View Full Version : Hello all

10-10-2008, 07:33 AM
I usually hang out in the colored pencil or pen and ink forums. But recently, I decided I wanted to make a serious try at using pastels. I have several sets of different kinds, so I ought to make use of them, I think :)

How difficult is it, getting used to the not-as-detailed part of pastels vs colored pencils? This is the area that I think might give me the greatest problem. I love colored pencil for many reasons, but the most important one is the detail I can get, if need be.

Has anyone else gone from colored pencil to pastel? How much success have you had? Any thoughts on the process that I can take away with me and think about?

Thanks a bunch,

10-10-2008, 08:58 AM
I haven't, but you could ask Chatfieldstudios (cindy) over in CP forum she has been doing some pastels lately

10-10-2008, 09:22 AM
I know there are several people on here who have done cp and Scott mentioned one, and we also have artists who use pastel pencil. I use sticks the most, but I have done pastel pencil, and although it can take some getting used to a new medium, you can get very fine detail from pastel sticks. Check out some of the work in the gallery to see some of the work that can be done.

water girl
10-10-2008, 01:39 PM
You could ask Weezie at CP. She is expert at both mediums. Trust me, the lady can paint details with pastels.

10-11-2008, 06:49 AM
I've gone from colored pencil realism to pastels and back again, still love both mediums.

I went from colored pencil to pastels in 1990 when I washed up in New Orleans and lost my first job there one month after I'd gotten it. The company went bankrupt. I was just that annoyed about having to look for work again that I looked at my portfolio on a very depressing Friday and had the weekend ahead to worry... and decided to at least give selling art for a living a try. After all, the cost of living in New Orleans was so low and if I didn't have to drag myself to a lousy job I might actually have more time for writing and having a life.

So I packed up my portfolio, declared "I'm not unemployed, I'm self employed" and took the bus to the French Quarter. Tromped around to galleries till I got a graphite poster commission that's still in print, and moved to the Quarter a month later. I was still doing CP and graphite realism at that time. Then the cost of flying to conventions out of state started eating my profits and the exhaustion of the trips started eating my health after a year. So I decided to try to sell locally. I noticed lots of artists were making a good living just selling life drawings on the street.

I bought a 30 color set of Grumbachers, went out and did life portraits for tourists. So I learned to be less detailed in the trial by fire of "Must work fast before this tourist gets bored and goes away unhappy." I smudged a lot. I sketched more than noodled. I stopped trying to find exactly the right color and went for strong values like charcoal. Two days later my rent on the little apartment I had in the Quarter was paid, so I stopped at Dixie Art Supply again for a 30 color Skin Tones set because I was a little annoyed at trying to do everyone's complexion with only three or four browns.

I lived on that for several years before my back went out for good and my other disabilities became so cumulative I couldn't work enough to survive on just doing art. I made some mistakes in logistics, like dragging too much stuff out to my spot and moving away farther to a cheaper apartment rather than moving closer and going out to draw more often. If I had it to do over again I'd have bought a power chair or golf cart on the first tourist season when I was all flush, and saved up enough to spend the off season mostly writing.

The trick to making the change was to stop expecting that much detail... and to work larger. To get as much detail as I would in a face maybe an inch and a half or two inches long on something four or five times larger isn't hard. It's trying to get the fine-focus details at the same scale as CP that doesn't work. But I got fairly close using pastel pencils and the corners of square sticks for fine details in focal points.

It was comforting to still get a lot of detali in focal points. I had to get used to doing loose backgrounds and masses of color in clothing and hair instead of fine detail -- and that helped even my colored pencils, because it helped me understand where to put the strongest contrasts and the smallest details and most refined work instead of broad areas of tone and softly graded smooth value and color shifts.

Work larger and use the good sanded paper so layering is still possible. If your pastels are square they're great, but with round sticks it helps to have a few hard pastels that are square sticks like colored Conte crayons, or Polychromos, or Nupastels. I especially like colored Conte for detailing because those are good mixers too. It's the one that I can actually use a 12 color set and be happy with it instead of needing a lot of colors.

Art Stix and Conte crayons are the same shape and size. If you used Art Stix in large areas that's close to pasteling, but with pastels it helps to go lighter and not grind them into the paper unless you need a bold stroke. Play around with the marks. Do some abstracts maybe, that are gradations of hue and color and don't demand detail because they're about masses of color and tone. That and look at all the pastel paintings posted here, there are so many brilliant pastelists here that this forum knocked a dozen other CP habits out of me from the time I started posting -- and this after years of doing the street sketching.

I used to use them mostly like charcoal, lightly and with smudge shading. That's a fun quick style but I'm now doing more painting with lots of layers on sanded Colourfix. Compared to colored pencil painting, pastel painting is like wild and fast Impressionism and CP is more like Old Masters oils. I try for more Impressionist effects and those work well -- the mind fills in the details, and the optical mixing makes it jazzy instead of the layering like CP.

I still love both for what they are, but I'll be doing a lot more pastels now and will always be more likely to work larger in pastels. Lately I have been doing 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" pastels so that all came full circle! But I finish them faster than the CP realism ones. I've done them in pastels in an hour or two and compared them to CP realism that took 20 hours for an art card that size.

It becomes a wonderful happy thing to be able to wildly pursue any idea that hits and have time for all of them!

10-11-2008, 06:52 AM
Another important difference. Highlight with a lighter pencil in CP, and it becomes a subtle glaze on the darker color. Highlight with a lighter pastel and wham, it is a big strong highlight. So that's another thing that becomes easier with pastels. I work from dark to light now and from big masses of color to smaller and smaller details. In CP, I'm more likely to do a very refined underdrawing and then start glazing over it.

10-11-2008, 06:11 PM
Wow, thank you for all the replies (and thank you Robert for that life experience post, it was a great read :) ). I appreciate all the suggestions and advice and tips. I haven't been over to CP, but will go and talk to the folks you mentioned, and hopefully, will getunscared enough to actually *use* the pastels I have ;)

I'll let you all know how it goes!

10-11-2008, 08:32 PM
They're fun. I sometimes think of using pastels as instant gratification. They look so good so fast with so little work that after using oils or CP, it's like being in the playground.

10-12-2008, 01:35 PM
Hiya, xeno, glad to have you over with us crazy pastlers. :P I'm more of a lurker myself though...

I'm not all that great at cp and more of impressionist anyway so I couldn't tell you much that would give you any help.