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Eric Watson Pastel Zoom Demo

Friday 18th March 2022

Eric Watson lives and works in Bromsgrove near Birmingham. This evening he was working from his ex-garage that he converted into his little office. His main interest is animal and wildlife art. He left work to be an artist in 1994 but found it was not economic so he returned to combining both work and his art until MG Rover’s fortunes meant he decided to become a full time artist and has been such for the last 16 years. He works mainly in pastels and watercolour pencils as well as graphite pencils and charcoal at times. For more information see: https://www.ericwatsonart.com or https://www.facebook.com/naturethroughart/

Eric always makes a study beforehand. He will start this evening with a sketch which he has made in the middle of a large sheet of Pastelmat paper. He advises artists to work on a larger than the image piece of paper to allow for the flexibility of adapting the painting to create a more pleasing image. In this case he thinks the image will be improved by extending it a little on the right.

Eric is working from a photograph reference. It is important to be careful about copyright and so he recommends Wildlife Reference Photos for Artists where a fee of around £1.80 provides 5 reference photos. https://wildlifereferencephotos.com which ensures there will be no copyright issues.

Eric is going to divide this demonstration into three stages. In the first he will work from the reference and start to develop his initial sketch. In the second stage he will show how he builds up the layers to create the fur and the depth of image. He will use another painting that has developed the image further so that he can demonstrate some of the final touches.

Before he starts Eric likes to get his colours ready. He also often makes a swatch card of these colours before putting them into a tray. This makes it very easy to pick up from wherever he leaves off at a later stage as he has all his colours ready to hand.

Eric is using Stabilo carbothello pastel pencils at this stage. He tends to go for the lights first and he likes to use white. He starts by building the strong light area under the eye. Pastel pencils can be easily built up. It is important to always go with the direction of the animal’s fur.

Eric likes to get the eyes into the painting early on. He puts the white in first and then he goes for the blues. He uses the pastel pencil as a blender.

Eyes have amazing colours in them. He then uses a black Stabilo pencil for the dark while blending the black into the blue. He maintains the highlights as these give the eye its shape.

Eric changed to a later stage in the process as can be seen above. The image on the right is the one he will start to work up. Clearly layers have been constantly added. On the nose he has smudge in some black pastel which will act as an under layer over which he will work some of the brown hair on the nose.

Eric likes to create his own tortillon or blending stump with kitchen roll which he folds carefully to create a good sharp point. Eric was asked how he deals with mistakes. He said mistakes were part of the process but they can be easily corrected, either with a putty rubber or by going over an area with a lighter or darker colour, constantly tweaking until it looks as you want it to.

It can be an idea to use a pencil rather than a pastel as the black pencil will not smudge the lighter colours but once a black pencil has been used it is impossible to put pastel over the polychrome pencil as the pastel just slides off.

Eric decided at the start that he wanted to develop the right side of the picture to give the animal space and to create some light and shade in the background. He hates to see a background that is just one colour so he uses a light green and dark green close to the animals face and even a light yellow to create a sense of light in the background. Once again he blends the colours using his kitchen paper torchillon.

Always remember which way the fur is sitting. Make sure the lines follow the same direction. Sometimes it is easier to turn the image in order to keep the lines working as fur. Eric uses lots of little flicking lines. It is possible to work from light to dark and dark to light. The best advice is not to be frightened. It can be easily changed. Eric uses a putty rubber but he also has a battery operated eraser although this can damage the paper, especially if pastel paper. Pastelmat is stronger but never get it wet so be extremely careful if using fixative.

It is a good idea to be sure to protect your pastel picture by resting your hand on a piece of paper to be sure not to smudge or damage the underlying pastels. Here Eric has returned to the eye to re-enforce the colour and the highlights.

It really is all about building up the layers. Here Eric is using Caran d’Ache Supercolor Watercolor white pencil. Some of the hairs on the chin appear to be going in different directions but Eric works at the main body of the hair first and then finally puts in one or two random ones.

Eric also uses the white watercolour pencil to draw in the whiskers. The whiskers come from the dark areas around the nose. The pure white brings out the whiskers really well. Be sure never to go back to redo one of these hairs as it will not work. Just have confidence and draw each whisker in one stroke.

At times Eric even wets the water colour pencil for the eyes, literally using the pencil as a watercolour but not by dipping it in water, instead just dampening it slightly with his tongue. However, once watercolour or pencil has been used it is impossible to go back over this area with pastel.

The final stage is all about adding little elements such as the texture to the nose. Eric wiggled and waggled the pencil to produce a different effect and even used a colour pencil to give more texture to the darker areas.

Once again Eric stressed that he does not recommend using fixative, especially at the very end as it tends to just dull the colours and in fact it seems to be unnecessary when working on Pastel matte paper https://www.pastelmat.com

These are the materials that Eric used:

Eric was asked how long it might take him to complete a painting like this and he said that if he were to work from 9 am – 4 pm with a few breaks it would probably take him about three days to complete it. Everyone was so enthralled by this demonstration that the time ran away. As he bid everyone a good night Eric said that if there were any questions he would be happy to answer these via his email: wterc@aol.com​

The finished painting

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