Are you seeking to use pastels in your artwork effectively? This article cuts straight to the chase, providing actionable insights on choosing and utilizing different pastels for varying effects. Whether it’s the softness of chalky pastels, the firmness of hard sticks, or the uniqueness of oil pastels, you’ll learn to manipulate these tools for optimal results. My guide also encompasses essential techniques and tips on preserving your artwork. Embark on your pastel journey with confidence and skill.
Choosing the right type of pastel (soft, hard, or oil) is crucial to achieving the desired effect in artwork, as each has unique attributes that determine vibrancy, texture, and application technique.
Mastering essential pastel techniques such as blending, layering, and hatching/cross-hatching is fundamental to creating smooth transitions, adding depth, and producing detailed textures in pastel artwork.
The right choice of pastel surface (such as pastel paper or sanded surfaces) and preparation are key, and using fixatives appropriately can protect and preserve the artwork from smudging or damage.
Choosing the Right Pastels
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Pastels are a versatile and fascinating art medium. Their unique composition and form allow for an extensive range of effects and textures, from soft and subtle blends to vibrant, detailed lines. However, not all pastels are created equal. The type of pastel you choose can significantly influence the outcome of your artwork, including how you frame pastel paintings and the process of framing pastels, as well as the overall appearance of your pastel painting.
Soft pastels, hard pastels, and oil pastels each have their unique attributes that can enhance your artwork. Understanding these differences lets you select the perfect pastel for your desired effect, laying the groundwork for your masterpiece.
Soft pastels, also known as soft pastels, are the most commonly used form of pastel. They are composed of pure pigment powder mixed with a clay binder, allowing them to produce vibrant colors and a smooth texture. Their rectangular shape and chalky consistency make them incredibly versatile and suitable for drawing lines and filling larger areas. As you work with soft pastels, pastel dust, and pastel particles are natural byproducts of the creative process.
The range of soft pastels offers artists the ability to:
Produce seamless transitions
Create vivid, intense colors
Create smooth gradients
Achieve rich colors in their artwork
This is due to the soft pastels’ hardness range and rich pigmentation.
Hard pastels offer a different experience. They:
Contains more binder and less pigment, resulting in less vibrant colors
Offer more control for detailed work
It can be molded into sticks, perfect for achieving crisp edges and adjusting color tonality.
These renowned brands are known for their durability and aesthetic appeal, making them an excellent choice for artists seeking precision in their pastel artwork, especially when using a wooden frame. I use a combination of hard and soft pastels for my artwork.
Oil pastels, on the other hand, offer a unique blend of oil and pigment. Their waxy consistency is reminiscent of crayons, providing a smooth application perfect for bold, vibrant colors.
With oil pastels, blending takes a different form. They can be blended using fingers, a spatula or palette knife, or heavy blending pressure techniques. This versatility and the potential for techniques like color mixing, layering, and glazing make oil pastels a fantastic tool for creating rich, textured artwork.
Essential Pastel Techniques
Once you’ve chosen your pastels, it’s time to explore the techniques that will allow you to master this medium. Blending, layering, and hatching are essential techniques that can help you create stunning pastel artwork.
Blending allows for smooth transitions, layering adds depth and complexity, and hatching and cross-hatching provide texture and shading. Mastering these techniques enhances your pastel artwork, creating rich, dimensional pieces.
Blending is the process of smudging colors together to create smooth transitions, and it’s one of the basic techniques in pastel art. You can blend pastels using your fingers, a short flat brush or even cotton swabs dipped in baby oil for a smooth effect.
The softness of the pastel plays a significant role in the blending process. With their high pigment content, soft pastels can produce vibrant colors and blend more smoothly. On the other hand, hard pastels, with less pigment, are more suitable for sketching and detailed work rather than achieving smooth blends.
Layering is another essential technique in pastel art. It involves delicately applying each layer of pastel, resulting in color harmony and depth. The method also allows for the creating of complex artworks by overlaying light and opaque pastel applications over other areas.
The layering technique is effective with all types of pastels. However, artist-quality pastels are often preferred due to their superior pigmentation and resistance to fading. Prismacolor Nupastel Pastels, despite their harder texture, are also suitable for layering as they are blendable and conducive to layering.
Hatching and Cross-Hatching
Hatching and cross-hatching are linear drawing techniques that contribute texture, value, and the illusion of form and light to pastel drawings. Hatching involves the creation of a sequence of fine parallel lines, while cross-hatching utilizes intersecting sets of lines to enhance the textural impact.
You can blend these techniques for smooth coverage or leave them unblended for a more relaxed visual texture. Strategic use of these methods results in detailed texture and shading in your artwork, elevating its visual appeal.
Here is a timelapse video of me working on a fawn pastel painting.
Pastel Surfaces and Preparation
Choosing the right surface for your pastel art is as vital as selecting the right pastels or mastering the essential techniques. The surface you choose, such as a mounting board, can significantly influence the outcome of your artwork.
Whether pastel paper, mat board, sanded surfaces, or primed surfaces, each offers a unique texture and interaction with the pastel. Choosing and preparing the appropriate surface correctly is pivotal for attaining optimal results in your pastel art.
Pastel paper is a popular choice for pastel artists. Its textured surface is designed to accommodate multiple layers of pastel pigment, making it ideal for layering, scumbling, and blending techniques.
The texture of pastel paper can significantly impact the character of your strokes and the overall appearance of the art. High-quality pastel paper, like Ingres paper, or colored, textured specialty papers, such as Strathmore Pure Tints, can enhance your pastel work’s color and durability.
Sanded pastel surfaces are another excellent choice, especially with a foam core backing board and double-sided tape. They provide a professional quality that improves the layering and blending of pastel pigments while allowing for flexibility when adjusting highlights or creating different textural effects.
Preparation is key when using sanded surfaces. Applying Liquitex Clear Gesso or a homemade mixture of sand, pumice, or marble powder with gesso and water can create a durable, textured foundation for your pastel artwork.
Priming Other Surfaces
Priming other surfaces allows for a more excellent range of possibilities in your pastel art. Using a pastel ground or gesso, prime surfaces such as canvas or wood create a suitable surface for pastel application.
The priming process involves applying a coat of gesso or pastel ground to the surface, creating a textured, durable foundation for your pastel pigments. This preparation can enhance the adherence to the pastel, allowing for better control and creating more complex artwork.
Fixatives and Preservation
Once your pastel masterpiece is complete, protecting and preserving it becomes paramount. Fixatives play a crucial role in this process, helping to secure your artwork and protect it from smudging or damage. Custom framing is another essential step to ensure the longevity of your creation.
But not all fixatives are created equal. Depending on your needs and the artwork stage, you might opt for workable fixatives during the creation process or a final fixative to seal the finished piece.
When to Use Fixatives
The timing of when to apply fixatives can significantly impact your pastel artwork. During the creation process, a workable fixative can be used to secure a completed layer before adding new layers of pastel. This prevents smudging and secures the dry media, preserving the artwork’s appearance throughout the creation process.
Once your piece is complete, a final fixative can be applied to seal the pastel layers, making them more resilient to additional handling or environmental influences. This prevents smudging or damage over time, ensuring the longevity of your masterpiece.
Types of Fixatives
Two main types of fixatives are suitable for pastel artwork: workable and final. Workable fixatives like Brush and Pencil or Winsor & Newton Pastel provide a temporary hold, allowing continued work on the piece. On the other hand, traditional fixatives like Sennelier or Lascaux are more suitable for final coatings, providing a stronger hold and sealing the artwork.
Different types of pastels may require different fixatives. Soft pastels typically require a fixative to adhere to smoother surfaces. In contrast, hard pastels and oil pastels may not require a fixative due to their more solid texture.
Storing and Protecting Pastel Art
Proper storage and protection of your pastel artwork are essential to maintaining its beauty over time. Here are some tips to follow:
Store pastel artwork flat.
Place sheets of glassine paper between each piece to prevent smudging.
Frame the artwork with a mat and glass to protect the delicate pastel surface from damage.
By following these tips and using a dust cover for framing pastel paintings, you can ensure that your pastel artwork remains in excellent condition and is ready to attach hanging hardware.
Environmental factors can also affect your artwork. Exposure to direct sunlight may cause fading, while high humidity levels can pose potential damage. Consequently, storing your artwork in a controlled environment is ideal for maintaining its vibrancy and detail. When displaying your art, choosing the right picture frame and hanging hardware is essential for proper support and preservation.
Tips for Enhancing Your Pastel Artwork
Having covered the basics of pastel art, we can now explore some advanced tips to elevate your artwork. From selecting the perfect color palette to building texture and incorporating other media, these tips will take your pastel art to the next level.
Whether you’re a beginner in pastel art or seeking to hone your skills, these tips aid you in crafting captivating, sophisticated masterpieces.
Color selection is one of the most critical aspects of pastel art. The colors you choose can significantly impact the mood and atmosphere of your artwork. Vibrant and warm colors like red and yellow evoke energy and passion, while cool and muted colors like blue and gray instill a sense of calmness.
The color wheel is an invaluable tool for selecting complementary colors, contributing to a balanced composition. Thoughtful color schemes, such as millennial pink or light azure, can add a unique aesthetic to your pastel artwork.
Creating texture in your pastel art contributes depth and intrigue. Techniques such as layering, hatching, and adjusting pressure and angle can all contribute to texture. Layering involves applying multiple layers of pastel, adding depth and complexity to your artwork. Hatching and cross-hatching add texture and shading, enhancing the overall visual appeal.
The type of pastel you use can also impact the texture. Soft pastels can blend smoothly for softer textures, while hard pastels can create more precise textures and detail. By carefully choosing your pastel type and skillfully employing these techniques, you can create rich, textured artwork that stands out.
Incorporating Other Media
Integrating different media into your pastel art brings in additional depth and interest. Charcoal can be used alongside pastels to produce captivating effects, while watercolors can be blended with pastels to create a visually stunning mixed-media piece.
Acrylics can also be integrated into pastel art to enhance its visual appeal. Techniques such as layering pastels over textured acrylic strokes or using acrylic gels to seal and protect the pastel surfaces can create dynamic visuals and add complexity to your artwork.
As we’ve explored, mastering the art of pastels requires an understanding of the different types of pastels, key techniques, the right surfaces, preservation methods, and enhancement tips. From the vibrant hues of soft pastels to the precise details of hard pastels and the creamy texture of oil pastels, the pastel world offers endless possibilities. By applying these insights, you’re well on your way to creating pastel masterpieces that are vibrant, textured, and truly unique.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can soft pastels be used on canvas?
Yes, soft pastels can be used on canvas, but preparing the canvas with a layer of gesso before applying the pastels is essential. This creates a suitable surface for the pastels to adhere to and prevents them from smudging.
How do you blend soft pastels on canvas?
To blend soft pastels on canvas, gently nudge one pastel stick into the other and lightly smear the pastel with your hand or a very soft brush. However, note that the more the layers of pastel are smeared, the duller the outcome may appear.
How do you get pastels to stick to canvas?
To make pastels stick to canvas, you need to prepare the canvas with a layer of gesso before using the pastels. Once the gesso is dry, you can start applying the pastels.
How do you seal pastels on canvas?
To seal pastels on canvas, consider adding a light layer of fixative over your artwork as you paint. Artists have found success with Sennelier D’Artigny Oil Pastel Fixative.
What is soft art?
Soft art refers to sculptures made from non-rigid materials like cloth, rubber, canvas, leather, or paper rather than traditional hard materials like stone or metal.