View Full Version : Scoop on Great American Artworks Hard Pastels

06-07-2005, 01:31 PM
The other GA forum got so big I am letting ya'll know that I called GA yesterday rather snarly asking where the rest of my full monte was (it had been awhile)- he said he had mailed it last week. right. but there it was in my mailbox yesterday- with 3 free samples! I called to tell him it arrived, and thank him for the samples, and he said those are samples of his new HARD pastels- he said the size, etc. would change, but the texture would be the same- and the texture is devine! I believe they will be rather thin like giraults but with a much softer texture. They are not crumbly at all- just creamy and smooth as silk- he plans to start production on them in 2 weeks! I can't wait- I like giraults for their detail, but for some reason they wreck havoc on my hands like no other pastel does- and GA's colors are so COOL can't wait to see what he names them! I hope Bob Dylan makes the list somewhere- what color would he be? How about PINK Floyd? I KNOW what color Johnny Cash would be... how about Sweet Baby James Blue?

Also- just talked again to GA- there will eventually be 100 colors of the hard, AND there will be 100 colors of a new MEDIUM pastel.... so they will really be cranking out the pastels over there!!!

06-07-2005, 01:45 PM
Great American is also coming out with a new shape! One side will be flat so they don't roll off the table anymore. I signed up for a first shipment at IAPS. I bought a landscape set of GA a couple of years ago and have used all of them. They are one of the creamiest soft pastels that it feels like painting with oils!

06-07-2005, 01:46 PM

what about a Garfield Orange ?


06-07-2005, 02:52 PM
Banana Split (a nice muted naples yellow)? Baby Doo Green (you know the color on that one!)? Little Old Lady Hair (blue)? sorry...this could get bad in a hurry!

06-07-2005, 03:35 PM
I don't mean to be a wet blanket but cutesy names for pastels strikes me as kind of stupid. We've spent years trying to get people to take pastels seriously and not regard them as being on the same level as children's finger paints and sidewalk chalk! (just for the record I hate cutesy ice cream too).

06-07-2005, 04:08 PM
Dan- single scooper, party pooper! (just kidding you) but when someone says- Goldenrod, I know just what color that is. When they say A 49 (unison), 005 (selliner), vanadiumgelb hell, jaune de vanadium clair, or donkergeel, (for a few other brands) it really does not make me envision the color. The point of the message was that Great American Artworks is coming out with new pastels- 100 medium hard ones, and 100 hard ones starting this summer. I think we can keep the humor of the names of some to ourselves, and not tell any clients what the names of the colors are- specifically that is.

06-07-2005, 04:51 PM
The only names that really bother me are the number codes...who's supposed to memorize those??? Otherwise, they can call the stuff by the scientific name as long as they don't expect me to know how to pronounce it right off the bat or they can name it after their Aunt Patty...it's not like buyers of our art peek in our boxes of pastels and find out how silly we are with color names....or aren't. A little whimsy sometimes can be fun altho I agree one can take it too far, as did I. Sorry! :)

06-07-2005, 04:56 PM
bah - who cares what they're called...all I care about is how I am going to get them into my collection! :D

Laura Shelley
06-07-2005, 07:21 PM
Actually, I would much prefer "vanadiumgelb hell" to something like "Buttercup"! (But I can read German, so that's just me.) I'm a pigment wonk, and I like to know exactly what's in my art supplies, which is one reason I am making most of my own pastel sticks these days. A label reading "PB15; Pthalocyanine" MEANS something, whereas "Deep Ocean Blue" could be anything, including cheap fugitive pigments--and I tend to assume that anything NOT labeled with a proper pigment number must be ashamed of its contents. :D

That may not be the case at all, but that's my personal impression, and so, although I hear many good things about GA pastels, I am a little biased against them for their naming conventions alone.


Deborah Secor
06-07-2005, 10:01 PM
Well, the good news is that at least with the GAs you can get all the pigment names on request, those of us who like the idea of painting with a color called Burnt Reynolds can snicker as we paint (don't tell me the average American baby boomer can't name that color for you ;) ), and the rest can call it by it's part number!

I have to tell you that Bob Strohsahl is a nice guy with a dry sense of humor. He doesn't take things too seriously, except making his fine product, and he has fun doing it. At first I felt a lot like Dan about the names, thinking them fatuous and a bit silly, until I met Bob and found out they match him.

Why shouldn't a product bear the creative mark of the maker? Burnt Reynolds, French Roast and Moss identify the colors well for me, and once you've seen Atmosphere and Bismarck, Zest and Rondo, you know the colors. And then there's Dead Head (think Caput Mortem and you're there.) :D


06-07-2005, 10:02 PM
Well, to each his/her own, I guess. I'm just not that anal about it unless there have been studies proving that some colors are fugitive as with some of the NuPastels. If a brand has done a good job for other professionals, I'm okay with it. I can certainly understand where the purists are coming from and encourage them to go to whatever lengths they need to to ensure that their colors last forever, etc. When it comes to art supplies, word gets around pretty quickly on which is the "good stuff" and which isn't, so, in the meantime, I'll go ahead and rely on well-known and well-reputed brand names and be happy.

06-08-2005, 12:17 AM
For those who are interested in such things, I just looked at my handy dandy Great American Art Works pastel chart for 2005 and found, lo and behold a full listing of C.I. Names (pigment codes, I take it...the guy who makes these is a master chemist, BTW) and lightfastness index. The vast majority of the colors are rated #1, meaning totally lightfast with a few #2s here and there...there are no, 3s that I could see, and no 4s or 5s, so that looks pretty permanent to me. Also, the proper name of these things is indeed Great American Art Works Soft Pastels and they are made by Bob Strohsahl, not a company named Great American.

Laura Shelley
06-08-2005, 01:06 AM
I'm very glad they supply a pigment list, because there are manufacturers who seem to consider that proprietary information and won't say. It's not a question of wanting to make my artwork last until the universe collapses, which strikes me as hubris, though when I sell something, I would like to think it won't fall into ruins until it's been long enough that the customer can't track me down. :D

Some time ago, I read the pigment list and lightfastness ratings for Sennelier pastels--obviously a well-known brand--and I was very surprised to find that many of their colors used pigments with the *lowest* ratings. These are colors that are likely to fade well within your lifetime. The violets and bright oranges are particularly at fault. Ever since then, I've been just a little skeptical of commercial pastel lines. I won't go as far as Virgil Elliott and stop using pastels altogether--but I will always make sure what I'm paying for.


Merethe T
06-08-2005, 07:35 AM
Hm, I've heard so much about these GA's now, I'm actually excited to hear they'll be available as hard pastels aswell, as I prefer harder pastels for my animal portraits. Gonna have to try them.... :D

I've been thinking I need to try the soft ones too, guess I'll be paying Dakotas a little visit soon... I want to know what you all are so excited about! :D


06-08-2005, 09:21 AM
I'm surprised about the Senneliers, too! You'd think they were the Holy Grail, to hear the company tell it, but I also wonder...and perhaps you who make your own know why...why is it that the yellows are such a problem in many lines? Even the Schmincke yellows are among their lowest rated for permanence. Is it because pastel makers don't dare use cadmium or chrome anymore? And why would violets be a problem? I have a treasured few Cadmium yellows and oranges put out years ago by Grumbacher...they are beautiful, but dangerous, I suppose. Of course, I don't tend to eat mine and try not to breathe them either.

Kitty Wallis probably has the scoop on a lot of the pigments, but she's Missing in Action lately.

And yes Merethe...you really should try GAs! They're a real treat. I was lucky enough to get a new color chart and seeing all the shades printed out together is a feast for the eyes!

06-08-2005, 11:13 AM
Well, after looking at a bunch of lightfastness charts, it seems most manufactures have their own system.... GA tells you on their chart that 1 is forever, 2 is generations, etc. But it seems others rate things differently, like Mt. Vision- but most of their pigments are extremely lightfast. Here is an interesting site that has ratings for other pastels:

06-08-2005, 11:37 AM
This may be an ignorant question, but why is it pastel artists are so concerned about lightfastness and oil painters never talk about it ? Aren't they composed of the same pigments?

06-08-2005, 11:54 AM
I think oil paint has led the way in converting their pigments to modern permanency levels already, whereas some pastels (such as NuPastels) have proven to be a bit less reliable. In fairness, I have to say that not ALL NuPastels are fugitive either, just some. Since there isn't yet an overall standard for pastels (at least not one that I know of), most artists do want to know that their colors will at least last out the lifetime of the buyer without fading or mutating. Granted, there are some who go overboard and shy away from the medium entirely because of a few bad sticks, but most of us just try to go for the well-reputed and hope that that's sufficient.

A very interesting book on this subject is Ralph Mayer's Artist's Handbook. He has a history of pigments with all their traits, good and bad, and even includes some recipes for making one's own materials from scratch. Not a book to read cover to cover but one to refer to when wondering about this or that art material and how to use it.

And yes, the pigments are the same in that you'll find them in oils and watercolors too, BUT...there are some used in pastels that wouldn't be considered optimal in oils or watercolor, but are still used because many manufacturers no longer want to use pigments which contain poisonous chemicals...due to the dust aspect of the pastel medium. I notice however, after studying the GAAW color chart, that he does still use some cadmiums and cobalts, etc. where nothing as good or as permanent is available. Frankly, I'd rather he do that than use the totally non-toxic list used in making children's crayons, etc. I personally don't intend to breathe the dust or eat it whether it's poisonous or not, so....

Laura Shelley
06-08-2005, 12:12 PM
There are lightfastness issues with oils too, not to mention watercolors. Handprint is an amazing resource for information on watercolor pigments, for those who don't know about it. A number of beloved traditional colors are really pretty inferior, but it's an emotional issue for a lot of artists--I love alizarin crimson, and in many formulations and tints, it's going to turn white in a few decades. Nobody told me about this stuff when I was getting my degree. :rolleyes:

AFAIK (partly from Virgil Elliott) the pastel issue is largely because many manufacturers (and artists) used to see pastels as a lower-end medium, and didn't concern themselves with permanence. So the general quality of pastels was not up to snuff with oils for a long time. Heck, they didn't even *offer* pastel courses when I was in school in the early 1980s! I used oil pastels to do studies for paintings, and that was it.

With the growing popularity of pastels in the last ten or fifteen years and their use as a full-blown fine arts medium, needs have changed. But not every pastel line has caught up to the modern era. When artists demand the highest quality from their pastels and pay close attention to the ingredients in what they are using, the manufacturers follow suit, because they want to sell to us! I've discovered, both from reading ingredient lists and doing my own lightfastness tests, that I cannot count 100% on even expensive pastel lines to provide me with reliable permanence. Our only defense is to educate ourselves, IMO.

Violets are a problem in every medium--even quinacridones are less stable the bluer they get. And of course violets are my favorite colors... :(

As long as your cadmiums are the "lithopone" sort--cadmium-barium rather than pure cadmium--they are actually not highly toxic. But you do have to know exactly which cadmium pigment you're dealing with, and that's easiest if you are buying the straight pigment rather than something pre-made. The only substance I would stay strictly away from in pastel is lead (well, other than something like arsenic!)

I will definitely seek out the GA pigment list and take a look!


06-08-2005, 12:26 PM
I could scan a copy of the listing from the color chart, if you can't find it online. That's the one thing I wish the GA guy would do...get himself a website! I guess he's too busy happily making pastels to build one, but I think it would increase his business if he got one.

06-08-2005, 12:30 PM
Well, I had 3 years of Chemistry and this is beginning to sound like greek to me- but thanks for all the great info on it- I need to study up. I did notice that Daniel Smith is making watercolors out of natural minerals (which I do happen to know about thank goodness)- lapis lazuli, malachite, sedona red (sandstone- red is from iron). And yes, stay away from cinnabar, galina... however, it is a shame it seems to grind up these beautiful minerals!

Well Sooz, I will happily make him a website for a full set of pastels- I know, I already have the full Monte so you can help and he can send them to you, how is that for a deal?

06-08-2005, 12:35 PM
HEY! It's a deal, purples!!! :D Actually, I could help, having done my share of web work, too. Between us we could fix him up, couldn't we?

06-08-2005, 01:12 PM
And if you guys need any help - just let me know and I will be happy to jump in and use some of my education in that field! :wink2:

06-08-2005, 01:18 PM
Well, maybe he's the technophobe type who doesn't want to connect directly to the internet? Wonder if Deborah knows....Deb?

Deborah Secor
06-08-2005, 01:19 PM
Don't try to talk to him now--he's busier than a fit! LOL He's a former computer guy himself, which means nothing except that he probably figures he'll get to it one day... You all might be able to work something out!


06-08-2005, 01:31 PM
Don't try to talk to him now--he's busier than a fit! LOL He's a former computer guy himself, which means nothing except that he probably figures he'll get to it one day... You all might be able to work something out!


Great idea, Deb. And you're right...he's in the middle of an explosion of work, I imagine, so will wait awhile. Has anyone ever approached him about a WC sponsorship? He's got enough ready-made business right here in the pastel forum to keep him busy, I'll bet!

Kitty Wallis
06-08-2005, 09:49 PM

Here's a big bunch of pigment info. Especially lightfast charactaristics.

He's writing about pigments in watercolors; the pigment characteristics are the same in any medium. However, pigments used in light washes are most at risk, likely to fade if not completely lightfast. Pastels are slightly more reliable due to the thick strokes (mass tones).

06-09-2005, 07:56 PM
Heya, Kitty! LTNS! I wanted to ask you if you know why the yellow shades always seem to be the weak spot in different pastel makers' lightfastness lists? I figure ou know as much as anybody about the pigments involved, so...

06-12-2005, 09:28 AM
I think there are two reasons for the "lack" of good yellows in a pastels line. The first is probably the lack of good lightfast pigments to choose from. Even those that I have found I, ( to be perfectly honest), have not found a good formulation that makes a really fabulous pastel- at least for me.
Second is the nature of Yellow. It is a harder color to mix off of. Reds and blues can be manipulated easier- making the reds either yellower or bluer (warmer or cooler) even "dirtier" . Yellows don't lend themselves to quite so much manipulation- they tend to get overwhelmed quite quickly mixing them with other pigments.

06-12-2005, 03:42 PM
Karl, there is a new thread called 'pigments in pastels' that you might be interested in!