Peppers in Pastel: background problems

I enjoy the look of classical style still life paintings that have black backgrounds, but it seems that when I employ them, it just doesn’t work. Case in point, this pastel drawing. I layered black over a blue-green shade but it still doesn’t have the deep effect I want. Any suggestions? This was my first ever pastel drawing… it was rough using those clunky sticks and dealing with all the dust :wink:


I would just go over the background again with the black to make is richer. Otherwise this is a great for your first time. You can try oil pastels. They are not as dusty.

May I suggest that, rather than black, it needs to be very very dark brown? Otherwise it looks too cold and stark.

Thank you! It’s worth trying.

Yes I’m definitely leaning toward oil pastels for that reason alone—thanks for having a look at this.

My compliments, the way you handled the folds in the velvet: wonderfull. Maybe the black would look intenser if you put more colours in and over it.
Like deep red, dark blue, or start with black pastel mat and add colours over that.
But if it is your first pastel: wow

I think that makes sense and echoes what others are say—background needs more depth by layering colors. Thanks for your feedback!

Nice work on the cloth under the peppers too. Good colors on the peppers.

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If you work with oil pastels, how would they need to be framed? With a border between it and the glass or what? I have not used oil pastels but will be trying to do so soon.

Have you thought about using a blending stump on the peppers? It has been a very long time since I have worked with oil pastels as Denise suggested. A blending stump might be used to get the perspective more realistic around the peppers (I see white dots around the peppers). I think that is what is throwing you off. It leaves the peppers without depth. Did you paint the background first, or the peppers first? I know with oil paints, I do the background first and then layer on subjects (like your peppers). It is difficult to bring the background around your peppers without leaving the white dots. I do not know what you painted the background with or did you use black paper? I think I agree with Rambolini about using a very very dark brown. (More close to the family of the colors of the peppers). Smooth the peppers out and/or use oil pastels. The velvet material around them is very good.
ArtistLittleNora a/k/a lilnora

I think you can border it if you like. As long as you have it inside a glass frame it should be okay.

Thank you, Denise. Been so long with about all I have done that I am sort of forgetting that my friend owns a framing business. It is just difficult for me to go into town and discuss things with her because I no longer drive. Her husband is a well-known artist in this area.


I think you did a brilliant job. As I scrolled down, it reminded me of a professional still life. The peppers and the folds in the cloth are really well done. I actually like the black. It give a really good contrast, especially as the cloth is a deep red colour. I think if you used brown some of the contrast would be lost against the cloth.

I agree with you about ‘still life’ using black as a background. It really makes the subject(s) show up. Do you have a set of pastel pencils? I would suggest going over the shadows in the subject(s) to give it more depth and really make the highlights show which direction is the light is coming from. I would just like to see more definition, too. To me, it looks like you might have 2 light sources. Seems to have little white dots around the subjects of the drawing. This might be because you did the background after drawing the subject(s). Maybe fill them in with a small blending stick (I don’t know how the spell it but it does start with a “T”) so they don’t show. This is only IMHO.

Maybe spraying a light dusting with a workable fixative (from 18" more or less away from the picture). Just a light spray. You should use black paper instead of trying to work around your subject if that is what you did for the background. I agree with you about working a black over blue, you might want to actually use black pastel paper.

I find it difficult to keep the side of my hand away from my pastel drawings and the dust is difficult. I seem to muddy the waters when using a brush to get rid of the dust. I just ordered a malh stick which seems to help. I have to take mine apart for drawing but would use the full length of it when painting.

Hope this helps. Like I said this is only IMHO.