On a recent trip to the mountains, I took my pastels with me. First time on the road. They’re messy and bulky. And visceral. I get my hands dirty. It turned out to be the right thing.
Using good pastels feels like drawing with butter on sandpaper.
What is pastel?
Pastel is an art medium, usually in the form of a stick, consisting of pure powdered pigment and a binder. The pigments are the same as those used to make all colored art media, including oil paints. The amount and type of binder varies, and gives the pastels different qualities.
Dry pastels, oil pastels and water-soluble pastels are the different types available. I use dry pastels of different hardness in my work: soft pastel, hard pastel, and pastel pencil.
The color effect of pastels is closer to the natural dry pigments than that of any other process. When properly protected, pastel is the most permanent of all media because it never cracks, darkens or yellows.
Working in Pastel
You’ll find experts who say that works in pastel are “drawings” and others arguing just as strongly that they’re “paintings”. I enjoy the ambiguity.
Like drawing, pressure changes the quality of the line. Turn it on its side and a little pastel can be laid down on the texture of the paper. Then like painting, blending and mixing of color is possible. Sometimes my fingers become my “brushes”.
I work in oil, watercolor and dry media (primarily pencil, charcoal, and pastel). Maintaining a fluency with these choices, I can select the medium (or media) with the properties most appropriate to the unique piece that I am making. Here are some of the examples of why I chose pastel:
Texture & Luminosity:
Edges & Papers:
One of the questions I’m most often asked is why I work in different media. I do believe they feed each other, and I hope I’ve illuminated a little about why I keep pastel in the repertory.