Capturing the delicate features and expressive eyes of a fawn in soft pastels can be a gratifying experience for any artist. This guide aims to equip you with the skills and understanding to render these tender creatures with depth, texture, and emotion.
From the softness of their fur to the inquisitive glimmer in their eyes, l will explain, step by step, how to create captivating fawn portraits that transcend the canvas and connect with the viewer.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase by clicking on an affiliate link, Nevue Fine Art Marketing may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Affiliate relationships include, but are not limited to, Bluehost, Tailwind, Skimlinks, SareASale and StudioPress. To learn more visit Affiliate Link Disclosure Policy
Getting The Proportions Correct
One of the most effective ways to ensure that your fawn portrait is anatomically correct is to use a photo reference and the grid method. Start by choosing a clear, well-lit photograph of a fawn that displays the features and expression you wish to capture.
Next, overlay a grid onto your reference image. You can do this digitally or by drawing straight lines across the image. The number of squares in your grid will depend on the level of detail you want to achieve; generally, a 1-inch square grid is a good starting point.
Now, lightly draw the same grid on your drawing surface. This will serve as a ‘map,’ matching each square on your reference image to a corresponding square on your drawing surface. I use pastel pencils for the grid si I can blend the lines easily with the other soft pastels I use.
Then, instead of trying to draw the entire fawn at once, focus on one square at a time. Carefully observe and render the contours and details within each square on your reference image into the corresponding square on your drawing surface.
The grid method allows you to create a more accurate and proportionate portrait by breaking down your image into manageable pieces. Remember to erase or blend out the grid lines when you’re finished to reveal your completed masterpiece.
Sourcing Reference Images for Artists
Finding the right reference image is crucial for capturing your fawn portrait’s intricacies and unique expressions. Websites like Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay offer high-quality, royalty-free images that artists can use for reference.
If you plan on selling your art, you will want to make sure you have the right to use the reference image you choose. You can take your own reference images or get written permission from the original photographer to use their work as a reference.
Another option is purchasing rights from sites like Wildlife Reference Photos For Artists. This is where I purchase all the rights for my wildlife pastel paintings. I take the seascape reference images during vacations I go on during the summer. In addition to that, I also get some reference images from friends and family.
Start By Painting The Negative Space
Before embarking on detailing the fawn, it’s crucial to start by painting the negative space – essentially the areas surrounding the fawn. This oft-overlooked technique establishes the overall composition and context in which your subject exists. It helps create balance in your artwork and can make your fawn pop off the paper.
To create a blurred background, begin by laying down broader strokes of color, corresponding to the backdrop you envisage. Don’t worry about meticulous detailing at this stage – focus on creating a cohesive color palette that complements your subject.
After applying the colors, use a blending tool or your fingers to blur the colors together gently. This technique, known as scumbling, gives a smooth, out-of-focus appearance, driving attention toward the sharply detailed subject.
Remember, the goal of a blurred background is to enhance the subject, not compete with it. So, keep your colors muted and your strokes broad. The sharp, detailed fawn will contrast beautifully against this soft backdrop, creating a three-dimensional effect that brings your pastel painting to life.
Painting the Midtones of the Fawn
Before getting lost in the details, it’s crucial to establish the fawn’s base color or the midtones. The ‘middle-ground’ hues lie between the lightest lights and the darkest darks in your subject. By painting these in first, you create a foundational layer upon which you can build shadows and highlights, ensuring a well-rounded and realistic representation.
To begin, observe your reference image and identify the dominant color that isn’t shadow or highlight – this is your midtone. This might be a warm chestnut or a soft beige for a fawn, but it could vary depending on the light and the individual animal. Make sure to choose a pastel that closely matches this dominant hue.
Next, gently layer this color over the areas where you see it in your reference image, using soft, overlapping strokes. Avoid pressing too hard, as you want to leave room for additional layers. Remember, adding more color than removing it is easier, so it’s best to start light and gradually build the intensity.
As you fill these midtones, you’ll see your fawn take shape. This stage of the painting process breathes initial life into your work, forming the basis for the texture and detail that will truly distinguish your fawn portrait.
Once you’ve laid down the midtones, you can add darker shadows and lighter highlights, giving depth and dimension to your fawn portrait. But always remember to anchor your work with these essential midtones first, as they serve as the ‘glue’ that seamlessly binds the high-contrast elements together.
Continuing to Refine and Enhance
With your midtones established, you can now begin layering in the shadows and highlights, using darker shades for the former and lighter colors for the latter. As with the midtones, use soft strokes and build gradually to achieve depth and realism. You may also want to use blending tools or fingers to soften edges and create a seamless color transition.
Keep referring to your reference image and observe how light falls on different areas of the fawn’s body, creating highlights and shadows accordingly. This will help you refine your painting and add further layers of detail that bring it to life.
Remember, patience is key when working with pastels. It takes time and practice to master this unique medium, but the results can be truly stunning. Keep experimenting and refining your technique, and don’t be afraid to take breaks or step away from your painting for a fresh perspective. And most importantly, have fun! Painting a fawn portrait in pastels is a beautiful way to capture the delicate beauty of these creatures and showcase your artistic skills. So keep exploring, creating, and enjoying the process! Happy painting! So keep exploring, creating, and enjoying the process! Happy painting!
Here is a timelapse video showing my steps to paint the fawn above.
Professional Grade Soft Pastels
Here is a list of some soft pastels I use for my paintings. I use a combination of brands to get the exact colors I want.
- Rembrandt Soft Pastels: Known for their high-quality pigments and superb blending capabilities.
- Sennelier Soft Pastels: Prominent for their intense pigments and velvety texture.
- Schmincke Soft Pastels: Valued for their extreme softness and high color concentration.
- Unison Soft Pastels: Famed for their handmade, highly pigmented composition.
- PanPastel Artist Pastels: Recognized for their unique pan format and rich, ultra-soft pigments.
Creating a fawn portrait in pastels may seem daunting at first. Still, with the grid method, sourcing reference images, and following key techniques like starting with negative space and establishing midtones, you can create a stunning piece of art. Remember to have patience, practice, and have fun with your pastel painting. And most importantly, capture these graceful creatures’ unique beauty and delicate nature in your artwork. So go forth and create a beautiful fawn portrait that will be admired for years! So go forth and create a beautiful fawn picture that will be admired for years! Keep exploring and experimenting with your techniques, and who knows – you may discover your unique style in the process. Happy painting!