Spontaneous Pastel Combustion

What happens when four very creative middle and high school sketchers have a half hour,  a box of pastels, and freedom to express themselves? See for yourself…

Gianna, a senior at Natural Bridges High School, is one heck of a gifted sketcher. Her ability to quickly shift from observational drawing to working from the imagination is extraordinary. One afternoon, with a half hour left in class, Gianna struggled to find something to draw. She opened the box of pastels and shifted gears to a spontaneous, expressionistic rendering of the plaster hand and sphere. During the last part of another drawing class, she shifted from charcoal to pastels, transforming a study of a white plaster cast eye into a colorful, expressive delight.


SI youth sketcher, Rena excels at drawing fantastic creatures from her imagination. During the last half hour of drawing a plaster cast of a human bust with charcoal, we changed it up—time to free draw everyone! Rena dove into the pastels and, with sweeping lines, put together a brilliant character sketch.


Another talented sketcher, Megan, was working at getting into the Zone during this face session. But as soon as brightly colored pastels were put in front of her she transformed into an abstract expressionist extraordinaire, adding a whole new range of creative possibilities to her solid drawing skills.


Helen is a wonderful story tellin’ kind of a sketcher. After a few weeks of intense sessions of drawing faces, when it came time to free draw with pastels, she launched right into illustrating the morning’s story about a mysterious lemon drifting in the clouds. You can see in the photos above that she transitioned from drawing a Roman bust to a whimsical fruit in a matter of minutes.

There’s just something about pastels that brings out the best in these young artists. But whether working in charcoal, graphite, or pastels these remarkable sketchers consistently merge solid skills in observation with exceptionally active imaginations. Their ability to spontaneously transform blank paper into a wildfire of color and compelling subject matter is inspiring to watch. As a drawing coach, during these highly combustible creative moments, I’m just along for the ride.