View Full Version : Pastels Collecting - Need Vs. Want

10-27-2014, 02:42 AM
I've got about 1,200 pastels, over a thousand of them unique sticks or pieces. I don't have many boxes of other halves any more because I compacted the entire collection to bring as much of it to San Francisco when I moved. I gave away most of the extra halves beacuse I realized that I had not bought any replacements for a long long time.

Around a thousand sticks I hit a comfort level that I didn't worry about running out of essential colors and textures. I have a lot of different brands and duplicate colors with different textures as well as unique colors only found in Unison or only in Art Spectrum, etc. etc.

What I actually need in order to paint well is about 60 medium soft pastels and an inexpensive pad of Canson Mi-Tientes. I did well for all my professional years with 30 skin tones and 30 assorted Grumbachers, which were a lot like Rembrandts but a tad softer, and Canson Mi-Tientes full sheets mostly in about a half dozen colors. Most of the colors I bought repeat sheets and used all the time are in the Mi-Tientes assortment pad. The others are in the Earth Tones pad. Seriously - my most used colors are in the pads. But I liked the full range and wanted someday to keep a sheet of every color handy to have that much choice in what I'm doing.

It comes up again and again. Which supplies to buy? Do I have too many, am I overindulging or do I need this? Which brand is best? What to start with?

I've been collecting pastels for nearly a decade. It will be a decade next year. I started with 60 vintage Rembrandts that an oil painter firend gave me and that got me all fired up about them again. But I wasn't doing them to support a colored pencils addiction, I was painting for the joy of it so I got into it as entertainment too. I also went from homeless and desperate for a decade into having a bit of spending money again. I took the back payment on disability and sank it into replacing all the art supplies I used to have with the same or better so that I'd have all the ones I missed.

Collectors enjoy every single thing in a collection. I still have my favorite glass paperweights from when I bought those one or two a year living in Chicago earning good money at typesetting. I lost the entire collection of miniature fantasy figures and half of them weren't painted, but if I'd kept that it was a compact box and they'd be still life objects now. I sold out my stamp collection and got about $200 for aout $3,000 worth of collecting entertainment. I loved stamp collecting because of the art, but I did think that I'd get good money if I ever resold those tiny antiques. When I found out otherwise, I never took it up again.

Pastels have the "pay for themselves" aspect that many hobbies do. It doesn't take much skill to paint well enough that a non artist will pay you for the popular subject of their choice. Art has always been good honest legal side work whenever I was short on cash and wanted something, from my very first sale of a pen sketch dragon for one dollar at a science fiction collection. I sold out every fantasy piece I brought and even the cartoons and sketches I did on the spot. It was great. Paid for the convention and my food and some toys in the dealer's room and some books ... it was a thrill and I got this total freebie of a fun weekend I would have enjoyed anyway.

That made art supplies a less risky extravagance than eating out or getting a new couch or some such thing. Even the really expensive ones eventually pay for themselves and pastels always do because whatever I drew, it would be done pretty fast and if it was at all decent impress the buyer. I could not get so slow and detailed and fussy with it that I wound up working for 25 cents an hour or less, the way selling colored pencils realism worked. Pastels bought all my Prismacolors and I did colored pencils for myself. It was only after I got disability that I freed up pastel painting from doing portraits from money, let myself play with them.

But what happened is that I became a much better painter.

There are good artists out there who have small palettes, use them constantly, buy replacements as needed and many don't stick to a favorite brand but put them all together in a sectioned box by hue to paint. Arnold Lowrey and Margaret Evans come to mind. They get one great advantage, space and keeping it organized.

So why don't I sell off the ones I don't like best and trim down to fit my space? I have to ask myself that beacuse I live in one room and can't expand indefinitely. I still want the full range Sennelier set even if Sennelier is not my main brand and I don't have space to use it in its huge gorgeous wood box. In fact, I Love the huge wood box as itself and would love to have that available on a shelf to take out and spread and use them on a good summer day with all those choices available and an entire range stack of Mi Tientes paper to get back to my New Orleans roots.

Those specific products - all the Senneliers and all the colors of Mi Tientes, have personal strong happy memories for me. They meant success. They were the pinnacle of career. They were what the "A" license artists used. Half range for some, full range for others. I already have the lightweight version - a 200 color Winsor & Newton set in an equally lovely wood box. Full range is a step up - but that'd be itself and really nice to have and a very big thing to save up for. It's not even the most expensive full range by far.

It's nice to have something too expensive to look forward to getting when you're more successful in life and it comes into reach. There will always be something in that category. It'd be $10,000 for the full range Roche' set in a rosewood cabinet all perfectly organized and incidentally solving its own storage problem thereby, and those are wonderful pastels actually worth that much. Right now a nearer dream is a dozen half sticks now and then, that's affordable. They're the special ones to use in a special way in their favorite techniques and I would not hesitate to use gold leaf with them and go overboard on sumptuous materials, or frame the resulting painting in a fancy deep gold frame and do it somewhat old fashioned to fit.

There's Needs and Wants.

The wants are a continued joy. I get new pastels and they open new possibilities by their texture, which is different on different brands. I get more of a brand I like and new things open up with increased range. My comfort zone came when I had a good range in all the textures I use - pan pastels, pastel pencils, hard pastels, medium soft, hand rolled and super soft. I was and am a bit short on Super Soft because my Ludwigs are mostly random and my Sennelier 80 color half sticks had range gaps. But that could be solved easily with a Paris Collection sometime next year or the year after. It's filling in around the edges. I have plenty of the essential finishers - tints and darks and accent colors.

I have enough to rotate between Sennelier and Ludwig for finishers and occasionally do paintings entirely in super soft to refine my light touch.

Most of all I have enough variety in my collection that I have Instant Gratification on the moment's painting impulse. That is important to me. I want to do the thing detailed in pastel pencils, got my Carb Othellos. I want convenience and hard pastel cleanliness, got choice of color Conte, Mungyo 120 big range, Cretacolor Pastels Carre' nice texture and lightfast. I miss my really good 120 Polychromos tin even more since it's no longer available but will get that from Arkansas again eventually.

Hard, soft, hand rolled, super soft, Pans, if I feel like doing something completely different I can do it. I've got a range of papers too, sanded or prime watercolor paper, just paint directly in my pastel journal on my favorite rough watercolor paper, Mi Tientes and Artagain pads, some other sanded surfaces, a few small Ampersand panels that are hard to frame.

A lot of why my comfort zone fell where it did is that I don't like using the same supplies every time. I like to change it up. That is personal. I like a big range so that I am not using the same colors again and again. Sometimes I want to go and use a spectrum of just browns and grays to create a mood in sketching that'd take a lot of mixing if I limited myself to Charlie's saturated palette. Every set is a different tool in my tool box. I have the essential tools compact enough to just grab and go or grab and paint. Having that was an enormous boost to painting prolifically.

I do pastels now the way I did watercolors because of those two half sticks sets, Rembrandt and Unisons, and beacuse I bought some Uart sheets and cut them to convenience size and stuck them in my Dakota Sampler sanded pastel papers bag. I have enough sanded paper now to go ahead and not be using the last sheet of that grit if I decide to do something on it.

Having enough to not run out if I don't have spending money for a while matters to me. I was broke too often in my life for long periods of time when I spent plenty of time enjoying myself with the cool stuff I bought when I had more money... until I ran out of it and couldn't do it any more and had more and more limits on what to do with a Saturday afternoon. Some supplies last and last. Colored pencils do not, they wear down like I was smoking them. For some reason, pastels last better. It might be because I'm not losing any of it to sharpening them. I use the sticks in the shape they are and they don't vanish at the end of the first painting I used a color in a large area. They are good to the last nubbin and I'm starting to save crumbles too small to use in pill bottles by hue to try reconstituted Frankensticks in unique accident colors. I want to be able to recognize a tint to the Frankenstick, some variation of red or pink, some hue of blue, yellow, etc.

So that big range collection is also the emotional security that I am not going to hunt down through everything I have and just not have any decent greens left, because I did too many landscapes. I went through that with colored pencils till I got enough different sets and stocked up enough multiple replacements of colors I always used up.

Some of it, that means if I decide this month's spending money will go to new clothes I need and then do a lot of landscapes, I won't run out of greens or sanded paper. Some of it is just having the feeling that I won't run out and still have all my choices, all my tools.

My grandfather was like this about handyman tools and power tools. He built his own furniture sometimes, usually far better than store bought because he used good wood and the very best tools maintained perfectly. He could fix anything and did. I will never forget how organized his workshop was, or the garage. He had a shop in the basement for some things and bigger projects in the garage on the big workbench. He'd do the fine work in the basement and the big stuff in the garage.

I've reached my comfort zone. I'm not sure if I'd really expand to the level of 5,000 sticks and multiple full range sets and keep that going because it would take living in a larger space. I'm filling in around the edges. In an actual apartment I might dedicate more space to art and expand a bit from it, but the number of painting days would directly relate to how well I could move around in it and get at everything.

For pastel collectors, organizing is vitally important. No matter how exciting it is to get more pastels, keeping up with more shelving and cabinet space and good storage for finished paintings is essential. Too many and disorganized can become a nightmare, very fast. Good stuff can go ignored for several years because out of sight, out of mind, stored in the back of a closet or under the bed box it's easy to forget it's there. Happily they don't go bad, that rediscovery is a bit like getting a whole new order.

Ask yourself this - when you get new pastels, do you actually paint more?

Don't worry about whether that's "actually paint more with the new pastels." There have been times that I bought new pastels, for one or another logistic reason didn't even chart hem but painted more with the ones I had in reach. The best example was snapping up a full range 200 color Winsor & Newton set right before moving, packing it up fast so it got into one of the first boxes, then arriving in a new place and not having either table space or energy to take out the big box. It sat on a shelf for over two years, maybe three since I bought it because I could only spread it out on the bed to look at the colors!

Eventually I solved the problem by peeling and breaking the sticks, reducing it to one tray at a time and finding a place to put that tray. From there it got on the rotation of Inconveniently Large but Fun Sets and the stack sat in sight across the room for Good Days. When I bought 120 Unison half sticks that inspired me to make 200 W&N usable. I'm now very glad I didn't just resell it and let it move on. It has colors I don't have anywhere else and they're high quality pastels.

I don't have a favorite brand or favorite color. I have a range of favorite colors and textures and others I like less often or use less often for various logistic reasons. Over time and the changes in weather, I rotate slowly around all of it and after all these years - no, none of the good stuff goes to waste unless it's a material like linoleum cutting that will degrade in one year if not used.

Some of it is disability adaptation.

Pastel collecting isn't though, too many good artists do have one to several thousand sticks and reach a comfort level of changing up which ones they use in this painting. I think it's a matter of personality. Style is like handwriting. You find out what yours is after you know how to write. Mine is starting to become very recognizable across different mediums and techniques. Changing up textures and mediums is part of it, what's consistent is my learning something in sumi-e painting and bringing it into pastel painting. Sketching better and then combining it with the slow careful accurate drawing I've done since childhood.

All of us are on a growth curve. All of us are constantly exploring and learning, that is a lot of the fun of art in itself. Perfection's finite, a painting can be perfect and one more stroke or any change would ruin it. But the road rambles all over and mastering some skills becomes a crossroads.

My beginner advice is changing too since I got these Rembrandts. Today what I'd say for a beginner to start with is Rembrandt half sticks set of 60 or more and samples of all the others, a hard pastel set of at least 12 or 24 and a little Sennelier half stick sets for finishing. There's basic kit. You might hate Senneliers and super soft texture, might love hard pastels and need the full Nupastels range or Polychromos range, might be a small palette artist or a full palette artist or a must have all the colors in the biggest crayon box artist. Which is who I was as a little kid.

There's the root of it, 64 Crayolas and it just wasn't the same when I used up the Sea Green crayon even though I had aqua and turquoise and others. Sea Green was greener and more opaque. When I needed it the substitution was frustrating and as a kid I didn't even know how to recreate it with white, green and blue. Or would run out of white very fast if I did.

Get an extra white stick or a set of near-white tints though if you start with a small range because you'll make tints that didn't come in the set.

And if you do like all the crayons in the big box it's already become a convenience to have exactly the one you want or a lot closer to it. People with 525 Senneliers did not always have exactly th right stick. People with 5,000 unique sticks don't have the exact right color and make do. What my Lots More CHoices gives me is just that. Lots more choices.

A question for a beginner to ask themselves about which ones to get is whether you liked the big crayon box or not. I was never this person but I have met a lot of beginners who get paralyzed by a big range and don't know which colors to use. A small range lets them shelve some of the aspects of color mixing and choices in favor of focusing on strokes and marks and mixing and they will get the right color their way.

Ironically, it was the big range of Prismacolors that made me mix more. I needed the right ingredients for the mix and love discovering the subtle unusual combinations - the exact effect of beige and olive and muted purple versus bright orange in the same mix. That this brown is a little cooler and the other a little redder and both shade up to something yellowish in a tint, that's just right for that stroke there. Another painter might do it all with a box of 12. But that was a personality streak that led to pastels collecting and big palette style painting.

So if choices confuse you and you hesitate a lot choosing colors, get a moderate basic assortment in a medium brand and try others till you find your palette whether that is big or small. Some people do pick one brand and stick to it and refine the way they handle that texture. I change things up and grow slowly to handle textures differently. Oddly that was what finally got me getting good results in cheap student pastels, some of the things I do now with them I learned on Senneliers. I don't hate the Alphacolor texture as much as I did because I did finally get a light hand if they're really soft.

Just some thoughts and a long essay-post on a night weather's keeping me from painting. It's all good. What I'm curious about is whether you wish you had more or want to cut back to favorites and why, if other pastel collectors get other perks from having lots of choices, if other small palette painters have other benefits of sticking to a small palette. I'm beginning to think not all beginners are alike and maybe "Start with a small set" or "Get as many colors as you can to start because it's easier" isn't universal advice.

10-27-2014, 10:16 AM
I am definieng "need" as what makes me a better painter.

I thought to myself yesterday, as I painted at my booth in a festival, that I don't know where I'd be without my Mount Vision Blues...and, to a little lesser extent, Yellows/Golds. I like how I can chose a row of blues and complete a whole sky - using the step by step shades in a single blue family is dummy proof. They make me a better painter.

I think Faber Castell make me a better painter, too. A lot is available in a single box and I use them every time I paint.

I think Sennelier Half Sticks make me a better painter, too.

Having select Girault to create distance and soft edges make me a better painter.

Having select Handrolled Richeson and Unison make me a better painter.

If I could go for the whole lines of Unison, Girault, or Mount Vision, I would be happy...but only one. And that would probably be Girault. That landscape set is the only set of pastels that I've used completely.

I also purchased a whole bunch of 1/3 Great Americans, Unisons, etc from a fellow Wetcanvaser and that variety not only made me a better painter, but made it so I didn't have to store a bunch of extra stuff.

Of course, I had to go through a lot of skunks...that did not make me, personally, a better painter. That would include any Prismacolor, Cretacolor, Derwent, and Rembrandts.

I have a good number of Ludwigs, mostly from Mystery Boxes. They're fun, but I don't consider them my go to pastels. I do like the box of blues and grays I've accumulated, though.

Using my Winsor Newton travel watercolors or my Pelikan watercolors make me a better pastelist. They eliminate the need for a hard pastel base, so they both save me in what I need to carry, but they save me storage and money.

I just realized in writing this post that I tend toward the middle when it comes to hardness, rarely hard and barely finishing with softies at the end.

It's trial and error. So there ya go.

Now, if only I would settle on a means of transport and storage. I am desperate for a Heilman - probably want a medium and a backpacker. I was wishy washy with this, going from a French Mistress, to a Roz Bag, to a complilation I put together in a Rembrandt box, which has been the most successful so far.

If you have any sort of Dakota or Heilman box you'd like to be rid of, please let me know.

Barbara WC
10-27-2014, 01:15 PM
A very long essay there Robert- but lots to think about.

Want versus need of pastels, that is an ongoing question I ask myself.

Can I paint with a limited selection? Yes. I did well for quite awhile with just a 90 stick set of Rembrandts and the 60 stick Terry Ludwig Maggie Price basics. I stuck with those two for about 9 months. Then I started introducing others- got a Mt. Vision portrait set, some Daler Rowney's, Giraults and others, and felt completely overwhelmed- not only where to store them, but how to incorporate them into my painting. I also was exploring different papers at the time. I ended up selling all of those pastels except my original Rembrandts and Terry Ludwig Maggie Price sticks. I did add and keep several open stock Sennelier and Unisons- but no more than a dozen of each (darks and lights).

Blast forward a couple of years. I started going to a new portrait group, and started painting plein air once in awhile. Found my pastel selection limiting. Like you've mentioned many times, pastel painting can be instant gratification, unlike paint which has to be mixed. I wanted more choice for that instant gratification, especially plein air when the light changes so fast. I started collecting more Unisons and adding to my Terry Ludwig set, and more open stock Senneliers, a few Giraults. All of a sudden, my "stash" went up over 500 sticks.

I've had a love/hate relationship with Giraults for a long time- they are useful for detail, but that's all I had been using them for. Then I discovered a few months ago how wonderful they are for blending the softer pastels- well, then it was time for more Giraults...

Recently I reorganized my boxes by value- and realize I am heavy on the lightest pastels, and don't have enough mid range colors. Time to order more, which I did. I also started painting still life in my art room. Again, my selection didn't seem adequate- missing many clear, bright colors that are in still life objects and flowers. I also discovered how wonderful Great American's are- I always thought they would be too soft for me- they are becoming my favorite, so I've added more of them.

The better painter I've become, the more I've started to really appreciate the individual characteristics of each pastel brand. Can I paint with one brand and limited selection of colors, yes. But having a selection of colors, and softness range has allowed me to paint differently.

Investing in pastels for me costs less than therapy over time- I can express myself, and even if I'm in a bad mood, painting will generally lift me out of my bad mood. I don't buy expensive purses, shoes or clothing, or have any jewelry that is worth any money. I prefer to spend on pastels. I know you set your spending priorities on art supplies too. Nothing wrong with this, it keeps us sane! But early on, I found having a lot of pastels overwhelming and stressful...

Edited to add- I'm not sure what my current pastel count is, but it probably is up around 1,000 or more between the various brands and including my half stick sets. What shocks me is how few sticks are duplicated for color and value among the sticks- all look unique. I do order color charts though, and for say Great American and Terry Ludwig, which have really subtle color ranges, I tend to go with a light, medium and dark...

10-27-2014, 02:33 PM
I have been reading your post with pauses throughout the whole day :)

I have 120 half sticks and 10 sticks :D In the beginning, several months ago, I wanted have much more. To be "prepared" for any color that I could need.

I have also 36 pastel pencils and 36 hard sticks. In both cases I regretted that I didn't go overboard and didn't buy bigger sets, but now I can see that I almost don't use either of the medium. Because I don't know yet how to make it work in my paintings.

And the same goes with pastels. I am very hesitant to buy more because I learned that the possible lack of a particular color is the lesser problem I have. First, I need to handle the medium.
I wonder if Unisons are significantly less soft than Sennelier. That would be a good reason to try them. Not the colors (that are fantastic :))

It doesn't take much skill to paint well enough that a non artist will pay you for the popular subject of their choice.
I wonder when I will finally believe this :) On the other hand I have found a thread started by Mike Beeman where he mentions that his paintings get rejected as well sometimes (unbelievable) and that it is a good reminder for him that every person has different taste.

I used to like shopping for things that could bring me joy. But then my budget became very tight one year and now I usually ask myself, OK, imagine that you have bought it and now it's one month after the purchase. Has the purchase changed your life in the longer term?
If I answer yes (that I would expect that even after a month or two I will be as happy with the purchase as I was the day I received it), then I am willing to think about it.

I am glad I postponed the purchase of more pastels. Because now I know that more color will not make me a better painter. Different texture of the pastels? Maybe. Maybe what I am struggling to achieve with Senneliers would be easier with Unisons?
But I know that I need to paint and draw everyday in the first place and I do my best to manage that.

Investing in pastels for me costs less than therapy over time- I can express myself, and even if I'm in a bad mood, painting will generally lift me out of my bad mood.
This is so true. In my darkest days I was able to stare at color charts for an hour and that alone kept me sane. Colors arranged in a nice way have so much energy.

Barbara WC
10-27-2014, 02:39 PM

Yes, I think the Unisons have a different enough texture from Sennelier to try them. I love Unisons- the colors, the texture, all of it! I think Unisons and a softer pastel, like Sennelier, Ludwig or Great Americans, make a perfect combination.

Unisons do have some variation, but are more consistent in texture than Senneliers-I haven't come across a rock hard Unison like some of the dark Senneliers.

I generally block in with Unisons and then work in Terry Ludwigs and increasingly, Great Americans on top layers. Unisons are also better for detail work than Senneliers- I can get nice lines and little dots with Unisons (think pupils of eyes, nostrils, etc).

If I were to choose a full set of something, it would be Unisons. They really are great. The reason I don't have more of them is because I seem to have a reaction to them- get a bit of sore throat when using them, even with a mask. This doesn't happen with my TL's, GA;s or Senneliers.

10-27-2014, 02:47 PM
Barbara, thank you very much. In fact, I have several boxes of Unisons right next to me. But they were meant for someone else, so I was hesitant to touch them.
Maybe I could keep the 72 starter set?
Gosh, haven't I just said I won't buy any more pastels? :D

10-27-2014, 08:26 PM
Need vs want....I have an adequate supply and lots I would love to get rid of. Mixed brands from sets....colors I never use. My dream...if I were to win the lottery?...full set of Giraults. I often pick up a few from open stock in a brand I like (always looking for the perfect grayed violet) and that's about it. Sets, not so much as I find there are many I don't use. That being said, the McKinley "Neutrals and Friends" keeps calling to me. As for collecting, I think I was born without the "collector gene" lol

10-28-2014, 12:02 AM
Hi all,

I figured I'd chime in from a pastel beginner's perspective. New to pastels, but not to art. Need Vs Want, but let's not forget about addiction.

I must admit, that in the beginning (this past summer), I fell trap to all the new-to-pastel pitfalls...buying as many brands as I can, sampling papers, and requesting pastels, but sitting on them instead of getting to the painting. Needless to say, that the want Vs need at that stage is overpowering, because after all, how CAN I possibly know what I need? I was addicted..lol

So basically, what I have come to realize is this: The professionals who earn a living with pastels, are justified in buying whatever brand (including Roche) and as many as they NEED, while the majority of us fall in that WANT category, and become "collectors". Although, there too, is a fine line between collectors of pastels, and being addicted to acquiring them. As a professional, I believe that one can be all three and be justified...but if it's a hobby, or a love, then the "need" becomes the want and addiction. After all, if you are not using them to earn a living and selling paintings, then you don't really "need" them.

I also would like to say this about the textural differences between brands. Think of this: an oil painter paints with oil paints and some form of canvas, either smooth or rough. Then what colors to buy, or should they be mixed from primaries into unique colors that sets the artist apart from the rest, or should one make their own from pigments???. However, the real dilemma comes when it's time to choose a brush. Each size/type of brush gives you a different effect, feel and texture.

Pastels, aren't that different...although paint is texturally simple...it's wet and smooth. Pastels, on the other hand, vary from smooth to soft to hard to buttery, velvety, and so fourth. And let's not forget size and shape. So the analogy is: Pastels are like brushes, and the colors are like paints. Thus, having a variety of pastels to choose from, is no longer a "want", it's delightfully purposeful. Different strokes for different folks takes on a new meaning...lol throw in this mix the endless varieties and textures of pastel supports and then you have a whole other issue..lol

Personally, I have not tried Girault or Roches, but I love my TLs, GAs, DTs, MVs, Schmincke and my Rembrandts. Each with it's own unique texture.

Robert, I sympathize with you on space. I clean up my tiny walk-in closet (where I store my pastels), then decide to paint a little, so I take out a few boxes, but then never put them neatly back where I organized them...so the endless loop of, clean-use-put back-organize-clean, can go on and on until I get the proper storage for all my pastels, so I feel where you are coming from with your space limitations.

10-28-2014, 06:15 AM
My advice is to buy and use as few pastels as necessary to paint, haha.

Trust me, it's not so fun to get sucked into the who's-got-what contest.

I think a lot of us want to dream of being great artists but what winds up fascinating us above the theory, is the tools we use, our pastels. We get stuck on the pastel brand. It's like we want to be great wizards and witches, but we become more fascinated with which wand we want to buy and use, and we forget that we need to study, and care about learning our spells. A silly analogy, but you know it can be true.

If you are just buying your first pastels, then I would recommend you take a deep breath. All u need to paint with pastel is pastels. You don't need expensive pastels to be a pastel painter. Either the 120 Set of Rems, or the 94 Set of Nupastels, and you'll have enough colors to do most portraits, stills, and scapes. You can supplement these sets with open stock browns and greens and flesh tones, but you don't have to go crazy. Other than that, it's nice to have a set of softer pastels, right? A small set of senneliers, or faber castells, and you will have a collection rivaling the Best pastel artists.. I think it's best to take it easy. Buy as few pastels as you can get away with and just paint until you need more.

That is what I am learning now. And it's the same with every hobby. Forums make people want what the other forum members have. My advice is to buy some Rems in the 60 or 120 kit, or some Nupastels, maybe that 94 color kit, and then just enjoy painting. Coveting your neighbor's pastels will get you nothing but pastels which you never truly needed. Buy just wat you truly need. That's all.

10-28-2014, 10:12 AM
Robert, you are a very prolific writer! Pastels do give us something to think about and that is part of the pleasure. They seem to take more space than other mediums so storage and workspaces are always evolving.

Barbara my path seems to be following yours in many ways. I also started off with a Rembrandt and a Maggie Price values set. When I got into landscapes I added a Unison Landscape set. When I started portraits I bought some skin tones in a few brands.

I am in my first year of pastels which puts me at a different phase than you experienced painters. The Maggie Price set is great because I got the value range of each color. That's very useful for a beginner. I just signed up for the Doug Dawson workshop and his supply list was wise IMHO. He suggests buying one set and after working with it for awhile go back and buy a few values of each of your favorite colors in the set. In looking at his GA set he includes a value range in many of his colors. Thats what led me to buy the GA Full Monty. I wanted the value range of the colors. I am trying to choose my palette in my planning stage of a painting and this makes it much easier for me. Maybe later on That won't be so important but for now it really helps.

I am definatly guilty of having the collector gene. I did collect Beanie Babies and Christmas Villages in the 90's. I did it with my kids and it was fun!

Now I am retired, my kids are grown and I a enjoying my hobby of pastel painting. Funny that when I am out shopping I compare the price of things to that of pastel sets! And right now I would much rather open a beautiful box of pastel jewels than get a new dress! Pastels make me happy! Life is short and should be enjoyed! No doubt it is cheaper than therapy!

10-28-2014, 11:02 AM
Julie, your post made me smile :)

I have opened the Desert Sunset set of Unisons after all :angel: They do seem to have different texture than Senneliers and I believe I will be happy with them. Thank you for encouraging me to do that :lol: And the set is perfect for another flamingo :lol: :lol:

I behaved when it came to pastels, but I fell for the trap of books... within a month I bought six ebooks about drawing, pastel painting and watercolor painting.
I love reading reviews and thinking about my purchases and I believe they all were a very good choice. But it will take ages before I not only finish reading them but also learn all the advice.
And I have J.M.Laws' book about bird painting in my Amazon cart... It's not an ebook and if I have to pay the postage it will be good to order more than one book (right? :D )

Guilty as charged :)

10-28-2014, 02:21 PM
Nick, I suggest you keep the 72 color starter and build on that. It has the advantage the Maggie Price set does. Everything in it is ordered and has tints and evenly spaced around the spectrum. Short on purple but from that you can fill in around the edges with smaller specialty sets. Glad you like Desert Sunset, it would probably be pretty good for other sunsets too and florals.

You paint better than I did when I was selling, your birds are a salable subject, so it's now more a matter of presenting them. When you do you'll be in a happy position of being able to gradually afford anything you want and to try things and let them go at a discount if you didn't like them. I would recommend waiting on Rembrandt as Unison is close enough in texture.

Maybe the key is gradually. I've had about ten years of entertaining myself watching for sales and making a wish list, endlessly shuffling it for various reasons and snapping up anything good that comes up on Clearance or Discontinued because I'd thought about it long enough to know if I really wanted it. There are some Clearance things I passed up that weren't pastels because over time and by other people's descriptions, I wouldn't like them. One actually was pastels, it was a big used set of Girault that I let someone else get when I had the money because the big set of Girault was mostly earth colors and portrait colors and I really prefer saturated colors and their tints. That many variations on red earths would overwhelm the colors I like better unless I also had that many greens - the entire collection would tilt way over toward a subject I don't do as often and have mixed feelings about.

I'm still battling some old grief over losing the street pastelist portraits gig. Frustration maybe. I miss the freedom of those times, the easy money when I could work enough days to live on it and decide day to day whether I was going out to do portraits or stay in to paint landscapes and whatever. All other subjects became "time off, these might sell but don't count on it" and portraits, I got conditioned to expect the subject to pay up and leave.

I know intellectually that I could do portraits for galleries and pay a model to come sit for me. Then sell the painting. I haven't yet done that because it's throwing that habit expectation in reverse. The day I do is probably when I'll get back to doing people.

Thank you all for so many different responses! I'm seeing it's not just small palette, large palette. The question of where to start and what's needed is actually that personal. What brand is best for a beginner isn't the same for all beginners but some things really stand out.

Half sticks sets are good to start. If you don't know whether you even like pastels, it's more colors for the same money and the range in a basic assortment is usually pretty good.

Maggie Price Values might be the very best set for a beginner to start with on super soft category because of its palette and layout. They don't have to hunt too far to find the yellow tint that's right and it's all organized the way professionals do their Heilmans right at the start. A whole big trial and error process gets simplified in that layout.

Unisons big half sticks sets, if the beginner can afford them, are good like that. 64 or 120 has that organization problem solved.

Rembrandt half sticks are a good general workhorse brand and if someone's totally unfamiliar with pastels are a good transition up from hard pastels.

Hard pastels are a good transition from colored pencils or drawing.

Super soft painterly ones like the less expensive Sennelier half sticks sets may be the best transition for someone coming to pastels from oils though.

Maybe the best thing for a beginner depends on who the beginner is, what they already know and are used to doing. But it's still good to have some hard pastels, some medium and some soft, to at least find out whether you like multiple textures or lean one way or another.

And yeah the swap shop and swapping is a good way to deal with finding out you don't like some of them. I go through not liking some of them until I find out what I can do with that and then like them. I didn't like neutrals but I love my beige and brown and gray black cat, so I got into neutrals again and switching up what I do is how I keep engaged and prolific.

So I tend to hang on to at least halves of sticks and swap out extra halves rather than let go of that product entirely because I might learn something that makes it wonderful. It's okay to store them for years till I solve the logistic problem that made something hard to use. I felt bad about snapping up the W&N full range set and then literally not using it for years, just transporting it with towels wrapped around it to keep the finish... and then figured out how to make it usable. I'm using it more now, but not all the time like those Rembrandts. I'm now starting to have two tiers.

The ones easy to use and the ones I get out for special on a day I'm strong enough to go to the shelves and get it out and put it away afterward.

I have full range Pans but only used the full range once since I moved, table space and logistics. I spread out on the floor when I did. Have plans for making more space and they'll come when I've got the energy, which might not be during the winter. But it's okay because these things don't go bad while I store them. That's a really cool thing about them.

Equus Art
10-28-2014, 08:55 PM
For me, as an artist, there is definitely more wants than needs and it has taken me about two years of getting serious about pastel painting to figure that out. I see all the different sets and colors of all the different brands and it's like an enchantment comes over me because of all the delicious colors. Having to be budget conscience has hit home what my needs are and has helped me pare down my wants. Fortunately, I have sold paintings or have gotten commissions that have helped to defray my art material costs, but I could go crazy with my wants!

When I was first getting into pastel painting, I researched a ton both on here and online, trying to find the best bang for my buck. I dabbled earlier in my art ventures with Rembrandts, so I had a pretty good idea of what painting with them would be like. But....I just knew there was a pastel out there that would help make me better. Or was there?

So, based solely on reviews, I jumped off the dock and bought a whole MV set without ever trying them out. Now, I'm not knocking MVs because I definitely have and will continue to use them, but they are not my ulitmate pastel go tos.

In the last two years, I have bought a few smaller sets of TLs, GAs and Unisons. And I bought an Earthtone set of Giraults because the colors in that set were definitely something I NEEDED for my horse and dog commissions. I have made very credible paintings using all of the combos above, but it wasn't until I decided to experiment on home made grounds with underpainting and a looser technique that I discovered that I really and truly prefer the Rembrandts most of all as my work horse set.

And then I made an amazing discovery as I was painting my last horse commission! The combo of the Rembrandts and the Giraults layered together was the absolute perfect combination for my painting style. Finishing off here and there with any of the TLs, GAs or Unisons was the icing on the cake.

I got the 120 half stick set of Rembies on sale but how the heck was I going to finance buying all the Giraults that I NEEDED? I went through my entire MV collection and weeded out all the pastels that I never used, which came to the 146 sticks that I offered up on the Swap Shop. Their sale financed all the Giraults that I had chosen in open stock. Okay, well not ALL the Giraults, but about 95% of them.

The siren song of "all the pretty colors in ALL the other sets" still play beautiful music to me and put me in a trance every time I browse the brand websites. I beat my mouse hand black and blue to keep from clicking the Add To Cart buttons!

Honestly, for my style of painting, I don't NEED any other pastels at this point. I still look and drool, but then a big dose of reality smacks me in the forehead and breaks the trance. I definitely WANT them all, but I don't need them. Sigh.


10-29-2014, 07:43 AM
What a great thread. Thanks for starting it Robert. I love hearing everyone's opinions about purchases made. Christmas is coming and my kids are always looking for gift ideas for me. Those Giraults sound like I NEED them!! Thanks everyone.

SAS Designs
10-29-2014, 12:12 PM
Thank you, AGAIN, for starting such a fabulous thread.
Adding to the want part - BECAUSE I LOVE THEM. It's such fun to experiment, play, mix with watercolors, learn more - and more. Did I mention play?

Just loving the Great American 1/2 stick new (to me) set. Using Merlot is almost like loving the taste of Brussels chocolate.
thanks again - don't know who said it, but think it applies to this too:
"Life is short, eat desserts first."

10-30-2014, 02:41 PM
Suzy, that rocks! Love your post! That goes right to the heart of it. Life is short, eat dessert first, it makes you happy.

I look over what I have and I would not really get rid of anything I have. Some of it gets more use than the rest but that's more logistic and disability related. I've finally got it into an organization that I can sort of get at everything and none of it is hidden. My wants are shifting around over time and drifting toward small sets that are convenient and specialty sets that might be even more portable.

I thought it was awesome when I started that people had thousands of pastels. But even then I saw that they'd been painting for years. It grows. Past a certain point a full range set comes in if you can afford it.

It gets really personal though. Many of you are making different choices than I would. I think it's a good thing that there are so many brands with such big ranges and high quality that it's nearly impossible to get all of the colors in all of the brands. It would take a ginormous studio to spread all that out anyway. All that would do is bring the store home, there'd still be a much slower trial and error finding out what's really essential and makes you a better painter or more prolific vs. what's redundant and what hardly ever gets touched and for what.

I honestly wonder if I had that available, whether I would eventually use every stick in the stack.

It would take years to do so, but I do know that I have used every stick in the collection I have. They're all worn. They get changed around by what I felt like at the time and sometimes I do dip into all those neutrals.

Convenience colors like exactly that grayish a brown are actually very convenient. It's not just one stroke instead of three, it turns into three strokes instead of 12 and an exact combination for layering. That beige plus that green plus that pink and that lavender and wow the gray pops. That's unique to the painting. It happens more when I have the W&N set out. It happens a lot with the Unisons 120 because of its well organized hues.

And that draws me toward 525 Sennelier because they have all those reds near each other each with tints and all those blues and all those golds and greens and violets. I really would have some control of how reddish the violet in a Sennelier giant box and that applies to almost every subject.

It's an odd reaction and I'm not sure it happens to anyone else. The question I have is for those who started in colored pencils, another dry medium where having a large range helps. A small set was very frustrating. A larger set allowed me to mix easier and suggested mixing more often. I actually learned color mixing once I had 72 color Prismacolors instead of a 36 color Verithins set. I'd never gotten anywhere with CP before because I didn't have the right color in the right value for what I wanted and shading was difficult.

I learned it on the big set but went through another leap of skill when Prisma went to 120 colors. More tints and darks. More control of value and enough colors that if I really needed a purple I wasn't trying to mix the right blue and red to get it with the consequent changes. Of course a common gap was No Cold Red and No Purple Either, so any mixed purples tended to go grayish and what I'd want would be a spectrum purple glazed over that blue to push it more purplish.

Charlie's color analysis in Still Life the Colourful Way made sense and reduced the overall number of sticks needed to something reasonable - her essential palette is under 40 sticks. But no sets I've seen anywhere are just that palette. They include others and leave out chunks of it, sometimes up to quite large sets that leave out chunks of it. Occasionally full range sets leave out chunks of it. Along the way there are bulges of popular color types - like a warm gold color where you get yelow ochre and raw sienna and then a different oxide earth yellow and right on down into the yellower red earths.

30 Skin Tones really did have enough browns to do people both in value and hue. There were a couple of times I'd want a stick I didn't have but it was relatively easy to combine them to get it. When that happened most was if I wanted to render the color of someone's clothes. Sometimes I changed what they were wearing in order to get the feel of it rather than do a muted version of a bright blouse on a lady and still come up with a color that flattered her rather than something awful against her complexion. They never minded, but I did.

One way that lots of colors matters - if I only want a few loose strokes in an area, too much mixing will overwork that area. That's where convenience colors shine, in the backgrounds. That exact value of earth orange with that exact tint of yellower and that exact shade of warm gray together, loose strokes, yes, it looks like it should and makes the main subject shine. I think it will happen more in studio paintings when I've got a bigger range all spread out and I'm not using everything in the big box, just picking to get the effect in exactly that painting.

I can't imagine getting to a point of always using the same two dozen colors and not needing much of anything else, it's not how I think. I see painters who do and I'm impressed, but I'm too into color and its subtleties for that. Charlie's palette would work because I can get anything else with it, but not a palette where I've got to have those muted greens and those browns and that one purple and kazam, it always looks like I did it because that's my colors.

It's more the way I paint is to change up everything and it's my strokes that create a consistency across paintings. Or that I like color gradients as much as value gradients. If I get specialties they will be multiple ones. There is a consistency that gets clearer the better I get but it's not one of "always this color harmony."

Nick really made me think when he called me decisive. That is a lot of it right there. I look back right to the very beginning of painting in any medium, as a little kid I had the most joy with the giant 64 color box of crayons and missed any color that got broken or used up even if I had 60 others to choose from. I knew what I could do if I had the Sea Green as well as the Aqua.

But no one decision has a lot of weight. I don't second guess myself. The more choices I have, the easier it is to look it over and paint on impulse. Color choices don't choke me and neither do paper choices or textures. I just change it up to keep everything I do fresh. It's not the same thing every time if I'm using unsanded paper for a while and then sanded and then coarse grit and then back to unsanded and sometimes coated. Each painting comes at a point where my progress is visible and what I did before in a different range on a different subject makes a big difference in the one I'm on now.

Set boxes rotate, so do surfaces and subjects. I'll get on a landscape kick or animals especially cats or florals and need those colors and textures vary. I think about narrowing those options and that always filters by "take it with me somewhere" and the security of being able to go home to the collection and change up what goes along next time. I'm at a comfort zone now, but if my health changed or eyesight or anything, I'd probably change too.

Getting glasses might mean taking them off to paint now that I've actually loosened up. I once thought I never would, but I was wrong. So I could wind up at some point in the future selling off half of it and keeping only what I use most. At this point I'm happier with more colors than I can use all at once and changing up what I do based on how I feel this moment.

11-18-2014, 11:11 PM
No, having all my pastels does not make me a better painter, or make me paint more....but I do love having them, looking at them...I get a lot of satisfaction from having such beautiful art supplies, sort of the same feeling I had as a child when I got a brand new big box of crayola crayons. Even now, I can't walk by the crayons at the store without picking up and opening a box, and inhaling that wonderful crayon smell....it just makes me feel good, brings back memories of a piece of clean blank paper and all those colors at my disposal....its the possibility of creating something before you even start, that is what it's all about for me!

11-19-2014, 01:56 AM
No, having all my pastels does not make me a better painter, or make me paint more....but I do love having them, looking at them...I get a lot of satisfaction from having such beautiful art supplies, sort of the same feeling I had as a child when I got a brand new big box of crayola crayons. Even now, I can't walk by the crayons at the store without picking up and opening a box, and inhaling that wonderful crayon smell....it just makes me feel good, brings back memories of a piece of clean blank paper and all those colors at my disposal....its the possibility of creating something before you even start, that is what it's all about for me!
That made me smile :)

11-19-2014, 01:53 PM
Today when I was watching tv for a short while, I was amazed about what
people do in USA. The program is called Tiaras and ...something dont remember. They put they small Children to beauti Contest. The dress costs around 5000$. Just one dress, then you have the stylist, make up, training, travel and other expenses......so I thought, well I dont have too many pastels.

Today I put out one of my 2 trays with Sennelier, I took out the foam and put it in the drawer, dont need the box there, the foam with the pastels can work fine alone there.
I put foam in every slot (5) and then I put some TL beside each other and one slot can take 6 sticks in a row! and then 10 rows in that slot is 60 sticks!!

So its fun to find something you have that you can have greater use for:)

I did that Before with the trays from Rembrandt.

One can paint a portrait with one colour in different values, but it its sure more fun to have a lot of colours to choose from. And if someone can pay 5000$ for a dress to a Child,we can buy sets that we really like:lol:

11-19-2014, 03:49 PM
IF anyone is interested, I am selling pastels in swap shop..to feed your addiction..lol

SAS Designs
11-20-2014, 08:36 AM
Rob, you mentioned Charlotte, and I noticed she stepped down from Pastel Scribbler, haven't seen her posting on WC in while, hoping she's ok? Does anyone know?
thinking of her,

11-20-2014, 08:30 PM
She is painting, last I heard. I hope she does come back and post here more now that she's not tied down to so many administrative duties in PGE. I got the Scribbler and it's a good one, Ruth did a good job putting it together.

I miss her too and hope she gets involved again here. I check her site and blog now and then hoping she'll post her latest paintings.

She posted new videos two months ago. I hope she does more videos. She had a workshop last August in Finland, so maybe she's doing more local teaching or something. I hope this just means that she's busy locally and will come back with new art and new posts.

Jake, I saw your many temptations and didn't have the money. Regretting I didn't have the funds for your earlier temptation either, those Richesons half sticks were a good bargain someone got. But what I really need now isn't more pastels but more paper.

I've been reconsidering the Ludwig holiday gift pack on getting Blick's holiday catalog today. Portfolio to store paper better would be a sensible purchase along with large sheets of Uart and not get more pastels. Cart ballooned to about $200, much up and down window shopping but everything in it is affected by coupons. So it'll actually depend on a lot of things including how much I want to eat in December. lol

Blick it'd wind up with my framing more of my art and getting more good paper to use my pastels on.

11-22-2014, 08:52 PM
Robert, I still have them. I managed to sell off the TLs and GAs with one additional 8pcs Unison set. I still have the Schmincke and Rembrandts...if things change, please let me know. I may be a little flexible with pricing:)