The Guild monthly meeting for May was an open meeting featuring a pastel demonstration by visiting artist Steve Hall. Steve began by telling the group that he paints in watercolour, pastel and acrylics. He began some 26 to 27 years ago with watercolour and then moved into pastel and acrylic some 2 to 3 years ago when approached by the Artist magazine to paint the same picture in three different mediums.

The evening’s demo would be in pastel using a landscape painting by artists Graham Webber as inspiration. Steve explained that his support was Claire Fontaine Pastelmat which is a unique surface for pastels and coloured pencils and offers exceptional control for rich painterly effects. The card is acid-free, lightfast and age resistant and combines velvet and pumice, the resulting finish means fixatives are not required. Steve’s chosen colour was a deep maroon.

Steve described his method jokingly as that of a ‘bricklayer’ layering colour from dark to light as he paints his way into a picture.

Steve began by sketching the scene loosely with a white pencil to map out the basic shapes of the composition but not the detail. He stressed the importance of standing back to assess after this stage and make any changes before moving to colour.

As mentioned Steve works from dark to light when using pastel, unlike work executed in watercolour, and accordingly he began by laying in dark tones with charcoal. He gradually built the painting up moving to ever lighter tones and introducing more and more detail.

He commented on the importance of working all over the painting all the time and not just concentrating on finishing a small area at a time. Look for balance and harmony across the work, see how each colour you have in hand occurs in different places and drop it in.

He said that pastel painting was a bit like sculpture as you carve the picture out and it gradually comes together.

After a break for refreshments Steve demonstrated how different parts of a pastel can be used to make different and interesting marks. He remarked how important shadows are to show the contours of the land. He also showed the group how easy it was to take a brush and simply ‘brush away’ something you were not happy with.

As the demonstration moved towards a conclusion Steve noted that there comes a point when one stops looking at the reference and instead responds to the work itself to bring it to a satisfactory completion.

Everyone was impressed by Steve’s lively and exuberant style.

Steve’s work from his latest exhibition at the Bradford Gallery can be viewed online

or on his website


Following on from Steve Hall’s demonstration we will be holding a members only pastel evening. Come along and try some pastel work.