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View Full Version : Question about which to buy...Rembrandt vs. Unison


JamieWG
12-14-2002, 09:01 PM
Hi Everybody. I'm new to the pastel forum here on WC. I went to sign up for a morning landscape/still life class and the only one they were offering at a time I could do it was in pastels, so here I am, planning to expand my horizons beyond oils and colored pencils.

The supply list arrived today and I need to buy 60 (yes, SIXTY!!!) Unison or Rembrandt soft pastels for the course. I know zilch about pastels. Which brand should I get??? Although I'm new to pastels, I do take my art seriously.

Many thanks for any advice you can offer,
Jamie

KarenU
12-14-2002, 09:55 PM
Jamie...how exciting your class sounds! I picked up a very nice starter set of 72 Unisons on eBay for a really good price (appx. $80 less than the cheapest I could find on mail order on the internet). I just love them and would highly recommend them. If you do a search on eBay I'm sure you'll find some sets available.

Redsy333
12-14-2002, 11:10 PM
Wow what a corner youre in!
First off if you are close to an Art store...I would go and see if they have some you can sample, just to see the consistency of each. Then I would go online and check out the variation of colors each set contains.
I currently use both:D I have a set of 30 portrait and 30 landscape in Rembrandt.
I also own a set of 60 in Unison<favorite:D
If money is not an issue I would urge you to go to the Unison, especially if you are use to painting with oils. They are much softer and the colors in the general 60 box are wonderful.

I also purchased mine on ebay and was very pleased with my price. I saw that Dickblick has a sale on and I still purchased mine for 100$ less then sale price. :D:D:D
I hope this helps, if you need links to online sites for sales just PM me and I can send you a few. :D

doe
12-15-2002, 08:51 AM
I don't have any Unison, but would like to try them someday. I have alot of Rembrandt and they are a good basic pastel and not as expensive as others. As recommended, go look at them and get the landscape set, you can always add the portrait colors later. Also, you may be able to get a set of half sticks to try them out and get you started.

JamieWG
12-15-2002, 08:53 AM
Redsy and Karen,

Thanks so much for your replies. It does seem like I should probably spring for the Unisons. I can't stand student grade oils, and I'd probably feel the same way about pastels. If I'm going to be "pasteling" for an entire semester, I think I'll be happier making the investment and being serious about it. My son has some Yarkas and other student grade pastels that I can play around with too.

I'm really nervous about this class, which doesn't start till February. 'Don't know why that is. I don't know the teacher and I'm not familiar with the medium...that could be it I guess. I also have serious concerns about where I'm going to work...all that dust.

Recent events this semester concerning pastel artists have been a nightmare for me. In a colored pencil class, a student put her sheet of nice white paper down on the table in the classroom. A pastel class had been in there the day before, and you can guess what happened to her artwork, her pocketbook, her clothes.....

Then the next morning I walked into my classroom (I teach at the school too) and somebody had written all over the blackboard in pastel. Well, you can guess what it was like trying to get that off so I could teach my class.

Yesterday morning, a student of mine (little girl) knealed down on the floor and ended up with pastel dust all over her tan pants.

When I oil paint there, the canvas supports on the easels are always filled with pastel dust---seems they never clean up their stuff. So here I am, very anti-pastel lately due to the slobs, and I'm about to take a pastel class. I feel like a hypocrite in a way.

I have to say that I've been very inspired by seeing what the WC pastel crowd turns out in just two hours at the FND and SND events! So, maybe I'll have to somehow make space here after all.

Many thanks for your help and support,
Jamie

JamieWG
12-15-2002, 09:19 AM
Doe, I didn't mean to ignore you! Our posts must have crossed. I'm torn between the 72 color landscape set and the 72 color basic set. It looks like the basic set has a lot more yellows, which I'll need for flowers, etc come the spring, whereas the landscape set seems to have more browns....Don't know how much I'll need so many browns. I love vibrant colors. Oh...decisions, decisions!

Jamie

doe
12-15-2002, 09:56 AM
Wow, those are messy pastelists! I don't have that much dust and use a spare bedroom in the house. Well, I'd go for the colorful set! Schminke is really nice too!

stealth
12-15-2002, 10:01 AM
alliedartstore.com has the best price on pastel's that i could find.i would go with the unison's myself.you can alway's pick up some individual rembrandt's at any art store and build your own set.hope this help's.

JamieWG
12-15-2002, 12:02 PM
Originally posted by stealth
alliedartstore.com has the best price on pastel's that i could find.i would go with the unison's myself.you can alway's pick up some individual rembrandt's at any art store and build your own set.hope this help's.

Stealth, thanks for this. Yes, they seem to have prices comparable to Ebay, and even less on some sets if you figure in the Ebay postage charges. I will likely order the Unisons from alliedartstore.com.

Doe, I'm glad to hear not all pastelists are such slobs! 'Still have to decide about colors....I looked at the Unison sets posted at Allied Art and it looks like the 36 color landscape set has yellows but the 72 color not. How can that be? And the "professional" 72 color set there also appears to not have yellows, but on other sites it looks like it does. 'Must be the photos. Can anybody tell me?

Many thanks,
Jamie

Howard Metzenberg
12-15-2002, 10:59 PM
Originally posted by JamieWG
Hi Everybody. I'm new to the pastel forum here on WC. I went to sign up for a morning landscape/still life class and the only one they were offering at a time I could do it was in pastels, so here I am, planning to expand my horizons beyond oils and colored pencils.

The supply list arrived today and I need to buy 60 (yes, SIXTY!!!) Unison or Rembrandt soft pastels for the course. I know zilch about pastels. Which brand should I get??? Although I'm new to pastels, I do take my art seriously.

Many thanks for any advice you can offer,
Jamie

Jamie,

I am not a pastel artist, but as the developer of a website that sells both Rembrandt and Unison, I am familiar with the technical differences between them.

Most of the Rembrandt Pastels, which are manufactured in Holland by Talens, are based on a single pigment. For each pigment, several tints or gradations are available. In this respect, working with Rembrandt pastels is like painting with traditional single-pigment colors, except that pigment is applied directly with only clay as a binder, and a fixative is added later.

By contrast, each color in the Unison pastels is based on as many as five pigments that are blended to the specifications of their designer. Thus, the Unison Brown Earths, of which there are 36, are not gradations of Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber. Rather, they are proprietary mixtures of these and other pigments to achieve a range of 36 different Brown Earth tones.

My website (Dick Blick Art Materials) offers the full range of both pastels in open stock. You may visit our webpages for each of these products and see the color charts to get some idea of how their color ranges differ.

Rembrandt Artist Soft Pastels
http://www.dickblick.com/zz200/26/

Unison Handmade Pastels
http://www.dickblick.com/zz200/48/

Keep in mind that on-line color charts are subject to the limitations of color reproduction on computer monitors. There is no substitute for a real color chart created from the actual materials themselves.

So which brand of pastel do you want to use? The difference is almost philosophical. If you are already a painter in some other medium, and you like the idea of painting with single pigment colors, and you are already familiar with those pigments, you might choose Rembrandt. However, if you are not a painter, or you prefer to choose colors rather than pigments, then you might prefer Unison.

A second difference between these two brands is that Rembrandt has a reputation as being the hardest of the soft pastels. Again, the difference is one of personal taste.

If you want traditional single-pigment colors in the softest of soft pastels, you might try Schmincke. I doubt your art teacher would object if you used Schmincke. They probably just weren't available in your local art store.

Schmincke Soft Pastels
http://www.dickblick.com/zz200/76/

Most of the other leading brands of pastels belong to the single-pigment school of Rembrandt and Schmincke, and fall somewhere between the two on the scale of hardest to softest.

It sounds like your teacher is open and flexible about what you choose. I would suggest trying them both before you commit to buying a big set. You can always create your own palette, mixing and matching your favorite colors from different pastel lines.

Howard Metzenberg
Internet Strategist
Dick Blick Art Materials

Howard Metzenberg
12-15-2002, 11:04 PM
Jamie,

Here is a picture of the Unisons.

Howard Metzenberg

Redsy333
12-16-2002, 05:59 AM
Backing up and re-reading, I realized I made an error in my original post:D I have a set of 72 in Unison...duh! LOL Thats what happens when you have to much going on at one time. :D:D:D
hehe sorry bout that ;)

Note: If you worry about the messy dust....you may not want the softer pastels. As others say, its really a matter of personal taste:D

MarshaSavage
12-16-2002, 06:13 AM
Jamie,

Regarding the Rembrandt or the Unison question -- Rembrandt are not student grade pastels. They are the harder of the soft pastels, but very useful in the early stages of doing a pastel painting. The softer pastels are what you usually use when about half-way through painting -- toward the end. The reason being that Rembrandt being harder does not leave as much pastel on the paper. Therefore, you can layer several different colors on top of each other and not quite fill up the tooth of the paper. When you use a softer pastel in the early stages of painting, more pastel comes off the stick and does fill up the tooth of the paper. Then, when you try to apply another color on top, you can't! So there are uses for both of these pastels in a painting.

I teach pastel classes and tell my students the best investment is to buy Rembrandt first. Learn the technique of applying pastel to paper or support. Some students have a heavy hand and get a lot of pastel from the Rembrandt sticks, and some have a very soft hand and don't get much on the paper. Learning how you apply pastel is important as much as how the pastel itself works. Then you can change to a softer brand such as Unison (which I do love, BTW) or any of the others. Also, Rembrandt does not cost as much and therefore is less daunting to a beginning pastelist!

These are just my 2 cents worth on the subject of what to start with.

JamieWG
12-16-2002, 07:10 AM
Wow, so much great advice here. Thank you everybody.

Howard, I appreciate what you've had to say about pastels and the single pigments of the Rembrandts. Yes, that does mean something to me, and causes me to reconsider my Unison decision. I use Rembrandt paints for plein air painting, and Winsor Newton Artist's oils in the studio, so I know how much better it is to mix from the single pigments, thouh I've heard that with pastels, there's not as much mixing going on as with paints. I think I'll take a trip to my local Dick Blick store (Newtonw, CT), pick up the remainder of the supplies there this week, and check out the pastel selections in the store.

Redsy, which 72-color Unison set do you have? Does it contain yellows?

Marsha, thank you for the feedback from a teacher's perspective. From colored pencil work, I'm familiar with the techniques of applying many, many light layers. So, for better or worse, I can see the advantages to having sets of both Rembrandt and Unison. (Oh, no!!! :evil: ) I do have 36 Conte Crayons. Would those be appropriate to build a base, with the Unisons on top? Would I be better off purchasing 30 Rembrandt and 30 Unison, rather than a set of 60 of one brand? Since it's a landscape class, I could get a Rembrandt set of 30 landscape, and the Unison 36-color landscape set instead.

Many thanks,
Jamie

doe
12-16-2002, 08:15 AM
The single pigment - color range is the traditional way of making pastels. If you go to Blick's they'll have a large display and you'll see that for each pigment there are at least 5 shades. If you were painting something with the local color of orange for example you would have a full range of the hue to use, as opposed to mixing with white - as in oil paint. Full sets of pastels sometimes contain as many as 600 sticks. Five or six sticks for each pigment made.

As Marsha said the harder pastels go under the softer pastels and usually you have a mixture of softness and brands. I started with Grumbacher, then when they seemed to disappear switched to Rembrandt and NuPastel for first layers and use Schminke, Sennelier, W&N for top layers. So it's not unusual to have more than one brand. Have fun!

Redsy333
12-16-2002, 08:42 AM
:D OKay I need to organize and clean these but...lol here is my set, alil hard to see, but gives you the idea!!As you can see there are a wide range of yellows in the Portrait set. I honestly dont see why you can not blend to a preferred shade as I do. Layering white with shades will alter the color, as well as using shaded paper.
UNSPORT72 Unison 72 Portrait
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/16-Dec-2002/halloween_072.jpg
Here is another view of my mess:D lol
In the top there is a pic of the landscape and portraits of Rembrandts, In the wooden box you can find: Shminkes, Rembrandts, Unison, and in the bottom Nupastels.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/16-Dec-2002/halloween_073.jpg

JamieWG
12-16-2002, 09:02 AM
Redsy, thank you for showing me, in great color detail, how much trouble I'm about to get into! :evil: LOL.....Wow, I love the colors in that portrait set. You've shown the colors better than any web site I've been able to find.

Doe, thank you for the overview. I'm beginning to visualize how extensive this can become with all the shades per pigment and various degrees of hardness/softness. Yesterday, I thought that 120 colored pencils are a lot to work with. Little did I know...lol...

Jamie

meowmeow
12-16-2002, 09:20 AM
Another thing I don't think anyone has mentioned is the possibility of the half stick sets. I don't know if that is allowed in the class or not. If it is you might consider getting the Rembrandt 60 half stick set which is pretty reasonable. It is a good way to start.
Then you could probably afford to add a few single Unisons or anything else to try as well.
I would check with the teacher first though. There may be some reason you shouldn't do that.
It sounds like a fun problem though!
Let us know what you end up with!

Sandy

Redsy333
12-16-2002, 09:40 AM
:D No problem!!
I forgot to mention that the xtras in the drawers, are the ones I recieved in sample sets. Some were purchased from sites, others were sent to me from dealers that I emailed and requested. Those were free:D:D:D
Free is always good:) lol

MarshaSavage
12-16-2002, 10:10 AM
Jamie,

As mentioned the half-stick sets are wonderful! They are a fairly new addition to the world of sets. I have been lately telling my students to get the half-stick sets of Rembrandt -- and the half stick sets of Sennelier were a good buy at one time. But I am now leaning more towards the Unison and the Terry Ludwig pastels as the most cost effective softer pastels. The Unison and Ludwig sets have so much wider ranges of colors.

If I had to say, the best possible scenario would be the Rembrandt 60 half-stick set and a small set of Unison -- then you get to decide which colors you use most, then replace them with whole sticks individually bought. Then add another smaller set of Unison -- and I usually recommend the dark set as there are so few good darks in the Rembrandt sets. Though, looking at that set above of the Unison (Portrait?) would also be a good set if you can afford it. I usually try to keep the cost to a minimum until the student falls totally in love with pastel and then can't wait to buy more.

Be sure to let us know how the class goes -- and what the teacher recommends after you have your first class.

JamieWG
12-16-2002, 10:46 PM
Sandy, wow, thanks for bringing up the idea of half stick sets. That sounds like a winning idea!

Redsy, yes, free is great! I'll take "free"! :D

Marsha, thank you so very much for sharing your knowledge. A half stick set and some Unisons is sounding quite good right now!

BTW, I found out the teacher is Rae Smith. Anybody know of her? I'll let you know how it goes. I think that by the time the class starts, I'll be less anxious and more excited!

Jamie

Shari
12-17-2002, 01:40 AM
Well, I decided to put in my 2 cents worth. I have both and I rarely use the rembrandt anymore, just at the very beginning. I love the Unison and have many of them. Allied art store sells on ebay and I just got a lot of unisons from them for $2.25 each which is the best price around. I also have the 72 landscape set and I love it; over the last couple years I have added to it, several sticks at a time. The best price is definitely on ebay, and the seller is allied art store, but he sells cheaper on ebay. We emailed each other and he made me an offer of $2.25 each which is great. I will add to this that for softness, nothing really compares with schmincke and great americans. I would try some of all of them; I also find that I use different pastels more with different surfaces. I like the unisons on the la carte paper. Having said all this, I am really such a beginner at all this, but I do paint daily and I really like them all.

Shari

djstar
12-17-2002, 02:59 AM
I think I am the only person I know who started with a 12 pack.
I like to blend pastel and I like them hard.
Those conte will come in handy.
The arbitrary number of sticks might be confusing. I would suggest a smaller box to begin with of basic colors and add up to the number you need.
I have found soft pastels MAJOR draw back is that it wears down...which by the way, is what makes us such BAD kids in studio. I have had sticks nearly disappear in a single pose!
It is all going to be experimenting, so I would suggest diversity.
A few here and a few there will get you a taste of your preference for texture and taste of sticks. I have boxes and boxes of sticks I thought I really needed, but when pushed to perform, there are probably 30 I use all the time, mostly nupastel and I fill in with the soft ones. BUT I am frugal.
And on behalf of all the sloppy pastelists, please, forgive us. We get lost in the fun and forget about the mess we leave behind..
so sorry.
dj*

MarshaSavage
12-17-2002, 05:27 AM
Jamie,

I have heard of Rae Smith -- One of her paintings in in "The Best of Pastel 2" and I also think I have seen here work in some of the magazines. How did you find out about her? What made you take the class from her?

JamieWG
12-17-2002, 08:57 AM
Oh, you are such a wonderful group! I can't wait to be pasteling with all of you. :)

Shari, can you tell me about the selection of yellows in the Unison landscape set? Are there any sunflower-type yellows? Thanks for letting me know that the Ebay seller is allied art. I will email them as soon as I decide what to do. There have been complaints in their feedback about very slow shipping, so I want to be sure to order well before the time of my first class. I'd better do it soon....

DJ, you're so sweet to apologize for all those slobs! But really, it is not the fault of the medium. I used to go to my pencil class 10 minutes early in order to wash off my table before class started. The people leaving the mess before me should do that themselves. Then I started bringing a drawing board with me to put over the table, and still washing it first if necessary. And banging out the dust off the easels, over the garbage cans, shouldn't be such a big deal. They just don't take the time to do it. I started buying chalk myself and leaving a stick on the blackboard, but they used the pastel anyway. Geez! The poor maintenance guys have a fit too.

DJ, you know I am such a fan of your work, and find it very interesting that you prefer the hard pastels. I'd think oil painters would have a special preference for the soft, highly pigmented stuff, yet now I can envision why it's easier to blend with the hard ones. I think you have a good point that the Contes I already have may end up being very useful to me. I actually got them without really wanting them, as part of an Ebay auction of other items I wanted. The teacher seems really specific on what she wants---Rembrandts or Unisons, but I can't imagine that she wouldn't let me use what I already have. So, another option would then be to use those Contes instead of getting Rembrandts, and supplement them with the soft Unisons. My son also has 30 soft Yarkas (the better of the 2 types of Yarka) that he'll let me use. 'Don't know how good those are though. I think they're student grade, right?

Marsha, I'm so glad you've heard of Rae. You asked how I found out about her and came to take this class....I'm on the faculty of Northern Westchester Center for the Arts. It is a multi-faceted arts school with departments in Dance, Drama, Music, and Visual Arts, all under one roof. I'm Director of the Suzuki Guitar program there, Conductor of the NWCA Guitar Orchestra, and teach an advanced classical guitar technique class. I love the school. One of the faculty perks is a fabulous discount on classes, so I'm always taking some kind of art course. My heart is in landscapes this year (though I'll be doing oil portraits in January), and the only landscape class that fit in with my teaching and family schedule was this pastel class. I stopped by to chat with the Director of the visual arts department last night, and he told me who the teacher is and that she's "one of the best"! So, now I'm psyched!

Thanks everybody!

Jamie

Big Jack
12-18-2002, 03:18 PM
Jamie
What are you going to do when you have your new pastels and class hasn't yet started? May I suggest Jackie Simmonds' lesson on transcribing Van Gogh's oil painting "Cornfield and Cypress Trees"onto pastels. It appeared on this forum a few months ago. I too am just starting in pastels and found it very helpful. I just did a search but couldn't find the lesson. Maybe you are more adroit at this than I.

Good luck with the pastels
Jack

meowmeow
12-18-2002, 04:21 PM
I believe I just found that thread...it intriuged me.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=64210

I'll have to try this now.

Thanks for mentioning it!

Sandy

Big Jack
12-18-2002, 07:15 PM
Sandy
Thanks for finding the thread. This time I bookmarked it!

Jack

JamieWG
12-18-2002, 08:04 PM
Originally posted by Big Jack
Jamie
What are you going to do when you have your new pastels and class hasn't yet started? Jack

Hahaha! Hi Jack. I'll be painting oil portraits in January---hopefully getting through a dozen or so during that month, so not much time for pastels before the class starts. But ya never know! Thanks for thinking of me, and Sandy, thanks for posting the link. I'm sure I'll be wanting it one of these days!

Best wishes,
Jamie