Pastel Art Appreciation of John Singer Sargent

Chalk pastel art is very popular in our home!

My children begged me for another chalk pastel lesson for our weekly art appreciation …


After viewing several of John Singer Sargent’s paintings, we voted and then, because we couldn’t settle on one, we chose to do 2 paintings ~

Miss.T18 and Miss.K14 focused on “Rosina” 


while Miss.L11 and I selected A Gust of Wind

The Gust of Wind

Miss.K used her new birthday gift; her nifty aluminium, collapsible easel to prop up the printouts.

(My hubby and I agreed to buy our 14-year-old some quality birthday gifts to encourage her natural creativity!  Along with the easel which comes in a lovely carry bag,  she  received some canvasses, acrylic paints and a lovely set of drawing pencils.

I purchased some very basic leather tools for her ~ a bag of mixed leather pieces, some needles, waxed thread, special leather pen and eraser, eyelets and studs and an assortment of brads and buckles.)

But, back to Sargent’s art appreciation lessons …

Here are the “Rosina” chalk pastel paintings ~

Art John Singer Sargent3

Art John Singer Sargent2

And here are our “A Gust of Wind” chalk pastel paintings.

Art John Singer Sargent1

This week, my youngest did not once worry or fret about her art work.

Art John Singer Sargent

Here are free downloads ~

The reason my older daughters love chalk pastels is that they can cover ‘mistakes’ with extra layers.  They even use an eraser and rub out small sections!  Because it has a ‘loose’ feel, they do not feel that they have to get the details perfect, but I am stunned by the clarity and detail they achieve.

Chalk pastels are a simple medium which produce  gorgeous effects.  I love the color combinations, the smudged effect when you rub an area, the quick way you can cover a whole page with the side of the chalk .

We use all three types ~ the basic chalk pieces, really good quality wrapped chalk pieces and my extra-special set of chalk pencils.  We have discovered that one cannot really use the chalk pencils over other chalked areas, so now we save the area where we want to use the pencils for the last phase, when we ‘pull out’ the details.

We each use a section of toilet paper to keep our hands fairly clean, and we quickly wipe the dust off  the plastic tablecloth with a damp cloth.

I really encourage you to try chalk pastels for some of the less detailed, precise art works you and your children may study!


Albert Bierstadt landscapes in Chalk Pastels

This month’s famous artist in our homeschool is Albert Bierstadt.

I have always loved the misty luminance of his landscapes.

My older daughters both wanted to do art with Miss.L11.  After reading a brief biography, we looked at some examples of his works and sat chatting about his paintings.  Each of us connected with a  different painting, so rather than focus on just one piece for the day, I let each choose a painting.

Using our chalk pastels, we covered the backgrounds, filled in dark area and then worked to add focus and detail.  All the while our Famous Composer ~ Chopin’s music quietly filled the room.

My youngest two chose The Golden Gate.

Miss.K14 said that it reminded her of a scene from The Dawn Treader by CS Lewis.

Art Albert Bierstadt2

My youngest preferred to paint her picture. Art Albert Bierstadt3

She is in a “realism” stage and becomes discouraged when her art doesn’t ‘look right’.  She walked away when her smudgy painting was done.  I gently encouraged her to try some chalk pencil details once her painting was dry.  Amazingly, she found that she could pull out the details, smudge white chalk pencil to create the glow the Bierstadt masters in his work, and she and I were very happy with her painting when it was done.

Miss.T18 and I chose The Giant Redwoods Trees of California.  She and I loved the faded mystical quality of the distant trees.

While you can’t see the difference, Miss.T18’s picture is a ‘small’ A4 page, while the rest of us worked on nice large A3 pages. Art Albert Bierstadt1

Bierstadt’s paintings are very big, so it seemed right to paint ours large too! This is my pastel painting~

Art Albert Bierstadt

Here are all our paintings on our school room gallery door ~



Leonardo Baby Sketches

English: Studies of Embryos by Leonardo da Vin...

My family were keen to do another Leonardo-inspired art activity after last week’s enjoyable Leonardo Pastel Portrait lesson ~

Leonardo da Vinci Baby Sketches

I tailor-made this lesson according to each one’s requests … printing out the specific size and copies of Leonardo’s baby sketches ~ here are your free copies ~ Leonardo da Vinci baby sketches

(Please note ~ approach this lesson with sensitivity – some children may find the idea that Leonardo da Vinci’s sketched and made notes of these baby sketches from cadavers rather disturbing.)

  • We looked at some examples of Leonardo’s baby sketchbook examples in our art book and online.
  • I used theses images and created black & white images using MS Word.
  • I enlarged specific sketches to print out for each artist.
  • We used a large A3-sized page for the collage, but normal printer-sized pages for the printouts.
  • We tore away the white edges around the large sketches and glued them collage-style with the rest of Leonardo’s special mirror-image handwritten notes as the background. Leonardo da Vinic baby sketches
  • Then we shaded over the entire page with yellows and oranges and browns and blended it in.  The torn edges ‘absorbed’ more pastel, making them darker.
  • Focusing just on one baby or the larger sketches we used our pastels to shade and highlight the baby’s contours.Leonardo da Vinic baby sketches1
  • Without working it too much, we were finished fairly quickly.
  • A spray of fixative and we were done!
  • A easy lesson with satisfying results!

Leonardo da Vinic baby sketches2

Here are some comments my kids made as we were clearing the table ~

I like these sketches.  They don’t have to be finished, so there is no pressure to do the entire page.”

“I love the pastels.  They work to cover a large area quickly and they can mix and blend to make smooth shading.”

“I love to put more pastel over the mistakes.  It is completely hidden, so I am not afraid if it doesn’t look right.  I can keep trying until it works out.”

For me, my older children joining me is an answer to prayer.  For almost 2 years, they have declined to do most our art lessons.  Maybe I should have tried chalk pastels long ago?

And yet, this week my youngest declined … she didn’t really enjoy last week’s lesson and felt rather insecure.  No pressure.  I’m sure we’ll find something she will be happy to join us next week!


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.


New chalk pastels!

Last week we did our first chalk pastel tutorial

and I realized our pastel set was under-stocked and inadequate.

So I splurged on 2 sets –

a 24 set of chalk pastels


& my waited-so-long-on-my-wish-list set of pastel pencils!


When I put both sets out

and opened a new Hodgepodge chalk tutorial ~

Wind in the Tree

EVERYONE joined!

My older girls seldom do art with us,

but the new array of beautiful colors drew them closer …


and we all enjoyed a relaxing time with our pastels.




(The pastel drawings done from top to bottom by 10-year-old, 13-year-old, 18-year-old and me.)  

Several of us did a 2nd pastel picture not shown here.

Thanks Tricia for making our first lessons so easy!

Here are some pros and cons of chalk pastels ~

Pros ~

  • bright colors
  • covers a large area with very little effort or work
  • layers of colors can cover up ‘mistakes’ or smudges
  • limited colors layered on each other produces new shades and tones
  • blending with finger or paper nub makes beautiful shading
  • quick lessons because you can’t ‘work it too much’

Cons ~

  • smudges easily
  • lack of fine detail frustrate some kids
  • can become messy if not careful
  • chalk pieces break very easily
  • some popular colors are often finished before most the other colors

Even if you only have a small set, or limited time, go ahead and try a chalk tutorial!