Category Archives: Pastels

Comrade Derptopus

Comrade Derptopus by Meg Lyman

~5×10″ mixed media


Another odd-size paper experiment. I doodled this derpy guy at work one day, and couldn’t get him out of my brain until I painted him up properly. This doesn’t happen all that often – inspiration strikes all the time, but rarely is it so insistent. Once I finished the painting, I decided he needed borders, and played with acrylic gel medium and Claybord and La Carte and foam core. Interesting lesson: La Carte can be completely denuded with gel medium. I knew it didn’t like moisture, but I didn’t realize I’d end up covered in a cement-like mix of glue and sand. It was fun.

Bonus points if you can decipher my uneducated attempt at Russian half-hidden in the borders.


Balloon by Meg Lyman

~6×12″ gouache, ink, and pastel


I have this fairly expensive watercolor paper that is an odd size – 10.5×24.5 cm or something inexplicably weird like that. It’s been sitting around for a while, and one day I got a wild hair and sketched out a bunch of elongated cephalopods on them. After I finished the drawings (feeling very pleased with myself for letting my muse vent), I stared at them with the vacancy usually expressed by my dog when I try to teach him a trick. I hadn’t thought these out. I had no idea what colors to use.

So I turned to my friend the Gimp and did some color tests. I’d been meaning to try out this orange/blue/green combo on something, and it looked like it’d work well on this guy. So I tried it out, and it was fun, but didn’t look finished, so I cut a piece of Sennelier La Carte pastel card and made a border for it. Then I glued the paper to it with acrylic gel medium. The piece now feels finished, and I feel like a slightly bewildered collage artist.

Zombie Giraffe

Undead Giraffe by Meg Lyman

8.5×11″ pastel on paper


It’s so undead, even its spots fell off.

I honestly have no idea where this came from. But there it is. And it’s on sale – for blog readers only! Because who doesn’t want a zombie ungulate on their living room wall?

Using everyone’s great tips on how to layer pastels, I filled the Canson bumps with my cheap pastels and used the nice ones on top. They still show the bumps. I think I’ll try the smooth side next time.

It Used to Look Nice

Cardinal by Meg Lyman

5×7″ Pastel

e-mail to buy

I spent a fairly long time working on this cardinal. It was my first time using pastels on Pastelbord, and I liked it. I overworked it a bit, but at least I’m starting to get the hang of pastels, and when to use the cheapies vs. the Senneliers. I was pretty happy with the piece.

Then I tried to be adventurous. I have fixative spray for Claybord. I know they make fixative specifically for pastels, but this fixative was specifically for Claybord. I thought, what the hell, might as well try it. …… BAD idea. I really hope I can help someone avoid learning this lesson the hard way. Oh well… I’d never learn anything if I didn’t take chances.

This is what it looked like before.

Fun with Pastel Card



Pastel on La Carte, 2.75 x 5.5

$45 – e-mail to buy

My lovely set of Sennelier half-pastel-sticks came with a tiny piece of the brand’s pastel card, La Carte. You know why they put it in there. They’re enabling new pastel junkies, that’s what they’re doing. It should be outlawed.

I tried the stuff to see what it’d be like. It’s far superior to plain old pastel paper. Now that I know what I’m missing, I want to go buy the expensive stuff. I might even sell my hypothetical firstborn for a set with all the colors. However, I have umpteen million sheets of Canson paper to use. Good thing it takes gouache without too much protest. I think I’ll be trying a lot of mediums on it before I use it all up…

Pastel Addiction

If you remember, the last time I posted about pastels, I ragged on them pretty hard. They’re messy, blocky, and not made for fine detail. In other words, they make life difficult for perfectionists. Like me, for instance. But after Bugsy, pastels started stalking me. Well, no problem, I thought… I had one sheet of pastel paper left to use, and a set of cheap chalks.

But that wasn’t good enough. No, I went and bought a pad of Canson paper and 40 half-sticks of Sennelier. Each half-stick is about an inch and a half long, and costs $1. I’ve got the pastel monkey on my back, as all those smug pastellists said I would.

So, what I learned this week: It’s a lot harder to indiscrimately throw dust everywhere when it costs more than gold. The Sennelier sticks are soft and buttery; the tactile sensation of drawing with them is hard to describe. It’s like drawing with high-quality, vibrant sidewalk chalk, but instead of that harsh scraping, you can barely feel the chalk touch the paper. Smooth. But because they’re so soft, they get used up quickly. With Bugsy, I’d lay down layers of chalk, rub it in, and let the dust fall. With these sticks, I don’t want to waste any of it. So here’s part of the background of the color study I just finished:
The tooth of the tan paper shows through because I didn’t want to waste chalk. I just dusted lightly over the paper. Another area, this time of the main subject, shows the tooth full, simply because I went over it so many times, trying different colors.
Today’s lesson: Art suffers if you think about how much the supplies cost. But are we in the business of being art purists, or are we in the business of being in business?

Oh, and don’t ever pick up a pastel stick unless you want to be helplessly addicted for life.

Guinness Extra Stout and Digital Art Blues

Guinness Extra Stout is the lesser known relative of Guinness. You know, if Guinness were a tall, fit, handsome movie star, Extra Stout would be his short, stocky, non-famous overlooked brother. Most grocery stores around here have it. It’ll be the dark-glassed, yellow bottle-capped six pack next to the Guinness. It is a short beer – the bottles are smaller. It doesn’t have that fancy doohicky in the bottle to create the head, either. But it packs a punch.

It tastes just like Guinness (really, big surprise, that), but there is more of that taste in each sip. As if its flavor is denser. It’s a bit stoutier, with a tang. I can’t access the stupid Guinness website without getting cookies, so I haven’t checked, but I think it has more alcohol than regular Guinness. A good beer to go with a meal, especially pizza. Mmmmm, pizza.

M: 6
N: 7.5

After my in-your-face experience with pastels last week, I was ready for a break. Pastels are a very hands-on medium. After each session, I had beautifully colored dust on my hands, arms, elbows, fingers, face, and under my fingernails. I wore the same sweatshirt each time, and it’ll never be the same. My nose-blowing was multicolored. There was dust all over my art table, supplies, lamps, and floor. I’m not sure if it bothered me or not; the jury’s still out on whether I like using pastels. But it was enough for one week.

So, I got out my trusty tablet with intent to work on the winoctopus. Then I remembered that I promised to do new stationery for my dad’s business for Christmas, which, you’ll notice, was a month ago. So I began working on that. The biggest thing I’ve learned from it (painfully, I’ll add): the GIMP is not a good tool for drawing straight lines.

I’m not sure whether Photoshop or some other non-open-source program for Mac or Windows could do it better; no experience with those. I’m a Linux girl all the way. But oy, this project had me wishing for the days when I had access to AutoCAD and Unigraphics. I would have had it done in 1/10th the time.

I could press shift to make the paintbrush tool do a straight line, but there were no detents and the line was faint, more pixels wide than the brush, and would change thickness halfway through. It was so annoying. If I didn’t have my tablet, I would have given up long ago to go find new wrists, since mine would have fallen off.

Lesson: Anything with geometry will be done with good old-fashioned pencil, paper, and ruler, then scanned. My wrists will thank me.

Left Hand Milk Stout and Pastels

Left Hand Milk Stout is a delicious delicious beer. It tastes like liquid milk chocolate. Like chocolate milk, but with alcohol. Like that time we made shakes with chocolate ice cream and Kahlua, only better. Like ordering a tasty chocolate treat at the soda fountain, but beer. Oh so good.

We’ve tried a couple beers from Left Hand Brewing, and they’re all good. My only complaint is that their website requires Flash. Bad web design practice. But this beer could atone for so many wrongs. It’s like a get-out-of-jail-free card. And it came with a sticker!

M: 10
N: 9 (Stingy, no? He has given a few 10s… one is on another Left Hand beer)

I have never before tried soft pastels (I did oil pastels once when I was, like, 8). But after seeing many great pastel works in the WetCanvas wildlife board, I picked up a cheap set of 24 and two giant toned pastel papers. I chose one of my many to-do art projects and got started with my new supplies. And I can’t say that I’m enjoying it too much.

Getting used to a new medium takes time. But my main problem with pastels is their chunkiness. I can’t sharpen them to a point like a pencil or a paintbrush. The end is a huge square hunk. You *can* sharpen them, sure, but then half the stick has become a pile of dust that you may or may not manage to use before your cat sneezes on it.

I’ve finished the background by blending (pastels blend very nicely) with tissue paper, q-tips, and a sponge brush. All the dust is either worked into the paper or I’ve tapped it off. The subject, however, needs detail that’s hard to get with a chunky tip. They say you can use Colour Shapers to push the dust into fine lines, so I’ll try that… but there’s always dust left over. Blow it? Tap the paper? Whatever you do, don’t touch it or it comes off on your fingers.

I used the rough side of the paper because some genius put an indelible price tag on the fine side. I think the fine side would have been easier to work with. Also, pastels require a dedicated shirt. I don’t think the pigment dust will ever come out of the sweatshirt I’m using. I look like a chimney sweep.

After all that, though, I can think of one good thing to say about pastels – their colors are so very bright if you don’t dilute the dust. Just don’t breathe on it, ever.