Rembrandt Pastel Tutorial

Our Jack of all trades (pardon the pun!) Jack Grayson is not only a master of Copic Markers –he’s got a knack for using Rembrandt Pastels too! We asked him to walk through the process he takes when approaching a piece using Rembrandt pastels. For this piece his client had commissioned a portrait of her dog. Over to Jack!


This was the reference image Jack was provided with.


Step One: The first part of my process involves roughing in the shapes of the piece I'm working on.
In this stage, I'm focused entirely on defining the shapes both separately and as a whole to create a base that I can work off of when refining the overall image. When doing this I use a light tone so that it won't stand out or show through later in the piece.
When sketching, I try not to focus on the image as a whole until I've drawn every part of the image. Instead I focus entirely on the shape of what I'm specifically drawing, be it the angles of the lines on the ear or the curves on the eyes. This is the most important part of the process as it lays out the foundations of the entire piece. If you get your sketch right, then the whole piece has greater potential to fall into place around it.


Step Two: Before I start roughing in the colours I take the time to carefully select the palate I'm going to use.
When doing so, it's important to pay close attention to your reference image in order to acknowledge the actual colours that are present in it. Often we see the colours that we think are there as opposed to what they actually are, so it's very important to look at your reference objectively in order to select the most realistic tones you can. When looking at the image of the dog I realised that the black fur actually contained a lot of purple, as opposed to the greys I expected it to. I also recommend keeping a small piece of paper on hand so that you can text your colours to make sure they blend well and match you reference accurately.


Step Three: Next I begin roughing in the base layer of the entire piece. This part is focused on defining highlights, mid tones and shadows, using the colours selected in the previous step. When working in this stage I focus much more on defining where the deferent tones go rather than the details of the textures or the refinement of the image. It's important to pay close attention to shape when doing this in order to maintain the ground work you created in your sketch.
I do this over the entire image before I pay any attention to the fine details.



Layering: Sometimes it's necessary to layer and combine colours in order to create your desired colours. In this case, the pink of the tongue was a colour I needed to create.
The way I do this is as follows:
I lay down the base colour. This is the main colour that I'm aiming to base the final colour on, in this case, a bright pink. I then layer in the tones that I've used in the overall image in order to make the colour fit in with the palate used in the overall piece. I then blend these tones together using my finger to achieve my final colour.



Step Four: Finally, I move onto refining the whole piece to create the finished product.
Throughout this process I like to use a small mirror in order to flip the image so that I can see it from a different perspective. When you look at your piece in a different way it allows you to look at it with fresh eyes, which makes it a lot easier to see any potential misted you've make is terms of shapes or proportions and fix them as you go.

In this step, I use the sharp points and edges of my pastels to refine detail and texture. I pay close attention to the particular details in my reference image, replicating these as best I can. I use my fingers to blend together different colours and tones and press hard with my pastels to create certain details such as the reflections in the eyes. I also create the fur textures by pressing firmly and flicking the pastel in the direction of the fur.


Finishing Touches: Once all of the details are finished I use a white pastel to go around the edge of the entire image to clean up the background, before signing it to finish the piece.

You can follow Jack’s journey on his Instagram page.

Leave your comment