Tulip Study – Sofft Tools with Pan Pastels

by Wendi OBrien


Sofft tools:  Large oval sponge, Oval sofft tool, triangle sofft tool, eyeshadow style sofft tool

Pan Pastels: Titanium White, Magenta Tint, Magenta, Magenta Shade, Magenta Extra Dark, Violet Tint, Violet, Violet Shade, Red Iron Oxide Shade, Diarylide Yellow, Hansa Yellow, Turquoise Shade, Turquoise Extra Dark, Payne’s Grey Tint, Payne’s Grey, Neutral Grey Tint, Chrome Oxide Green Tint, Chrome Oxide Green

Pastel Pencils:

Carbothello: 335 Magenta, 365 Violet Light, 385 Violet Deep, 590 Viridian Matt

Faber Castell: 101 White, 192 Indian Red, 194 Red Violet, 226 Alizarine Crimson, 270 Warm Grey

Geoconda: 1 White, 15 Light Violet, 32 Carmine Madder, 39 Olive Green Light, 40 Dark Orange, 46 Sienna Neutral

X-Press It Masking Film

Pastelmat Paper: Light Grey 6 X 7.75 inches

Xacto Knife

Frog Painter’s Tape

Sofft Tools and Pan Pastels

 I thought today, I will be share with you my process for completing this easy tulip study with pan pastels and pastel pencils.  If you would like to give this a try on your own, you can download the line drawing and reference for free

Also, keep in mind you don’t have to use the exact supplies I do.  They are just listed for reference, so feel free to use whatever you have on hand….even a different medium if you like.  I would love to see the art you create using this reference.  Feel free to tag me on social media so I can see your creativity of this subject.

My Focus

My focus for this study was to create a bit looser style than my norm and really understand the different ways you can use the sofft tools to create texture.

Preparing Art Surface

I first began by transferring my line drawing and cutting out masking film to put over the flower.  This allows me to work on my background without worry about covering up my linework and gives a nice crisp edge to your main subject.

Background Texture

I then used pan pastels and a sponge to create the texture of the background.  I used strong colors on my first layers and then toned them down with green and grey. 

Because Pan pastels mix well and with a bit of practice can be applied a bit transparent I knew this would be a great way to complete the background so it was muted but the colors would still shine through.

I continuously adjusted the different areas with the colors until I was happy with the final appearance.

Starting on Tulip

I then removed the masking film and began on my flower.  My working method for using pan pastels is a bit different in the fact that I tend to double and triple load my sofft tool and then put it on the paper. 

I do not typically  blend on a separate surface and I find in most cases it is an unnecessary step.  This is especially true with a looser style painting.

Using the Fraying Bits To My Advantage

If you have used sofft tools before, you are aware at how delicate they are.  They start to shred, fray or create holes in them even using light pressure.  For this piece I used these fraying bits to my advantage. 

I would double or triple load my tool then start placing my pastels in the areas I wanted using strokes following the direction of the texture in the petals.  This allowed me to quickly put a lot of texture in my flower and have my base done in just a few minutes.

Working with the Eyeshadow Sponges

I also used one of their eyeshadow looking sponges with an interchangeable head for smaller areas and put in some of the highlights on the edges.  I also used it to refine some of the areas I was not able to with the other sofft tool.

By working in this matter I was almost completely done with the flower with just the base coat.  I did want it to be just a bit more texture and detailed so I decided that I would pull out my pastel pencils.

Using Pastel Pencils for Further Details

I spent more time using my pencils than I did using pan pastels.  Mainly because of the water droplets. 

I really enjoy creating those…mainly because when you first block it in just looks like a bunch of lines but with the slightest blending and then combine back in to define the dark and highlights just a bit, all of the sudden …. Boom….water droplet!

Overall Impression of This Study

All in all, I really enjoyed this project and love that I was able to complete it from start to finish in just a couple of hours.  I also love the mix of loose realism.

I do still struggle a bit in my head about adding so much detail, but finding the more I do in this type of style the easier it is to convince myself that it is okay to let go and not have everything in there.

I mean really, if you think about it, the only person that is going to do know that it doesn’t look exactly like the reference is you unless you post your reference side by side. 

So, I encourage you to let go and don’t be such a perfectionist if that is a struggle for you.  It’s okay to be looser and I am finding that this where you start making more stylistic choices and are able to really explore more and will eventually develop into your own unique style without even trying.

Until next time…keep on arting!

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