Composing Still Life with Pastel

Learn to integrate the fundamentals of still life composition with the application of pastel colours. We will begin with small compositional thumbnail tonal sketches of objects, to gain proficiency with the very basics of composition, proportion, value and light. This will be repeated in pastel, allowing us to begin to address both pastel application and colour. We will then work on a series of still life pastels, exploring these areas in more depth, and how we can appropriate the compositional conventions of the historical genre of still life to our work. The course is suitable for anyone wanting to better understand the genre of still life, visual composition and pastel application and colour.


  • Face-to-Face


  • Introducing the thumbnail sketch in red chalk and pastel: We will learn how to use small tonal sketches to abbreviate the major masses of objects employed in a still life. Beginning with the simplest arrangements of objects, using just red chalk, we will gradually introduce more complexity with pastel.
  • Chardin and eighteenth century French still life: Controlling light via a series of flaps cut into a box, we will examine in more detail, how to employ “lost” and “found” edges, to further convey atmosphere within a still life. We will also look at how the more limited value range effects our depiction of the objects.


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Have gained and developed fundamental skills in seeing and recording correct proportion, the layering of pastel colours, tone and relative warm and cool values.
  2. Make use of a variety of coloured papers, employing the paper as a mid-tone and building up successive pastel colours in both thin and more opaque lay-ering, from dead colour to full colour.
  3. Gain an understanding of the underlying principles of composition and be able to practically apply them to an art practice.
  4. Gain some historical background into stylistic, period and regional characteristics within the genre of still life.


  • 1 pastel Faber Castel pastel box or equivalent with a MINIMUM of 72 pastels.
  • 1 cardboard box (shoe box size)
  • 1 cardboard box (larger size)
  • 2 kneadable erasers
  • 1 Stanley knife
  • 3 different buff paper A3 sheets
  • 1 blue-grey paper A3 sheets
  • Two paper stumps
  • 1 sanguine red chalk pencil

Further Still Life drawing props will be introduced from week to week.

IMPORTANT: Please arrive to the first class with all the relevant materials. A lack of materials is not just a handicap to you but to the ability to teach. Materials cost is not included in a course fee. In the event of a course being cancelled WEA cannot be held responsible for the purchase of any course materials. We therefore suggest you purchase your materials closer to the time of the course commencing.


  • The Art Scene, UNSW Art & Design Campus, Greens Rd Paddington NSW. Ph: 8815 1569
  • Eckersley’s Art and Craft Store 223-225 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, Ph: 02 9331 2166.
  • Bondi Road Art Supplies 179 Bondi Road Bondi. Ph: 9387 3746. (Closed Fridays and Sundays)
  • Eckersley’s Art and Craft Store 93 York Street Sydney, Ph: 02 9299 4151. Also at North Sydney, St Leonards, Chatswood, Caringbah, Parramatta & more.

Enquire at your art shop for a Student’s Discount with your WEA course receipt.

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