PDA

View Full Version : Blending Pastels


Larry Barlow
12-14-2009, 09:56 PM
On some sites on internet they say not blend with fingers that it breaks down "the crystals". Some artists locally say blend with fingers. What do the readers on this form say?

thanks Larry

PETE K
12-14-2009, 10:16 PM
Hi Larry, Now this is me. I blend with my fingers almost all the time. I use a stump here and there, than my underpainting is pastels. when i get near the end i just use pastels and if i have to blend something than i'll use a semi hard pastel to blend with. and at times it depend on the paper. how hard or how soft and the effect i'm looking for. hope this helps and it's my way not everone elses.

robertsloan2
12-14-2009, 10:30 PM
I used to blend with my fingers all the time, till I took classes with Deborah Secor and Colorix.

Deborah's DVD also showed how I could use a Colour Shaper for blending, with less of the smudgy crystals breaking down problem. Charlie's class I dared to do something different with the sticks than my usual strokes and Deborah's snow class here last year I did too, it was both of them who convinced me it looked better with sticks blending.

I also used to overblend a lot, creating smooth graduated textures whenever I wanted a soft edge. It hadn't dawned on me really that using strokes that show is a prettier technique, more painterly. So now I only finger blend rarely, most often in the first layer if I'm trying to cover a white surface completely.

There are some serious artists who finger blend though. I just shifted over because I like my visible strokes better now. I was surprised at how thoroughly I could blend using sticks -- a lot of what I wasn't getting was that pressure has something to do with how much a stick blends with what's under it.

One thing that happens when I blend with sticks, scumble and do other textured effects is that instead of the colors mixing completely, they look jazzier. Specks of each separate color show distinctly and optically blend for a livelier look.

If not finger blending it helps a lot to use harder sticks first, then medium, then soft so that it doesn't fill up the tooth. The more layers I do, the less useful the finger blending is. What I did for years and years was pastel sketching -- fine for what it was. Someone paying only $25 for a portrait ought to expect simple one or two layer techniques with maybe three or four in key points like eyes and lips.

That was more like drawing, what I do now is more like painting. I'm thinking more in shapes and masses of color and value, varying textures more, layering more and often covering the entire ground instead of vignetting off into sketchiness around the edges to let the colored ground be the background.

I think my next step is going to be creating some more complex still lifes and landscapes, most of what I've done this last year is small and simple studies of various cool subjects. I'm getting happier with the studies every time though!

Colour Shapers are a lot of fun and can give beautiful blended effects. So can the Sofft sponges for use with Pan Pastels, they're useful with sticks too for blending. Not that expensive to just try a multi-pack of the different shaped sponges for blenders. They don't crush the pigments when I use them to blend, they're much gentler. That gives it a sparkly, lively look.

DAK723
12-14-2009, 11:34 PM
We recently had a discussion on this subject which can be found here:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=583085&highlight=blending

You will find that opinions vary greatly. Blending will, in most cases, dull the colors. Depending on the subject matter and the intensity of your pastels this can be desirable or the last thing you want!

My advice - do what works for you depending on the needs of your painting. There is no right or wrong answer.

Don

knippes
12-14-2009, 11:37 PM
I think it really depends on the look you are going for. I finger blend throughout the entire piece. I learned from the master blender herself, Dianna Ponting. You can find one of her tutorials here in the classroom section. But it does make for a very smooth and rather unpainterly (in my case only) technique. There are many folks here who do absolutely amazing work and their fingers very rarely ever touch the paper. IMHO, its a personal decision. If you like the look of blended pastels - go for it, and if you don't keep your fingers well away.
-Kym

JPQ
12-15-2009, 12:17 PM
I use fingers i dont like paper stomp at all.(derwent 2)

Paula Ford
12-15-2009, 01:13 PM
Besides the occasional flick of the finger, I don't finger blend.

timonsloane
12-15-2009, 02:10 PM
I took a workshop with Wolf Kahn (widely known for very vivid colors). It was very interesting to me that he blends A LOT with his fingers. He dislikes sanded surfaces because he can't blend (without bleeding). One thing he said (paraphrasing) is 'people get worried about making muddy colors. What's wrong with muddy colors?'. If you look closely at his work you'll see that the colors are highly blended and that the vivid color effects he achieve are from simultaneous contrast and other ways in which the different passages of color interact.

With all that said, I personally don't use my fingers. I work on heavily sanded surfaces and blend with the sticks and sometimes with a 'limp' paper towel (I make what is almost akin to a brush tip out of folded paper towel so that the pressure on the surface is much less that would be applied with a finger or with a piece of paper towel wrapped around a finger).

Bottom line - there is no right or wrong was to do it.

Deborah Secor
12-15-2009, 02:51 PM
I think finger-blending is a tool every pastelist should use, but as with anything, in moderation. There's no reason to utterly avoid blending with your fingers, since they're the most sensitive of tools and are readily available (I've never had to hunt around for them--yet. :lol:) But there's also no reason to blend the painting into a frowzy mess of colors.

I often instruct my beginning students NOT to finger-blend because they use it to distraction, make a huge mess, and they tend to try to keep on blending to correct problems, which makes even more of a mess. But once the artist understands how to layer colors and use various hardnesses together to create passages, edges, transitions, etc, then finger-blending is handy and a good tool to use.

Use what works. I finger-blend my skies all the time. It serves to push the pastel deeper into the paper, softens edges, and creates a nice sense of distance. I blend clouds quite often but in varying degrees, in order to soften the distant edges, while sharpening advancing edges. If I didn't blend a still water reflection it just wouldn't look convincing, but I don't blend-blend-blend it. I touch, blend, pull, and then freshen colors again.

And boy, do I agree with what Wolf Kahn said, Timon. Everyone needs some good 'mud' now and again. My clouds are often muddy grays! But it makes those pure colors :music: sing :music: in comparison. :D

Deborah

Colorix
12-15-2009, 03:31 PM
Deb, your clouds make beautiful use of coloured neutrals! (Much nicer word than muddy grey!) And as you mostly layer, that grey is *alive* and *sings*.

allydoodle
12-15-2009, 03:50 PM
I rarely blend, however if needed, I will do anything to improve my painting! Sometimes I use my fingernail to scrape off small areas and it doesn't seem to disturbe what is underneath, therefore, not crushing the pastel crystals.

If I do blend, the two times that I seem to do it are when I'm painting skies, and in the shadows. Again, it is not often, but if it is necessary, then so be it!

Deborah Secor
12-15-2009, 04:28 PM
Maggie Price has a great alternative to blending: tapping. She literally uses her ring finger (the weakest one) to tap-tap-tap on a bit that needs to recede. It doesn't blend--there's no side-to-side, just up-and-down taps. Works quite well!

(Charlie, isn't 'colored neutrals' an oxymoron? Maybe that DOES describe gray pretty well, muddy or not--and thank you. :D)

Deborah

Larry Barlow
12-15-2009, 06:59 PM
Thanks Pete K, Robert,Don
Kyn thanks and I will look for Dianna Ponting on instruction
Thanks JPO
Thanks Paula Love your work see mask you use and will order one.
Thanks Tim and Chris.
Thanks for all replys. Now I know how the pros do it .
Thanks

ninagrace
12-16-2009, 11:41 PM
I finger blend sometimes, though somewhat less than I used to. I'll also use a color shaper or those sofft tools. More and more I use the pastels themselves, but it really depends on the look I want to achieve. I don't think there is a right or wrong choice with this question.

Phil Bates
12-17-2009, 02:11 AM
At the early stages of a painting when massing in shapes, I blend the entire surface by using foam pipe insulation. Rarely do I blend during the last half of the painting. I'm like Paula, the occasional flick of the finger.

Phil

ninagrace
12-17-2009, 02:33 AM
That's true Phil...I am more likely to blend in the beginning stages now that you mention it. That foam pipe insulation is an interesting idea:)

saramathewson
12-19-2009, 12:13 AM
Packing peanuts work well too. I tend to blend the sky and the beginning of the painting but not in the last half of the painting and not always in the beginning either. Sometimes I just let the sticks do it.

Sara

ninagrace
12-19-2009, 12:54 AM
ahh...packing peanuts is a great idea. :)

artsygala
12-19-2009, 03:51 AM
How much blending is done depends on the look or feeling you want the painting to have. Non-blended paintings where you see the pastel strokes have lots of energy and movement. Blended paintings have a sense of refinement and smoothness.

I usually use both techniques in my paintings. One of the tools I like to use for blending is the kneaded eraser. It can be pinched into a fine point for tight areas like the corner of an eye, a few quick horizontal strokes will create ripples on water. Plus, squeezing it while painting is a great stress reducer.:D

GaryNorthants
12-19-2009, 11:44 PM
Whilst agreeing with the replies thus far I think I could add that with all things 'pastel' it depends so much on the surface you are working on and what stage of development you are at.
In my own experience I was a compulsive over blender like many new starters. I think the reason for this is that it is the blending that separates our work from that of the total novice by at least having some sort of technique applied to it. I see the same sort of thing from newbie oil painters too. I have blended with fingers then moved on to colour shapers, both hard and soft,tried the packing peanuts, brushes, toothbrushes, water, spirits etc etc. Then I had a moment of revelation when I tried Velour paper and my blending tools became redundant. I was forced to blend with sticks and everything changed for me in an instant. I recall posting at the time that in my opinion it would be so useful for any would be pastellist to use velour for a while as a newbie to help to understand pastels and blending/combining colours before moving on to more sympathetic surfaces. It helped me enormously even though my velour paintings were mainly unsuccessful. These days my colour shapers are passed over in favour of using a hard pastel stick or a blunt pastel pencil to blend with, my fingers are still used but mostly for 'tapping' an area in or in portraiture for changing a larger area after scumbling a lighter or darker influence.
Very recently I have taken to using cotton buds and tissues to 'blend' which removes a lot of pastel and has allowed me to work on paper rather than sanded surfaces which I find has the advantage of allowing easier detail and preventing 'mud' through too many layers.
Gary

ninagrace
12-20-2009, 01:10 AM
taken to using cotton buds and tissues to 'blend' which removes a lot of pastel and has allowed me to work on paper rather than sanded surfaces which I find has the advantage of allowing easier detail and preventing 'mud' through too many layers.
Gary

Gary ~ I've noticed that same thing. I used to hate any non-sanded surface because I couldn't get the result I wanted. Only later I realized it was because I had to use so many layers to get it right. With less layers, a non-sanded surface suddenly has possibilities. I still like sanded surfaces as well...this isn't a put down to them - they're great. It's just nice to have a wider range of choices.

GaryNorthants
12-20-2009, 01:40 AM
Yeh I use Royal Sovereign or La Carte almost religiously for fur but don't need to these days and find other subjects are fresher somehow if working on paper and not having that 'safety' margin of a deep sanded surface :)
Gary

SunFace
01-25-2010, 11:34 PM
I took a workshop with Wolf Kahn (widely known for very vivid colors). It was very interesting to me that he blends A LOT with his fingers. He dislikes sanded surfaces because he can't blend (without bleeding). One thing he said (paraphrasing) is 'people get worried about making muddy colors. What's wrong with muddy colors?'. If you look closely at his work you'll see that the colors are highly blended and that the vivid color effects he achieve are from simultaneous contrast and other ways in which the different passages of color interact.

With all that said, I personally don't use my fingers. I work on heavily sanded surfaces and blend with the sticks and sometimes with a 'limp' paper towel (I make what is almost akin to a brush tip out of folded paper towel so that the pressure on the surface is much less that would be applied with a finger or with a piece of paper towel wrapped around a finger).

Bottom line - there is no right or wrong was to do it.

Thank you so much for this information! I have been trying to use papers with tooth and I personally do not like the look I get. My favorite paper is vellum and I work the same way you describe your teacher did!

I was convincing myself I am a terrible pastelist because I cannot achieve what the others do with the papers...