View Full Version : Pastel advice please?

03-02-2010, 10:51 PM
:) Hi, I've done some soft pastel more than thrity years ago. I don't even remember the name of the pastel set that my art teacher gifted me with, but they were lovely. All I have left of it is bits and pieces, and I've been doing my portraits in oils for the intervening years.

I love oil, but it's much slower than working in pastel. At about the same time I decided to buy a set of portrait PanPastels and some tinted Canson paper from Dick Blick, a lady called me up asking for a couple of charcoal portraits. I think I do better in pastel, but I haven't had the courgae to try my new pastels.

I have a couple of tryouts in mind. My grandsons collected some gorgeous seashells for me, and I would like to do them on sand. Then another person asked me to try her cat. I've always admired cat portraits (or any other furred animal portrait) in pastels more than oils.

Right now I have two oils drying and would like to turn out some pastel paintings. Any advice, rather than "dive in, the water's fine?":D

water girl
03-02-2010, 11:34 PM
If you have an art store with open stock pastels, you could choose a simple pallette and just let things evolve. Hang around here for a while and see what the others are doing. I've learned so much from other pastel artists.

Paula Ford
03-03-2010, 12:06 AM
Hi Nancy, Here is a great thread to get you started...

03-03-2010, 12:37 AM
I think if you're coming from oils, you'll have a great time with the Pan Pastels. Using them is a lot like using paint, the colors mix -- but it stays workable yet it's dry as soon as you finish. If you used knives at all in your oil painting, they'll come very easy to you.

Stick pastels have a very different feel. I'd suggest a small set of semi-hard or hard pastels like color Conte or Richeson semi-hard square pastels (they are the cheapest by stick usually,) some medium soft ones like Art Spectrum and some of the very soft ones like Sennelier, Schminke, Richeson Handmade or Unison. They all handle differently but generally when you've gotten as far as you can, switching to a softer pastel will let you add more layers.

Also the Sofft tools from a Pans set make great blenders for stick pastels.

03-03-2010, 03:52 AM
Hi Nancy, Here is a great thread to get you started...

Hi, Paula. I notice you moved me from the wrong sub-forum (if that's what it's called here). I'm a little embarrassed :rolleyes: to say that I realized that a little too late, and finally I spent quite a bit of time this afternoon on the forum you've given above.

Thanks to all of you for your suggestions before I get started. I liked particularly the idea of tilting my easel forward so that I know what the surface is taking, and what's dust! After reading a little further, I may abandon the Canson and go back to Hobby Lobby tomorrow (since I was going anyway to inspect a painting box my husband found at a visit there today:D).

One more quick question I didn't see answered: I usually draw my subject with paint, and I noticed several really gorgeous pastels here that were carefully drawn with light pencil? or pastel pencil? :confused:before the colors were applied. Is this recommended as the way to approach pastel in general, or should I continue to draw with the medium?

BTW, you people have some really marvelous artwork going here, and thoughtful commentary, and I would be honored to join you in posting my work in pastels. Try not to laugh your heads off at my baby steps? :lol:

03-03-2010, 04:00 AM
Robert, two of us oil painters just had to get them. They're so cute! They look like little make-up pots. I bought the basic set first; red, yellow, blue, black and white. Then I thought, what the hey, I do more portraits than other stuff, and bought the portrait group twenty more colors. I'll start out with this, and add colors as needed. I think I'm really going to enjoy this!

WC Lee
03-03-2010, 04:11 AM
Hello ..

since you normally paint with oil, you shouldn't have much problems migrating over to pastels and the pan pastels should be even easier.

As for how to start and proceed with a pastel painting, it really is up to the individual. Some like to start with a tight sketch, some just do a simple rough, and then there are everyone in between. Some use pencil, some use charcoal, some use pastel pencil, some dive right in with the pastels, etc.

When I first started using pastels, I start with a linear sketch first but found that my results came out looking a bit stiff, so now I start with a rough color block-in and refine as it progresses.

03-03-2010, 06:10 AM
LOL i just wanted to ask the same question. Paula gave some food for thought. Thnx. Im surprised by the brightness of the colours, very nice!

I hope i may pose my questions here.

- May you mix different colours. I have 2 books, one says yes and the other says no. I ve tried it and see no problem.

- Do you have to fixate the last layer, and how can you store it cheap when not fixating the last layer?

- Do you have to break the pastels?


03-03-2010, 07:43 AM
Nancy, Wetbob, Hi!

The Pans are too cute, they even have to warn people against using them as makeup! I come from oils, and I think of Pans as "dry watercolour", or possibly thinned oils. They are great for a fluid look. If you want an impasto effect, soft sticks on sanded paper will do the trick.

Drawing: we all do differently, so you do what you're used to, or think is best. I do a 'cartoon-drawing' with pastel pencils, or a harder pastel -- mainly because they don't clog up the tooth of the paper and don't dirty the colours. With Pans, yes you can draw with them. As they're rather transparent, use a colour that will not stand out.

Yes you can mix colours. Blend, layer, hatch, scumble, whatever you like best. You mix on the paper, as you lay down your strokes.

Some fixate, some do not. Often it depends on the paper and the sticks, and the combination. Do a "search this forum", there are many threads on this, and on how to store and protect cheaply.

No, you don't *have* to break them. Though, it is easier to paint if you can use the side of the pastel. Think of broken off bits as different width of brushes. Say you want to fill a large area, sky, with colour. Way easier with a 'broadside' than a tip of a stick.


03-03-2010, 10:12 AM
. . . and some tinted Canson paper . . .
Hi, Nancy! I am an utter newbie around here but my tiny morsel of advice to you would be to dump the Canson paper, or any of the readily-available so-called supposed "pastel papers", as absolutely soon as you can. Those papers were, for me, nearly impossible to work with. Yes, yes, yes, I know that there are some exquisite pastelists (http://billcone.blogspot.com/) that work on that paper, granted.

But once I switched to coated/sanded paper, either ready-made (http://www.dakotapastels.com/pages/index-paper.aspx) (or hand-prepared using Colourfix primer (http://jan777.blogspot.com/2009/12/eight-adaptable-pastel-supports.html)) I was a much happier pastelist. I would especially recommend the Pastelmat paper. It's great!

Just a suggestion!!


03-03-2010, 08:18 PM
Hi Nancy, being your comming from oils and you have a nice soft stick you would find that the back side of Canson (the smooth side) gives you almost the same feel as a brush with oils does on canvas. I know alot of people like (most) like the sanded papers. but i tend to find the pastels tend to stop. it just doesn't have the same flow. now i have only tried some of the paperes, and made my own sanded paper made with gesso/pumice which i still perfer over most other. but still have more to try.

03-03-2010, 08:33 PM
I love the Pans, and coming from oils , I fell in love with the little socks on the palette knives ;)...Main advice, besides the great you've gotten, paint, experiment, paint, experiment. As to sketching in, if I do, I use soft vine charcoal.

This is done all with the pans and the palette knives.
Have fun, Tres

03-04-2010, 06:43 AM
Tressa, that is so gorgeous. Those apples look luminous, the ceramics look so solid and shiny, the branch is so perfect it could've come out of a Chinese classical painting. I couldn't think of a better example for painting with Pan Pastels.

Colorix is right, breaking the sticks does give more variety of widths. I don't always do it but sometimes I use the sides of full length sticks too, it depends on the stick.

Jan, I felt the same way when I discovered Colourfix and love all the sanded and coated papers, but when I go back to Canson M-T for sketching, that reminds me that it has its own quality. Pete sands his and I'm going to try that on the smooth side sometime, maybe that gives an effect a little closer to the pastelmat. Though I love PastelMat and that's like painting on sticky tape, what I put down does not move unless I get at it with an eraser.