard or lightly.

The sky had more colour added using Turquoise, Flesh and White blended a little. I added a little Magenta 8 near the horizon and sunlit leaves using Sap Green and Permanent Green 5. The bluebells were completed at this stage. Once you feel the painting is finished it is safest framed. I store my pastels flat and I don't fix them as I feel it destroys the freshness of the colour and the beautiful surface of the pastels.

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