View Full Version : Pastel vs oil

Moises Menendez
07-30-2017, 12:01 PM
I have been reading more about pastel and especially pastel portraiture. I have seen at least two artists who paint with pastels using the word "painterly". Is the idea behind this notion that pastel had to resemble oil painting in order to get more recognition, or it is just another way to paint with pastel? Most of the pastel portraits that I have seen from the old masters are not painted as an impasto technique like oil painting. In fact, it is impossible to tell the difference between pastel work vs oil work. I believe that pastel painting has the same status as oil painting.

07-30-2017, 03:33 PM
I think that the term "painterly" is widely used - and probably means something different to many that use the term!:eek:

I see "painterly" as meaning the art work is done with large areas of color as opposed to being linear or being considered a drawing. Nothing more than that.

Oils and pastels can be very similar in the way the "paint" is applied and what the final art looks like and many artists use both mediums. I don't think "impasto" is representative of how oils paintings are done - in fact, I would say that impasto is a rarely used technique. Old masters oil paintings were mostly done with a series of very thinly applied glazes. There are, of course, exceptions. That's my take anyway.


Moises Menendez
07-30-2017, 05:44 PM
You are right Don. The exceptions may Rembrandt at his last years and Velazquez. I see some works done with the classical lineal techniqe like Mary Cassatt.

07-30-2017, 06:43 PM
There are three highly respected galleries near me that display and sell quite a few pastels. This was not the case several years back. Nearly all of the pieces they have hanging are done in a "painterly" style per the definitions below. Many of them look very much like oil paintings with only the glass giving them away.

I believe that pastel painting has the same status as oil painting.

My personal take on this is that oils are perceived as having a higher intrinsic value by some art buyers when compared to pastels, watercolors, acrylics and other non oil mediums, and are willing to pay more for the same quality of work when done with oils. I don't adhere to that way of thinking myself. The medium doesn't influence what I like or dislike or my perceived monetary value of a piece.

From my experience selling and working in half a dozen galleries over the last few years there is no question that oils have a significantly larger following than pastels. Quite a few buyers simply will not buy a pastel (or a watercolor for that matter) regardless of how wonderful it is and they are vocal about it - oils only. I have also seen gallery owners try to convince 'non oil' artists to do oils as well, with the thought that their overall sales will increase. One artist in particular who did watercolors exclusively, switched to oils at the urging of a fairly prestigious gallery owner. His prices and his total sales increased dramatically the first year and have continued to climb steadily for the last 10 years or more. Another artist who worked mainly in pastels for decades, tried to transition to oils for this very reason, increased customer base, but from what I have seen, their oils still do not sell as well as their pastels. I attribute this to the fact that their oils at this time are not as well executed as their pastels, indicating that they have not yet mastered the medium to the level that they had with pastels. My opinion based on what I have observed in general in the past is that had their oils been equal to their pastels in execution and quantities, they would have sold more oils than pastels in any given year.

As for the word Painterly - It appears to have fairly consistent definitions on multiple sites, all of which did match my own long held definition of the word fairly well - before I looked it up today for the first time. I would argue that if someone defines something as painterly that doesn't somewhat match the definitions below, they are using the word incorrectly.

(You might want to stop reading here as I think I posted way too much stuff below, and probably above for a Sunday afternoon. :lol: )


https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-painterly-2577685The term painterly is used to describe a painting done in a style that embraces, shows, and celebrates the paint medium that it is created in (be it oil paint (https://www.thoughtco.com/should-i-use-acrylics-or-oil-paint-2573824), acrylics (https://www.thoughtco.com/acrylic-paint-explained-2577362), pastels (https://www.thoughtco.com/best-brands-of-art-pastels-2579018), gouache (https://www.thoughtco.com/gouache-paint-basics-4024407), watercolor (https://www.thoughtco.com/types-of-watercolor-paint-2579357), etc.), rather than a style that tries to hide the act of creation. It is a loose and expressive approach to the process of painting in which the brushstrokes are visible, rather than one that is controlled and rational, and tries to hide the brushstrokes.
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/painterly Fine Arts. characterized by qualities of color, stroke, or texture perceived as distinctive to the art of painting, especially the rendering of forms and images in terms of color or tonal relations rather than of contour or line.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/painterly..suggestive or characteristic of a painting (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/painting) or of the art of painting painterly photography; especially : marked by an openness of form which is not linear and in which sharp outlines are lacking painterly brushwork

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PainterlinessAn oil painting (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_painting) is painterly when there are visible brushstrokes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brush#Paintbrushes), the result of applying paint in a less than completely controlled manner, generally without closely following carefully drawn lines. Works characterized as either painterly or linear can be produced with any painting media: oils, acrylics, watercolors, gouache, etc. Some artists whose work could be characterized as painterly are Pierre Bonnard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Bonnard), Francis Bacon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bacon_%28artist%29), Vincent van Gogh (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh), Rembrandt (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rembrandt_Harmenszoon_van_Rijn), Renoir (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Auguste_Renoir), and John Singer Sargent (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Singer_Sargent). In watercolor it might be represented by the early watercolors of Andrew Wyeth (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Wyeth).
In contrast, linear could describe the painting of artists such as Botticelli (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandro_Botticelli), Michelangelo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelangelo), and Ingres (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Auguste_Dominique_Ingres), whose works depend on creating the illusion of a degree of three-dimensionality (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-dimensional) by means of "modeling the form" through skillful drawing, shading, and an academic rather than impulsive use of color. Contour and pattern are more in the province of the linear artists, while dynamism is the most common trait of painterly works.
The Impressionists (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressionism), Fauvists (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fauvism) and the Abstract Expressionists (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_Expressionism) tended strongly to be painterly movements.
Painterly art often makes use of the many visual effects produced by paint on canvas such as chromatic progression, warm and cool tones, complementary and contrasting colors (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_wheel), broken tones, broad brushstrokes, sketchiness (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sketch_%28drawing%29), and impasto (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impasto).

(of a painting or its style) characterized by qualities of colour, stroke, and texture rather than of line. ‘Botticelli is a linear painter, whilst Rembrandt's work would be considered painterly’

(I hope you headed my advice and didn't read all this stuff clear to the end! :eek:)

CM Neidhofer
07-31-2017, 01:01 AM
I think the word "painterly" has always been misconstrued when it comes to pastels. I think pastels have always been considered a drawing/sketching medium, not a "painting" medium. That misconception is surely, and not so slowly, anymore, being proved wrong with all the beautiful "painterly" pastel work being created. Even when you shop for pastels, they are listed under drawing/sketching supplies, not painting supplies. I guess we all need to work harder to change that!

Moises Menendez
07-31-2017, 07:29 AM
Thank for the great information and explanation about pastels. That was a great research.
Christine, you are right. In fact, the Getty museum is currently showing pastels from the 18th century now. People should be reeducated about the word pastel and the application of pure pigment onto the canvas which is similar to oil painting.

07-31-2017, 09:51 AM
Thanks for all the great info in this thread!

As an oil painter I fully agree... there are so many parallels between oils and soft pastels, I think of all the paint mediums they are closest. :)

Moises Menendez
08-01-2017, 07:04 AM
Who could argue that this work was done using pastel. It is a large portrait that is more than 2 meters long.