Creative Catalyst Productions - Drawing with Pastel and Charcoal: Tips and Techniques with Craig Nelso

Drawing with Pastel and Charcoal: Tips and Techniques with Craig Nelson


Artist: Craig Nelson
Producer: Creative Catalyst Productions
Runtime: 105 min
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This DVD drawing workshop with Craig Nelson is great for anyone interested in drawing, whether you want to improve your painting skills or just enjoy knocking out a quick sketch.


Part of what you learn is how to block in preliminary shapes, achieve proper placement and proportion, and how to pick out and render elements for a convincing three-dimensional scene. You learn how to sequence your drawing for the best chance of success, where to look for the brightest lights, anticipate soft and hard edges, and how to take advantage of reflected light and bounced color.


As head of the Fine Art Painting Department of the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, Craig Nelson helps you hone your observation skills and bring what you see back to your drawing (or painting). Craig's drawings come to life in a matter of minutes. (Craig works from photographs) Craig Nelson, CAC, discusses and demonstrates lighting, preparing the painting surface, developing a ghost drawing to a final drawing, color selections, blocking in skin tones and hair, subtle adjustments to achieve life-like flesh, when not to refine your strokes, delicate brush work for successful hair plus much more. Craig talks about all his decisions as he paints. You will learn where to look for details, touches of strong color and value that add energy to your portrait. Craig's Quick Study approach helps you gain confidence to paint larger, more refined portraits after many of the basic issues are resolved in the quick studies format.


This is my fifth Creative Catalyst production. These DVDs have improved my art tremendously. What a wonderful way to learn!
- Camille W., Queensbury, NY -


Bonus Clip: "Setting the Tone in Pastel"

With over 30 years experience as a professor of fine art, Craig Nelson knows that success as an artist depends on good observation skills learned while drawing. In this workshop, Craig introduces you to pastel drawing as he develops two figures from photo reference. You'll learn to layer rich oil pastels over pencil sketches, and you'll discover lighting and design principles that apply to all media.

Craig works with a staggering array of drawing tools, including hard and soft pastels, black and white charcoal pencils, and conte crayons. He combines these materials one layer at a time, beginning with a light charcoal sketch. You'll see Craig's steady hand up close as he adds lines, value, and color in the appropriate order. No detail escapes Craig's analytical eye.

He treats pastel as a layered medium, continually refining each element and hue as he builds his sketch. He blends colors to eliminate flat, even shapes and juxtaposes hues to emphasize key elements without adding harsh shadows. In his sketch of a vineyard worker, Craig shares his method for establishing light sources with varied hues. He distinguishes cool top light from the warm shadows by adding pale blue highlights and streaks of earthy reds.

In the second half of the workshop, Craig emphasizes drawing as an observational, rather than technical, skill. As he sketches the outline of a girl at the beach, he teaches you to draw what you see, instead of relying on memory or subjective perception. You learn to see gesture, perspective, and light sources and take the time to consider your reference before you put your pencil to the paper.

The second drawing also serves as a clinic on value. Craig works on a neutral Canson paper with black and white tools. He layers chalk, white charcoal, and conte crayon to create subtle gradations in highlights. The resulting volume in the dress and hair make the sketch jump from the paper. To enhance your drawing skills and learn to see your reference materials in a new light, join Craig Nelson in Drawing in Pastel and Charcoal.


In this relaxed, candid conversation with Craig Nelson we asked him questions we thought you would most like to ask if you could have dinner with an artist.

What is your favorite quote or idea from this conversation?