Sunflowers: A Pastels Tutorial

from last summer’s archives

As promised in her comment on our Sunflower Study, Nana came for a pastel lesson. Who wouldn’t want to create a picture of a sunflower? The yellows, the browns of the middle, the sunshine on the petals!

This time, Nana decided to do things a little differently. Before calling the children in to the table, she drew the steps. The pastel layers from start to end.

All we had on hand was printer paper, so we put a piece at each of the four spots. She also picked out the colors and placed them at the top of the paper. Leafy green, sunflower yellow, brilliant orange, sunflower seed brown, a bit of white and a stick of black.

She explained this would be a silent lesson. They could each look at the picture she had drawn and follow the steps. We agreed her technique was similar to Draw, Write Now. The children got busy. It was amazing how quiet it was!

Each one started with the brown center, outlined in black. Next a nice, tall, green stem and the distinctive leaf of sunflower.

When everyone completed steps 1-3, we turned the paper over to the remaining two steps.

Here are the remaining two layers:

Some finished quickly and were off to other things. Some decided to complete their sunflowers with background.

Twelve-year-old’s sunflower

Eleven-year-old’s sunflower

Seven-year-old’s sunflower. Feel free to add sky details!

Four-year-old’s sunflower – with a ladybug.

Nana’s pastel of the top photo.

Here are the steps again, together.

We did tell Nana how we’d learned that sunflowers are composite flowers. And oh the bees that morning we counted for the Great Sunflower Project! You can read all about it in our Sunflower Study. Our sunflowers have been such a joy. We tucked a few more seeds in the ground to see if we can grow more before frost.

This lesson was very short. Maybe ten minutes. Then we got the baby wipes out, cleaned faces and hands and wiped down the table. After a bit of time displayed on the chalkboard, the finished pictures will go in the children’s nature notebooks.

A note on pastels: Pastels are an easy, forgiving medium. Fun for children and adults alike! Details on the pastels and paper we use, how and where to purchase, and links to all of Nana’s other pastel lessons (over 20 now!) are all contained in the post Pastels plus links to tutorials. A simple set is very affordable.

The practical aspects of a mess: Pastels are blessedly messy. We always have baby wipes close by to wipe hands. We wear something we don’t mind getting stained or don a smock.

Do you have sunflowers blooming?


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