Focusing on Flowers


60 min

What you need:

Soft Pastel Crayons
Flowers are timeless and attractive subjects, and they offer a variety of shapes, colors, and textures to capture on paper. And rendering a floral bouquet gives you the chance to combine various types of flowers and foliage. For this painting, flowers with complementary colors were choosen: purple lilacs and yellow roses.

Step 1

First create a careful line drawing of the basic shapes with a light gray pastel. Concentrate on the largest flower shapes and think of the daisies as concave disks, facing some toward the light and placing others in shadow.

Step 2

Use a light magenta pastel for the middle tones of the lilacs and a red-violet violet hard pastel for the darks. Then block in the roses with a yellow ochre pastel, using medium pressure. Use earth green for the eucalyptus leaves in the light and Hooker's green for those in shadow. Place the shadows on the daisies with light gray, but leave the white of the paper showing for the light areas. The centers of the daisies are the same yellow ochre used for the roses.

Step 3

Next I block in the background with dark blue, burnt umber, dark grey and Hooker's green. Then rough in the foreground with slight magenta. Use neutral earth green inside the vase and Hooker's green for the stems in the vase. Let some of the paper show through around the edge of the vase where the glass is the thickest, letting the white paper act as the highlight.

Step 4

Next use deep cobalt green to draw the contours around the leaf shapes. Create some texture in the lilacs by using the square end of a blue-violet pastel to render the petals. Then add a layer of light blue in the same manner. Create shadows in the roses with light green and add the edge of the table with grey. Then create some stems throughout the arrangement with palm green, adding more in the vase with rust.

Step 5

Blend in some dark brown on the right side of the vase to soften it and add some black to the background. Continue to refine the shapes of the leaves, and add some more leaves with light blue and earth green. Then focus on the daisies. Capture each flower without using too much detail, so keep your strokes loose. Add cinnamon to the shadowed sides of the daisies, and then add a little white to the light sides.

Step 6

Notice that each flower has a light side, a shadowed side, a core shadow, and reflected light. In some instances this is obvious, but in others it’s more obscure. To define the roses, use yellow ochre to cut into the shapes, and use light gray-green to depict the reflected light on them. Then start to give the lilacs more texture, using the same colors as before but making a more concerted effort to  shape them by pressing harder and using a variety of strokes.

Step 7

Next add ochre to the inside of the roses and continue to define the leaves and flower shapes. Add more texture to the lilacs, making the lilac a little more solid by creating a  dramatic contrast between the light and shadow.

Step 8

In this final stage add some wispy branches on the eucalyptus with a sharpened sanguine pastel. Add cinnamon and grey to the vase, blending it smoothly with your finger. Take a step back and assess your work. Once you're satisfied, sign your name and the painting is finished!

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Excerpt from "Pastel Step by Step", published by Walter Foster Publishing, a division of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. All rights reserved. Walter Foster is a registered trademark. Artwork © Marla Baggetta. Visit