View Full Version : Newbie Process Questions

10-29-2003, 08:28 PM
Hello everyone,

I normally hang out in drawing/sketching or the digital art forums, but I stumbled in here the other day and read some really great threads regarding starting with pastels. They extolled the virtues of pastels well enough that I took the advice: I went out and purchased a set of half stick Rembrandts. I also grabbed a set of NuPastels as well (even though it seems that they have some archival problems)... eh, it's a learning experience.

Okay, so, here are my questions. First off what's the process? Can I do detailed drawings in graphite and then color them in pastel or should I do the drawings with the NuPastels (they are hard pastels)? I'm attaching an example of the level of detail I'm wanting to achieve in pastel-- not sure if it's possible because many of the pastels I see tend to be slightly impressionistic; but I'm going to give it a shot.

Is there any preparation I should make to the paper? And for that matter, what type of paper should I be using? Currently, I'm using Strathmore 400 series for Watercolor. It's pretty toothy and has a slightly rough texture.

Is blending the pastels as simple as rubbing them together or are there tricks I should know about going into it?

Lastly, anything I should do about the health issues involved? Do you folks really use face masks and gloves? I've read that you should, but I'm curious if people really do that.

Sorry about the buckshot approach to asking questions. I'm just excited about the new medium. I've been doing art on the computer for a few years now, and although I've always drawn traditionally pastels will be my first traditional approach to using color. Thanks for any help you might have to offer.

10-29-2003, 09:31 PM
You can achieve whatever level of detail you are willing to work to get- and it will be work, don't kid yourself. Take a look at these examples of some detailed works from the past few weeks:




The NuPastels are good to give you an underpainting, or to help with fine lines- but there are archival and "hardness" issues. Gaka pulverizes his and applies them with various tools to achieve the level of detail you see in the swallows. Mary uses pastel pencils (NOT coloured pencils) for very fine lines, and blending can be done with everything from a cloth to a colour-shaper to your finger. Pastels are an "immediate" medium- while there is much layering and attention to the "stroke", a painting of many layers can be finished in an afternoon, easily.

The Impressionistic School of artists relied heavily on pastels for field work- easier to haul around than brushes, oil, palettes and all, and they do seem tailor-made for that "look". But artists have used them for every kind of colour work you can think of from pop-art to fantasy to fine "photo-realism". Skill plays a large part, but in the end it's all down to how much time and effort you're willing to put in to a medium which yields such immediate results.

Good luck- and welcome. Once you get bit, you're pretty much infected for life.

10-29-2003, 10:05 PM
Great questions John, I was about to ask some of the same ones.

Thanks for the great answers SweetBabyJ.

I have been lurking here for about a week. I did my first oil pastel last night while watching NYPD Blue and it was lots of fun.
I do not have any pastels yet and am confused as to the different types so I will continue to lurk and learn. I have a lot of reading to do in the pastel library also.

Nice to meet you all and am really enjoying all your paintings.

Bonnie G

10-29-2003, 10:15 PM
Welcome to pastels!
There's hours of good reading in the Pastel Library. There are also good books, such as by our own Jackie Simmonds. And just start painting and posting; we're all learning together.
The Weekly Sketch thread is a wonderful learning tool- that's what it's for. And there's usually a project or two on the go.
Members like Gaka and crumbedbrains, and others, do some amazing realistic pastel work.
So just dive right in and join the multicolored-fingers crowd!:D

10-29-2003, 10:58 PM
Welcome aboard.........join us all in the learning process. You will love the final outcome of your pastel works. I know I enjoy the learning process. We have a great bunch here that sure can help ya........Good luck


10-30-2003, 02:32 AM
jlward, welcome Ican just picture that dragon in full color.:clap: :clap:


10-30-2003, 02:44 AM
Have you looked at the Pastels library of Q&A's, recently established to answer all your questions. You will find it at the top of the main page.

Also - GO AND GET A BOOK (OR TWO) ON HOW TO WORK WITH PASTELS. There is no one way, so ideally find a book which shows all the different ways.

There are masses of books out there, so your library will be sure to have some. Or else, have a look on Amazon, or in any art materials shop that sells books.

Practicing techniques is important - and it is often best to do this quite separately from producing a picture, simply in order to learn. Get some paper, some pastels, and try them all in as many ways as you can dream up, or refer to your book for ideas. Blending is only one of the many, many approaches to putting colour onto a support with pastels.


10-30-2003, 03:19 AM
Thank you all for making me feel so welcome and for taking the time to answer my questions. I've spent a few hours looking through the Pastel forums here at WC and I really am amazed at how versatile the medium is; and how talented the many artists posting in these forums are.

Thank you all for your suggestions. I've been working some with the pastels I bought earlier today. I haven't really dove in all the way yet. I'm just using white to lighten up portions of that drawing above. I think I want to take Jackie's advice and do a little more research on the mechanics involved before I start into an actual painting... oh, and I want to spend some time goofing off with them as well. Getting used to how they feel and developing a feel for the various possibilities.

Thanks again.

10-30-2003, 03:59 AM
Welcome John! That dragon is superb! Look forward to seeing your work with the added dimension of colour. Bonnie, welcome to you too ... jump in and join us in the weekly sketch thread ... a great place to practice and improve.

10-30-2003, 06:35 AM
Thank you Jackie and E-J

Yes, I have been reading the information in the library. There is so much information there and it is very helpful. And I do plan on buying more than a few books on the subject. I learn well from books and my big weakness is spending lots of money at book stores. I already have about 30 watercolor books and just started painting about 6 months ago.

I probably won't be able to buy a set of pastels for another couple of weeks. but I will continue to read all I can and to read the forums here. I am still confused as to the different types of pastels so I am not sure what to buy yet. But when I do I will post some in the weekly sketch thread. It sounds like fun and a great way to learn.

Thank you for the warm welcome everyone.


10-30-2003, 02:06 PM
Bonnie - no need for confusion.

Here is a rough breakdown for you:

1. Soft pastels, or chalk pastels, are made, basically, just from pigment and a bit of binder. They are soft and sometimes somewhat crumbly, like school chalks only much better quality. The more you pay, usually the softer and more velvety they are. They come in sticks, often round, some fatter than others. You really do get what you pay for, tho beware of Sennelier, which tend to crumble when you take the wrappers off, even tho they are supposed to be among the top of the range! You can use most soft pastels in all the techniques you can think of - blending, layering, cross-hatching - everything. It is good to practice with them, to find out what you can do with them.

2. Some Soft pastels are as above, but are Harder ... CONFUSING huh! Seriously tho, they are, quite simply, harder ... less velvety, and less inclined to crumble. Nu Pastels, I believe, fall into this category, as do Conte, and most square-shaped pastels - but you should always ask if you aren't sure. Sometimes the shop assistants may even know!! These are good for early stages of a pic cos you can layer softer pastels over the top. Also can be used for a pic from start to finish, but less easy to use on their sides, to sweep across the paper and cover large areas. They come in sticks, sometimes round, sometimes square. Also in pencil form - called Pastel Pencils, which are good for sketching, and also for fine details ... but some people rarely use them, even for detail - I never do.

3. Oil pastels and wax pastels. These are made from pigment, with an entirely different kind of binder, so they are more like coloured crayons. Some people love them, others hate them -you have to try to find out if you like them, there is no way to know otherwise. You can blend them, but not in the same way, and with the same ease, as you can blend with soft pastels. Oil pastels can be "melted" with spirits, or turps, to blend and spread the colour. There are some made of wax - both watersoluble wax, and regular wax which is not watersoluble. Again, different techniques apply, and you will only know if you like them, by trying them.

There are tons more colours and shades available in soft pastels - some manufacturers have as many as 500 or more colours to choose from. There are far fewer colours available in oil or wax pastels, but certainly enough to use!

Hope this simple guide makes things a bit clearer for you.