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.

2 thoughts on “Pastel Addiction”

  1. With pastels, as with oil paint, try fat over lean. Harder pastels first and then the softer ones like Sennelier and Schminke reserved for top most layers

    Also try using abrasive supports as well as paper – a lot of pastellists who used to work on paper now prefer an abrasive support.

    You might be interested in my squidoo lens which is about resources for pastel artists – lots of links to places which will tell you more about pastels

  2. Katherine,

    Thanks for your comment! Your tip about “fat over lean” is intriguing – I got similar tips from replies to my WetCanvas post. It’s obvious now, but at the time, I was too busy swooning over my new pastels to think clearly.

    The pastels came with a scrap of abrasive card that I’m going to use for a tiny study.

    I’d heard people mention squidoo before, but didn’t know what it was. Thanks for the link! *off to go read up*


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