Still life pastel painting alla prima with Schmincke finest, extra-soft artists’ pastels and Graciela Bombalova

Pastel artist Graciela Bombalova, a master of realistic portrait and still life painting, shows and tells us how she works. She chose light and natural pastel shades for her still life, which she skilfully merges with the ochre background: It was long ago when I did my last still life painting. Normally I do portraits that capture all my attention, and for the first time in years, I had this particular desire to paint a simple still life setup again… I almost forgot how liberating and relaxing the still life could be, and much more so after many years of mastering the Pastel medium! It was a pure pleasure using my new sets of Schmincke for this work.

You will need:

  •  Pastels by Schmincke, e.g. the sets: "Light and Shadow"(77755): 15 finest extra-soft, handmade artist pastels,"Bestseller Light Tones" (77757): 15 finest extra-soft, handmade artist pastels
  • pastel paper, 74 x 110 cm, ochre-coloured
  • easel
  • wooden plank
  • clips
  • Schmincke pastel fixative (50402)
  • Materials for a still life




"Bestseller bright shades" 77757:
030 O, 086 O, 084 O, 065 O, 064 O, 057 O, 021 O, 016 O, 014 O, 029 O, 013 O, 005 O, 003 O, 098 O, 001 D

"Light and shadow" 77755:
097 D, 095 B, 098 D, 090 D, 095 H, 091 B, 095 M, 092 M, 098 H, 098 J, 098 L, 090 O, 098 M, 098 O, 001 D


Step 1:
First, I took my time preparing a still life composition, usingan old ceramic pot, some branches of dry eucalyptus, and an old gourd. I also used a nice linen fabric as a drapery, and set everything up over a corner table.


Step 2:
I knew it would take me several hours to work on this stilllife, so I had to set up a constant lighting that could also bring me some interesting shadows, volume and atmosphere to my composition.


Step 3:
I took a large size of light ochre paper for Pastel (about 29x43 inches - 74x 110 cm) and clip it over my old wooden board.


Step 4:
I started to sketch the composition very quickly, with a Pastel pencil. No details at this point. Just placing the subjects approximately. Almost immediately after, I started to markthe light from the background using a very bright Schmincke Pastels. I did not smashed the strokes, no time for that. Just a fast observation placing the lights, (more or less). I notice both cold and warm lights. With no time to lose, I marked again the subjects with free lines using a dark grey pastel and placed the base for the pot with warm tones. This time,using the pastels as a large sized brush.


Step 5:
The pastels are beautifully made and it is pity to break them... Regardless, it is necessary to use them with no fear and make them work for you. Adapt them to your needs. I am not afraid to break a piece of a pastel stick when I need it... The pieces are no longer than an inch (2,5 cm) and I use it as a large brush...creating very fast large lines or spotswhere I need them. In a short time, I can use several pastel sticks... I break them one by one, like if I was "loading my brushes".... I already have a few main colours that I´ll need through all the process of this painting, and I keep them on my side separate from the others. For this particular painting, I have tried to use a limited colour palette.

001-D, 030-O, 079-O, 057- O, 079- O, 029- O, 016- O, 098- O, 090-O, 021-O, 073-H, 098-M, 093-M, 038-B, 018-H, 090-D, 014-D, 095-M, 097-D, 092-M and 095-B


Step 6:
The painting is growing very quickly... I have been working on it about 3-4h in the morning and 2-3 h in the afternoon. I think I should have stopped building the form much earlier and live the painting more as a suggestion but I will try to do this on my next still life. It was such a pleasure to go ahead and get into details that I could not stop on time... As you can see in the close up photos, the Schmincke Pastels do not only offer a wonderful brilliant colours that actually grab into the paper, but also a special creamy texture with almost no dust. This allows me to use very bright tones when I need them. Something that is not easy with other brands.


Step 7:
I sprayed the finished painting with Schmincke Fixative for Pastel (Pastell-Fixativ 50 402). It is probably the best fixative I know. It provides almost no colour variation. It does add contrast to the painting, but just a little. I think it´s worth it because it protects the pastel painting perfectly.

Pastel painting from Graciela Bombalova, Bogra, Spain

More information about the artist: