Something New–Pastels

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!

This was my first journal page from Pam Carriker's workshop

This was my first journal page from Pam Carriker’s workshop

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.IMG_0515

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. 

Experimenting with linear patterns

Experimenting with linear 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?

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55 thoughts on “Something New–Pastels

  1. I loved them when I was younger, but never took any classes. Well except for art classes in high school which was more like babysitting–at my school at least. Love your examples. Have fun!

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  2. I see you are having great fun, Patti! Keep us “posted” on where this journey takes you. You are so methodical, doing your research by going to the library and carefully selecting your Rembrandt pastels.
    Years ago, I used pastels to create murals from postcard images for my bulletin boards at school. Sadly, after years of being enjoyed by students and me, I had to dispose of them when I left my room and retired. I had purged that memory until you asked your question and could answer, yes. They weren’t works of art, but I felt they added a lot to the department. Wanting to give them more life, and because they were shared with a school population — gasp, I cut them in three long pieces and laminated them so they could be rolled up and easily stored over the summer when everything had to come down.

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    • That’s so sad that you disposed of your artwork. I would have loved to see your murals, Georgette.You were working on a grand scale, there. I was noticing the size of some of the smaller examples in the books, and thought, “Wow, that might be doable!” At this point, I would be intimidated by a large sheet to work on.

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      • Oh don’t get me wrong–they weren’t great murals as they were on “butcher paper”, just pleasing renditions of Latin American and Spanish scenes that adorned the walls. The students seem to appreciate them. It’s amazing how teachers will just roll up their sleeves to achieve results — here, just provide pleasing scenes for their eyes to rest on. Why not? The Art Police never banished them. lol

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    • Thanks, Susan. Did you get hard or soft pastels? I bought a box of harder ones and ended up giving them to the kids. These go on more like chalk, and are rather messy, but I love the feel of them.

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  3. Patti this makes me want to drive to the nearest art supply! Your journal page is very pretty. I played with pastels and oils and charcoals for a bit when I thought I could draw and or paint. I didn’t stay with it. I will be checking out your links later! AND looking forward to more posts with pastels!

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    • It’s nice to be an inspiration, Pix. Oils and their cleaning products intimidate me. I’m too messy. Thanks for your encouragement. I can’t wait to start working with the new ones–as soon as I get up the nerve to break them in half! They are so pretty in the box! 😉

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    • Thank you, Jeannine. I like how “fixable” they are when something doesn’t look right. There’s one line that I’m going to have to straighten, it bugs me every time I look at the photo! These are so much fun to use.

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  4. awesome, patti! yes, i used them in high school art class. i enjoyed the experience but traded them in for colored pencils due to the mess, smudging, blending, etc. colored pencils are so easy to walk away from and come back to – unlike paints or smudgy pastels. 🙂

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    • You do great work with your colored pencils, Theresa. I bought some watercolor pencils to experiment with, but the pastels are on my desk right now. I got a desktop easel to use with them. I work on something awhile, then walk away. My art room is like a “hallway” to the laundry room and back door, so I can look at my work-in-progress as I pass through, until I get a feel for what it needs next.

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      • my workspace is a drawing table to the left of my laptop table where i blog. if it is messy or unfinished after a few days, it bothers me to no end. 🙂

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  5. Very nice, Patti! VERY nice.
    What type of paper did you use for the pastel? My oldest has done two pastels, which are gorgeous, framed, and hanging in our living room. He did them in an after-school art class.
    Your post makes me think about buying pastels and letting Joe do this sort of thing at home. I could see myself doodling, too.

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    • The mixed media at the top is on 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper, the pastel at the bottom is on Strathmore 400 series Artagain, black, 9×12. I’m presently working on a sunset using Canson Mi-Teintes Pastel paper, 9×12, it’s a pad of assorted colors. Be careful of the dust with soft pastels, don’t want to inhale it, and look for brands that don’t use heavy metals like cadmium, cobalt, etc. That’s one of the things I like about Rembrandt.
      Thank you for being so kind with your compliments.

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  6. Boy, you’re disciplined to do these lessons.

    There was an office supply/artist store in my town when I was a kid and I used to go in there just to handle the papers and lovely tubes of paint. I bought a box of Grumbacher pastels that I still have, although I haven’t touched them in 20 years. I doodled around with them then, but never really learned to use them.

    I sometimes think about taking up art again. If only I could quit my “real” job to enjoy all the hobbies I’d like to pursue.

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    • I hear ya, Peg. Real jobs have a way of cramping the creativity. So many hobbies and so little time for them. I love hanging out with art supplies! I’m glad they don’t have a “no loitering” sign on the aisle that holds all the sketch books and paper pads–and the pretty pencils…
      That’s one nice feature of pastels, they don’t degrade over time. You can pack them up and take them with you to the retirement home! 😉

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  7. I love what you’ve done with the pastels! And the journal page from the workshop – very cool! I’ve only used pastels once, back in high school I did a picture of a tiger lily. It was my least horrible piece in art class.

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    • “Least horrible piece” made me smile…sounds all too familiar, Trisha! There was something about the pastels that gave me confidence. Thanks for your encouragement.

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    • Thanks, Beth Ann. My first thought was to use them on greeting cards, but the second thought was, “Uh, no.” I need to experiment with fixative, but from what I’ve read, it doesn’t keep the pastels from rubbing off and it deepens the color. I’ll keep you informed as to what I learn. 🙂

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  8. Oh my goodness, Patti!!! This is gorgeous! You have a real talent…I think you’re a very visual artist what with your photography, your cards, and now your pastels. To answer your question, yes, I have worked with pastels…fleetingly…and with nowhere near the success you’ve had…but it is pretty cool how they feel as you’re using them, as they’re in contact with the paper. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of your art.

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  9. Hi Patti ! I’m incredibly impressed and excited for you! Excited because it’s always exciting learning something new. I have tried pastels and have a nice set, but I was discouraged by the fact that they do smudge and smear and ….. well… you know. I’ve been doing the sketching and watercolors and think that’s more to my liking – more portable. But you’re inspiring me to get the pastels out again. Hmmmm…… I do like what you’ve done very much. Stick with it and I’ll be watching to see what you can glean and pass on to the rest of us, as in, words of advice!

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  10. My late mother, who was an accomplished artists in all mediums, often used pastels to do portraits of all our family members. I am so thankful to have these, not only for their fine quality, but also as a remembrance of her.

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  11. Hi Patti! I am back and I sure have missed you.

    I am not artistic, although my grandfather was, my mother and one of my brothers are. I remember seeing pastels, but I never used them. You sort of make me want to give it a try. I love the linear patterns – they are beautiful. I had no idea there were free online workshops.

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    • Yippee! I’m doing the happy dance, Robin! So good to see you. There are a lot of workshops online, some are free or at low cost. Many artists have tutorials on http://youtube.com, and most companies feature a blog and/or links to demonstrations using their products.

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  12. Looks awesome, Patti! I love the range of color(s), too (from the neutrals in your first piece, to the incredibly vibrant in your mark-making study)!
    It’s been f-o-r-v-e-r since I tried using pastel… I’m not really sure why that is, though… I know I had fun with them!
    🙂

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  13. I think you did very well with your first piece. I’ve got a box of Pastels and I’m always going to get started, but somehow I never have. I also keep saying I’m going to take a class, but haven’t. Your post has stirred-up the notions again. 🙂

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