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View Full Version : Pan pastel - learning curve?


scall0way
04-02-2008, 09:35 AM
I've read so much about the Pan pastels here, and seen some awesome stuff done with them. I went to a Pan pastel demo at Jerry's last fall and took advantage of the 40% discount they were offering for folks who came to see the demo to buy some Pan pastels.

But my life has been so crazy the last few months that I would have been doing no art at all if I hadn't been getting out to my weekly art classes, and the Pan pastels just sat, unopened, in a drawer in my studio. But things seem a bit calmer now, and last night I decided to give them a spin.

In an organizing fit a month or two ago I seem to have thrown out the whole stack of reference photo print-outs I had hoped to use someday (or at least stored them in a "safe" location somewhere) - so just decided to set up a quick still life on a little table I have, grabbing a couple colorful objects.

And broke out the Pan pastels - but I didn't like them at all! Well, not all bad. I was using Canson paper, smooth side, and the Pans did put down a nice smooth and creamy undercoat on the paper - much nicer than the regular sticks. But once that was down I was stumped. I was annoyed that you had to open all the little pots to get a clue what color they were, and I had nowhere to put the pots so they were all over the floor around me. OK, I admit that was MY problem, not the Pans themselves. :)

But I hated the feel of the little implements, the sponges and the sticks and things used to apply the Pans. I felt I had no control over what I was doing. I missed the feel of the sticks, and my fingers on the paper. It all seemed to be coming out so childishly. Maybe my subject was just bad too. I was just going for "quick", not a polished composition. I spent about 20 minutes fiddling with the Pans and feeling worse and worse with them - then broke out my sticks for about 10 more minutes to see if I could salvage my pride a bit. But it was like turning a sow's ear into a silk purse, ain't gonna happen. I did post my result in the March 31-April 6 weekly sketch thread since it's not fit to be seen anywhere else.

Has anyone else felt this way initially about the Pans? If you persevered did you come to find you liked them? I have a $40 gift certficate from Christmas to spend at Jerry's, and had thought I might buy more Pans - but now I'm not so sure. Maybe I just need more applicators or something.

gallery523
04-02-2008, 12:27 PM
I am glad that you shared your experience with pan pastels.They spiked my curiosity yet I haven't tried them yet.

PeggyB
04-02-2008, 12:52 PM
Debbie my first reaction was pretty much the same as yours. I missed the feel of stick to paper! I too started out on Canson, and that was the first big mistake as far as I'm concerned! I switched to Art Spectrum, and immediately saw a difference in not only how they went on the paper, but also the "feel" of the tools on the paper. Yes, getting used to handling the tools does take more than 20 minutes of playing around. People who work in other mediums and are accustomed to tools don't seem to have as much resistance to the pans. You may have read over on Donna A's thread about Having a Ball with Pan Pastels that I attended her workshop the first part of March. I learned so much more about using those tools and decided there's no such thing as too many tools! I also learned how to create new colors and values of pans. On that thread you can read how Donna created foam core boxes to hold all those little circles, and she almost never puts the covers back on either - even when transporting them!

Like anything new, it takes repeated trial to know for certain if this is something you want to continue. I can tell you they do have some distinct advantages over sticks - some colors are more transparent and that gives nice effects, they are almost dustless, they seem to last longer than a stick, ect, etc, etc

Peggy

MarieMeyer
04-02-2008, 12:59 PM
I felt much the same way - and posted comments to that effect on the big Pan Pastels thread. I didn't like the huge footprint (the amount of space I had to make on the table to set out the pans), I didn't like all the fiddly bits, I didn't like the thin coverage, and I didn't like the cost.

Obviously, a lot of people DO like the Pan pastels. But they aren't for everyone.

scall0way
04-02-2008, 10:03 PM
I felt much the same way - and posted comments to that effect on the big Pan Pastels thread. I didn't like the huge footprint (the amount of space I had to make on the table to set out the pans), I didn't like all the fiddly bits, I didn't like the thin coverage, and I didn't like the cost.

LOL, that other thread is so huge I figured any comments now would just get lost over there. I've tried to read it but it got out of hand after the first few hundred posts to the thread and I gave up.And now that it's up to almost 1000 posts in the thread I'll never get there. I didn't see your comments, for example.

Well I'l certainly keep the one they have. They are good for an underpainting at the very least. Will just have to see if I want to pursue more than that.

PeggyB
04-03-2008, 12:29 AM
Here's one little clue to get more than a thin coat. Swipe the sponge over the pan at least three times. Really load the little darlin' with pastel before putting it to paper, and then frequently reload it. That seems to make a huge difference in how the pans spread over the surface, and how they work together one over the other. If I were you, I'd think about spending several hours just playing with the medium using different strokes and different sponges. I learned I could get everything from a large area to very thin lines by using not only different sponges, but also different parts of each sponge. I learned which colors are more transparent and don't work over others (hansa yellow for instance). If you want that color, you have to plan where you want it to be, put it down, and leave it alone. In some ways this is like working with watercolors - from light to dark - but not always.

As Marie said, they aren't for everyone, but neither are oils, watercolors, colored pencils, etc.

Peggy

Donna A
04-03-2008, 01:15 AM
LOL, that other thread is so huge I figured any comments now would just get lost over there. I've tried to read it but it got out of hand after the first few hundred posts to the thread and I gave up.And now that it's up to almost 1000 posts in the thread I'll never get there. I didn't see your comments, for example.

Hi, Debbie! Yes, the thread has become amazingly long---but full of info all the way. A lot of us have things set to see the latest post in a thread---so we keep up with the latest comments and ideas---and always lots of paintings by many. And we wouldn't have lost you---but glad you set out your questions and concerns here.

I think Peggy B put things so well. And I agree with Marie that these are not for everyone---as is true of every medium or way of using a medium.

I think it's absolutely fascinating, from the now-so-many artists I've seen in real life work at least to some extent with these---that at first most feel a bit awkward or at least rather 'meek and mild-mannered,' often thinking they won't come to like them (and then very often to love them.) It does help considerably to learn some tips and techniques. I keep discovering more and more things they will let me do and I've stayed amazed. And, yes---there is a learning curve (as with most things that offer a lot.)

There are so many different techniques possible---and so many different styles they work for.

I was surprised to find that I could actually get much finer detail with the Pans than with my sticks---and this turned out to be drastically different than what I had expected when I first saw and played around with them a bit! :)

I've let a lot of the artists who study with me work with mine. I'm always so in favor of experimenting. I don't care whether they use them or not---don't care what medium they use period (we have artists working in all mediums here, as I have always done) so they are free to play with them and then do what they want. I find it amazing that so many come to enjoy painting with them so much and order their own, always full sets.

I guess with my two big banks of tables holding all my stick pastesls (about 4700) the Pans in the 4 little foamcore trays I made for them seem to take very little space---and so easy to transport. No, I would NEVER bother putting the lids back on. But one of the artists who studies with me did take a full set with her on a 10-day vacation to Costa Rica, screwed back together into 3 columns. She said they traveled very easily.

Well---there are so many posts because so many have been sharing discoveries and the rest of their adventures plus their questions---and paintings.

Well I'l certainly keep the one they have. They are good for an underpainting at the very least. Will just have to see if I want to pursue more than that.

Yes, they are really lovely for underpainting. And that is what I had originally envisioned their use for me. I hope you find ways that they will serve you. Do be sure to load your sponge tools well---and don't try to do too many stokes before reloading. Some remarkably luscious color is possible, even with their sheer quality. And do give Colourfix papers a try. Huge, drastic difference for the better! Lot of layers possible---but still leave the tooth so open for all the work with sticks you choose to do, as well. Very best wishes! Donna ;-}

Trilby
04-03-2008, 01:25 AM
My first effort with the pans was UGLY but showed me the possibilities. I use le carte paper so I started with that. I then just played around learning how to use the medium ( at first I kept feeling I ought to have some liquid to dip into---after all when I have a tool in my hand with other mediums there is a liquid involved) The next little painting I did was among my best paintings ever and I easily achieved effects with the pans that take more effort to achieve with the sticks. I did one small piece on canson, a paper I usually hate but found that the pans work very nicely on it and since I have a big stack of the stuff am delighted to find I can now use it particularly for plein aire sketches. I like color fix with my sticks I'm not sure about that paper yet with the pans. my applicators don't tear with it as they do with the le carte and Wallis but it reminds me of watercoloring on yupo. I am loving how painterly I can be using the pans and I'm used to having 500 sticks taking up a big footprint so the 27 pans I have seem very convenient, again especially for field work. I particularly like how well they mix for new colors. I find that I need to hold 3 pans in one hand near my paper so I can easily load my "brush" frequently. I've just completed my 10th or 11th painting with them and am doing my best work so I'm totally sold. But they don't fit everyone's style or temperment. Of the 4 pastelists in my painting group I'm the only one using them. They do take time to explore and learn with. They really are a new medium and learning how to handle them takes a bit of playing. Initially they take longer for me to lay in my underpainting but I can build up many more layers much like oil paint glazes. I expect if you find that you just really don't like them you'll have no trouble selling them to some one. I'm also wondering if they can be powdered and mixed with a bit of the gum what ya call it (binder) to turn them into sticks. Some of the colors are truly lucious.
TJ

scall0way
04-03-2008, 03:59 PM
And do give Colourfix papers a try. Huge, drastic difference for the better!

Yes, I do adore Colourfix paper. It's my absolute FAVORITE except for the fact that it does not come in a size that works for me. My only choices are "too small" or "too big", and if I cut the "too big" down to a size I like there is so much wastage as the remnants are far "too small" for me to ever use for anything. And maybe it's my Scottish heritage, but I just *hate* wastage. :D

1painter42
04-04-2008, 12:18 AM
I just used my panpastels for the first time last weekend. I found the pan pastels to be quite fun, maybe its because I've done other kinds of painting, in watercolor & acrylic, so applying with tools didn't bother me. I don't work in pastels because I like the way the sticks feel, its because I don't like to have to wait for them to dry, so the pans are like painting with dry paint, which is cool. I still used my sticks and pencils and blended with my fingers (i blend my wet paint with my fingers also) I had ordered extra tools and sponges when I ordered the pans, so I'd have enough for the different colors and just wash them all when I'm done. I posted my painting in the gallery section, if you want to take a peek.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?p=6686772#post6686772