I've started on a new pastel tonight, Red, White & Silver. I have a couple of hours of work in this so far. I had really planned on trying to do this in stages so I could walk you through it but I got so involved in what I was doing I didn't stop to scan each step - sorry.
This is a rather patriotic apple still life don't you think? It is about 10"x 8" on sand colored velour. I've used mostly Rembrandt soft pastels and just a few hard Contes. I wasn't sure how I'd do on getting the silver life like but so far I'm liking it.
The first thing I did after selecting my photo reference was to transfer it to my velour paper using a light box. My outline sketch was pretty rough - just to get placement of everything down and not worrying about the details. There is no right or wrong way to do this step, freehand, grid or transferring all work well. You can add the details or not at this point - it is totally up to you. I do recommend that you practice drawing freehand as much as possible - good drawing skills are a very important and I try to draw something every day.
After I had my rough sketch I began laying in the red and white with the soft pastel sticks. You can see how I did that on the unfinished parts on the left hand side. After the reds and whites were down I started adding the blacks on the silver sugar bowl (at least I think that is what it is) and then went back with whites and a light blue and gray to add highlights. Rembrandt has a wonderfully rich black that gets the black really dark. The Conte black just doesn't get that deep black that I need sometimes, however the Conte does come in real handy when doing light washes of black, outlines or when coverage isn't an issue.
I don't do much blending at all with my fingers. I just layer color over color until I achieve the look I'm going for by using varying amounts of pressure. Occasionally I'll just press my finger on a spot of color without rubbing. This will make the color a little dull by pressing it down in the tooth of the paper. Sometimes it is just trial and error - I find pastels pretty forgiving.
On the apple I used red, orange, a bit of yellow and green, some brown and then added whites and blues for the highlights. After that, to get the shadowing on the apple, I did a wash of brown and black with a light pressure using the Conte sticks. It has probably about 8 to 10 layers of pastel on it if I were to guess. I find I don't pay attention to those things either when I'm drawing - I'll try to pay more attention next time though. There is still a lot more to do on this piece - lots of rough edges to sort out, layers to add, lines to make sure they are straight enough or curved enough - so check back later.