View Full Version : Got Willies?

06-22-2013, 11:09 AM
Hi all, normally I lurk about in the watercolor section, but this question probably belongs over here, so I'll repost it

I might have a small problem...I pulled out my soft pastels the other day and played with them a little bit.

Not sure when it developed, but I'm getting this almost debilitating case of the heebie jeebies when I rub the pastels on the paper.

I think it's the noise; for some people it's fingernails on a chalkboard, or the squeak of a fork slid just right on a china plate. For my mom, it's two pieces of styrofoam being rubbed together. Most people have something that will set them off.

When I hear and feel the dry pastel kind of scrape-screeching across a dry piece of paper, I get a nasty shudder, a wave of goose bumps and a feeling in my mouth like my teeth are trying to grow fur. Even just talking or thinking about it makes it happen.

What is that phenomenon? Is it something mental that I can overcome or is it some kind of physical reaction to the sound?

06-22-2013, 12:12 PM
Hi Karl,
I couldn't help but laugh when I read your post. I thought I'd heard of everything! I don't know how to overcome this except to desensitize yourself by making that horrible noise...
Maybe if you change the support. Or the pastel. Maybe really hard pastels that are more like crayons (Polychromos) or really soft ones that are silky like Schminckes.
Try LaCarte paper, which is a very soft, almost cushiony paper, or PastelMat which is another soft feeling, almost velvety paper?
Good luck, it's worth it, pastels rock!

06-22-2013, 12:41 PM
I like the sound.... guess I can't help you :lol: ! I am a die hard pastelist, so anything to do with them makes me happy..... just keep doing it, maybe you will be desensitized?

06-22-2013, 01:32 PM
I get that reaction with a few things too, happily not the sound of pastels on paper though. For me it's something about balloons rubbing against each other, the balloon clowns set off a feeling in the back of my throat like an itch and a lot of stress. Over years I sort of managed to overcome it by slow desensitization, treating it like a phobia. I've managed to reduce the effect to something tolerable, partly because at one time I had a housemate that was a balloon clown and she needed to practice.

(Yeah, I had an interesting life.)

That kind of heebie jeebies almost always is the noise. Actual nails on blackboard sound doesn't do it for me but there's a certain type of noise category that does it and it's very common. You're not weird for having the reaction, just sad that it's with something you want to be able to do! A different surface might produce a more tolerable noise.

Hope that helps.

Oh, and you might try Pan Pastels on Pastelmat. They are just as fast and dry, it's a different form of pastel and the noise is not the same as sticks scraping on paper. You use Sofft micropore sponge tools to apply the pigment, it comes in 2" wide jars like makeup compacts. Check out the thread on it. I recommend the 10 color general assortment for beginners, that's what I pack into a 10 color tray for Plein Air work. Painting Colors set of 10 is the one I mean by a general assortment. There's also a smaller set of 7 foundational colors but I still prefer the 10 color Painters as a starter assortment. They act like paint, mix like paint, each color is its own separate pure pigment. I got decent results with 5 Painters (primaries and black and white) but prefer the 10 to have two secondaries (violet and green) and three good earths with them. 20 painters is all but one of the pigments. Shades, tints and deep darks are convenience colors - very useful if you like them but as mentioned, I skip those for plein air just to make it easier to carry only the small tray with me.

For more about Pan Pastels and some examples, here's a link to the current thread about them: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=938580 and there is a much older one that's got a lot of good demos and examples in it: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=455375

They're both good threads with lots of examples. I love the Pan Pastels and for you - the sound is completely different. They also work well with sticks and on PastelMat, the sticks may make a different sound. The best surfaces I use with them is PastelMat or Colourfix Suede, coated heavy papers that aren't sticky. (The sound is quite different on the coating. Hopefully enough!)

Try a sample of Colourfix sanded paper with your sticks. Art Spectrum Multimedia Primer will turn any cheap watercolor pad into the Colourfix surface, or any botched watercolor for that matter. You can recycle failed paintings into pastels or use them as underpainting with the clear primer. That sound is different too, a sanded paper has a sandpaper noise. Sanded papers are a bit more pricy, but the primer plus varying degrees of watercolor paper can give practice surfaces including cheap watercolor paper and mat scrap the same surface as the artist grade Colourfix paper (just use 100% rag good watercolor paper for it or buy Colourfix paper for the good ones.)

Hope this helps and gives you some directions to try!

06-22-2013, 06:34 PM
Which brand of pastels are you using, and on what kind of paper?

06-22-2013, 06:50 PM
Addendum: you could always put on headphones and listen to music while you use your pastels ;) Then you don't have to worry about switching from a certain paper to another. There is always a way! Happy painting :thumbsup:

06-22-2013, 09:26 PM
I tried the headphones a little earlier, that helped some, but as soon as I grabbed a paper stump and started blending, my fingers 'heard' the noise and I was heebed out again. heh

Thanks for the suggestions, I'll keep plugging away at it, I noticed that it wasn't as bad on smoother paper, I've been mostly using various 140 CP rag that I'd borked the watercolor on. I've gotten to where I don't mess around fixing watercolors anymore. I've got lots of acrylic and pastels to make use of the paper, and I can just pretend it was an underpainting. :P

I'm going to look into Rob's primer idea, though. I can always appreciate a little more tooth with any paper.

06-22-2013, 11:52 PM
Oh, if it's the sound of a paper stump on watercolor paper, maybe the sound of a silicon or rubber Colour Shaper would be different. That's another thing to try - a different blending tool. Sofft tools made for Pan Pastels can work, the Colour Shapers sometimes come up on Swap Shop but to just try one I'd recommend a size 6 or 10 chisel tip one in the white Soft hardness. Soft or dry pastels respond best to the softest Colour Shapers, the gray Firm ones work fairly well and are good for both oil pastels and dry pastels. Clay Shapers (dark gray almost black) are good with oil pastel but too stiff to be much good on soft pastels. Blick has them, it's about $12 for a #6 Soft chisel and then there's the double ended Pastel one with a foam blender on one end and size 2 flat (chisel shape) on the other. So there's variations. I got a couple of them in a pastel blender kit years ago and liked them enough to add others in different sizes and hardnesses.

Primer, I think the Art Spectrum Supertooth primer and the Multimedia primer (clear) are the same cost but Supertooth is a bit toothier. Either will do for recycling those good all-rag underpaintings into great pastel paintings. Both of them are so much toothier than watercolor paper or pastel papers that you'll probably be hooked on the first go. Use cheap brushes for applying, those foam crafts brushes are great for it.

Sofft tools are very cheap as blenders go, the mixed bag of small sponges would work to give those a try to get rid of the sound.

One of my enjoyments in life is trying out different supplies and finding out what I can do with them. I like being able to have the right tool for the effect I want in the moment and rarely got rid of anything. When I moved here from Arkansas I had one suitcase of clothes and personal items, everything else was my art supplies! Half the stash is still in Arkansas along with my massive collection of North Light books.

CM Neidhofer
06-27-2013, 12:32 PM
OMG.....i have the same issues with styrofoam cups! I cannot drink from styrofoam. Itmakes my teeth feel like they're being pulled out! Have a friend who cant eat peaches...the fuzz drives him crazy....can't even say "peach." He gets all willy!

06-27-2013, 07:06 PM
Styrofoam cups when wet are okay but dry:( . The other bad one is Styrofoam coolers and a box full of packing peanuts :eek:

There is something with Styrofoam the way it gives me the willies. The other is nails on a chalkboard .

Wonder what the sound would be rubbing Styrofoam on a chalkboard ? :evil: :evil: :eek:


06-29-2013, 05:19 PM
Eric, someday I have to put that into a novel, someone rubbing Styrofoam on a chalkboard. That's just too extreme! Christine, yeah, styrofoam does have a weird sound in that category. Not as annoying as rubbing balloons together for me but it's in that ballpark.

I wonder what causes these reactions? It's so common, maybe universal. Strange to think about it in terms of evolution, what purpose would that serve to get a creepy feeling from a scratchy noise?

06-29-2013, 07:07 PM
The worst sound in the world is downed live powerlines-

pastel pencils give me the willies, the sticks don't bother me.

I would turn up the music!

06-29-2013, 10:52 PM
For me it's nails on a chalkboard and eating off of real sterling silver...ewww! It is terrible going to someone elses house to eat and that is what they use. I have to just get through it as I do not want to make the host/hostess feel weird about it. My ex MIL used to use them but sometimes it wasn't all of them we would get different stuff. I couldn't antagonize her (she didn't like me) so I would see if the person next to me would trade:P

As for the pastels, the ones that seem to do this the most for me are art spectrum. when I first used them I had an aversion to them. I have so few left it doesn't bug me and I'm desensitized. And they have some great colors.
Nupastels do this for me too. I far prefer polychromos as they really are cremier. I hope you can overcome this, as pastels are such a wonderful medium!


06-30-2013, 12:38 AM
You poor thing! I've never even noticed the sound pastels make on the paper but then none of the other sounds mentioned give me the creeps, they are annoying but that's all,

08-02-2013, 04:45 PM
I once asked a science teacher about the chills from a piece of chalk being used. His reply was it's an instinctive reaction to the sound of a predator's claws. Instinct says "RUN" or get eaten.

Not all pastels are so hard so the sound would be different with a softer pastel. It also varies with the surface being drawn upon. Retrain the brain to not think the pastel is a claw, perhaps give yourself a nice reward every time you use the pastels to retrain the brain?

08-02-2013, 07:32 PM
I hope can desensitize yourself! It would be horrible not to be able to enjoy pastels…

I'm an oddball. For me the sounds of nails on a chalkboard doesn't bother me at all, but the feeling of rubbing my own nails on a chalkboard is horrible! That's what gives me those heebie jeebies.

I'm OK with the styrofoam cup as long as I don't accidentally bite it. Oh, and I once got heebie jeebies from seeing a recipe for chocolate chip cookies with jelly beans in them. YUCK! :eek: