Finding the right combination of materials
is a challenge. In anticipation of teaching a pastel class in the fall at McLean Project for the Arts, I’ve been trying out pastel ideas. The most basic relates to materials. What kind of pastels do I recommend for beginning pastellists? What sorts of surfaces will I recommend? At first I was leaning toward a 30 half stick set of Rembrandts, but certain colors of the sticks can be difficult to use. So I’ve purchased a 24 stick set of NuPastels which I’ll be testing for a while.
I’m already familiar with both brands, but the question in my mind is which small set of pastels would be easiest for someone new to the medium? NuPastels grand set is 96 sticks large. I love them. But I’m not recommending that the newcomer invest in a large set from day one. While some people in my class may have used pastels before, and may have their palette already well sorted out, I need to consider the absolute newcomer too.
Here are the pristine NuPastels vying with the bananas for attention. I got these at Artist & Craftsman Supply in Hyattsville, MD, a new store in this region. (You can buy stuff from them online also.)
While trying out materials with the beginning artist in mind, I was using Canson mi-teintes papers. That was the surface that certain Rembrandt sticks weren’t liking. When fighting with pastels — some sticks get slick and won’t crumble onto the paper and adhere — I was thinking what a shame it is that I cannot recommend sanded papers which work a lot more easily with all kinds of pastels. They’re expensive though and expensive surfaces are not good choices for newcomers. You don’t need to feel intimidated by a sheet of paper.
It dawns on me now that maybe using one of the acrylic pumice mixes might solve the problem so I’m headed back to Artist & Craftsman later today to get some Golden Pumice Gel to use on Strathmore watercolor paper. I’ll be testing this combination using both the NuPastel 24 sticks and the Rembrandt 30 half sticks. My chief question will be how full is the palette in range? How easily are these materials used in this particular combination?
When I did my kois which were the feature of the previous post I was working on UART fine sanded paper and Canson mi-teintes “touch” papers with a variety of pastel brands including NuPastels, Rembrandts, Senneliers, Richeson, Unison, Diane Townsend and Great American. They’re all wonderful. It helps that I had depicted the koi in other media before I began doing them in pastel.
Meanwhile, the drawing featured at the top, seen below in scale, was an experiment too, one made before I knew I’d be teaching a pastel class. I just wanted to make a larger than life size shell to see what that would be like, and I used ordinary Strathmore 400 series paper with Conté pastels.
I like to try things. Strathmore 400 series medium tooth paper is all purpose. It’s not designed for pastel, but it was not difficult to use. You wouldn’t want it for soft pastels, but it’s a decent surface for the harder ones. The notebook pictured on the easel is 18 x 24 inches.
If you look very closely you can see a highly specialized artists’ tool on the upper right hand corner of the drawing. It’s used for keeping the pages of the notebook tight while it rests on the easel. I believe it’s called a “clothes pin.”
At McLean Project for the Arts registration is open for my “coloring book” class — a study in line. That happens in July.