In 2011, Strathmore (artist papers) offered three free online workshops. The first one, Visual Journaling taught by Pam Carriker, was my introduction to mixed media and included work with pastels. I had never heard of them. From what I read about them later, it would seem that everyone experienced them as a child. Except me!
I was immediately drawn to the feel of the soft pastels, and the way they went down on paper. I borrowed DVDs from my local Jerry’s Artarama to observe other artists using them, looked through books and magazines, researched brands and the pros and cons of each, and finally went to the art supply store (Jerry’s) to try out the samples in open stock. I quickly decided on a brand, Rembrandt, and bought a box of 30 half-sticks to experiment. I now follow the blogs of a couple pastel artists, too.
Some brands, including Rembrandt, offer larger sets with colors suited to portrait or landscape painting. I recently ordered a landscape set. Each artist has their own system for sorting their colors in a way that best suits the way they create. I haven’t decided what works best for me yet.
My local library had several books on the shelf pertaining to pastels, so I brought home three of them. The first one was a quick read, a basic introduction. The second is much more in-depth, Bill Creevy’s, “The Pastel Book,” “Materials and Techniques for Today’s Artist.” I paged through it, then went to work on Jackie Simmonds,’ “Pastel Workbook,” “A Complete Course in Ten Lessons.” This is where I literally started to get my hands dirty.
So far, I’m working with my small set of 30. Lesson One is making marks, and here is my first exercise, using linear marks to create patterns.
I started with the border, but wasn’t inspired by the colors I’d chosen. Then I went to work on the center box. That was much more to my liking. It may not look so great, but I sure had fun doing it.
Have you ever used pastels? Will you share your experience?