How to Draw Apples with Pastels Step by Step

About Jo Knoblock Castillo

Jo Knoblock Castillo has always had an interest in art and working with her hands. Whether it was cooking, sewing or making gifts, she was happy to be “doing”. While living in Bolivia, she finally rediscovered her love of painting. Her interest is in landscapes and paintings that have connections to her life.

Jo works in most media, but has discovered she really enjoys the special luminosity of pastels. They are tactile, immediate and long lasting. Other than smudging if touched (they should be framed under glass), they are very durable. The colors are clear and vibrant. “I enjoy painting from life and use my own reference photos just as a reminder of shape or lighting,” says the artist.

Winters find Jo and Gene, her husband, living in Bastrop, Texas. It is near family and offers a mild climate and plenty of golf courses and opportunities to paint. Jo looks forward to plein air painting in New Mexico each summer. “It is a challenge to set up an easel and paint a scene in just a couple of hours,” Jo says, “The light is very fleeting and you have to get down large sections of light and dark very quickly to establish your painting. Weather doesn’t always cooperate and uninvited visitors like mosquitos or snakes are not uncommon.”

Please take a moment to visit Jo’s websites to learn more about her and to view more of her work:

Pastel Demo, Little Red Apples

How to Draw Apples with Pastels Step by Step

I just liked the Little Green Apples pastel painting so much that I decided to do another painting of the redder little apples. I will do a demo as I go along. I hope you enjoy seeing how I work.

I’m using Art Spectrum pastel card that comes in 9 x 12 sheets so the surface is a little different from the Kitty Wallis used in the “Little Green Apples.. this surface can’t take quite as much abuse as the Wallis, but is very good and has a consistent surface. I started with the white and decided it was just too white so scrubbed on a little pastel and smeared it with a brush and alcohol again. Nothing special, it won’t show except where the top layer of pastel is thin and will add a little interest in the background, maybe.

I then sketched in the placement of the apples with a yellow pastel pencil, you may be able to see that. I then formed the apples with some green pastel to vibrate through the red. I use a mixture of soft pastels.

Next I added the base colors and start the shadows. I like to work all over the painting. Artists that do fine detail, realistic paintings tend to start in the upper corner and work down to keep from touching what they have done or keep the pastel dust from falling on a part already finished.

To prevent the pastel from falling on my painting, I work with the easel upright and tilted slightly toward me. Gene made me a little tray that hangs on the easel to catch the pastel dust. You can make a tray with newspaper or aluminum foil.

I also like to work standing up. I can step back easier and don’t get too focused in one spot. I keep a piece of vinyl down to cover the floor and stand on some foam pads to save the old legs! I’m doing this painting in New Mexico in our summer rental. At home I have a rubber mat to stand on like is used in a machine shop or under heavy loads on a truck.

I began to develop the apples, working from the back to the front. I use a variety of greens and reds so that the apples are not copies of one another. I began to work on the cloth as well so that I get some of the reds, greens and a little yellow into the background. I began to add a little purple in the shadows.

I continued to develop the apples and cloth. Adding some variety of colors. The highlights on the red are a very pale green to make it pop and look shiny. I also used a darker green for the reflections.

I scumbled some yellow and green onto the red cloth to soften it and make the apples stand out more. To scumble with the pastels I drag, very lightly, a different color over the color on the painting. I blend this with a hard pastel in a similar color rather than using my fingers too much. When you blend pastels you push them flat and they loose some of their brilliance. I do blend in the shadows and in skies sometimes or to make something look soft. Untouched pastels reflect more light off the pigment crystals or odd shapes and give more life to a painting.

Here is a close up of the apples to show the detail.

Here is the set up. I did not brighten the photo to show that the color is closer to the apples in my painting, but you get the idea.

I also left the leaves out of the painting as they had wilted by the time I got to them.

Working from life rather than a photo allows you to see color in the shadows. A photo washes out the highlights as well. I work from life whenever I can. Sketching or painting. I enjoy plein air. Maybe the next demo can be a landscape.

I hope you enjoyed this article on how to draw apples step by step.

Please take a moment to visit Jo’s websites to learn more about her and to view more of her work:


  1. frances says

    I was looking at the last two photos of the apples and there seems to be a big difference between them. Like some steps are missing? The cloth is totally different. But I love the last photo.
    Could you explain the difference?
    Thank you

  2. says

    The last is a photo of the set up to paint the apples. It is quite washed out. The apples were painted from life not from the photo. I chose richer colors than the actual apples. Thanks for the question.

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