View Full Version : Advice on materials list for intro workshop

07-10-2013, 07:27 PM
I know that some of you teach classes and I'd like to get your opinion on what I should include in the materials list for the Introduction to Pastels class (most likely a one day workshop) which I'm hoping to teach this fall. It would be the continuing education class, no credits, still need to submit the application but the materials list is stopping me. I'd like people to try different materials to make up their mind about whether they want to continue with pastels or not (I do want them to fall in love with pastels of course!). At the same time I don't want to ask them to go and spend a lot of money on something they are not even sure about yet, it's an intro after all. It's easier with watercolors and oils where you just need a few basic colors to start, but with pastels you do need a range of values to really get going and, ideally, need to try hard/medium/soft pastels on sanded surface and canson paper. I realize there will not be much time for students to paint a finished work, I really see if as a series of small exercises instead. But the question is - should I ask students to buy only certain colors of hard/medium/soft pastels, keeping in mind maybe a very simple still life colors (like apples, etc)? or should they bring small, basic, sets of pastels? I could probably even give them some hard pastels for practice in class, sticks can be broken into at least two and they are not that expensive.
Any suggestions are appreciated!

07-10-2013, 08:09 PM

I'm planning to teach an adult beginner pastel class in the fall. I haven't made up my supply list yet, and I, too am concerned about the investment I'm asking the students to make. This is what my list might include:

Set of hard pastels (NuPastel or other) - 36 assorted colors
Set of soft pastels (Rembrant or other) - 30 assorted colors
Wallis sanded paper in belgian mist color - 9x12 pad
Wallis sanded paper in white - 9x12 pad
Canson Mi-Teintes, Spectrum or other pastel paper (not sanded)
Workable fixative spray
Vine charcoal for drawing
Paper towels
Hand wipes

Not sure if I'm forgetting anything and also looking forward to hearing what others say. This should be a very interesting thread!


07-10-2013, 09:00 PM
Best wishes to you both!

Michele, a few suggestions:
1) Wallis is notoriously difficult to find - goes out of stock very quickly. May I suggest adding an "or" to that so the students don't find themselves frustrated? UArt is easy to find, and UArt 400 grit is the one I'm told is the most similar to Wallis.

2) If they are true beginners, they might not know which alternatives exist in your pastel categories. Rather than "Rembrandt or other," you might consider listing a few in each of your softness categories (e.g. "Rembrandt or Blick"). For the hard pastels, it may also help to include the full brand name since "Nupastels" are sometimes listed under "Prismacolor" (e.g. "Prismacolor Nupastel or Faber Castel Polychromos")

3) I would encourage you to add a note that "half-sticks" sets are acceptable - those would be a very budget-conscious way for beginners to try a set of 30 colors at a much lower price.

Side note - be sure tell them on day 1 that they'll have to sand off the "skin" if they get Rembrandts to be able to use them properly! :) Speaking of which, a sandpaper pad may be worth adding, but as an optional item.

07-10-2013, 09:10 PM
By the way, speaking of optional items, I'd encourage including a very small set of softies so they get the feel of adding very soft pastel overtop the others. I just checked, and among the very softies, I see that Sennelier has a set of 20 half sticks - the price is very reasonable. If that particular set were listed as optional it would be worth including on the list, and you wouldn't have to worry about people feeling the items are too expensive - they can still come with just the other sets if they need to. But those who have the ability can also come with these. Perhaps you can have a few softies on hand in the class one day for anyone who doesn't have a set of his or her own just so they can play a bit with them and their effects.

07-10-2013, 09:34 PM
Michele, thanks for listing your items! It made me think about adding a few things.
Grinner, thank you for very good suggestions! I was looking at half-stick sets online as well, that's sounds like a good way to go, at least suggesting as an option. And yes, definitely need to give them brand names rather than just "hard, medium", etc. They would not know.. Since I was thinking about just a workshop to try this out, I might just have some sanded paper for them - my watercolor teacher offered some paper in class, so students did not have to worry about finding the right stuff. Of course, the last thing I want to do is handling the money during the workshop, but it's something to consider, pros and cons..

07-10-2013, 09:38 PM
Grinner - Do you know if Wallis or other sanded paper is sold in any retail art supply stores? I think I've only been able to find it online. And I'm definitely going to list some softies as optional - they have such a different feel than Rembrandt (which I see on Dakota are listed as medium hardness). Great suggestions - thanks!


07-10-2013, 09:49 PM
So glad it was helpful :) As for the paper, good question - I usually make my purchases online, too. When I have gone to stores in person, they always have loads of Canson Mi-Teintes, but little else in terms of pastel-specific support. But it's probably worth calling some of the stores in the city where the workshop will be held to see what they have in stock. I'd work under the assumption that people will need to get their materials online, though, unless you can pre-purchase it and the materials fee can be built into the price of the course.

07-10-2013, 10:28 PM
Grinner - thanks!

Lana - sorry to somewhat have taken over your thread - didn't mean to. :-)


07-10-2013, 10:39 PM
Michele, that's fine! We are in the same boat as they say :) I also would love to know later how you classes go.

07-11-2013, 12:31 AM
Lana - same here :-)


07-11-2013, 06:50 PM
Table top easels if learners have them and boards of some sort to tape paper (prop up on tables to work if no easel). Hating clean-up, don't forget the cheap plastic fleece/flannel backed table cloth or towel to catch dust. The wet face cloth in a zip-lock baggie or baby wipes, hand cream for the end of the day. And please have learners bring supplies to sandwich & tape their masterpieces safely between protective covering to take work home unspoilt/undamaged. LOL and maybe unfixed:evil:

Teeny 2x2 or ATC sampler packs for each learner (with brand name written on back) available to them for hands on feeling of various papers and test strokes if they want to mess up their samples.

It would be cool if you could dedicate a portion of morning time during that one day workshop to making one's own small piece (picture size) sanded paper with pastel ground (Golden, Colourfix, whatever) while you talk about papers in general. If done early enough the home made would have time to dry pretty well for use later in the day. Moreover, if students aren't all using your reference for initial practice ........ maybe they could trace their pics before they come onto watercolor / heavier paper and could apply clear ground to their pre-traced drawings. Perhaps a manufacturer might gift you some for the students to try. Can use watercolor paper, matboard cutouts (which might be donated or purchased on the cheap from a framer). This will help learners cut costs later once you have turned them into pastel addicts and let them adjust how much texture they'd like to work on.

Basic supplies as Michele suggested; Nupastels (cheap sets) so you can explain to students which to throw away (reds are useless) and why. Friends who come together can share in the cost of 48 or 96 set and break them in half. Which leads into pastels (hard, med soft and really soft). So add Rembrandts to the supply mix cause they're a reasonable workhorse. Newbies may have a heavier hand to start.

As Grinner suggested, maybe you have bits of softies (colours you rarely use?. Learners might borrow to try a stroke here and there with the Nupastels/Rembrandts to feel the difference in pressure needed, and how the different hard/soft factors vary in application to paper. Which leads to ways to apply pastel (varying strokes, sides, thin lines, scumbling, etc).

Now can we paint please!

07-11-2013, 09:38 PM
I'm going to offer a contrary viewpoint - sorry. Whether my opinion has any merit at all - I don't know. Trying to put myself into the mind of a pastel beginner isn't easy when the first time I picked up a pastel was about 37 years ago when I was in art school.

I only skimmed over some of the responses, so I apologize if this has been covered, but I didn't notice whether or not you are charging a fee for these classess and roughly how much the fee is. This would drastically alter my perception of how much I would be willing to spend as a participant. If the charge is high, then I would expect material cost to be part of the class fee.

As I mentioned, it is hard to put myself into the mindset of a beginner, but I think I would find it very confusing if I were confronted with many different types of paper and pastels. I would want to know if I can do a pastel painting and how much I enjoy it. Until I have done a number of paintings using one paper and one type of pastel, I will have nothing to compare it to if I begin to try lots of papers right away. So, if I were doing a one day workshop I would limit my materials. If I were doing a class that went 10 weeks, let's say, then I would introduce alternate papers and types of pastel gradually over the course of the course!

So, for a one day workshop I would choose a set of Rembrandts or some medium hardness pastel. A half-stick set would be nice as it is far more cost-effective. I would choose a more middle of the road paper (Wallis, I think, is the most toothy of the sanded papers.) perhaps Pastelmat, which comes in pads of various colors. So, no need of a separate white pad.

If you are teaching the class inside a facility that has a sink, no need for the wipes or paper towels (they could be listed as optional, of course).

Unless you are teaching the workshop outdoors, I would say nay to the spray fixative. Under no circumstances should people be spraying inside a classroom, in my opinion. The only exception would be Spectrafix - which would be my recommendation anyway, and is non-toxic. I think (if possible) that you can buy one can for the class to use, rather than have each person bring a can.

Since people can draw and paint with pastels, I think you can eliminate the vine charcoal, too. You can mention it as a possibility, but it just isn't necessary. Never used it for a pastel in my life.

As many have mentioned, if you bring along a few softies for people to try, that should wet their curiosity. It took me years before I felt I could handle the softest pastels, so that may explain why I think it might be too much too soon to have lots of different supplies for a beginner class.

Again, feel free to ignore these comments. It is so long ago since I was a beginner, I may be totally off base.


07-11-2013, 11:31 PM
Nell, thank you for your suggestions. There will be easels in the classroom and the sink, that makes it easier. I like the idea of showing how to prepare boards with pastel ground, but I think that for the one day workshop it might be too much to take in for a beginner, I think for the longer class I'd definitely include it since I'm a big fan of making my own boards. Nupastels and Rembrandts seem to be the best choice so far.
Don, I so agree with you - it might be overwhelming for someone with no prior knowledge to search for all different materials, particularly that I really want to get the message across that pastels are fun and relatively easy medium to use. Originally I did think about including the materials cost in the price of the workshop, that would be the easiest way. Then I looked at the pricing.. It's hard for me to know what expectations potential students have here in terms of the cost of art classes (I only live here for a year, I had to move here from NY), but I see listings on the college website for continuing education classes for as low as $99 for four meetings, about 2-3 hours each! In New York that would be at least twice as much, I could see including the supplies in cost of a class in NY but for here, in WI, that would bring up the price of the workshop quite a bit. I can see the experienced people spending money on supplies or at least for a full class, but for beginners who just might want to try it, I'm not so sure.. I do want to start teaching mostly for getting experience but I cannot really do it completely for free, since my bills have to be paid and time is money. That's why I want to try a one day workshop, this way I only have a commitment for one day and I can see if I get enough interested people for a longer class later. So yes, I do want to keep the cost of materials to the minimum and thanks for good suggestions. As far as fixative, I could not agree more, it should never be used in the classroom. I actually never use it, don't want to alter my colors in any way.
Thank you, everybody, for all the ideas and things to take into account! I'm so glad I asked this question instead of driving myself crazy trying to figure it out all by myself :)

07-12-2013, 12:06 AM
I do agree with a lot of what Don has said. Purchasing pastels as a beginner can be an expensive and daunting experience. It seems to scare people off because of the expense, they often times don't want to take the chance just to see if they like the medium.

For a one day workshop in pastels, I would recommend (keeping in mind that you already have easels in the facility):

A small half stick set of Rembrandts, Nupastels, or Faber Castell Polychromos pastels. If money is a real issue, Rembrandt makes a 15 piece half stick set that is really reasonable, only $22, or they can buy the 30pc half stick set for better color selections/availability.

Canson Mi Teintes paper, a couple of sheets. The colors I recommend using are Ivy, Tobacco, Dark Gray, and/or Burgundy. I like to recommend mid tones because it makes it much easier for students to work values, they've got their mid-tones already established, and when they put on a light they get bling right away, and when the put in darks they get drama. Instant gratification :D , and it helps them to figure things out.

Kneaded eraser (it's cheap)

Vine charcoal - soft (it's cheap) I like this becaue it's easy to use, easy to erase, and easy to get values. Vine charcoal works very well with pastels.

Masking tape (any kind will do, it's just for the day) to tape the paper down on the foam core. If they have bulldog clips already, then bring them too

Foam core (one sheet shouldn't be expensive)

If this were an ongoing class you would find that those falling "in love" with the medium will want to try softer pastels, and they will be more than willing to go out and purchase more "stuff". In the beginning though, it's hard to recommend too much because you just never know who will love it and who won't.....

I probably forgot something......

07-12-2013, 12:42 AM
Chris, that narrows it down nicely. Thanks! Some items can even be bought in Michaels and they very often have coupons for 1 item 40% or 50% off, so that might help too. I'm also thinking about listing both workshop and a landscape (longer) class (scheduled after workshop) so that people see that they can use their materials for other class as well.

Kathryn Wilson
07-12-2013, 09:18 AM
I don't think this has been suggested, so here goes. I thought back to my very first pastel class and my frustration in finding the materials that were called for.

So, why not put "kits" together so they can purchase them separately from the cost of the workshop. This would have made it so much easier for my first class and would ensure that everyone has the same product to start off with. For me, that would have reduced the anxiety of finding everything required.

For a one-day introduction of pastels class:

Canson paper (medium grey)
Half stick set of Rembrandts
Foam core
Tape (you could provide this as it can be expensive to buy a whole roll)
Vine Charcoal

Good luck, I know you'll have as much fun as the students when everyone is prepared ahead of time.

07-12-2013, 06:05 PM
Canson Mi Tientes also comes in assortment pads 9" x 12" or 12" x 18" and that's a good bargain way to get it. I always get the pads.

Generally supplies are cheaper online. You can look for bargains at Dick Blick or Jerry's Artarama and Blick has a function where you can make up a supply list for your class from their stock - usually much cheaper than anything in offline stores.

Jerry's Artarama has the Gallery Mungyo brands. For super dirt cheap what I'd do is go to Jerry's to get them a Mi-Tientes pad and the Gallery Standard half stick set of 64 colors. That and a Mi-Tientes pad is minimal. They're just student grade pastels but the price is unbeatable and they're rather good quality for student grade. That gives a good range of hues and values. Jerry's also has the Gallery Mungyo soft rounds, similar to Rembrandts. I got the set of 60 for my granddaughter's birthday and loved them, they really are very much like Rembrandt.

If you're not doing Jerry's, then I'd say 24 hard pastels, 40 Rembrandt half sticks and 20 Sennelier half sticks would give a good color and value range especially in the mid-range softness, all artist grade. Cretacolor Pastels Carre are good hard pastels, I like those a lot.

I'm planning on starting an art workshop at the local GBLT center so you've got me thinking about my supply list again too! I'll have to see if I can get funding for it, but if I can, I'll definitely be putting together something like that but doing the primer/watercolor paper version of it to keep costs down. My students will all be seniors on fixed income so I have to try to keep costs down in their range or make sure the supplies my funding buys lasts them long enough they can sell some art to get more. It's in the discussion stage and I hope to get it together sometime in the fall, it'll be great if I can.

As for easels, table easels tend to be a bit expensive but a display easel is even cheaper. Using that and a particle board drawing board with rubber band or just the drawing board, that'd be fine for a workshop.

Wipes are useful but I always got by with just a towel, tell them to bring a towel they don't mind getting stained with pigments. I used to use ratty bath towels for painting towels, just wet one end of it and kept the other end dry for drying my hands after wiping.

07-14-2013, 04:45 PM
Kathryn and Robert, thank you for your suggestions! I really appreciate you taking time to reply.
Kathryn, I do agree with that and that's why I'm more and more leaning towards making kits of bare essentials and then having some soft sticks for trying out, so students can just use them in class. This workshop would really be for people who are new to pastels so I really want them to have only good feelings associated with it, not the stress of looking for the right materials. And as much as I did not want to deal with collecting money during the class for those kits, I guess it's just the way I'll have to go. For the longer class, that meets weekly, I'd just post the list of materials, but for the intro like this kits are probably the best way to go after all.
Robert, I happen to have some Canson paper, got it very cheap at store closing years ago and since I mostly use sanded supports I did not use much of it. So that would be part of the kit. I think I might go with even less than 24 colors for the workshop. This is a situation when they are not necessarily going to turn into pastel fans, so I just want to make it really easy on their wallets to at least to give a try to this great medium. And I hope they will come back for the next class, if they do, then they will be more willing to spend more money on more colors. I hope you share your experience teaching the workshop too. This is so new to me, I taught English to Russian kids back in Russia, but never taught art to anyone yet.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this!

07-16-2013, 01:32 AM
I am going to add a slightly new perspective from what is here. I teach graduate level courses with adults, as well as community education programs to older adults. Since this is a one day introduction, and you stated your goal is to help them decide whether or not to continue with pastels, you need to KEEP IT SIMPLE and relatively inexpensive for them.

I suggest a set of Blick 48 pastels -- inexpensive, decent quality and texture, and a reliable brand. Add an option for a half stick set of Rembrandts, if people feel that interested or can afford it. If you have a simple pad of 9x12 Canson Mi-Teintes and a pack of 9x12 Art Spectrum Colorfox, you'll be able to expose them to both types of surfaces. Preparing their own grounds should be omitted -- save that for when you are teaching several consecutive sessions.

You might also have some examples of the Pastel Journal to share with them.

Keep in mind that newbies are generally hesitant to break sticks in half. You'll spend the majority of your day just helping them to use the basic medium, how to layer colors, and to resist blending every stroke with their fingers.


07-16-2013, 05:06 AM
Paul, that is a brilliant point. Yes to both. I could bring the tape since it's a bit costly, foam core drawing boards are a matter of my preparing them by cutting boards I already have and taping their edges. Or even corrugated cardboard ones from recycled packing boxes.

You're right. They're students, even graduate level students can actually use student grade materials and do all right with them. If they like what they did and want to invest in better supplies, that's where bringing my Dakota Traveler to let them try artist grade pastels and know the difference and variety.

Student grade pastels like the Blick Pastels have a great texture, handle easily, they're cheap and come in fairly large sets. They lean a bit heavy toward acid bright colors but that's good for color mixing and the Blick 48 has some lights in it. I used to have a set of Alphacolor when I first started out, then bought the Grumbachers when I was selling them as the art store bloke told me that the Alphacolors weren't lightfast and weren't suitable for selling my portraits.

So if I get money funding for it, that's top of the list - student grade pastels, Canson pads, foam core or corrugated cardboard drawing boards, one roll of tape and one big box of vine charcoal split up into all those empty pill bottles I have laying around. That's so they've got it handy. I'd like to get regular drawing pads or a watercolor pad into it too.

Cold press watercolor pad would let them experiment with wet underpainting. I could bring my tube watercolors or make up dots cards like the Daniel Smith sample dots cards for everyone to have a range of colors to use in the underpainting.

But that's something to bring up later, starting them on medium value Canson paper is easier.

Lana, that is so cool that you have already got plenty of Canson paper you got cheap! I've got watercolor paper like that, since I bought up a bunch of Canson Biggie pads on clearance a couple of years ago. If I don't get funding for materials, they'll learn watercolor underpainting on the first session because I'll bring the watercolor paper, corrugated cardboard drawing pads, my tape and my tube watercolors to share, along with some cheap brushes I got years ago at some dollar store. Underpainting does not take using really good brushes, just fairly big ones. Heck, if it's a small group I'll do that anyway on one of the sessions and bring my pot of sanded primer.

I also realized while typing that I might be able to get my materials donated directly from the brick and mortar art stores in the city. I know they sometimes get things that don't even wind up in the Clearance bin, full sheets that get damaged but still have usable large areas, broken sticks from open stock that aren't salable, broken sets that got raided to fill out open stock. I could get some interesting grab bags for the students that way or they might just put together the basic kit as described but brand random by what's overstock. They might get some really good stuff on overstock if I go calling the art stores.

I'm hoping that works out. If it doesn't work out with the GBLT center, I'll also approach the one that's on my block. It's so close I don't even need the power chair to go, I could get there just using my walker. It's a little different than Tatiana's class in that it won't be a one day event but a once a month activity that could go on for years. It may graduate some of my senior students into part or full time artists supplementing their pensions selling their art.

I love this thread. I'm feeling more optimistic about it by the day, I know I'll find a way to get it started. I might also start going to the art class at the center next to where I live if it's open to young disabled people, just to see what they usually have for those classes. Since I'm trying to add a new activity to something already typical, I need to give mine a focus and soft pastels looks like the way to go with it.

I hope I can get the stores to kit me up though or get funding, because I'd like to get them set up with enough materials they can keep on with it between sessions. If I can get them hooked, then at least some of them will have a side income on top of their pensions or Social Security.

07-18-2013, 10:25 AM
I'm a total noob to art and pastels so hopefully I can add something here. I'll echo what others have said and suggest keeping it as simple and inexpensive as possible. I fell in love with pastels by using a craft store set of $10 basic pastel colors and watercolor paper.

Not that I'm suggesting that. :)

I know this is kind of cliche but what would appeal to me to test out pastels would be having a specific project to paint. Something simple but something that will show what pastels can do and your students walk away with a completed painting.

Would it be possible for you to buy a small set of softies and break them up for your students and include that in the cost? Same with paper. Maybe give each student a tinted sheet of something inexpensive along with a sheet of sandpaper from the hardware store. Let them see what can be done with minimal supplies since you have to keep it simple for beginners anyway.

I'd also have some of your own pastels on display so they can see the possibilities and be inspired. As a noob the only thing I'd ever seen pastels associated with were portraits and I was totally uninterested. If I'd seen some landscapes or flowers or cityscapes and seen what can be done with pastels I'd have started them years ago.

Wish you were in my city, I'd sign up!!

07-19-2013, 12:33 PM
thank you for the suggestions! It's good to see that from a different perspective. You are right, there's a certain stereotype that people have about pastels - about colors, about subject matter. So I'd like to show what can be done, that it's pretty much like oils, very versatile when it comes to subjects, techniques, color palette. Like you said, some might be thinking it's only used for portraits.. I'll make sure I have an image of a still life or lanscape next to the class listing and my website link for more examples.
I did think about setting up a very simple still life so that students can practice what they are learning right away. I'm very careful though about those promises of "come away with a finished painting ready to frame" (you can see that a lot on Michael's art class flyers). I'm sure that's not what you meant exactly. I'm sure you are talking about letting students use pastels through all the stages of developing a painting as opposed to just doing random strokes on different types of paper (that will have to be done in the beginning too). I'll do my best to help them get the work finished, but people work at different speed, particularly people new to the medium. So my goal is to let them see what pastels can do and how they can do that, and practice. I don't really want to set students up for a finished painting on the first day, that might make people frustrated if they cannot keep up from the start. Of course, the key is breaking the lesson into easy steps to follow and keeping the still life very very simple, maybe just an apple and a pear.
Thanks again for your thoughts, it's very helpful!

07-19-2013, 08:53 PM
You're right, the Michael's version wasn't what I was referring to, lol. I went to one of those last year and learned.....NOTHING. Everyone loves that painting but, ugh, I hate it. It's just so "crafty." Edited to say I don't mean this as snobbish as it sounds. I almost took another one of these classes recently because IMO the instructor was very talented.

Anyway, I was, in fact, thinking of something simple like a pear or apple as you suggested. I know it's probably quite difficult to balance useful instruction with the need to keep your students interested. You know we all want to be artists immediately. :D