View Full Version : Painted?

Big K
08-26-2015, 02:39 AM
Just curious why most people refer to pastel drawings as paintings?

Always see people say ... nice painting, painted on etc.... was just wondering why?

I ask because to me I see them as drawings and not paintings, it's a drawing medium, I am genuinely curious. I do see it in other sections like colouring pencils, but thought I would ask here.

08-26-2015, 05:35 AM
I think the same way .... its drawing ...

08-26-2015, 08:18 AM
It took me a while to understand that, but there is a difference. My drawings, I'll often refer to them as pastel sketches. Strongly linear, loose or tight but the paper color is easily visible in and around the subject, it looks like a drawing.

Painting with pastels is less linear, more layered, more textured, side strokes similar to painting wth a brush, more painterly and usually but not always covering the ground completely. May be over an underpainting.

Like any such definition it's not really a hard line. But in colored pencils you can tell a paintng that's layered, painterly and refined from a drawing.

My cynical writer side says "paintings sell for more money." But I can see real artistic reasons for the division.

08-26-2015, 08:31 AM
This question comes up occasionally on the forum and the difference between drawing and painting is discussed. the end result is that there is no "common" accepted definition of either. As Robert has mentioned, many folks look at drawing as more linear and paintings more fully tonal. Others define drawings as using the paper color in larger areas and paintings fully covered. Some say drawings are monochromatic, paintings full color. Others that drawings use dry mediums and paintings wet. There are examples that are exceptions to all the definitions and arguments that can counter most definitions. So I have learned not to try and define and categorize! I just refer to them all as artwork! The only time it matters is when entering some art shows or contests. In my area at least, pastels are grouped or categorized as drawings. This means I have to pay an extra registration fee if I want to show both paintings and drawings at my local art festival!


water girl
08-26-2015, 01:46 PM
These are good points. I refer to it as painting because I mix my colors. It's on the paper rather than a palett, but I am mixing color.I also cover the paper entirely. Just my two cents worth.:angel:

08-26-2015, 01:52 PM
I read this somewhere a long time ago that referred to an artist's work and how they had applied layers of pastels in a "Painterly Fashion". I think of this when I am adding/blending layers of pastels to achieve something that looks almost painted - it's the effect I like and it's what I like to do. This description works for me! :thumbsup:

Barbara WC
08-26-2015, 02:39 PM
I tend to cover the paper almost entirely, and use the edge of the pastel stick like a "brush, and often, no linear strokes of pastel are visible. My strokes of pastel look like they were created with a paint brush. These I call my pastel paintings. However, I do also create pieces that have lots of linear strokes, these I call my pastel drawings.

I use a non-glare glass and have had people at shows tell me they thought that my portrait works were oil paintings, until they got up close and saw that they are pastel on paper...

Here's something to think about. In oil painting, there is something called an oil sketch. The artist is using oil paint, yet tends to use more linear strokes and leaves more of the canvas showing in the final sketch. Even though the artist uses paint in this instance, most oil painters would consider this type of work a sketch and not a painting...

So this type of painting versus drawing issue doesn't apply to just pastels, it applies to other media too...

There are not "rules" and some works are blurred between drawing and painting. Not everyone agrees on the definition...

I wrote a blog post on this subject in January, using Degas' pastel work as an example. http://barrighiart.com/2015/01/08/drawing-or-painting-in-pastel/

Big K
08-26-2015, 10:02 PM
Thanks for sensational replies guys. After reading all these well thought out and written responses I am shall we say alot more at ease ( and when I say at ease I mean my immense curiosity has been satisfied ) with how people define their works. It's greatly appreciated.

08-27-2015, 09:41 PM
Pastels are made with pure paint pigment, the same pigment that is used to make oils, acrylics and watercolors. They are paintings; when the surface is entirely covered with pastel it is a painting (my humble opinion). Robert's explanation is excellent regarding sketches.....I do believe that you can have oil sketches, acrylic and watercolor sketches as well. The surface isn't completely covered with paint, it's a sketch. That's my take on it, for what it's worth.......

Moqui Steps
08-28-2015, 03:44 AM
This is probably as close to discussing politics or religion as one can get in a pastel forum so I will try to be polite with my comments so as not to offend. :D

By definition as to how they are created, pastels are without question drawings or sketches. Unless you actually use paint to create something it technically is not a painting. I suppose that if you did use some paint as an under-painting then pastels on top, it could be called a multi media painting without stretching the definition of the word.

We don't use the term painting to describe an etching, a serigraph, a photograph or any other forms of art that I can think of, besides pastels and "digital" paintings, unless they were literally painted - with PAINT, regardless of whether they might LOOK like a painting.

However - despite the flawed logic of this whole thing, I do find myself following the rest of the pastel world out there in sometimes calling my pastels, pastel paintings, but deep down it feels wrong and weird. :eek: From Dictionary.comPainting

noun 1. a picture or design executed in paints (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paint).
2. the act, art, or work of a person who paints (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paint).
3. the works of art painted (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/painted) in a particular manner, place, or period: a book on Flemish painting.
4. an instance of covering a surface with paint (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paint). I am curious as to who first tied the word painting to a pastel. I have never seen any documentation that tells us at what point people started calling pastels a painting. Perhaps someone out there can tell us when, why and by whom that phrasing was first used in print to describe a pastel that was done in a painterly style.

If I had to guess I would say it probably was a marketing tactic. One thing I do know for sure is that some gallery owners eschew the word "drawing" when referring to pastels that look more like paintings than drawings, that are priced like paintings and are marketed towards buyers that like to buy PAINTINGS. That word is chosen intentionally and carefully, to increase the perceived value of the work in the eyes of their buyers.

A drawing done by the same artist at the same point in their life to remove other variables, will most likely be perceived by the buying public as less valuable than an oil painting, so calling a pastel a drawing can have a definite negative impact on what one might be able to sell it for.

08-28-2015, 09:50 PM
By definition as to how they are created, pastels are without question drawings or sketches. Unless you actually use paint to create something it technically is not a painting. I suppose that if you did use some paint as an under-painting then pastels on top, it could be called a multi media painting without stretching the definition of the word.

Actually, even this is wrong.

The most commonly accepted definition of paint is: "a colored substance that is spread over a surface and dries to leave a thin decorative or protective coating." So you can easily argue that pastel is paint. Its just got a different binder than oil, acrylic or watercolour. In fact, if we are getting into semantic arguments over 'degrees' of paint i think a very strong case can be made that pastel are much more 'paint' than watercolour which contains very little pigment compared to binder and water.

The problem with the definition of paint is that so many people associate a brush with paint. Which is sort of silly. If you paint an oil with a palette knife are we supposed to call it a 'cutting?" If you work with your hands in acrylic is it a finger paint or a drawing?

like some have hinted at here, my own definition or distinction is: mostly line (pastel, oil or watercolour etc) = Drawing. Finished with lots of solid areas of tone= painting. As such, all of the pastels i have in shows or galleries area always labeled as paintings and I never receive any queries about this.

Then again, if someone did say "i like your drawing" it wouldnt bother me i the least either - its just a word after all :)

08-28-2015, 11:09 PM

08-29-2015, 06:12 PM
Forgetting for a moment that the word "painting" suggests the use of a liquid media, i would say there is a visible difference between a drawing in pastel or else, and a full-fleshed or "complete" pastel artwork. In my work, i "paint" with pastels over the whole surface of paper, and blend and layer.

In my exhibits i notice some people going near the glass of the paintings to take a closer look, to see if the painting is really a pastel and not made with liquid media. The curiosity look on their faces is priceless... :)


08-30-2015, 02:10 AM
Actually what's interesting abotu that is that my pastel paintings always have an underpainting. Sometimes dry but often liquid added to pastel or watercolor or something under it, which it's still mostly pastel but I've covered the surface in the underpainting. Dry underpainting I blend it in thoroughly to kill the paper surface and break any light or white specks.

And then there are Pan Pastels where the sponges all act like brushes and the default is painting.

Another gray area is ink or watercolor painting that relies on unpainted negative space as part of the composition but is still usually regarded as painting.

My definition works for me and works that could be either I usually don't worry too much about others' definitions. But I wouldn't call it mixed media just because the underpainting had watercolor, ink, acrylic or oil used. Especially not when it's alcohol or water wash dissolving pastels into paint. That's really common practice for pastel painters and does create a painterly style, some will leave that layer showing and others work over all of it.

08-30-2015, 03:32 PM
You might consider sending a note to Liz Haywood Sullivan. She has written an excellent piece on "The Collectable Pastel Painting". Which gets into this.

08-30-2015, 09:39 PM
Until I joined WetCanvas, I considered my pastels drawings. Once on WC I saw that most folks called their pastels paintings, so now I consider them paintings. All in all, in hasn't made any difference! If I submit a piece to a show, all it says is pastel on board or pastel on paper. My oils are described as oil on canvas or oil on board. I don't need to decide whether to call them paintings or drawings. I know to some folks this is an important topic, but in my experience it hasn't mattered at all and I almost never have to make a distinction!


08-31-2015, 11:10 AM
Amen Don

Bill Foehringer
08-31-2015, 03:32 PM
One can 'draw' with oil paint or pencils or pastels. I have seen some pencil work that looks very 'painterly' whatever that means. I'm not an art history expert but Degas, for sure, was an early pastel 'painter'.




First two are pastels last is oil

08-31-2015, 04:45 PM
Pastel is basically "dry paint". just like oils, for example, it can be used in a painterly fashion or a more rendered, linear approach. I have always thought of pastel work as paintings, not drawings.

But weirdly, I think of works in charcoal as drawings. :confused: :lol:

09-05-2015, 08:59 PM
I stood in a gallery with my mouth agape for ten minutes in front of a piece before I realized that it was a pastel and not an oil. Painting.

09-05-2015, 10:10 PM
I just entered one of my pictures in the Amateur Fine Arts Division of the local county fair. I had to submit it under a specific category-
A. Painting
1. oil/acrylic
2. watercolor
3. pastel ( soft pastel or oil pastel )
4. mixed media/ collage
They had other categories- Graphics-Drawing including crayon, charcoal, markers, pencils etc. and Photography.
So I put down A3- Soft pastel painting. This is the third year I've entered and is really the only time the subject comes up-so I guess it's a painting at least in this case but if somebody wants to call it a drawing elsewhere that's OK too. Incidentally, the first year I won Honorable mention, the second year I won Third place- This year I'm hoping for Second place- That's not true- every year I hope for Best in Show-This year is no exception!

09-06-2015, 06:21 AM
I was told the difference was in the coverage of the surface...if some or all of a pastel background shows the surface...it's a drawing...if it's all covered...it's a painting!:D

09-06-2015, 08:58 AM
ROFL, Geej - finally, an honest competitor :clap: :clap: I hope you DO win, and if I were there I'd be wishing for exactly the same thing :lol: :thumbsup:

Mike L
09-18-2015, 05:28 PM
We all like to use our own definitions, but when push comes to shove and effective communication is essential, it might be best to use a commonly accepted dictionary's definitions:

1. Paint (verb): to apply color, pigment, or paint to...

2. Paint (noun): a mixture of a pigment and a suitable liquid to form a closely adherent coating when spread on a surface in a thin coat

3. Painting: a picture that is painted (see #1.)

Thank you, Merriam-Webster.com


09-18-2015, 05:43 PM
I rest my case, thank you Merriam Webster...pastel IS pure pigment....applied...ergo pastel painting!:evil: :D

09-18-2015, 10:19 PM
Yep. That's close to my view, Deirdre. Of course some pieces really could fit either definition even with that! But it's mostly relevant in contest rules and things like that.

09-21-2015, 12:55 AM
My view too, even though I am new, is that paint is not just a "liquid" - paint is a medium that contains pigment (and approriate binder.) You can sketch with paint (any dry or wet pigment and binder) using any tool (brush, hands, sponge etc) or produce a full painting by covering the whole support with any tool.

At the end of the day you are creating art, and art is always subjective, right down to the mediums, tools, and methods used.

09-21-2015, 07:17 PM
And then you get to ink or watercolor paintings where a few strokes describe the subject and the majority of the surface is exposed. I've sometimes done pastels in a similar style. At that point I start asking if the strokes are painterly or linear, could I have done the design with a pen or a pencil or was I using the stick more like a brush? Or the applicator. Pan Pastels always feel like painting.