View Full Version : Where do I start?

07-07-2003, 02:00 AM
Hey all,

I got some pastels recently... only some cheap ones to learn with and since I havent used pastels for years... since highschool and was never really taught how to use them... I would love any advice anyone has to give on using pastels. The ones I am using are soft patels... I'm not really fond of oil pastels at this stage but maybe if i figure out soft pastels... i can give the oils another go.

So if anyone can offer any advice on anything relating to pastels... i would really appreciate it right now. Anything at all. Your help would be very appreciated and hopefully get me off to a good start before I even do start experimenting.

Atm, I mostly just work in graphite or colourpencils.. although the cps are very new to me also. They opened up my colour horizens... so the next step is pastels... then watercolour and other paints :D

Thanks everyone... sorry to sound so unknowledgeable.

07-07-2003, 03:58 AM

Harmony, above is a link to an article about ONE WAY TO WORK WITH PASTELS, which I wrote for beginners.
Here is another:

You might also find, if you have a look around some older threads - perhaps one of the channel guides will remember? Ilis? - a thread about pastel techniques, which offered lots of advice - I remember posting a long list of specific techniques for people to try out.

This is what I would always recommend you try first off. Get a large sheet of pastel paper, and your pastels, and play with them, making as many different kinds of marks as possible, using both the end, and the sides, of the pastels. Vary the pressure as you work to see what happens too. Don't try to paint anything recognisable - just make random marks. When you have filled a whole sheet, you will know quite a lot about how pastels work!

If you want to be "led by the hand" a little more, I have written a book for beginners called "PASTEL WORKBOOK", which people on this channel have either found for themselves, or bought directly from me, and they tell me they have found it very helpful. I am not necessarily suggesting you buy it.....tho I am always happy to supply........but why not take a trip to the library and see if you can find it, or else another, similar book, which will give you masses of information.

Have fun - that's the main thing. Pastels are really quite easy to use. Start with a light touch, and gradually build up to heavier layers - if you do that, you won't fill the "tooth" of the paper too soon. Oh, and try to work at an easel - ifyou work flat on the table, you will create a lot of pastel dust and get into a big mess.


07-07-2003, 03:59 AM
browse through this forum, the hall of fame, do a search.......there is loads and loads of info here!

07-07-2003, 08:38 AM
Thankyou both for that.

Jackie, I'm about to read through those links you gave and will keep an eye out for your book.

But like starting any new medium... theres always so much to learn and read about first... so I'll head to the stickys afterwards.

Thanks again... hope my first attempt isnt too disasterous lol

07-07-2003, 09:24 AM
I did a search for you, and found the thread I was talking about. Here is what I said:

For those who might want to practice techniques, here are a few ideas. My suggestion would be to take a big sheet of paper, and simply make MARKS. Do not try to paint anything recognisable. In this way, you concentrate purely on the marks you are making, rather than the object itself.

Some important things to remember:

1. Remember to vary the PRESSURE of your strokes.

2. Notice, as you work, how the colour of the paper interacts with the colour of the pastles.

Now try these techniques for mark-making, and colour areas.


1. Linear marks can be useful in a painting, so you need to practice linear strokes - lines. Try making thin, light lines. Then gradually increase the pressure until you are makiing firm, thick lines. Be aware of the pressure, and see how the surface of the paper affects the line.

2. Now develop these lines into areas of colour. First try "cross-hatching". Make your lines criss-cross each other, in varying directions. Huge variety and density can be achieved in this way. You can even try cross-hatching in different colours for different effects. If the cross-hatching is loose, the paper colour will show thro. If you build up more and more lines, the paper colour will gradually be covered, and you will have a dense area of interesting colour if you use more than one colour. "Feathering" is another one to try - instead of crossing your lines over each other, lay them side by side. Try slanting lines, that is the easiest. Now try vertical lines.

3. Try dots and dashes. These will create textural effects. Pointilism came about thro the use of dots of varying sizes. The finished effect will dance with light and vibrancy.


1. As Marsha said, break the pastel, so that you have an unwrapped piece, about 1" long. Using the side of the pastel, make sweeping strokes across the paper.

2. Now change to another colour, and make more sweeping strokes near the first ones, and then use a finger to blend in a few areas. DO NOT FALL IN LOVE WITH BLENDING. Too much blending in a pic will make it look too soft and squodgy and polished. But it is handy here and there to soften an edge, or a line. Try first with your finger, and then with a tissue. See how the blending differs COMPLETELY.

3. Sweep one colour over another. First try dark over light. Then try light over dark. See how they differ. Lights over darks will shimmer, darks over lights will subdue. This is called layering. It will be very effective over a blended area. Also try a quick spray of fix, and then try layering over the top. The under-colour will affectthe newly applied layer. Cool colour over warm, or vice versa, will add depth and interest.
4. Now try BROKEN COLOUR. Short side strokes of pastel, side by side with just the edges overlapping. You can build up amazing areas of colour in this way. For instance, if you wanted to create an area of blue in a painting, but did not want it to be too monotonous, you could use broken colour, using a variety of blues, all similar in tone, but varying in hue (purple-blue; greeny-blue; royal blue; etc). The resulting patch of colour would be vibrant, and not at all monotonous. Seen from a distance, it would still read as blue tho. You can also create areas of broken colour where the colours vary. Try it, but use harmonious colours - for instance, those next to each other on the colour wheel. Red, red-orange, orange, orange-yellow. The patch of colour you create will be gorgeous.

Finally, using any or all of the techniques above, try graduating your area of colour from very light to very dark, carefully so that the jumps in tone are subtle. (Gradation of tone is essential in order to model form and volume in a picture. Also, to achieve a sense of space or atmosphere in a landscape, the eye needs to move gradually from areas which are fully saturated in colour, to lighter or darker tones and colours.)

After you have spent two or three hours on this kind of practice, you will have lots of tools to tackle a painting. You will also find that you can look at other pastel paintings by other artists, and will be able to analyse HOW they achieved certain effects - effects you might find useful. "

Thee is some great advice from others there, including experts like Marsha and Ilis, and if you scroll down to my post, you will find a big picture at the bottom of the above suggestions, to show what my practice sheet looks like:


Hope you find this useful - it should give you a REALLY good start.

Incidentally - there is a wonderful painter in Brisbane, who uses both oils and pastels, teaching at one of the art colleges there, her name is Kay Kane. Just in case you ever hear of her doing any classes.

07-07-2003, 09:35 AM
Thanks again Jackie :) I am definately eager to start but might get a few books from the library to read up on also as a back up. The more I read, surely the more I will learn. But that advice is very helpful.

I went to a pastellist meeting once with a friend (ciarrai) and there was a person there that offered pastel lessons. Might have to look into that also. Would help alot I am sure :)

07-07-2003, 09:56 AM
Harmony, I think we might have cross-posted - I have added some pics into the above thread.

07-07-2003, 10:22 AM
Hi Harmony and Welcome to the forum..... You've already been given loads of info above, so hope to see some of your work here soon.:)


07-07-2003, 10:41 AM
Thanks again Jackie... the pictures really help explain the info :)

Mo, thankyou for the welcome. Not sure how soon you will be seeing my first attempt but hopefully it will be sooner than later. Fingers crossed that its not downright terrible hehe

07-07-2003, 11:07 AM
Thank you, Harmony, for asking the question, and Jackie for finding and reposting that intro lesson! I've been using pastels, though with my own self-taught methods and am looking to expand and improve, for some time, and I found this incredibly helpful, as the exercise will take me through a reintroduction to the medium and help me explore some of the very things I want to polish!

(And thanks, too, Jackie, for letting me know about this site! I look forward to hanging around, getting to know people, and *learning* from the incredible wealth of info posted here!)

(From another new member....)

07-07-2003, 11:11 AM
Glad to help Gayze :) I used pastels alot in highschool but it was self taught there too so I thought this time I'd start with a bit of knowledge behind my mess lol

07-07-2003, 01:09 PM
Jackie - wonderful demo - glad you are helping us out!!!


07-08-2003, 04:25 AM
My pleasure everyone. Gayze - welcome to WC! You will meet some great people here, and pick up LOADS of tips and hints.
Let us see what you do in due course.

thanks Barb, glad to be of service. It's fun.

- actually, I wonder if there is any way of "saving" this thread, so that newbies to pastels can get at it easily? Any ideas, anyone?


07-08-2003, 04:28 AM
PM one of the forum guides or moderator. They should be able to organise it into the stickys from there :)

07-08-2003, 05:56 AM
thanks, Harmony. I guess the forum guides and moderators will see it, and if they want to turn it into a sticky, I daresay they will - not sure about the criteria - maybe it depends on number of views, or requests from other members. I don't want to be pushy! I will just bookmark it for myself, and perhaps at a later date, if anyone wants this info, I can direct them to it.


07-08-2003, 11:01 AM
Thank you, Jackie. I'm already finding that the people here are super, and braved the waters enough to post an attempt in the daily pastel thread yesterday. :-)