Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A little about soft pastels...

Since I'm frequently asked about the materials I use to create my paintings, here's a little info. for fellow artists and my collectors as well. Pastels are considered in three major groups: traditional or chalk pastels, which include both soft and hard pastels; oil pastels; and oil sticks. All three groups are basically color in a stick form. Most often, my work is done in soft pastel. They are made with a combination of gum tragacanth, pigment, and precipitated chalk or clay. They are very soft in texture, generous in their application of color, and easily smeared.

THE PASTELS: The photo above shows my set of soft pastels. This is a vintage (1965) set of 180 Grumbacher pastels in a two-tier wood box. It's a treasure that my inlaws found at a garage sale for a whopping $5.00! If I had to replace this set today, at $3.00-6.00 per stick...well you get the idea. I also use a few Sennelier and Rembrandt colors.

THE GROUND: There are so many choices when it comes to paper and boards to paint on. I use a variety of materials, usually selecting the most appropriate in texture and color for the subject I'm painting. Most often I stick to the specially prepared "sandpapers" and "pastelboards." The papers are made from 100% cotton rag with aluminum oxide abrasive for rich, subtle texture. The boards are acid free masonite which has been coated and prepared with kaolin clay and ground marble dust granules. Both come in a variety of colors.

MY TECHNIQUE: Usually working in series, my inspiration comes from everyday scenes that I capture with a digital camera. These photos are only my "jumping off" point, since I freehand render only rough sketches onto my paper. My rough sketches are then refined and adjusted with ink and brush, and sometimes a watercolor wash for additional background color. My color palette is decided before I begin. I make choices based on the mood of the scene, and sometimes stay within a range to complete a series.

THE FINISHED WORK: Since "open" pastels are very fragile, I do all my own framing. There's nothing like the heartbreak of handing off your prized work, only to receive it back with smudges and smears, not to mention the sticker shock of custom framing. All soft pastels are framed under glass, and I prefer simple, wide, wood frames that let the art speak for itself.

CARE OF ORIGINAL PASTELS: Pastel paintings are not as fragile as one may think. They are created with the same pigments as oil paint, the major difference being the "carrier" or "binder" is not oil. As with any art under glass, never hang your pastels in direct sunlight. This causes condensation on the inside of the glass, and moisture is death on a dry pigment painting. This goes for any art under glass, they will all "sweat." Other moisture prone areas of the home including bathrooms, laundry rooms and small kitchens will also introduce excessive steam and moisture to your fine art.

I hope this information was helpful. Please feel free to contact me by email with any questions or comments you may have, and check out my website to see examples of my work. Thanks!

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