Lyme Regis Art Society was delighted to open its 2021/22 season with a pastel demonstration by Rebecca De Mendonca. Over 40 members, 2/3 of the present membership, enjoyed the first live meeting. Rebecca chose to base her talk with a series of exercises on the theme of ‘Water’, explaining the way she sketched. She described how she preferred to use the medium of pastels because she liked to ‘draw in colour.’

Rebecca said that portraying water was challenging because of its transparency. ‘What am I actually drawing?’ Water is defined by the way it reflects colour and light. She emphasised the need to focus on tonal contrast, texture, and colour saturation. Rebecca first determined tonal contrast with a charcoal sketch, of a seascape, establishing the focal point where the darkest darks meet the lightest lights. She followed this with a colour sketch, introducing warm and cool colours with soft pastels to give her drawing depth.

Moving water demonstrated by Rebecca

Her second sketch looked at how to portray moving water. Rebecca likes to sketch ‘in situ’, experiencing the sounds and feel of water as it flows downriver. She drew the rigid shapes of the rocks. Their hard edges would act as a contrast to the fluid feeling of the water as it spiralled around the rocks. Rebecca showed us how to represent the movement of water by using the charcoal stick in a variety of expressive ways. At the end of the first half of the demonstration, she brought context, texture, and contrast together in her final two colour sketches of water flowing along a river, tumbling over rocks and a picture of still water in a wide river estuary.

After the break, Rebecca treated us to a full colour sketch of waves using the range of techniques demonstrated in the first half. The smooth background was made up of a variety of blues and greens found in the sky and sea. She focused on establishing the lights and darks, constantly re-evaluating the tonal contrasts in the water as she drew. Rebecca explained how a wave has lots of different layers. As the wave comes over, the light shines through the sea colour. Underneath is the dark shadow area which contrasts with the flatter front part of the wave reflecting the sky colour. Finally, there is the foam – twists and turns of white pastel, finished with random flicks of pastel pushed into the surface of the paper to create spume.

We must thank Rebecca for so generously sharing her knowledge and practical experience, creating an informative and absorbing demonstration.

Report by Sheila Stratton

Rebecca is giving courses in pastel – please subscribe to her newsletter on her website to keep updated: