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Demonstrations by Jane Disney

Visit her at www.dapplegreyart.co.uk

2008 Horses Back to History 2014 Kitten 2017 Rabbit


Rabbit in pastel pencil: 24 March 2017
"So Near: So Far" ___________________Write-up by Carole Head
Jane Disney has been drawing since she was very young and her preferred medium is pastels. Her favourite subject matter is animals and this evening she has chosen to do a rabbit, appropriately just in time for Easter.

She had already prepared the line drawing to work from at home. She used Trace Down to transfer her sketch to the black pastel paper. To make it more visible she then drew around the traced down outline with white coloured pencil.

There was no reference material for the drawing as it came from Jane's imagination and experience of drawing animals.
Her portraits are always taken from photographs and commissions of animals are also faithful copies of photographs, although she likes to meet the animal as well if that is possible, but her animal pictures usually come from her imagination. The most popular one of these was of two hares looking at the moon. She has sold that and 42 prints of it.

Jane Disney admits she has an unusual way of working by starting at the top left of the picture and working down to the bottom right hand corner. She is right handed and she has found that by working this way the pastel does not get rubbed and spoilt as she works.
She likes to work with Carbothello pastels which she buys on the internet as they are not available in Hobbycraft and Camberley no longer has an art shop. An audience member said that they are available in Pullingers of Farnham. Jane uses a sharpener to sharpen them and buys these in bulk. There are probably only 12 good sharpenings in the life of a sharpener.

For this little rabbit she is going to work in muted colours using a natural grey to start and then building up the highlights and lowlights, blending the pastel shades together as she works. She sometimes uses cotton tips to blend and soften areas but Carbothello are very silky and blendable.
Having started with the bony eye sockets she worked on the nose adding a tease of pale pink.

Eyes are an obsession with Jane. They have to be exactly right. Once the eyes were as she wanted she carried on with the body fur. Once again she used a little flesh pink to the inner ear to add warmth and to suggest the skin tone through the fur as rabbit's ears are fairly thin and translucent.

Jane attends about 14 events a year all over the South East and in the Isle of Wight. She cuts her own mounts and she explained that it is important to mount or even double mount pastel pictures as the recess prevents the build up of static between the pastel and the glass which over time can remove the pastel from the paper.
It is important to fix pastels too and Jane uses fixative even though this does turn colours fractionally darker. Even hairspray will work but it is not recommended. Always hold the fixative at an angle of about 45 degrees to the paper to get an even distribution. Jane scans her work so that she can sell prints as she is aware that people do not always have the money to buy an original but they do want to buy the picture. She also has her own cards made up and has used Moo.com.

Tonight's picture is destined for her stall and it is going to be called "So Near So Far". There will be a beautiful red strawberry on the top left of the picture when it is finished which he little rabbit just cannot reach. Jane will send us a photograph of the finished article in due course.

At the end of the evening Jane encouraged people to take a closer look at her materials and her work. She pointed out that the Daler Rowney Pastel Paper can be more textured than she might want for a smooth coated animal like a horse so she uses the other side of the paper which is less textured.

This is what we had by the end of the demo.
Everyone enjoyed and appreciated all the tips and explanations Jane gave
and she said she was delighted with the amount of interaction she was getting from the audience.

Finally, here is Jane's own photo of the finished painting.
"So near. So far!"
2008 Horses Back to History 2014 Kitten 2017 Rabbit


Kitten in pastel pencil: 17/10/2014
Jane had brought some of her pastels of animals and portaits but this time she had a stock "cute tabby kitten" photo as her subject. She normally works from photos, even ones supplied by people who commission work from her.

She had done a quite detailed white-pencil sketch on a 14" x 14" square of black pastel paper. Black is a quite dramatic background for pastels and you need the texture of pastel paper for pastel to grip.

There can sometimes be enough texture on cartridge paper if you want a softer-focus painting but proper pastel paper, which has rougher and smoother sides, is preferred.
Carbothello pastel pencils are her favourite (but the only make she is really not too happy with for her type of painting is Derwent).

She hadn't come across dedicated pastel pencil sharpeners but uses large numbers of ordinary ones (which she liked to repace after only about 15 uses!).

Unlike many artists, who work over the whole canvas as they build a painting up, Jane almost finishes each part before going on to the next. Being right-handed, she works from top-left to bottom-right, normally with the board flat on the table.
So she began to fill in the kitten's right ear, gently making short strokes in the direction of the fur. Covering it with a flesh tone, she followed her normal light-to-dark sequence, gradually introducing shading with 3 or 4 different greys.

Because she doesn't grind the pastel heaviy into the paper she can put on many layers and blend with the pencils themselves, not a finger.

For the very edge of the ear she used pure white, blending this into the rest of the ear with a pale pink and more of the greys.
The forehead was also started with flesh tone but gingery colours were added : short strokes of various mid-browns in the direction of the stripes.

Jane's strokes really are tiny: the pencil just touches the paper for a few mm, over and over again. Darker browns were used in the shadows and everything continually blended (with pencil not finger) "so the stripes don't look painted on".

When the forehead was finished, the second ear was done like the first. If you compared the photo with the painting you would see artistic licence made it more three-dimensional.
Despite working from left to right, some traces of pastel appeared in the background but these were removed with putty rubber (or you might try a plastic eraser).

Next the right cheek: just like the forehead but with more of the darker browns for shadow: as many as 8 or 10 layers of lightly-applied and lightly-blended pinks and browns.

Next: the eyes. Very time-consuming. Size exaggerated for glamour! Blue-grey surround. Gradually working down. Much darker at the top. Vital reflections with a white pencil. Fiddle. Fiddle.

End of demo
Jane then "stuck on" a caricature fluffy white moustache but immediately started softening its edges and carefully drawing details of the nose (pale pink), mouth and chin.

At this point she ran out of time. The bottom right of the drawing was still blank and there was no sign of the final touches that would normally complete such a painting (highlights and fixative - sprayed lightly at 45º to the paper).

She would expect to trim a picture like this down to about 8" x 10" before mounting and framing.

We enjoyed a most interesting insight into working with pastel pencils. Thanks very much, Jane.
Jane very kindly sent us a photo of the painting when she had finished it at home.
The extra time has been really worthwhile.


2008 Horses Back to History 2014 Kitten 2017 Rabbit
Horses in pastel pencil: 9 May 2008
Examples of finished paitings
Examples of finished paintings
Jane Disney is enamoured of the musculature and personality of horses of all types, but especially arabs. Visit her website, www.dapplegreyart.co.uk

The photo she was working from here was of an american "halfer" (half-miler). They are used in cattle handling because of their manoeuverability and sprinting capability.

This side-on pose is called a "Confirmation" view, conventionally popular because it shows all the salient features of the animal. Some other views are sketched at the bottom of this write-up
Source photo
Basic shapes Jane was working on the less-textured side of a sheet of Ingres pastel paper.

She works mostly from photographs but does refer to sketches she has made from life.

She would normally take 5 or 6 hours for a painting like this. So, to save time, she had already prepared a stylised 'basic shapes' definition of the composition in HB pencil. Over this she started by outlining, still in pencil, the 'final' shape of the head.

I have added the dimensions, in head-lengths, and the square which typically encloses the body and legs.
Once the whole animal had been drawn in pencil she started with the pastel pencils.

Jane's favourite brand is CarbOthello (the Conté ones are rather gritty for her way of working).

These pencils are fragile: once broken the whole length of the "lead" seems to be ruined. "Carry spares".
Head and neck She has a palette of only six colours for horses: a black; a light grey and four browns, from a tan to a sort of burnt umber (the colours are numbered, not named). Being right-handed she works strictly from left to right, finishing each section before moving on to the next. Otherwise there's a risk of smudging.

She normally starts with the mid-brown, gradually introducing the other colours and blending them in to eliminate obvious lines. Blending is done only with one of the colours (very rarely with fingers or any other blending tool) and generally from light to dark.
Note how the transition between the head and the neck was left quite late. There was a similar clear white gap between the neck and the shoulder before that was blended out.

The process is slow and meticulous, individual pencils shuttling rapidly in and out of the bunch of six in her hand.

Attention must be given to the glossiness of the coat because it contributes to the shape of the surface, perhaps as much as the shadows do. But beware, gloss is a summer feature: a horse's coat is much more felt-like in winter.

The next steps will be to complete the front legs (black, since it is a Bay) and then to go into the barrel (chest), being sure to give it the proper round barrel shape.

Jane brought the completed painting to the next week's Workshop (see below).
End of demo
Finished painting
Effects of movement on legs
effects of movement on legs

and some other poses
Other poses
2008 Horses Back to History 2014 Kitten 2017 Rabbit


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