With a lot of my recent wildlife paintings, I’ve used a flowery field with some blur in the distance to add a sense of depth as well as a splash of colour.
My idea for this piece was to paint the hare with backlighting and use all the vibrant colours in the hare’s coat instead of the browns you might expect.

You’ll also see what I do with photo reference as a starting point.  I use photographs for ideas, poses, facial expression etc and the rest can come from other photos as well as imagination or from life drawing.

I used this piece as part of my demo in a day long workshop last year for the Pastel Society of Ireland.  Most people who attended the class were interested in painting animals and there are some photos here from that workshop too.

The finished painting ‘Blooming Buttercups’
Pastel on velour 13″x19″


The hare image I used for the initial pose and expression.
I liked his upright pose but wanted to make him
more hairy (not harey) and also intensify the colours
to put him in more of a glow.


My initial line drawing on the velour.  I only
really bother to draw in the hare so that his
proportions are there.  The background is something
I work freely at judging the composition of the
flowers as I go.  I’ve left plenty of space at the top of
the composition to allow for plenty of blur.


A little snap shot from the workshop.  See everyone’s
busy hands and those lush Unison pastels I love
being put to good use.  Many people worked on
Pastelmat which is a very popular amongst pastellists.
My advice to anyone starting out is to go to a good art
shop and pick out a couple of large sheets of different pastel papers.
A large sheet will be under £5 and you haven’t committed to
a big pad of something you mightn’t like.  But DO try the
better quality products, even if you can only afford a small
amount.  It’s the only way to progress and truly give yourself
a chance to improve.


A large cheesy grin to one of my fellow members
snapping me working on the hare.  I’ve skipped the
painting of the background as I want to talk about
the lighting of the hare in this blog.  I do talk about how I
paint bokeh (out of focus) backgrounds in many of my
posts as I use that effect a lot!
I gave myself a bit of a struggle here as I wanted
to use all the vibrant colours to get the tones
of the hare without using brown.  I also wanted to make
the shadow side the one we’re seeing and have the
light creating an outline of light around the hare.
The reference photo provided me with tonal qualities
and I started substituting each for a similar tonal value
but much more vibrant hue.  I saved all the bright
oranges and yellows for the sunlit hair.
The dusky oranges and blues and vibrant red would
be for the shadow side.  The first layer I did was
a tonal sketch using a black faber castell stick to
create the dark contrast and the direction of the hair.


At this point I’m realising I’ve made the outline
too light.  The hare isn’t quite sitting in the picture
yet.  The outline of the hair should be pretty yellow
like all the surrounding light and reflection.


I have warmed the sunlit hair gradually and
am working on to fill in the foreground at this
point.  It will greatly help to have the foreground in
so that I can start tweaking the colours all over and create
some balance.  I do like working from top to bottom
but when the whole painting is in place I sometimes
need to go back over and tidy up my values.  It’s easier
to see something wrong when it’s all in place.


Everyone busy at the workshop.  There’s plenty of
chat on and off but it’s so quiet at moments when
everyone’s totally engrossed.


The finished piece framed.  I loved the white frame
for this as it felt like a burst of juicy colour
in the centre.  I managed to get the light around the
hare to make more sense and those foreground
buttercups helped bring it into perspective.
Not always easy to change the light successfully
from reference photo to painting, and I don’t think
I got it overly realistically.  But I quite like the effect
I got so I’m happy!