Leonardo Pastel Portraits

Leonardo’s da Vinci’s portraits are beautiful.

Leonardo Pastel Portraits

Something about his unfinished sketches draws the viewer’s eye to the glorious shading and luminescence of these faces.

We used an extract picture from “The Virgin of the Rock” (because it was on the font cover of my Leonardo art appreciation book – just using what we have 😉 )


I made a simple outline drawing ~

Leonardo portrait 001

Free download ~ Leonardo da Vinci portrait

We all started our own “incomplete version” of a Leonardo portrait.

  1. Cover the entire page with orange, yellows and browns and ‘fist it in’ or blend it well.
  2. Do all the hair with dark browns and even black areas and cover the areas around her face with dark browns and blacks.
  3. Add shadows to the face – under the chin, the neck folds, the  lower cheek, the creases in the eyes, the bags under the eyes, the nose and lips – and blend lightly.
  4. Then add skin color or light beige or cream for highlights and blend slightly.
  5. Now it is time for details – dark, dark brown or black on the upper eyelid and the pupil of the eyes and the nostril.
  6. Add shading to the eyelids, the nose and the lips.
  7. Emphasize what is really dark and those areas that are light.
  8. Add light yellow swirls to the hair.
  9. Maybe add some white to her collar.
    Leonardo Pastel Portraits1

There were moments of frustration … add in “wanting to give up” … when fuzzy pictures were difficult to ‘pull out’.  We also all struggled  for a moment when the picture was ‘almost done’ and it became fuzzy again and we ‘lost it’.  (It is best not to “over-work” this type of   pastel art.)

But pastels are wonderfully forgiving and you can just layer on top of the colors or textures you need to change.Leonardo Pastel Portraits2

It is phenomenally difficult to capture the pristine beauty and luminescence of the original … but we all felt quite happy about our efforts.

A spritz of fixative and our portraits were done.


6 thoughts on “Leonardo Pastel Portraits

  1. I am starting a volunteer Healing Arts group that will minister in local hospitals. I am an artist and will be enlisting volunteers that may or may not be artists. The real artists are going to be the patients themselves. I would love to use some of your ideas to bring the each facility. This is the best site I have been on so far that seems to be on the same page as my vision! I think teaching art at a children’s level will be perfect for introducing anyone to the arts.


  2. What kind of paper did you use for the pastel art project above? & what kind of pastels? I had tried this with my daughter and had hard time applying layers of colors while blending in between. The pastels we had was a cheaper brand and not art quality so I wondered if that made a difference.

    Thanks and blessings to you for all your shared ideas. They are so helpful. 🙂


    • @Melanie Parker, we do use ‘proper’ pastel paper for some pastel projects, but we used ‘normal’ ordinary print paper for this art lesson and it worked just as well. Pastel paper has a lovely rough texture which ‘holds’ the pastel strokes and the art work does have a richer quality. Blessings as you try these art ideas!


  3. Pingback: Leonardo Baby Sketches | Practical Pages

  4. This is beautiful! It’s above the level of my children’s abilities, but we’ve worked with pastels before. I know they will turn out nothing like yours, but my son absolutely loves the Mona Lisa, and trying to copy something from Da Vinci will be fun for him. Thank you for providing the outline drawing!


    • @Especially Made, you’re right – this art activity is suitable for middle school and older students. Young kids can do the first phase and cover the page in orange, yellow & browns and blend it in and it will look like Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbooks! (Just so readers know, I loved her work, but my youngest is 11 years old and she found this project frustrating.)


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