Watercolor and Pastel Artists at CHAW

Fran Tomlinson describes process she used in complex pastel

Editor’s note: In this post, Fran describes how she went about creating her pastel of Joy playing the piano. Her pastel is currently part of the show “Summer Work” at the CHAW Gallery, 545 7th Street, SE, Washington, DC. 

Fran Tomlinson: Joy at the Piano

My spouse, Joy, is an accomplished pianist and often plays the Knabe baby grand in our home. After I got the idea of doing a “double portrait” that included both Joy and the piano, I spent a lot of time deciding on the composition—with or without metronome? with or without music on the stand? piano open or closed?

Ultimately I was intrigued by the idea of using the piano lid to frame Joy and showing the beautiful innards of the instrument.


I put a grid on the photograph I used, then made the initial drawing using the same grid.


I began putting in the color at top left so my hand wouldn’t smear the work.


In the photo, Joy actually wore a black sweater, but it pretty much looked like a black blob, so I changed it to blue to add vibrancy and interest. Adding the folds and shadows was quite a challenge.


In depicting the brass hardware I overlaid bright yellow with light olive green to achieve the color I wanted.


This is the final version, titled Joy at the Piano. Adding the strings was quite a challenge. I used finely sharpened pastel pencils. There are about 230 total strings. The lower-pitch strings are much thicker than the higher ones. Rather than try to draw each and every string, I tried to put in just enough detail to make it appear that all were there.

Fran’s profile is available here: Fran Tomlinson
To see some more of her work, click here: Fran Tomlinson’s Gallery









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This entry was posted on September 18, 2018 by in Pastel, Portraiture and tagged , .
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