The Three Musketeers

Today I thought I’d have a bit of fun. I grabbed the three stuffed animals I have, placed them on my desk, added some lighting to make a fun, cartoon-like composition. I decided to work with pastels for this piece since it’s a fast medium that would allow me to easily create textures and lay down bright colors.

I began first with a very quick sketch of the composition to make sure I would like how it would turn out on the page. If I were preparing to do a longer-term piece, I would add in some value with colored pencils, but this simple one-minute thumbnail works perfectly for quick studio drawings or plein air artwork.


I decided that I quite liked the composition, but I chose a view looking from a few more inches above in order to give the sense that these were really just a bunch of stuffed animals. I secured a 9″ x 12″ piece of grey Canson Mi-Teintes paper to my easel and redrew the composition in its final form lightly with pencil. When working with pastel, the very first thing I like to do is start blocking in local color and get the paper filled up. This makes it much faster to add in the values and details later since you’ll already have a good idea about what the surrounding colors will be.


At this point I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with all of the negative space, so I left it blank and decided to wait until the end to see what the drawing needed. It turned out that I wanted to lighten it up bit in order to bump up the contrast. However, you can see that blocking in the colors first gives you an idea about how the drawing could look like in the end. This is crucial, because in a quick drawing like this one you either don’t want or don’t have the time to complete a small piece of the drawing and then return to the same spot later when you realize that you need to change that portion again to accommodate the part you just finished. It’s much more effective to work the entire drawing at a time to guarantee cohesiveness.


The Three Musketeers,” pastel on paper, 9″ x 12″, Daniel A. Alfonso

All in all, I put in about an hour’s work into this piece and am quite happy with the result. These stuffed animals are surprisingly important to me, especially the fish in the middle which makes an obnoxiously loud squeak when you squeeze it. I’ll probably revisit them again sometime in the future and try out a composition for a quick oil painting and see what happens.





  1. How do you like Canson? I have a like/hate war with it. It trains you to have a light touch, I can be very aggressive in painting, at least with pastels. I probably need to do a challenge painting only on Canson, that would be the ticket to slow down and go lightly. 🙂


    • I can sympathize. I don’t love Canson papers but they’re light and incredibly portable. It almost feels like you’re using a completely different medium when you’re painting on Canson. I also love the tactile experience of soft pastels on a grittier surface. However, using Canson means you’re very limited in the amount layers you can apply, so it definitely trains you to be efficient with markmaking.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s adorable. Thoughtful painting and composition. What’s funny about it is the way they are close together, leaning on each other even, but at the same time, by their expressions, they appear to be lost int their own thoughts, perhaps mulling over what’s just been said between them.


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