View Full Version : Miss Pastels - watercolor misfit!

05-14-2018, 01:24 PM
It's been a while since I posted in this forum. I had been having awful sinus infections for a bout a year (hospitalized 2x because they were so bad). After much testing, it turns out the pastel dust was causing me the infections :(. I haven't touched my pastels in a long time, although the allergist said in a year or so, I might try again for a very short period of time, using mask, gloves, open window, hepa(spelling?) filter - and see how it goes. sigh ... I did try not long after my last infection cleared up (I know, I know - I never listen to the doctors and I'm a stubborn old fool some times), using pastel pencils on very smooth paper, hoping that would keep the dust to a minimum - but no luck, got an infection again. Guess I'll wait some more before I try again.

Long story short, I decided to try watercolors, thinking they would probably be the least likely to cause me issues. So, no health issues with watercolors - but, I'm really not taking to them. In fact, almost everyone comments that my watercolors look like pastels! I miss the texture of pastels, so I've been using my watercolors on sanded paper (using cheap brushes) to get texture - I will never be a watercolorist, my heart belongs to pastels! someone mentioned trying oil pastels, but I've already invested a small fortune (for me that is) in watercolor and don't want to be jumping all over the place spending money that I don't have :)

Anyhow, if anyone else has gone through anything like this with pastels and found any ways to continue using them without getting sick - I would appreciate your feedback.

05-14-2018, 03:53 PM
Oh no!!!! I'm glad to see you back, but what an ordeal!

The only thing I can think of is an air filtration system and a dust mask....everything you have been told already.

Oil pastels aren't really like soft pastels.....

Perhaps get a respirator, like the ones used in construction. I believe they are around $40 and you can change the filters. Those are used in really toxic environments, so it might work for you! :crossfingers:

Richard Barrere
05-14-2018, 04:01 PM
So sorry to hear about your troubles! It is a shame to have to give up something you love, but maybe you will find some new avenue for your expression that won't be so harmful to you. I'm writing because I sort of came about pastels the other way, discovering them about a year ago after a lifetime of painting. I can only speak from my personal experience, but I have always loved to draw, the whole experience of scratching something out on paper was much more enjoyable that pushing paint around. I worked mostly with acrylics and used a dry brush method, with multiple layering. I found the right mix of paint and water or medium, and scrubbed the paint into the canvas. I found I could get lots of wonderful results as the paint dried doing things this way. I used a lot of scumbling techniques, to layer the painting forward, and then finishing things off with a lighter touch and a finer brush. I went through a lot of brushes, but they make many nice hog hair brushes now that are really cheap, which I used for most of the first stages of painting. I found all this strictly from trial and error, by trying to "draw" with my paints. I would suggest maybe you could try some acrylic paints which are low odor and dry very quickly. They seem the most like pastels to me.

05-14-2018, 04:08 PM
stapeliad: Thanks for the suggestion. Next time I try pastels again, I might try that

Richard: I have a small set of Golden Fluid acrylics that I got as a gift from someone thinking they were watercolors - duh! - they are almost like watercolor to me. Do you know if there's anything I can mix with them to make them more opaque/thicker?

05-14-2018, 04:15 PM
While this might sound odd, I really think oils are the closest to pastel in terms of handling and even layering. They are so parallel.

Acrylics never stay open, I guess unless you get Golden Opens or something, but they are completely different. If it is a direction you want to approach just get a black and a white and do a small study to see how they handle.

CaliAnn- in your situation (if it was me) I would just get a respirator like this one... (https://www.amazon.com/3M-62023HA1-C-Professional-Multi-Purpose-Respirator/dp/B002NMICB2/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1526325427&sr=8-7&keywords=respirator) before really giving up. It is inexpensive enough to be worth a try. Get a professional one, not a household one. There is almost no price difference.

Donna T
05-14-2018, 04:15 PM
Hi CaliAnn, I'm so sorry to know that you've been struggling with health issues. They sure derail any artistic energy, that's for sure. I've seen some of your watercolors in the Landscape forum and thought they looked pretty good! Have you considered gouache? It can be built up in opaque layers and might be more to your liking than watercolors.

05-14-2018, 04:24 PM
stapeliad - thank you for the link. It will be a while before I try again, but I will try 'cuz I"m stubborn and not yet ready to give up on them. I have heard that about oils - they being similar in handling to pastels. I even looked at some youtube demos and can see that they are quite similar. I am just so worried that the smells might bother me, but I might try your suggestion and start with black and white and see how it handles. Can you recommend a brand?

Donna Some of my experimenting with watercolors actually also used gouache. I got a few tubes because I have so much colored pastel paper (colorfix among others), that I have been experimenting. Most of the watercolors are too transparent for the darker papers, so I add gouache to them to thicken them up!

05-14-2018, 04:43 PM
Get Gamblin- the artist quality line. Get a mars black and radiant white, and a small bottle of Gamsol. That's all you will need in order to know if it will work for you. There is a big solvent-free trend in oils these days, so you can do it without solvent, but I personally can't imagine not using solvent to slack the paint consistency. People go without. I don't. You need very little, just a touch for consistency. Lean paint is much easier to handle than fat paint. Ventilate (open a window). Wash your brushes with soap and water.

The oil in the paint is nontoxic and while you may notice a slight smell, it is not toxic. (I think linseed oil is one of the best smells in the whole world)

Supports... pick up a cheap canvas panel to experiment on. It'll work fine for experimenting, and is better than a canvas pad.

You could work on your colourfix paper too (they are acrylic primed), but it will eat your brushes.

If it works in your budget, get a cheap knife to mix the paint. Much better than mixing with brushes. for a palette you could buy something, but before you commit you could even just use a plastic plate.

Richard Barrere
05-14-2018, 06:11 PM
The best thing I felt about acrylic paint is it dries so fast. You can layer much more quickly, whereas gouache tends to come off again when re-wetted. If you have a particular color of paint that is too transparent, admittedly a lot of them are, you can wash them on with a soft brush and then go over them in just a few minutes after they dry. Once acrylics dry they are there to stay. You can go over and over them with layers using a dryer brush and scrub them in, like I said earlier and it works a lot like layering pastels, to me anyway. Acrylics are cheaper, and I pick up good quality brands all the time at thrift stores. I've done a lot of painting in oils too, which is my favorite paint medium, but you wind up adding a lot of driers to achieve the same sort of dry brush or layering effect. Even with driers you have to slow down a lot more. It totally depends on the way you prefer to work, and you also have to consider the harmful fumes and chemicals from oils and thinners and driers too. So much to consider! If you can work comfortably with a respirator, that might be the way to go for you too.

05-16-2018, 11:35 AM
Use your pastels outside, or in the open garage or similar, where there will be a breeze and fresh air.