Pissarro with chalk pastels

The latest Impressionist Artist  we studied is


Camille Pissarro, Self-portrait, 1873

Image via Wikipedia


Camille Pissarro.

We all loved his painting of this pastoral landscape,

with two intimate peasant girls, large in the foreground,

the soft grass,

the cows gently grazing far off,

the trees in a row disappearing into the distance,

the stream,

and the farm-house seen at the top;

the famous picture of ~

Peasants guarding their cows

For this lesson we used soft chalk pastels.

This was our first attempt with a new medium and so we used a part the large page to experiment ~

colouring with light, sideways stokes,

pressing hard for dark, intense colour,

mixing and blending 2 or more colours over each other,

blending with finger, tissue and ear buds,

trying to make fine details.

We realized that these pastels are powdery

and dusty

and smudgy!

Details are quickly lost.

You can work layers over layers

until you get the colour and details required.

We looked at some pastel techniques in our Usborne ART Ideas Book of Things to Draw.

Here’s how we did our pictures:

  • We drew a pencil border.
  • Then, using the light green and holding the pastel flat on the side, we covered the page.
  • The girls were afraid of green on the faces, so they rubbed out the green with a soft rubber.  (This was not necessary.  The layer of green is so light that the flesh colour will easily cover it.)

Now we took a light beige and outlined the girls, cows, tree trunks and other features.

I suggested that we work from the top of the page down and leave the peasant girls till last to prevent smudging on our pictures.

We first did the grass and trees with all the different colours; light green, dark green, yellow, browns and even some black.

Then we drew the cows, the river, and the farm-house.  The best method seemed is to colour the area with the light or medium colour, then use brown/ black for shadow and colour over all these with the light colour.  The pastels blend into each other easily.

We coloured the peasant girls’ clothes.  Here Miss.K used an ear bud to blend her shadows in the scarf.

The peasant girls’ clothes were easy, but we all made at least 2 or 3 attempts at the faces.  Those facial details were hard to keep clean and crisp!  When things got messy and smudgy, we rubbed the pastels out, and simply started the process again.  The pastel has no point, so fine detail is difficult.

Finally, we added more intense colour, depth and details to the grass and trees.

Once we finished, we  ‘fixed’ the pastels with a generous, fine spray of  hairspray.  The hairspray darkens the pastel initially, but dries quickly and is invisible.  Hairspray holds the powder on the page and makes it fairly smudge-proof.  (You can use special art fixative, but this is cheaper and works well if the spray is fine and even.)

We were all delighted with our pictures!

Download Famous Impressionist Artists and Famous Artist lapbooks, biography pages and Art Era Timeline for your art appreciation lessons.


9 thoughts on “Pissarro with chalk pastels

  1. Wow those pictures are lovely! You are all quite the artists! My daughter and I were inspired by your art appreciation studies to begin our own studies this year. And we just love it! Thanks you!


  2. oh. I’m such a scaredy-cat when it comes to messy art mediums! it used to be that I didn’t want a whole bunch of mess to clean up, but now, it’s that I’m afraid it would be too messy to turn out how I want.


    I’m going to try pastels…

    thanks for the visual 🙂

    amy in peru


    • So true – me too! But although this was smudgy, the kids figured out to work with a little rag under their hands to prevent smudges, and a soapy wipe with a rinse, and our plastic table cloth was clean – quick and easy! And the results were amazing! Go for it Amy!


  3. Where can I purchase pastels? Is there a website you recommend for art supplies? I live in a rural area and I would have to drive 1 hr. 20 min. to an art shop. Any suggestions? I also would love to get a good quality set of colored pencils. Do you recommend a certain brand? My oldest is 8 yrs. old, so it doesn’t need to be professional quality, but functional.


  4. Such lovely work! Well done to you all. 🙂

    My daughter took some art lessons with chalk pastels. I was in awe with her first piece of work, especially as the colours blend so beautifully together.


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