View Full Version : Help with pan pastels

Enid Goyers
09-10-2014, 01:22 PM
Hi everybody,

After a long period of struggling with other kinds of paints like water colors I found the pan pastels and was impressed. I have tried to work with them and found that there are really to sides to the pan pastel coin! That is why I want to know if maybe some of you have worked with this medium for a longer time already and could possibly assist me with advice.
Thanks for letting me know.

09-10-2014, 01:46 PM
Hello Enid....firstly...I've moved this to the Pastel Talk section - as it's going to be a discussion on pan pastels, but don't worry, I've left a redirect in the Studio...just in case!
Can you be more specific about what you're having problems with?
Did you see the recent free Demo of Pan pastels by Johannes Vloothuis?
Or the one by Deborah Secor? (http://www.artinstructionblog.com/landscape-painting-demonstration-using-pan-pastels)

09-10-2014, 10:05 PM
I've used pans for a long time now and would be happy to help!

For one thing, it's important to load the sponge with every stroke if you want good coverage. I goofed on that for a long time - got to a certain point and was taking color off rather than adding it, because I didn't re-dip my sponge. Dip two or three times, mix colors by dipping different pans, stroke and dip.

One of my favorite techniques though is to sketch with a deep dark shade and let it wear off gradually, using it like charcoal on a tortillon. The fresh stroke into adeep dark area, then gradually work out softer into the lightest areas, dip and repeat until the sketch is done. That makes it easy to lay light guidelines and darken areas in the sketch too. It erases clean from normal sketch paper. One of my sketches with a wedge sponge for value sketch is up on the Pan Pastels site under Landscapes. Way at the beginning.

Wallis paper eats Sofft tools.

Colourfix a knife sock will last through the whole painting but not usually more than one.

ClaireFontaine PastelMat, a coated paper, is wonderful with Pans but you can't blend color till there's two or three opaque layers. It holds color like painting on the sticky side of tape. Wonderful stuff. Holds many layers without tearing up the tools.

Unsanded paper like Canson Mi Tientes smooth side will take a few layers and be sure to dip the sponge for every stroke once it's starting to fill up with color, or you'll remove color.

Sketchbook paper and art journals respond well to Pan Pastels. They work on any surface with enough tooth to hold pastels.

Hope this helps!

Enid Goyers
09-12-2014, 05:21 AM
Hi Robert,

Your explanation has been very informative and helpful. I especially appreciate the details about the various types of papers suitable to work with pan pastels. Thank you very much for this.

My specific problem is the fine detail work. As long as it is a large scenery giving room for big strokes, the pan pastel tools are handy. However with small, little objects I must go back to the usual pastels. Is there anything smaller than a size 1 for the pan pastel tools?

I hope to show a bit of my work soon so that I can be more specific.

My besthttp://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/images/smilies/smileywave.gif

09-12-2014, 06:13 AM
Hello Edith...you'll see there is a video about the Sofft tools on this page (http://www.panpastel.com/learn.html)...which explains the smallest one.

09-12-2014, 12:27 PM
The best fine-detail tool I've used is the sharp edges of the wedge sponge and corners on it and the square sponge. The knives have blunter corners. If I want a tiny detail I use the corner of a wedge sponge. However, it also really works to use a few pastel pencils with them or medium soft sticks like Rembrandts and do those details last.

Also, there is simply working larger! I went from colored pencils to pastel sticks so I immediately started simplifying subjects and enlarging anything detailed to the point I didn't need a fine point such as I would get with a well sharpened Prismacolor. I adjusted it to where the smaller details were more like those done with a blunted colored pencil. Hard edged sharp short lines are possible with the edges of wedge and square sponges used like tapping a flat brush on end with watercolor or other wet media.

Johannes Vloothuis did some striking twigs with the edges of a wedge sponge, slightly changing the angle with each tap and dipping the edge of the sponge for each stroke.

Curved narrow lines can be done with the round-ended sponge the same way, it takes practice and using the right part of the curve. There's also painting in toward tiny details from the negative space. That can create hard edged details very well, it just takes strategy.

Also the sponges are cheap. Get a bag of wedge sponges and take a scissors to the edge of one, to make a shorter line maybe or an irregular line. You can do things to carve a sponge to custom shapes to get special effects. PastelMat is the best paper for that kind of detail work because of its smooth strong grip. You could lay a big stroke of one color down and then overlay it with opaque strokes around it to make a smaller detail.

Hard or semi-hard pastels work very well in combination to create details. Excess powder can be swept off with a Sofft sponge afterward. I like the Color Conte for that for being smaller sticks but any hard pastels have four corners on each end, eight in all, for doing extremely tiny details or long fine lines on a Pans painting. Linear details in one are sometimes easier with sticks than with Pans as I don't think there's the equivalent of a liner brush in watercolor.

I thought the small head applicator, the mini-applicators were good for details but they're more for pointillism and dabbing and a fairly broad smooth application.

Enid Goyers
09-13-2014, 09:20 AM
Thank you Deidre and Robert. It all boils down to experience, try and experiment, right? Doing a first step is easy but w a l k! I will try and hope I may lean on your help for another while. Thank you again. Enid

09-13-2014, 10:30 AM
Oh, the discussion is fun and has now ranged over three different threads! This form of pastels has only existed less than a decade! I'm not kidding. It is something completely new, we're all exploring what to do with it. The inventors are still exploring what to do with it.

I wouldn't have thought of using the edges of sponges until a watercolorist showed me that technique. So keep playing with them. Share your tricks and questions. It's awesome.

Donna A
09-13-2014, 09:58 PM
Enid: "My specific problem is the fine detail work. As long as it is a large scenery giving room for big strokes, the pan pastel tools are handy. However with small, little objects I must go back to the usual pastels. Is there anything smaller than a size 1 for the pan pastel tools?"

Hi, Enid. I've been using PanPastels since they appeared at their very first IAPS Convention introduction---and have loved them! Ordered the first full set. And a lot of the artists who study with me love using them, as well---and most all have full sets, too. Yes, Robert is right that cutting the sponge tools into different shapes works out very excellently to create the smaller tool edges that you want. I discovered that it works best to use very sharp scissors, to begin the cut deep into the blades and to make a slow, steady cut to get a smooth cut. One of my favorite "cuts" is on the wedge tool---cutting off the point---for a narrow shape. I've cut off pieces to get a very small "pointy" piece, and so many others! I like having enough sponges that I can use different pieces for each general color that I am using, even tho I can clean off a sponge tool between colors. But I would so much rather wash a number of sponges once I'm finished with the painting than to have to keep completely wiping and changing colors on only a few sponges.

I began what turned out to be a very long, active thread about PanPastels after I first got them. You might try to find it. There is so much great info and examples there.

In the workshops and with artists in classes, I have let them know that it's a good idea to practice several types of stokes at some point to get a full understanding of what kind of range is possible and to develop useful skills with the PanPastels---and it does not take much time, but does give you a greater idea of the full potential of these great colors! Try---and learn the different impact of using one swipe in the pan, two swipes and then three---building up a different amount of color with each type. It certainly can make very different impact. And variety is important to learn! Then experiment with swiping the sponge tool thru one color and then thru another to mix right on the sponge. I have developed a great habit of using one, two or three colors on one swipe to get just the color I want. When using the triangle, the "square", the round-both-ends and the other, and the smallertools on the handles, I prefer stoking the color from the edge of the pan, rather than from the middle, which is the easy habit to get into. But that wears down the center so that when you want to use a larger sponge tool, it will not pick up an even load of color. I find it will wear down so very much more evenly when I pick up color from the sides. And when I am using 2 or 3 colors in my mixture, I can have three different areas for different color transfers from the sponge. Works very well. Enjoy your PanPastels! They are marvelous! Donna ;-}

09-14-2014, 02:39 AM
Yes, Donna A 's excelent thread 'Having a Ball with PanPastels' is here (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=455375&page=40)

Donna A
09-15-2014, 01:33 AM
Thank you, Deidre, for finding that first thread on PanPastels. I enjoyed going back thru much of it. I know there were over 1500 pages on the thread. It went on a good long time with so much interest in these great colors! I hope others interested in PanPastels who had not been on WetCanvas earlier will enjoy finding some useful things! Take good care! Donna ;-}

Enid Goyers
09-15-2014, 12:14 PM
I want to thank you all for the big package of information you have given. As you suggest I must try to find my way by experiencing and exercising with the different tools and papers. I am also watching Johannes Vloothuis "improve my paintings classes" which is also helpful when he works with pans.
I submitted a first work (with the upside down image, sorry). I hope to do better with the next one.
I am very grateful for your comments and assistance, it gives me the kind of necessary lead through the problem areas. Big thank you to all.

09-15-2014, 03:19 PM
Aha, now I know why you a) said I was merciful and b) had such a great composition. You've been taking his classes too! I call it the way I see it and my positive comments are usually also critique. I run into people all the time who get nervous about the best thing they did in a painting, because it looked odd and isn't what they're used to.

Great classes. He's good with Pans. There are a number of artists who are. I love the videos on the Pan Pastels site (http://www.panpastel.com/) too. I go back all the time to see the new art they put up and any new videos.

Enid Goyers
09-17-2014, 03:22 AM

My second attempt to work with pans. How do I handle a tree with leafs in a lose formation (not really thick, fat foliage) against the sky as background. Do I color the sky first and the trees next or vice versa?
Thank you.

09-17-2014, 09:53 AM
I'd sketch in your major sky holes and let the foliage slop out over them, doing the sky first. Then, yes, triple dip the sponge in the sky colors one step darker to create smaller sky holes within the foliage.

Lacy foliage is tricky. I've done it by just doing the sky as underpainting, one way to do that is a relatively flat sky color put on very lightly and then continue to work the sky later with more nuances. If you gradate the sky in that first layer it can be pretty easy to put foliage over sky. Blue's an ingredient in green after all. That's one way to do it.

But if you have largish sky holes and distinct foliage areas, it also works to leave the centers of foliage areas bare or underpaint them a flat color and work over it, then add sky holes in detail with thick applications of a small tool or corner of a wedge sponge. Corner of a wedge sponge gives nice spiky "leaf cutting across sky" looking holes.

Enid Goyers
09-17-2014, 10:57 AM
Will follow your recommendations, Robert. It is probably try, hit or miss. We'll see. Thank again you for the time being.