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View Full Version : ...and then pastel panic set in.


Squaw Pony
02-17-2006, 01:57 PM
I've just been commissioned to do a pastel portrait and realized I don't think I've done pastel since 1999. It was my first color piece of any kind and I used the hard chalk pastels.

Then I sold it on eBay and realized that people wanted paintings. So I taught myself acrylic because oil terrified me in college. Overcoming that fear I then I went to oil and now I use that exclusively.

This commission is to match other portraits the client has. All the other portraits they have are pastel. I don't know where to begin - paper, chalk or even flesh colors - how do I make them?

When I went to the Wet Canvas forums, everyone is talking about oil pastels and soft pastels. Are these the same thing? I have a set of cheap oil pastels but I never knew how to use them - they acted like really big crayons.

Help, anybody! Everybody! Forgive me in advance if my questions are too elementary.
Catherine
www.catherinemcclay.com (http://www.catherinemcclay.com)

dlake
02-17-2006, 02:30 PM
Oil and soft pastels are totally different. I don't know how involved you want to get with pastels. If it's for just some portraits and such you can pick up some harder nupastels for a small amt or cretacolors. For softs, goldfarbers are a very good student grade pastels and you can get these quite cheap.
I would get a better paper like the colorfix by art spectrum for someone's commission.
The set come in flesh and you have other colors you can mix with.
Cheap oil pastels are really difficult to use properly. You really can't cut corners with those. You need something like sennelier, holben, and can pickup on ebay fairly cheaply....
diane

Goewyn
02-17-2006, 02:40 PM
Hi Catherine, your questions aren't elementary. :)

Oil pastels and soft pastels aren't the same. Oil pastels use oil as a binder for the pigment, while soft pastels just have a softer texture than the hard pastels you had been using.

If you go to http://www.dickblick.com/categories/pastels/ you can see the variety of pastels available. I recently picked up a set of Rembrandts and like them, and I know others on this forum like the Great Americans, Schminkes, etc.

Also, the thread http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=300545 has quite a few pastel sets shown, and people's opinions of them.

BTW I really like your pastel horse, I can see why people wanted more!!

Good luck,

-- Linda

Squaw Pony
02-17-2006, 02:42 PM
So what are hard pastels?

I have Blick square pastels (chalk) and Strathmore Pastel 80lb. paper (a pad of assorted colors).

I'm in so much trouble.

I'll print out your recommendations - I appreciate it.

Squaw Pony
02-17-2006, 02:47 PM
Hi Catherine, your questions aren't elementary. :)

Oil pastels and soft pastels aren't the same. Oil pastels use oil as a binder for the pigment, while soft pastels just have a softer texture than the hard pastels you had been using.

If you go to http://www.dickblick.com/categories/pastels/ you can see the variety of pastels available. I recently picked up a set of Rembrandts and like them, and I know others on this forum like the Great Americans, Schminkes, etc.

Also, the thread http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=300545 has quite a few pastel sets shown, and people's opinions of them.

BTW I really like your pastel horse, I can see why people wanted more!!

Good luck,

-- Linda

Thanks for the links (and the compliment)! I feel like I've just arrived in a foreign country and I don't speak the language! Yikes.

dlake
02-17-2006, 02:48 PM
Hard pastels are the type like the blick ones that you usually put as your first layer (s). At the end you use your softs. This give a finished look. Is the strathmore watercolor paper??? I use watercolor paper alot. It can work for pastels. I like that paper.
you are fine. If I can do it you can...
the other more experienced artists here will be around to help you thru this too. You'll get lots of help from lots of people. Take a deep breath. You'll be fine.

Squaw Pony
02-17-2006, 03:07 PM
Thanks Diane.

The Strathmore paper is actually pastel paper, 400 Series. And I quote the front cover: "This luxurious paper offers a subtle background ideal for oil pastel. Also suitable for soft or hard dry pastel drawings." $3.99 at Hobby Lobby for 24 sheets.

I used the dickblick link and realized how much I've learned just reading the Dick Blick catalog!

It looks like I'm going to be able to buy some more supplies! Can't wait to try the soft pastels over the hard.

I remember being a kid, wishing I was Mrs. Paul McCartney. Now I wish I were Mrs. Blick!

dlake
02-17-2006, 03:14 PM
I liked George....lol. I was 6. hahaha.
Blick or Jerry now. I agree. The catalogs are really good. Go to the thread of pastel pictures. It's really long but, at the end there are a bunch of photos and you can get some ideas... check it out.

Bringer
02-17-2006, 03:42 PM
Hi Catherine,

The best way that I think I canhelp you is to take a look at my monthly pastel links threads. I'm sure you'll find lots of usefull stuff.
I've started those links in October.
They're called : October Pastel Links; November Pastel Links and so on.
You can check them on this forum.
Or click on my name and choose « Threads Started by Bringer» to find them.
I also think that the book by Wendy Caporale (sp?) about painting children in pastel must be quite helpfull, altough I've never read it. Lets not forget that she's married to Daniel Greene who was also her teacher if I'm not mistaken.
Our coleague Alessandra is also quite good on portraits. Send her a PM.

Good luck and regards,

José

BeckyMc
02-17-2006, 03:44 PM
Don't use the cheap oil pastels for the portrait - I'll bet your client's paintings are in soft or dry pastels. The cheap oil pastels will drive you crazy trying to use them for the first time on a commissioned portrait. You might want to buy a good set of portrait soft pastels. I only use oil pastels, so I can't give you a recommendation on which ones to buy, it seems like GA is popular, as is Wallis paper. Dakota Pastels sells samplers of both pastels and papers - depending on your time-frame you might want to try that. I've been trying portraits with my artist quality Sennelier and Holbein Oil Pastels and it's not easy. Good Luck!

Khadres
02-17-2006, 03:59 PM
Hmmmmm.....Jose? How many times are you hitting the Post Reply button??? We have at least half a dozen of your identical posts here, so far! I'll see if I can get Kat to delete the extras! Stand by, Catherine! Help's on the way! :D

HarvestMoon
02-17-2006, 05:29 PM
Catherine- you might just go with this:

Art Spectrum Paper
GA or Mount Vision Portrait set (soft pastels)

good luck,
Linda

Khadres
02-17-2006, 06:10 PM
I agree...a portrait set with maybe a couple extras hand-picked from the color charts and some Art Spectrum paper would work fine...or even the smooth side of Canson as long as you use good softies. Great American Artworks or Mt. Vision are excellent and not quite as pricey as some others.

Bringer
02-17-2006, 08:36 PM
Hi Sooz,

I did have hit the button a couple of times and I know that can cause multiple replies. But it's the only way to accelerate the refreshing since the Wetcanvas server is sometimes very slow and fails often.
I'll try to be more patient next time :-)
Maybe it could be implemented a routine to avoid a posting from the same user in between a certain time, like 20 seconds, for insteance.
Anyway, sorry for occupying the server. I know it's already heavily loaded.

Regards,

José

Squaw Pony
02-17-2006, 09:18 PM
Thanks, y'all. I've got a great start and thankfully, I've got until May to do the piece.

Unfortunately, I have a week to come up with something to show the client - not that they've asked to see anything other than my website but I think it would be a little more professional to show up with some hard copy examples.

dlake
02-17-2006, 09:54 PM
Dick blick delivers really fast. If anything, you can show them some sketches....
Jose, You are not the only one to have those forever waits with Wet Canvas...sometimes I just get so impatient and exasperated I end up clicking the x and leaving....
diane
Like now tryring to get out of here!!!!!!!

Kathryn Wilson
02-17-2006, 10:22 PM
Anytime you see a double post, or you create a double post by mistake, just hit that little red/white triangle in the upper right corner, and a message goes to the Mods for the forum.

Posts have been deleted.

jmp
02-17-2006, 10:56 PM
I've used the 400 series paper for graphite- it would work for pastel but it may be easier for you to go with a toned paper instead of all that white. It would be the same as painting on a white canvas- its alot easier to automatically get some of your mid values by toning the canvas, right? Also, I don't think strathmere 400 has enough tooth for pastel work- its more of a sketching/study paper...

Some of the above sets are a bit pricey, rembrandts are a good pastel that you could use for underpainting and they are not too expensive. The softness varies from color to color, I use them as my "hards" alot of the time I don't know what art stores you have in your area, but some of the better ones sell open stock soft pastels so you could supplement whatever set you buy that way. You can also buy open stock on line but its easier to see the color you are getting in person. I would travel up to an hour to do this rather than take chances on line but thats up to you!

Wallis paper is good but I don't know if I would have been able to handle it as a beginner - colorfix by Art Spectrum which comes in a wide range of colors is a bit more user friendly!

Just my opinion ( one in a million, as you see!) Oh, and one other thing - be very very careful- pastels are addictive!

K Taylor-Green
02-17-2006, 11:02 PM
Thanks, y'all. I've got a great start and thankfully, I've got until May to do the piece.

Unfortunately, I have a week to come up with something to show the client - not that they've asked to see anything other than my website but I think it would be a little more professional to show up with some hard copy examples.

Nothing like working under pressure! There are almost as many ways to work with pastels as there are people using them.
But a bit of research, some good supplies, and a bit of practice will see you through. I've seen your work!

Squaw Pony
02-21-2006, 10:25 AM
Help! I've got the Mi Tientes, the hard pastels as the first layer and the Rembrandt soft pastels on top. I used a paint brush and alcohol on the fine lines. But it looks like I drew it on the sidewalk with chalk!

My avatar was on watercolor paper with hard pastels only and my finger.
But this . . .
http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2006-1/1139592/calprelimpastel2.jpg
Yikes.

dlake
02-21-2006, 10:30 AM
I use my fingers alot. I know you are not but, what works for one may not work for another. Fingers work for me. For really fine lines I'll use what is handy and a small thin brush, torillion, finger nail and doing it dry works for me.
You do what feels natural. this may shock some but, I try some things and they work and others don't
Diane

Squaw Pony
02-28-2006, 09:25 AM
http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2006-1/1139592/Calspastelsecond500.jpg

I hate to give up but I think it's time to move on.

dlake
02-28-2006, 10:17 AM
move on to what??? Oils? I think for the commission you should stay in a comfort zone but, play with pastels at leisure and learn them. You were under deadline with an unfamilar medium. Now you have time to just play around and learn it. Don't give up just, do it at your own pace starting with sometihng smaller and simplier.
diane

Khadres
02-28-2006, 02:04 PM
Sometimes, I think we aim for too MUCH smoothness. Part of pastels' charm is the fact that the pigment's sparkle is allowed to shine through by putting on the strokes and leaving them pretty well unblended. This is a hard technique to grasp if you're used to more liquid painting media. I wouldn't be surprised if portraiture wasn't one of the more difficult subjects for the novice pastellist, as well.

You look as if you did pretty well with this, all fussing aside! Not bad at all and for a first or near-first effort with pastels, you should really be delighted with your efforts. By all means, try different paper surfaces, different hardnesses of pastels, etc. and devote some time to just fiddling around with the medium when not under so much pressure! You'll do just great! I promise!

Bringer
02-28-2006, 02:26 PM
Hi again,

As Sooz says, portraiture is difficult for begginers.
Of course that there are people who are more skilled doing portraits, however is usually a difficult subject.
Furthermore, if one wants to be good on it, one has to study anatomy.
There's no point on beating about the bush, if you want to be a portrait painter, you better study. And it's not because you choose this or other medium that it will be different.
Study and practice alot.
Sorry to be so «harsh» but I'm being sincere.
Of course that with this I'm not saying that you did a bad work, I'm only stating what is needed to be a good portrait artist.

Regards,

José

dlake
02-28-2006, 06:41 PM
I believe what the problem is is that the medium is new to her and she is doing something on a deadline for a commission. Being out of element working with something unfamilar is hard to do a good and satisfying work. I do stress that working with pastels in a more relaxed and fun way will be more satisfying. Painting the portrait in your normal medium will produce better results. But, do not give up on pastels. It's better to give a new medium a chance in a quiet and playing with mood.

Squaw Pony
03-01-2006, 09:29 AM
I don't think y'all are being harsh at all. I think everyone is being really kind, considering what I've done!

I think the piece I've shown here is too smooth, it's not just the scan.

I'm a horse painter and I've got that anatomy down pat. Being asked to do a portrait of someone (who is dead so I'm working from photos) is an honor but at the same time a little worrisome.

I've received encouragment, constructive criticism and advice on what to use and how to use it. That's invaluable and precisely what I was looking for.

It's also talked me down off the Cliffs of Insanity!

Thanks!

Squaw Pony
03-02-2006, 09:10 AM
I don't understand why my pictures show up the first day and then they are gone, turned into little Xboxes.

http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2006-1/1139592/Calspastelsecond500.jpg

dlake
03-02-2006, 09:45 AM
what do you mean??? How are they turned into boxes??
Sorry for being so dense.
diane

Squaw Pony
03-02-2006, 01:26 PM
The pictures I'm posting here are broken links (Xboxes). At least that is what I'm seeing.

Squaw Pony
03-02-2006, 01:29 PM
Oh, now they show up! I'm embarrassed.

Squaw Pony
03-09-2006, 04:17 PM
I think I'm getting the hang of this.
http://www.ebsqart.com/Art/2075/281662.jpg

fortysomething
03-09-2006, 04:46 PM
I think you are too. :thumbsup:

PeggyB
03-09-2006, 05:38 PM
WOW Catherine! :clap: I think you are too. It isn't often I see anyone do teeth as well as you have - they look so natural in this painting.:thumbsup: I'm glad you have stayed with the pastels and are mastering them very quickly. I can only guess what you'd do if you had a few hundred sticks from which to choose... :D

Peggy

Squaw Pony
03-22-2006, 05:49 PM
http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2006-1/1139592/bjface.jpg

http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2006-1/1139592/bjbust.jpg

Finally! Thanks everyone for all your input. I couldn't have done it without you. I think I'm going to try portrait art as a new avenue.

Eclectic_Asylum
03-23-2006, 12:07 AM
That looks great.

If you have horse anatomy and musculature down it isn't a big leap the anatomy of a portrait. All you have to do is learn the fat deposits.

Only thing I see in this portrait that I would change is the black around the eyes and mouth. I know you have a small pastel pallete and darks are difficult in pastel. I would tint over the black with another color and smear it in. It won't look so harsh. Right now the eyebrows and the corner of the eyes are distracting from the the character in the eyes. Also on his left eye our right the line of the outside cornea seems just a little off.

Jason

Squaw Pony
03-23-2006, 09:38 AM
I hadn't seen the problem with the eye until now and I see what you mean about the black.

Thanks!

PeggyB
03-23-2006, 01:09 PM
Catherine I'm happy you decided to stay with this. I think you'll do well in human portraiture. One more consideration concerning black - take a look at the corners of his mouth. In the close up view you can see his upper lip color balances directly over his teeth, but then there is a heavy black mark on either side of the lips. The one on the viewer's left is especially disconcerting to me as it is a strange shape. You might consider softening that area while softening the eye area as suggested above.

Peggy

Squaw Pony
03-24-2006, 10:32 AM
Thanks, Peggy. When I get the painting back, I'll look closer. The client has it to make preliminary changes.

I know the eyelid looks like black in the crease but it's brown and just probably looks that way on the scan of this 35mm photo. I'm wondering if the same doesn't apply to the mouth.

Now I can't wait to get it back!

- Catherine