Understanding your medium
Before you begin using pastels, it is important to understand
how pastels are made.
Basically, pastels consist of pigment bound together with glue. Their grades
differ according to the strength of the glue binding. To have a proper understanding of this versatile medium
it is necessary to experiment with various grades of soft and hard pastels.
are a mixture of pigments and binding mediums like gum Arabic or tragacanth. Hard pastels are also made in the same
way but a lot more gum is used to bind the pigments together. With hard pastels you can render diverse and precise
effects as they can be shaped or sharpened as you wish.
Pastels come in a wide range of tints. For every tint, there is a basic
tint and also a series of tints that are lighter or darker than the basic tint. To make it easier to identify these
various tints, each tint is given a code number. Thus the artist has a wide choice of hundreds of tints to work
By using pastels at the very beginning just in those areas that are dark,
you can get an overall pattern of light and shade in good proportions. Make certain that your thumb as well as
fingers are free from grease when you use them to blend various colors together.
Make use of your kneaded eraser only when absolutely necessary because it
contains oil which will make your fingers greasy.
If you stretch a piece of canvas and tack some paper over it, you can
achieve a proper and flexible working surface. Before working over a piece of water color paper, tint it with a
colored wash to produce excellent results. You can draw fine paintings on black emery paper also because it accepts
pastel with the greatest ease. For example if you want to make notes of sunlight falling through foliage, black
emery paper makes a fine background. If you find that pastel paper is too expensive then you can substitute the
same with heavy brown paper which has a good working surface. Besides, the brown color makes for an admirable
background for your painting. Another surface that accepts pastel very well is fine sandpaper.
You can sketch figures with pastel with the greatest ease because it is a fine medium to
impart fresh colors to any figure. It is especially useful to render figures dressed in brightly colored
costumes. The many textures of the material that goes to make the costumes can be rendered with the greatest
ease. It doesn’t matter whether the texture is dull or shining, light or heavy.
For rendering small details, use a hobby or
craft knife. It can be used to erase something you have already drawn or make either white or light colored marks
with pastels. It is also useful in scraping off the pastel from your painting. It can also be used to impart a
glare in a human or animal eye.
But all the above techniques depend a lot on the type of paper used. To
create diverse textures different surfaces are necessary. Look for handmade sheets of paper for different grades of
grains. This will set your pastel painting apart from the efforts of others.
Different artists teach different ways how to use pastels, but one thing
they all have in common is the knowledge that pastels create an individuality in the end result. Pastels are
brilliant in allowing the artist flexibility in creating the masterpiece. One thing is for certain - how you
are using your pastels is entirely up to you - play with them.