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Painting With Pastels

Author : Callum Asterman


It's actually quite tricky to explain what a pastel is because it shares characteristics with other art media, but the main characteristic is that pastel appears dry when applied to paper, although it can sometimes resemble a very thick (almost solid) liquid. Pastels were actually known to Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century, so perhaps if we haven't come to a consensus on describing them yet, perhaps we never will!

Like harder paints, pastels are just a pigment combined with something to gel it all together, known as a binder. Pastels were once made from gum arabic and chalk but now more modern alternatives like mythel cellulose are used.}
The binder colour is neutral to give purity to the hue. It's best to do your homework before going out to buy your first pastels as there are many different types. There are different materials, different hardnesses and physical constructions.

The pastels that people tend to use most frequently are in a stick form. They are available in stick, crayon or pencil form, some wrapped in paper which you remove as the pastel stick wears down. You can also purchase pencil pastels which, not surprisingly, are used just like pencils.

Just like pencils are graded, pastels can be hard, soft and variations in between. Hard pastels are preferred for drawing fine detail and outlines but the colour is less vivid than that of soft pastels as the binder pigment ratio is higher. Soft pastels have less binder in them and so the pigments are bolder in colour, giving brighter more colour-rich results. The softer pastel also has an impact on the look of the finished painting, making it more dreamy. This has advantages (it's easier to blend and mix, and can produce pleasant graded finishes) and downsides (spoiling work already painted is common and the dust can be messy, painters should also be careful not to breath in the dust). So decide on your style of pastel based on the type of work you are trying to create. Most experienced artists keep a range of pastels and use combinations on the same art work to get the effect they want.

As well as different hardness grades there are different binder mediums used. The traditional form is oil-based pastels. These are soft to the touch and have a smooth, glossy, slightly sticky surface. Blending can be quite tricky with oil-based pastels, but it can be learnt. Water soluble pastels are also available. After applying the pastel to paper, a water wash can distribute the pigment thinly and create effects similar to watercolour painting.

Artists using pastel might not be quite as well known as their oil painting contemporaries, but there have been plenty of talented pastel artists throughout history whose work any newcomer to pastels should look at for inspiration. Maurice Quentin de la Tour (1704-1788) was a very talented portrait artist who created many works in pastels. Other influential pastel artists were R. B. Kitaj and Maurice Quentin de La Tour. Current day pastel artists include Wolf Kahn and Francesco Clemente.


Author's Resource Box

Creating art with pastels is something Callum has been experimenting with for several years. He uses oil pastels and hard pastel crayons and has also used special pastel fixatives to complete his works. Callum is a writer for several online art websites.

Article Source:
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Tags:   pastels

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Submitted : 2011-03-01    Word Count : 637    Times Viewed: 632