Pastels – Love from the First Touch

My first pastel experience happened when I was in the School of Arts, at one of the plein airs, where students were allowed to take different materials and try mixed techniques. So I bought my first set of local pastel brand and brought it with me to the plein air. I do remember that what I liked immediately was a feeling of freedom and ability to form paintings with my fingers. In comparison with watercolor where you almost never know what will happen next, especially when you’re working on a wet surface, pastel seemed to me just a perfect companion.

Natalia's pastel collection.

So I started to periodically draw in this medium and almost all my paintings were collected by art committee of the school of arts during examination reviews (meaning that those were quite successful).

However, taking into account the choice of pastel brands and pastel paper 11 years ago was very limited on the local market, and that brand I used was rather hard, I didn’t enjoy the process to a great extent and my pastel period became very short.

And only in 2019 I made a decision to return to the medium I had warm memories about and to invest in professional pastel brand sets (one of those was Unison Portrait Set 36) and good quality pastel paper. You know what? It was absolutely worth it!

Now I can say with a full responsibility that having good quality materials make not only your first impression absolutely awesome, but the result itself will be much better even if you’re drawing in pastel for the first time!

Often I hear that “true artist can work with any materials” – yes, he can, but if you ask even a great artist to draw the same picture using two sets of materials (poor quality and good quality), you will immediately see the difference, believe me. And with pastel medium that difference is even more obvious.

So in case you’re planning to start your pastels journey, let your fist art materials be your helpers, not enemies! All your investments will be paid off.

Unison Colour Pastel Colours that Pop!

Each artist has their own colour palette and color preferences. Those who are familiar with my art style know that I do like incorporating bright vibrant colours into my artworks.

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In May we held a recruitment exercise for new Associate Artists and we were overwhelmed with the number of applications. So much so we will have 2 groups of new artists. Our 2nd group will be announced in August 2020.

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11 Responses

  1. I love the feeling of working with pastels, and I like the result – even on mediocre paper with cheapish pastels – but I can’t get round the messiness. As I live in someone else’s house (I’m retired and live with family) I’m conscious of the way pastels spread themselves about. Do you have any ideas about keeping it under control?

    1. Hi! Thank you for your comment 🙂
      Here again we come to the materials question – paper you use can minimize pastels dust (e.g. working on Pastelmat will minimize the amount for sure because of its surface peculiarity). Other than that wet cleaning during your work and working on vertical easel might help as well.
      Hope this helps and good luck!🍀

    2. Sanded paper and an upright easel with a tray, and not too heavy application (though you can do many medium-heavy layers on sanded paper). I started out with hardware store sandpaper, 400 grit, waterproof (which means black). It’s cheap and gives you an idea of the experience, if you don’t mind a black background. Some batches will have imperfections, i.e. a streak, but it’s well worth the experimental investment. Remove dust by tapping, never by blowing. 99% of the dust falls into the tray.

    3. Oh – and plastic sheeting on the work surface, which you wipe down after a session.
      Finally, keep a wet and a dry paper towel handy and use it to clean your fingers, especially when you are changing colors. The dust on your fingers stays on the wet towel.

    4. I’ve got a suggestion. Buy a very cheap shower curtain, or use an old discarded one. Spread it out over the floor to catch the dust and have a damp flannel handy for your fingers. That’ll keep some of the mess at bay. Hope it helps 😊.

  2. I admire and sometimes are jealous how people, like you Natasha, have a great hobby and be great in it and passionate about it. Keep up the great work! Gr. Jan

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with your comments on starting with good quality pastels and paper, they really do make a huge difference, and this applies to any medium you use. And here comes the but….if you are on a limited budget and have never tried a particular medium, you wont know if you will like it or if it suits your style of work, so you might spend a lot of money on a product which you might use once and never pick up again.
    Any ideas on how to get around this problem?

    1. Good point. Here I personally think that whenever you want to try a material to understand if you really want to use it, you can buy it (pastels specifically) in separate sticks which is cheaper + there are test packs of paper sold online by art online shops like Jackson’s art, for instance.
      So there are ways to keep within the budget and try good quality materials.

  4. Couldn’t agree more.
    Students will often buy cheap pastels and paper to start with and are frustrated that they can’t get the effects they want. I have a teaching set of Unison and once they have tried those they are totally convinced that good pastels are the way to go.

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