View Full Version : Holding Pastels and other basics.

04-14-2005, 10:19 PM
Hi there. My first thread here.

I've been oil painting for about a year. I've seen some beautiful work in pastels, and my local art supply store had a 50% off sale on some pastels so I picked up a case (30). They are Mungyo-which they tell me are really a higher student grade-but to start I figured what the heck.

I've been reading threads and articles here, and have some understanding of the various approaches to pastel painting, and some of the techniques, feathering, scumbling, blending and so forth. I also understand a reasonable amount of general art theory (colour, composition, values etc).

I've been mainly just getting a feel for them so far.

However here's what I'm unsure about:

I understand that it is a good idea to tape or clip your paper to a board, with perhaps some cushioning underneath, and paint on an almost verticle surface (easle) so the excess pastel dust falls. Is this what most pastellists do, or do you lay your paper flat and then flip it up occasionally to get the dust off (or perhaps blow on it)? It feels a bit awkward to me.

Secondly, do you hold the pastel like a pen or pencil and rest the side of your hand on the surface (I know to use the side of the pastel for colouring large areas).

I've also heard it's a good idea to use another piece of paper to shield areas already containing pastel from the side of your hand (so I guess some do rest their hand). When working vertically how do you do this-clip the "sheild" on, or just sort of hold it up with your non drawing/painting hand?

These concerns would mainly be when painting in details, after blocking in the larger shapes of value and colour.

One last question-are the better pastels softer and moister? I find them a bit drier than I expected-they are Mungyo Gallery Soft Pastels.

Thanks! :)

04-14-2005, 10:53 PM
Hello and welcome to the dusty side :D It's nice to see another canuck on this board :) Where are you from?

I have that same set of 30 Mungyo Gallery amongst my sticks. They are slightly harder than Rembrandts, but still work fairly well on sanded papers. You will find that if you buy a few open stock sticks from your art store, that some are creamier and otehrs are scratchy. I love my unisons, senneliers and schminckes. They are a nice consistency for the kind of work I do.

it took me a while to get used to working vertically, but it is a much cleaner way to work, because the dust will just fall away. To gat used to the feel of it, I started at an angle and then slowly worked up to vertical. I notice a big difference and now I find that if I work at an angle, I don't end up with as clean of a result.

I find that if I hold the pastel between my thumb and forefinger, I can control it really well and get the detail I desire. Because a apstel is thiscker than the average pen or pencil, I think it would be a bit awkward to try to hold them the same. I also find that I hold my pastel pencils more like how I would hold a pastel.

As for shielding with the paper - I never quite understood it until i saw it in a video this week that I got from the library. In the video it was held in place by the non-pastel wielding hand and the pastel hand could lightly rest on the paper to avoid smudging what was underneath.

Hope this helps! :D

04-15-2005, 05:35 AM
everyone works differntly and you have to find what suits you.

I work at an easel; working flat, I would get my arms, sleeves and everything else all over the paper. I would find a shield annoying. I like to get "back" from my pictures from time to time and standing, or perching on a stool, means I can do that easily.

I use both the tip, and the side of the pastel. If you only use the tip, you are limiting the kinds of strokes you can make. There are books on how to paint with pastels which show you the variety of marks you can make - look out for "Pastels Workbook" or "Pastels Workshop", both will give you masses of information about techniques. The tip of the pastel will give you linear marks; the side of the pastel will give you wonderful side strokes which enable you to create large areas of colour very quickly. You can use both together in a painting.

Mungyos are OK ...do treat yourself to some of the better pastels too, whenever you can afford it. It is good to see how different they feel. Try Terry Ludwig (mail order ...www.terryludwig.com), his pastels are superb; Schmincke and Unison are up there with the best. For cheapness, you cannot beat Jaxell, if you can find them. They are good quality, and inexpensive.

Do try different surfaces to work on. For paper, I always suggest that my students start with Canson Mi-Teinte, and that they try BOTH sides of the paper to see which they prefer. I use the smooth side.

When you feel like moving on, Wallis is pretty unbeatable - it is a sanded surface, and is more economical than one might think, because you can wash off a failed painting.

When working on paper, if you make a mess of an area, one good tip for you....don't keep on working over the top. BRUSH OFF THE MESSY BIT. No point in building up pastel unnecessarily. Brush off with a stiff brush, and then work over the area again.

have fun

04-15-2005, 08:47 AM
I had to get used to working vertically, but Jackie is right about it helping you get back from the picture to see it better. I still find myself resting my hand on the surface, so I've started using a scrap of glassine under my hand to protect the surface. I tape it outside the margin and move it as needed. The glassine won't smudge the pastel like some other papers do. Have fun!

A Few Pigments
04-15-2005, 10:55 AM
Hi Jon, good to see you here. I just started working with pastels again last year. I had just used them sporadically prior to that. All mediums are just about drawing, in this case with colour. The only problem is the dust, but its not a big problem as long as you have a good flashlight.

The Masters of Pastels threads have some good information about the history of pastels and the working methods of various artists. Good luck with your adventure into the wonderful world of soft pastels.

Masters of Pastels-April 2005 Odilon Redon

Masters of Pastels-March 2005 Edwin Austin Abbey

Masters of Pastels-February 2005 Berthe Morisot

Masters of Pastels-January 2005 Mary Stevenson Cassatt

Masters of Pastels December 2004 Edgar Germain Hilaire Degas

Masters of Pastels-November 2004 Rosalba Giovanna Carriera

04-15-2005, 11:04 AM
Thanks all. While just making marks and such I have been seated using a tabletop easle. You are right about the "stepping back" issue-something I learnedin my oil painting-so I will move to my studio easle-don't know why I didn't think of that. Probably because I have been working with small sheets of the Canson Mi-Tientes. I've been checking my local art stores and haven't come across the Wallis-I know many on this thread love it. I'm not sure if it is sold in Canada-although I have seen some sanded type paper.

Thanks for the tips. I'm in the middle of an oil painting class and golf season just started-so I will continue getting the "feel" for the pastels and will then try some moreserious attempts when my time frees up a bit more-probably in a few weeks when my painting class ends.

And yes, I will buy a few of the better pastels to try them out.

Thanks so much. I'm going to print this thread.

04-15-2005, 11:19 AM
My main reason for working vertically is to avoid distortion. It's not much of a problem on something small, but on anything bigger than 8X10 or so, I find my drawing is apt to be distorted by looking at it at a flat angle. Also, if you're already an oil painter, painting vertically should probably be your usual way of working already.

And NOOOOOO! Don't blow on that dust! It's hard to resist the urge, I know, but you'll be sending dust into the air and into your lungs if you do that. If I find the dust building up on my work, I take the board and all outside or to a large waste basket, turn it painting down and smack the whole thing sharply to dislodge the excess dust. BTW, foamcore makes a great board to mount your paper on with artist tape which peels off cleanly. It's inexpensive enough to have several handy sizes cut and ready to go. It also affords a bit of cushioning of its own.

Have fun! And welcome to the forum!

04-15-2005, 11:55 AM
Welcome to this wonderful medium and to this board! Re: holding the pastel. Some pastelists hold it between the middle finger and the thumb. This seems to make for a more delicate and freer stroke. Just as in oils where different brush strokes make for a more interesting painting, different kinds of marks make for a more interesting pastel piece.

Kitty Wallis
04-15-2005, 03:05 PM
Just this to add to all the information offered here:
I've always steadied my hand by extending my little finger and resting it on the tip of my nail, touching the piece as slightly as possible. I noticed I do this when I saw an area worn away on the nail of my little finger, when I started using sandpaper in 1970.

04-15-2005, 03:33 PM
I have short nails :D .

Kitty-do you know if your paper is carried by anyone in the Toronto area? I must say it gets a lot of "good press" on this forum.

Kitty Wallis
04-15-2005, 04:18 PM
It's stocked by Woolfitt's in Toronto. They also distribute it a bit to other stores in Eastern CAN

04-15-2005, 05:11 PM
And if your in the Toronto area, you should check out Curry's for great prices on Unisons. They also carry Schminckes and Nupastel and a bunch of others, but their prices are really great on Unisons. I order mine through them all the time!