View Full Version : Great American Artworks Full Monty

09-30-2014, 05:16 AM
The Great American Full Monty set I ordered three weeks ago finally came! Well, to be honest it came almost a week ago, but I have been sick, so I couldn't do anything about it. But now I am playing with them and they are so beautiful! For a whole day I had the boxes open on my living room floor just so I could look at them.

Anyway, when I was considering this set I discovered that there don't seem to be any good pictures of it on the internet, so I definitely wanted to post some.

So here they are. This is how they came, in their nice sturdy wooden boxes. Each one has a tight fitting wooden lid. The gaps are for the colors that were out of stock, which they promised to send soon.



And here they are after I spent a couple of hours rearranging the colors. That was fun!


I do have close ups of each box if anyone wants to see those. Not sure if it's an issue, but I hesitated to post so many large pictures in one thread.

Equus Art
09-30-2014, 07:20 AM
Saskia, they are gorgeous! What a lovely gift to yourself. I love GAs! Post the indiividual boxes, please!!.


09-30-2014, 09:21 AM
Gorgeous pastels, enjoy your new toys!!

Oh, and post away, I'm sure everyone would love to see a close up of each box, I know I would!

09-30-2014, 09:58 AM
Yes, close ups!

09-30-2014, 10:21 AM
wow! Beautiful sets! Yes, closeups, please!

09-30-2014, 11:03 AM
So beautiful! The boxes look great too, I like how they stack. How are you planning on using them? Would love to see photos of each box too!

Barbara WC
09-30-2014, 11:46 AM
Thank you for posting!!! And congratulations!

I have been working in pastels for about 4 years now, and only recently tried GA's! I never was interested based on descriptions, buttery soft, and people rank them up near Schmincke for softness, which I don't like.

Well, now I think they may be tied with Terry Ludwig as my favorite pastels! I only have the "On the Terrace" GA 60 half stick set, but just got the color chart from Dakota a few days ago.

I'm going to order the other 60 half stick Landscape set of GA's (there is no overlap between the two sets) and a few open stock. If I continue to like them, I might ask the magic fairy to bring me the Full Monty someday... As much as I love Terry Ludwigs, I don't really have a desire to have the full set- I have the color chart. The GA Full Monty though... :thumbsup:

Enjoy your set! :clap:

09-30-2014, 04:26 PM
Alright, can't argue with that then! Six more 800 x 600 shots!







09-30-2014, 06:01 PM
Thanks everybody, I hope the pictures are good enough. I need a new camera! By the way, the seemingly mismatched colorful ones in the last box with the neutrals are pearlescents. They only make one of each color of those, whereas the other colors are all either six or seven tints (just noticed Dakota says five or six, so they have it wrong . . . I should write and tell them). This made it a bit challenging to organize them by color family and keep all the colors in their own groups, since there are 13 slots per column. I had to insert a pearlescent in a few places in the greens where two groups of six wound up in the same column, so as a result, the pearlescents are not all together.

Julie - Thanks, I love the boxes too. I wasn't sure what to expect there, so I'm glad they didn't skimp on them. As you might be able to tell from my elaborate rearrangement, I plan on keeping them in the boxes in the studio. They are perfect for laying out flat on a table, and I really like that they are separate smaller boxes instead of one big one, or a chest. The modularity is much more convenient for laying them out the way I want.

I like to use Great Americans mostly by themselves, or sometimes with Unisons underneath. I really like them on very soft cotton rag printmaking papers like Stonehenge and Somerset. Other pastels can be too hard for these papers and actually shred the tooth, but GAs are so soft and clingy they just glide right on. I can put ten layers of them on Somerset. I don't think I have ever filled the tooth. There's a strange thing about using pastels on these papers, though . . . it's a different experience than using more typical pastel surfaces, and I could see a lot of people not liking it. I have a totally different set of techniques for working this way, and when I do it it almost feels like a different medium. Even though I really enjoy it and am happy with my results, after a painting or two I am itching to get back to the "normal" way of working, which for me is breaking pastels into halves, or smaller, and using them on their sides on a painterly fashion. Great Americans I do not break. I don't even take the labels off!

So maybe that's why I wanted the full set of them, since the way I use them, it is harder to supplement with other brands. Basically only GAs and Schminckes can perform the way I want on those soft papers. Some Ludwigs may be soft enough, but they are too powdery and don't cling well. I love them, but on other surfaces. All but the softest Senneliers are too hard.

So that's the way I use Great Americans. Not a very typical use case I'm sure, so probably nobody else will be able to relate or find it interesting, but there it is just the same!

Barbara - I'm glad you found these great pastels! They may be near Schmincke in hardness, but they feel totally different. To me Schmincke feel sort of fluffy, but Great Americans are much more dense, with a unique texture. I've always said they feel almost waxy or oily, even though I'm sure there can't be oil in them. I wish I knew what it was in their formula that gave them that texture. Maybe it's just talc. Or perhaps a touch of glycerin? Is glycerin allowed in soft pastels, from a purist perspective?

Ludwigs are near the top of my list too. I'd say for me, the GAs are tied with Unisons as my favorites. Unison has so many amazing colors, and in fact I think their color selection may be more well designed and usable than any other manufacturer. Most brands are content to design a color and mix up a few tints and shades by adding white and black, but with Unison, the amount of thought that went into their color families it is very evident. I have about half the set at this point I think, and as soon as I decide to start buying pastels again (in many months!), I will probably get the rest, or most of them. Maybe I'll leave out a few of the neutrals. They do have quite a lot of browns that I don't see myself needing.

If you haven't seen it, the Great American Plein Air set of 60 half sticks is a beautiful assortment. I'm not sure about overlap with yours, but it is one of my favorite sets ever. I posted a big picture of it around here somewhere recently (I think it was in my Black Friday/Cyber Monday thread).

09-30-2014, 09:13 PM
Wow! Saskia, these are wonderful. I didn't realize the GA Full Monty came in wooden boxes, they're great. If I had a large studio this would definitely be on my wish list. It's so beautiful.

I like how you rearranged them too. It'd be so easy to get exactly the color you need with this layout.

Thanks for talking about your choice of papers and techniques too. That's fascinating. I've never tried pastels on Stonehenge and never tried Somerset at all, but I love the black Stonehenge. It's my favorite black paper. Would be interesting to see how Senneliers handle on it.

09-30-2014, 11:58 PM
beautiful...love the greens and grayed colors

Barbara WC
10-01-2014, 02:01 AM

Wow! Thanks for posting more photos!

GA's are my recent obsession, and there aren't enough photos of them here on WC :)

I've been studying the GA color chart from Dakota very carefully the past few days, and thought when seeing your set, that's weird, her set is organized so much more thoughtfully than the color chart. How weird that GA would do that! Then I read your comments...

I absolutely agree with you 100% on the Unison color choices and design of the colors in their line. There is a local art store that carries open stock Unisons, and a I have a fair amount too. They are probably my favorite pastel, except for two things- I tend to paint a little tighter with them than the Ludwig's, GA's or Sennelier's, and two- they give me a bit of a sore throat when I work with them- something in the binder I guess. I do have a mask and air purifier in my room. Interestingly, the Ludwigs and GA's don't have this effect on me!

I don't know what the greasy/waxy thing is either, although Dick Blick does mention they all have calcium carbonate, but I can't image that is what is causing a waxy feeling. I thought they felt waxy the first time I used them, almost like making strokes with an oil pastel, but that sensation has gone away. I wonder if it's a density thing. Ludwigs seem denser than many brands, but I think GA's are denser. I could be wrong, but GA's look extruded, versus Ludwigs, which look molded.

Today I ordered the 1/2 stick landscape set you mentioned- amazingly, there is no overlap with GA's other 1/2 stick set, the "On the Terrace" that arrived to me a couple of weeks ago. Now I have 120 half sticks of GA (larger than half I think?)! And I ordered about a dozen more from the color chart. I almost ordered the Carducci portrait set, or McKinley set, but between the two half stick sets and the few more open stock, will have a lot of colors in the other sets.

Congratulations! Enjoy the sticks :)

10-01-2014, 10:39 AM
Saskia, thank you for posting the individual box photos. I didn't realize GA's used the traditional tint arrangement numbering, very appealing. I am seriously considering getting the full set but was hesitating because of space. The stacked box arrangement might work for me. Do you mind posting the dimensions of the one of the boxes?

When I first started in pastels about 9 months ago I bought the GA half stick set and the Maggie Price Ludwig set, broke them in half and put them in a Heilman. The half sticks of GA's are about the same size as a half Ludwig. With both sticks being square, and not having compared them prior to putting them together in a Heilman, I didn't know the differences. I posted my dilemma here, as you know and responded, so now I know the difference. I have to say I much prefer the GA's over the Ludwigs. They seem more buttery while the Ludwigs are a little drier and crumbly. They are a pure joy to paint with.

I think it's a good idea to get a full set of at least one brand. I also love Unison but I bought the Landscape set, then the 135 Roz box on clearance at Jerry's. So I already have about 200 Unison and it would not make sense to get the set. I could always buy the rest open stock. Just don't know where I would put them.
I have a small studio that has a Craft Tech painting table (holds my Heilman or oil palette), and another table, 5 x 2.5. I need to be able to put the pastels away to be able to oil paint. I'm in an oil class now so this is very regular.
The GA stacked boxes maybe the answer. I am so happy you posted pics (I think!). Dakota doesn't have any photos so that is a big help.

10-01-2014, 02:09 PM
Julie that sounds wonderful. I love your studio layout. Agree with you that it helps to have full range in at least one brand. Mine is Winsor & Newton, when they were discontinued I got the full range of 200 in a wood box, then broke them in halves and peeled so I have all colors in each tray. Wish I had a big table like that to lay them all out on!

Barbara, thank you for telling me that the GA 60 color half stick sets do not overlap! That is so awesome! It means I could get 120 half sticks, but half at a time, not all in one go. Also the boxes being smaller could mean I could bring 120 half sticks along on plein air. Too tempting. I liked the spectrum colors and lots of tints in the Terrace set but the other one had a lot of full intensity spectrum colors to enjoy, and the browns were good ones.

Barbara WC
10-01-2014, 03:50 PM
Robert- isn't it excellent that GA designed two half sets with no overlap? I just think that is very nice of them!

I will post a photo of the two sets side by side when the other sets arrive- Dakota has photos of the two sets, but one looks overexposed, and the other underexposed, so I am very interested to see how they look side by side in the same light.

Really hard to say which one you would like better. Neither has the full range spectrum that you like, and both sets actually contain a fair number of grays and neutrals. Together they are more complete, but still have some holes. I'll post photos when the other set arrives :)

10-02-2014, 11:59 AM
Oh wow :lol:

My little son looked at it and said, "Don't you even think about buying anything like that! You would sit here, looking at it, not knowing what stick to use." :D
He was fascinated that there seemed to be no identical sticks in the set - every color was different. lol, pastels are fun :heart:

10-02-2014, 12:32 PM
Congrats! What an amazing set!!

10-02-2014, 10:03 PM
Barbara - You know, I noticed the same thing about Unisons and throat/nose irritation. I wonder what they put in them that does that? I thought it might just be an allergy, but if you feel the same way, it could be some sort of irritant. It isn't too bad, and sometimes when it bothers me I wear a mask with them, but I do wish I knew what it was. I have worked in so many labs over the years I am sure I have been exposed to worse, but even so, I like to know what I am exposing myself to.

I have a some sticks of pure calcium carbonate and binder that a pastel maker gave me (it doesn't usually come in pure sticks), and it is very smooth and dry. Not the Great American feeling at all. So that is still a mystery. I do think they are more dense than Ludwigs, though, and I agree that they are probably extruded while the Ludwigs are molded. Actually, I said the very same thing in a thread the other day. We must think alike!

I just know you'll love your new half stick plein air set. It really is a fairly complete assortment of spectral hues, which is the reason I love it. Especially considering it has only 60 colors! Here is the picture I posted of it in my other thread, with a full stick right over it showing the size of the half sticks. In reality, they do indeed range in size from between 2/3 to 3/4 sticks. Such a bargain!


I also look forward to seeing the pictures you post of the two sets together, to see how they compare.

Julie - The dimensions of one box are 17 3/4" by 12 1/16". When they are all stacked on top of each other, the boxes are 7 1/2 inches high. Honestly, they don't take up much room at all. I don't even have a dedicated studio right now (I have turned my living room into a studio), and storage really is so much easier than I expected. As a matter of fact, I know this sounds crazy, but I have been pretty sick lately with that enterovirus D68 that is in the news, and a few days ago I brought the Great Americans into my bedroom to work on a small table near the foot of my bed. Again, it seems nuts, but on the papers I mentioned, the GAs have almost no dust. I work on a drawing board type easel that is inclined to almost flat, and I just pick up my board and tap the dust into a cardboard box every now and then. The pastel boxes themselves I spread out on the floor. When I'm done with them, I stack them and put them somewhere out of the way. I wish I could have my dream studio with tons of cabinets and shelving and tables all along the wall, but right now I don't, and we all have to make due with what we have.

But you're right, it's so nice to have a full set to work with. That way, even if you don't have the exact color you need, you feel better about it. :)

I looked up the Craft Tech table you mentioned and saw it at Blick. Nice! I've been using a tripod or sometimes a camp table for my Heilman. Sometimes I just put it on the couch.

Anyway, I don't think you would be inconvenienced at all by storage with this set. You can spread the boxes out whenever you want, and when you need to, you can just stack them up and put them in a corner or under a table.

Rob - I think you and I have some of the same storage woes. There are just not enough tables. I at least have been blessed with a child who understands he needs to keep from touching the pastels, so I don't have to be super careful where I leave them. Kitty cats are not so acquiescing in this regard. :)

10-02-2014, 10:10 PM
Nick, Jessica, thanks! Nick, just tell your son that if he thinks the colors are nice in the picture, just wait until he sees them in person! Because it is just a matter of time for his dad. :)

Seriously, though, that's not really true. Lots of people don't have tons of pastels or feel the need for them. And they make beautiful paintings without them. I belong to the other camp, though. I am already planning my next two full sets. :)

10-02-2014, 11:12 PM
Saskia, thank you for the dimensions. Those boxes would totally work for me too. I have a birthday this month and it's the perfect excuse to treat myself.

The Craftec table was the first thing I bought along with an easel. I had it set up in the corner of our home office. I have since converted a small guest room to a studio, and have learned that counter space is a premium. The painting table is nice but a taboret would have been a smarter purchase. I am quickly filling up every drawer......but having fun doing it!

Just curious...what are your next two sets you are planning?

10-03-2014, 12:05 AM
Ha ha, well, Unisons, because like you I already have a good portion of the line and it will not be hard to bring that up to a full set. And as I said before, I love their color range. Then Senneliers, because even though they are incredibly inconsistent and cannot decide whether they want to be hard or soft, I think they have the most luminous color of any brand. Some of their dark colors are simply breathtaking. They have the most beautiful blue that I refer to in my head as "jewel blue, " because it looks like the deepest sapphire. And the red violets . . . and dark greens. They sparkle in intensity.

Some brands, when you get a darker color, it is very dull and grayed down. I guess that is because they mix the pure pigment with a dull black to make it darker. But Sennelier and Unison aren't like that. I know Unison does things very differently when it comes to mixing their pigments, but Sennelier must be doing something special too. Their shades are deep and rich.

I almost bought the full set of Sennelier this time, but decided against it because they just improved their sticks by increasing the thickness, and I didn't want to take the chance of getting an old batch. The old ones were known to crumble, but I'm hoping the new ones will be more like their half sticks, which do not. I figure in a year or so when I am ready to buy them, I have a better chance of getting the newer stick design.

So glad you have an excuse to treat yourself. You will love this set!