View Full Version : What is Your Pastel Style???

02-09-2006, 12:34 PM
Reading the Pastel Journal and from my own experience, I find that artists in all mediums have thier own way of doing things.
There are the proper steps you take but, either people adjust it around as they progress along and get more experience or develop a style of thier own because the proper way just doesn't work for them.
My question is: What is your style? Are you one who follows the proper steps and it turns out gorgeous or disasterous?
As I learn more and more about pastels, I find it turns into a disaster if I do it the "right" way, which is what I've been trying to do this past month. If I do it my unconventional way, like some people who are in the Journal, it turns out better.
Hey, My mother always said I was a rebellious child.

02-09-2006, 01:06 PM
Proper steps? What are those? I do what I need to do to get the job done.

I have a really painterly style, so I don't necessarilly alave over the details...I just do my drawing (either on a sheet of wallis or colourfix, or on tracing paper for transfer to velour). Then I startin with the underpainting or the hard pastels - depending what I think it needs. Then I have some fun getting super dusty with layer after layer of the scrumptious softies. Then I finish and move on to the next piece.

Whether it's right or wrong, I don't care. I just want it to look the way I want it to look. Over the past year and a half, I've finally developed a somewhat recognizable style (I'd like to think so anyway) and if I got myself too bogged down int he detailsof creating, the actual creating would suffer.

02-09-2006, 01:19 PM
I didn't know there WERE "proper" steps to be done! Fill us in, would ya, Diane? Sometimes, my preparations consist of nothing more than sketching in a horizon line and that's it. If it's something more picky than a landscape, I might sketch it out and transfer it, but even then I don't mess with a lot of details. One of the things I really love about pastels is the direct, get right to it approach. When I did oils, I usually began with a turps and raw umber sketch on the canvas, but that was very rudimentary as well.

David Patterson
02-09-2006, 01:34 PM
Diane - I think Cori said it best when she wrote:

"if I got myself too bogged down in the details of creating, the actual creating would suffer".

That's always been my approach as well.


02-09-2006, 02:15 PM
I've found with pastel there are as many "proper" ways to create as there are artists doing it. There may be some "traditional" ways to approach the work in the beginning, but that too can vary considerably. I'd suggest that if what you've been working on in the past month is something you consider a "proper" approach and it isn't working for you, then you haven't found the right "proper" approach. LOL



02-09-2006, 02:20 PM

No one taught me how to use pastels the right way. So I just found my own way of doing things. Right or wrong, I enjoy it immensely. I love that I can blend it if I want something smooth, or I can get very pointillistic if I'm feeling that way at a given time. I keep telling myself I'm going to have to learn more about it eventually, but for now experimentation is always my word of the day :). Oh yes, and I am definitely a colorist at this point in time.

Of course now that I said all of that you guys might find me here asking questions about methods and things. :D Just another version of Murphy's Law for me.


Pat Isaac
02-09-2006, 04:04 PM
Right way? I don't think I know any right way. When I started using oil pastels, I didn't know anyone who used them so I just bumbled along trying out things and employing some of the art concepts and techniques I had learned over the years. I guess I have sort of developed a style now, but I keep experimenting.
Whatever works for you is what's right.


02-09-2006, 04:16 PM
Hi Diane,

If I used always the same methods, I would always get the same results :-)
I just look at the paper and hope it gets right.
I must say that at the begining I would be too «tight», nowadays I just try to relax ...and still hope it gets right :-)

Kind regards,


02-09-2006, 04:28 PM
This is so interesting. It's like in Pastel Journal. So many say they have thier own way that works for them. You see in books, ect. this way you are to do this or that. But, like a cook, afterawhile, you start adding a pinch of this or that. Make your own receipe. It's fun to see the different receipes of people. fun.

02-09-2006, 05:40 PM
As Peggy said, there may be traditional ways of working with pastels but the only proper way is to do what works for you. Once I have my drawing down on the paper, anything goes. What may have worked well for me before may not work on the current painting. If I stuck to only one method of working a painting I'd have quit by now out of sheer frustration.

Do what's right for you and don't worry about "proper steps"!

02-09-2006, 05:52 PM
Diane - I'm still trying to find my style....lol. As far as proper I don't know if that really exists. I'm taking classes just for fun and to see what all can be done with pastels. I've definately learned in class that everyone has their own approach even when trying to emulate what the instructor has done. We all have our own unique way...and while trying to imitate someone else can be flattering we all eventually find our own way. It's all about your own expression and following passions. Besides, it's better'n'therapy! lol


02-09-2006, 06:18 PM
Anyone who visits my website will see I have no one way to paint. I'd go crazy if I had to paint the same way all the time. I know, the galleries try to encourage artists to "find a recognizable style and stick with it", but those I deal with have gotten used to me - or I just don't go there in the first place! I let the subject, paper, and my mood of the moment dictate my approach on every single piece I do.


Kathryn Wilson
02-09-2006, 08:13 PM
You can classify style into basic ways of using or creating pastels: photorealistic, impressionistic, realistic, abstract, etc.

But in the end, your own unique style will come out - and even then it will evolve over the years into something else, or you aren't growing.

02-09-2006, 08:31 PM
Well, like I was saying, it's like cooking. You take a recipe and over time it evolves into your own as you add and take away.
I just thought it would be interesting to see how that happens and what people concider thier own style. Are they very by the book with thier art, free form, experimental, ect.
Do they think they are stylistic, realistic, retro, ect.
How do they see their selves??? Something to look at yourself and ask. to think about. And a fun topic and a kind of parlor game type question.

Kathryn Wilson
02-09-2006, 08:37 PM
Okay, I'll play - :) I see myself as an impressionist and a colorist - wow, anyone can see that after viewing my Bryce Canyon paintings.

I do try to be aware of the basic rules of composition, perspective, values before and during painting. I am always critiquing a painting as I go along - doing some checkpoints in my head - and believe me, they are very basic. (horizon line not in the middle, where is my Golden Mean viewpoint in the painting, how are my values looking, does my heart come alive when I look at it - :).

02-09-2006, 08:53 PM
I agree, we all need to keep basic rules in our heads (as hard as that may be for me!!!lol) but, I agree with your assesment. You are very impressionistic. And your Brice canyon was spectacular.
I am currently searching for who I am and what is my style. I know there are things I have to do that's different but, I've seen other artists do. Like doing a painting from one corner to the other kind of thing. I just can't do the block it in with certain colors first and go from there. When I do I get really messed up
I use to know my style. But, after joining, and seeing such wonderful things here, I started to question, experiment, do different things. I have not done any of my usual work since joining. I have been doing all new subjects and things. I see it as experimenting and expanding and sometimes it works and most times not. hahaha. But, it's fun. I am looking to develop me more. And I will be more comfortable with my art after doing alot of hits and misses in new vistas, so to speak

02-09-2006, 09:48 PM
... can't do the block it in with certain colors first and go from there...

I know very little of art careers or terminology, but as an illustrator, isn't that work more like doing a line (pen) drawing and adding color to give the object form, whereas a blocking in approach creates the form before the outline details? Does that make sense? I'm trying to point out the diffrence in the approach... a drawing vs. painterly approach.

I am more comfortable with a pencil in my hand than a paintbrush, and often with the pastels, I just can't see what I'm doing when working with areas of color. I need that linear fix to keep myself oriented. :o

Tracy Lang
02-09-2006, 10:59 PM
Diane, this is a great topic! For me, the light went on when you said it was like a recipe, where over time it evolves into something of your own...i realized that whether it's in the kitchen, garden or my easel, i have always added and taken away from the basic "recipe" to suit my whim at the time. There are certain things that I cook that have been considered "favorites", but I guarantee, I have NEVER made the same dish twice! I'm new to this, and don't have a "style" yet...but i know that with my love of the dusty sticks and a little help from my friends, it will all come together :)

02-09-2006, 11:08 PM
Lili, this is exactly why I posted. I am new to it as well. I love art but, I am a pencil person. sketch. color is fairly new. But, I know that what works for one does not for another and I thought people could talk about how they see thier style and if they feel thier art is cerebal or emotional. Ect. Do they strive to be realistic, or styled or what?? I see how much I've evolved like a recipe over the past month. I learn more here than anywhere else in any amt. of time. And i see it evolving in my art with all the hits and misses. It's made me more experimental and bolder.

Deborah Secor
02-10-2006, 12:26 AM
Although I paint realistically for my classes, at least in order to show my beginner's how to do it, the style I prefer is totally different. I had to go through the realism to be able to do what I do, however, and I've noticed that a lot of painters say the same.

Style is like handwriting. Until you know how to make the letters so they're readable and can string them together to make words--often a bit jerky at first--you cannot make a sentence. Once you learn the letters and practice them a bit, your hand is able to relax and let the writing flow out, sometimes to the detriment of reading in one way, but as an artist it's that flow that makes an individual's style, don't you think?

For me the style that developed over the years came only after I went through learning how to make it look like what I saw out there in the world, with natural color. Then one day, bored to death with landscapes and with painting altogether, but knowing I had to paint for my galleries, I simply rebelled! I slapped a piece of Wallis paper on the board, grabbed the loudest screaming purple I could get my hands on and wildly dashed it onto the paper. Then I seized orange and did the same. Then the brashest yellow imaginable. I snatched that acidic yellow-green that had gathered dust in my palette and the sickly red-violet and the deep mysterious blue and I just had a ball! It all started to come together and I was flat, drop-my-jaw amazed at the result!! I had painted utterly out of my imagination, yet this resulting place was more 'real' than anything I'd painted in years, yet it had heart and soul and drive and all the things I wanted to say about how this gorgeous world makes me feel. I just gave in and made as many of these intuitive paintings as I could. They sold, sold, sold, probably the best time in my life!

Over the years since then the style has modified a bit. I came back towards center, layering some of the realism back over the wild style. I still do both, however, and find that in different places different looks do well. Maggie Price, who's a good friend of mine, complimented me one time saying that the synthesis of the realism and the expressionism was stronger than either one. :D I still find my style evolving, happily, but I paint to thrill myself. The ones that flow out like handwriting are always the best ones...

Boy, got wordy, didn't I? Oh well.... Good subject, Diane.


Tracy Lang
02-10-2006, 01:14 AM
Wow Deborah, I can just picture you going hog wild, slashing colors. crazed...many thanks from a newb for that picture, cuz to me, that's what it's all about...lol then Ms Blenderpuss steps in (my personal angst) so, I'm working on it and may just come up with the best of both...spicy, sweet! lol

02-10-2006, 02:23 AM
I had painted utterly out of my imagination, yet this resulting place was more 'real' than anything I'd painted in years, yet it had heart and soul and drive and all the things I wanted to say about how this gorgeous world makes me feel. I just gave in and made as many of these intuitive paintings as I could. They sold, sold, sold, probably the best time in my life!

Wow Deborah, I would sure love to see some of those "intuitive paintings" of yours.

I feel I don't have a style yet. I have one good painting for every 5-10 that I do and that is frustrating. I keep experimenting at this stage to find out what works, using different grounds and so forth. I do know that I love color, and I would love to cut really loose and use more bold color. I really don't know many rules, just the basics. At this age in my life, I just want to paint, and don't really want to take the time to learn to draw correctly, but I am really lacking in the drawing department. I love landscapes but they do seem so boring if I make them the color I see them, so I keep working at letting my imagination go and "see" more colors.

02-10-2006, 08:11 AM
Being one of those who "writes the books" can I please say this: when someone asks you to write a book, you are expected to give clear instructions on how to do this, or that. If you are unclear, and you simply say "do whatever you like", you would not sell any books.
Always take book instructions AS A STARTING POINT. The artist has discovered certain methods work, for them, and they are sharing their discoveries with you. What you do thereafter, is up to you.

02-10-2006, 09:59 AM
Jackie, I wasn't saying books are bad. Lord knows I teach myself with books. I just bought one of yours yesterday. It was after that... What do you do after the books. Like do you stay strictly within that or do you find you own way. do you do it like that starting point or do you take somethings and do others your own way and from there what has developed?? Did your style evolve into an impressionist or realistic or whatever style?? How do you see your style, ect..
This was meant as a fun and not serious topic. Like, how do you see yourself. Sort of a lite and interesting bop. I did not want it serious. It just something us new to the medium of pastels probably think about because we find somethings don't work for us. So, what about the pros???
I do love your style. How did it evolve and become so beautiful and how do you classify your style.

02-10-2006, 10:18 AM
Hello Diane, et al,

Regarding "proper" style, the only thing I can offer is that, the only "proper" style that matters is the style that gets you the results you want. You may incorporate many influences into your style, but there is, IMHO, no formula to make a pastel painting, if there were, then the finished painting would be formulated and rather boring, as in seen that, done that, got the t-shirt boring. Just my two and half cents (didn't want to offer a "proper" cliche :-) )

My best to all, and Happy Painting.

02-10-2006, 12:39 PM
Diane great topic and lots of great comments here! I am too new to all this to have a style yet or even a basic pastel procedure. Each piece I am trying something new to me to see how it goes then I can incorporate what worked in to the next one. Most times it doesn’t work out the way I wanted, but I learned something. When I read the books or articles in magazine or the threads here on WC everyone has their own way of doing their art. Some people I have seen work on one section of the painting at a time and bring it all the way to full detail, then move on to the next section, others work all over the piece and bring it all up to the detail they want. There are so many ways to work! I guess whatever works for each artist is best. That’s what makes art so wonderful each person brings their own vision and style to everything artwork they make.

saphyre arabian
02-10-2006, 01:03 PM
when i started in pastels, i really had no idea where to go or what to do, and i got discouraged and put them aside for a while.

then i went to acrylics and learned about layering. i tried the pastels again with what i had learned, and fell in love. it is now my primary medium and while i may not have a particular "style", i do have a certain way of doing my work that works for me and makes me happy with the pieces i turn out.

i may try something different once in a while, but i always go back to what i enjoy doing most.


saphyre arabian
02-10-2006, 01:03 PM
when i started in pastels, i really had no idea where to go or what to do, and i got discouraged and put them aside for a while.

then i went to acrylics and learned about layering. i tried the pastels again with what i had learned, and fell in love. it is now my primary medium and while i may not have a particular "style", i do have a certain way of doing my work that works for me and makes me happy with the pieces i turn out.

i may try something different once in a while, but i always go back to what i enjoy doing most.


02-10-2006, 01:11 PM
Judging by the beautiful art of you guys i think the results, whatever they are, work out.
Like Diana I did acrylics and bring alot of that to my pastels. I think that is why I do sections.
I was thinking, uh-oh!!! , that given the fact that I drew all the time growing up and dreaming of being a cartoonist and then becoming more rounded as a older person, I always see myself as essentially an illustrator. It seems that whatever I try to do, there is an illustrative quality to my work. I may want to be a stylistic, or realistic, ect. artist but, whatever I do it ends up looking like an illustration.

02-11-2006, 02:19 AM
diane what an interesting discussion you've led here. I see so many, however, describing method and I think that while method may contribute to style it is not what is meant by style any more than one's method of putting clothes on their body is the same as one's signature style of dress. Where folk have a banner I certainly see "style" that is consistent across the pieces regardless of whether impresisonistic or realistic, even for those who are saying they haven't found their style. for myself it is hard for me to define what is my style although other artists have told me they can recognise my work in whatever medium before they've seen the signature. I think it's in the type of line and forms chosen, the color ways used, the kind of strokes we naturly gavitate too, soft or hard, smooth or scraggly, the type of subjects and certainly in our interpretations as these express our vision of our world. Just as fashion styles change and our signature dress may change our personal styles will evolve but I think there will always be some personnallly defining element that remains part of our signature look to our work. I tend to like bright color, complementaries, play of shadow and light, soulfulness, mostly I'm representational with some impressionism, never abstract. I like ambiguities of light and form. Mly pieces always have a strong sense of rhythm and movement even when meant to be still and serene. So I guess one could say I have a dynamic, expressive, realistic style that tries to be painterly but has too much detail to pull it off.

Shane Keene
02-11-2006, 06:43 AM
I've always been fond of coloring outside the lines personally :D.

02-11-2006, 11:16 AM
TJ, I express things better than I. We have this way with our art regardless of method that marks us. Maybe we may see ourself as one thing but, our paintings show something else. I would love to do realistic but, am illustrative. curses.
Hey 44!!!
Shane, My personality is coloring outside the lines!!!lol
Everyone, I am so glad you guys find this an interesting topic.

02-11-2006, 07:27 PM
great post diane ... a good read ... now to get *cooking* ... lol

02-11-2006, 08:22 PM
I haven't the faintest idea what my style is....I paint in both oils and pastels....some of my pictures look almost impressionistic...some are hard edged and look realist.....good question, Diane.....I'll let you know when I figure it out.......Art

02-13-2006, 11:47 AM
What a fun thread. I still think of myself as an art newbie, but it's coming up on a year since I first actively began pursuing pastels, and a fun year it has been. I love pastels. I feel like I'm still sort of discovering my style. I feel like I'm sort of in the phase Deborah describes, of needing the learn realism before I can figure out how to deviate from it. I don't think I'm there yet. I have never wanted to be *too* realistic however. I would rather be able to suggest things like lights and shadows, etc, than to have them all perfectly explicit. I draw all my pictures freehand so am not very bothered if symmetrical things are not totally proportional, or if shadows don't match exactly (though I think it bothers other people at time, LOL).

I don't know what the proper "rules" would be considered. In my lessons, and books, and here on WC I've picked up a few simple things - don't place objects or eyeline at dead center, dark to light, don't use whites for highlights or blacks for shadows. And I don't even follow all of those! I don't generally go dark to light. Primarily I do everything in a medium value and then work both darker and lighter from there. I love using whites for highlights. My Wednesday art teacher is always chastizing me for doing it, saying highlights are never really white - but I just *love* how the white looks! So I guess I am still stumbling along, but having lots of fun while I do it.

Katherine T
02-20-2006, 10:13 AM
I've just come acros this thread - and it's really interesting.

I had to go through the realism to be able to do what I do, however, and I've noticed that a lot of painters say the same.
I have to say I agree with Deborah. There is something about having to master the basics by following the instructions and learning the rules before one can move on to knowing which bits we want to bend and vary.

I think the other thing that I noticed contributes to style development is just plain straightforward "doing". Unless you paint you won't develop. Lots and lots of painting means you start to do things "your way". My style developed through getting up early each Saturday morning and completing a pastel painting (or at least getting it well under way) before I went shopping for the weekend food that afternoon. Sort of a carrot incentive - but it worked!

I'm stuck for a way of describing my style:
I think I'm representational without being a photo-realist - so does that make me a "realist"
I think that I push my colours at times to get the sort of optical mixing which I associate with impressionisn - so does that make my style "impressionist"?
I know that the thing that most people comment on in a very positive way is the colour - so I'm maybe happiest saying that I'm a "colourist "- but of which school? Am I a generic colourist - and is there a nicer way of saying that?