Watercolor and Pastel Artists at CHAW

Eileen Leahy shares her process for creating a portrait that is faithful to her subject

Editor’s note: In this post, Eileen describes her process of going from snapshot to her pastel portrait, Christine, which is currently part of the show “Summer Work” at the CHAW Gallery, 545 7th Street, SE, Washington, DC. 

Eileen Leahy: Christine


As my first step, I selected a photo that shows a good view of the face and a natural facial expression that conveys the subject’s personality. In this photo, my mother-in-law, Christine, is keenly engaged in the competitiveness of the card game, while also enjoying the company of her family.

Eileen 4ChristineCroppedEnlargedPhoto

I cropped the photo so the focus is on her face and enlarged it to a size that is easy to work from, while keeping the essential details clear.


Eileen Leahy

I made a black and white photocopy of her face and drew grid lines on it.

Eileen Leahy

I drew a grid, quite a bit larger, on drawing paper and used it as a guide to draw the portrait. Using a grid ensures that the portrait has the same proportions as the photo and that the features are where they should be. I then used this drawing to lightly trace the outline of the face and principal facial features onto pastel paper.

Eileen Leahy

Working in pastel is the fun part! This is the final pastel portrait, titled Christine. My style is to apply the pastels in small, short strokes. I paid careful attention to using the true colors I saw in the photograph to create the image of the face (rather than choosing what I thought the color should be); then lightly applied a background color using the side of the pastel stick, leaving some of the underlying complementary color of the paper showing through.

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





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This entry was posted on September 22, 2018 by in Artist process, Pastel, Portraiture and tagged .
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