Saturday, January 22, 2011

Playing with pastels for the first time.

This week I spent a great deal of time researching how other artists work, show their work and where and also attended this months reception at Crossroads Art Center (where I rent space to show my work).  Last Monday (after my precious granddaughters went home from a 2 day stay with Nana) I gathered my few pastel pencils and small starter sets of pastels to ready myself for my first attempt at working in this medium.  For on Tuesday my friend and great pastel artist Betsy Kellum was going to show me the ropes in pastel painting.  So I at least needed to take pastel to paper and make a good attempt before I made a complete fool of myself at this media.  My intent is to find a faster media for Plein Aire Painting (for you non artists this is Painting in the Fresh Air).   My beloved colored pencil, the time consuming media it is, does not allow me to capture the light and moments that painting out of doors requires.  So thus I'm looking for a faster media for just this purpose.  Don't get me wrong I still love my cp's and it still IS my favorite but alas if I'm to get more out of outdoor excursions I need to be able to capture more than a basic line drawing and color swatch.

The first thing I confirmed was even though colored pencil painting was a time consuming media it is a fairly clean media, and pastels even with pastel pencils is far from clean.  At least in my hands!  But I knew this already right?  After playing with it for 2 hours I had it everywhere, my 4 year old granddaughter would have been proud.  But I was having fun, so I pursued my pastel adventure....... working on what Betsy said would be a good starter project.  She suggested to paint something you've done before.  So I pulled up one of my first colored pencil photo references, a still life of 3 Fuji apples on a blue cloth.  I didn't work from the line drawing I had from my cp piece, I worked one apple at a time with small areas of the cloth around it drawing directly onto the hot pressed watercolor paper I had on hand.  OK, I know, not the paper suggested for pastel use... but I like this paper and I use it at times for my cp work... and I have a lot of it in scrap form.  And I was only playing  right! My intent when I started was that I'd do one apple a little cloth and just have one quick experience with pastels.  But 5 hours later one apple turned into all 3 and all the cloth.  I actually did this piece in one fifth the time it took me to do the colored pencil one.  Now it's not laid out as well as the cp piece, but I wasn't following a line drawing and my intent was to just play.  So don't compare it for composition or as an exact copy.  No under painting just pastel on paper.

The second thing I learned was that despite my predisposition to pencils I found myself using and liking the pastel sticks better than the pastel pencils.  Probably because of their creaminess and the fact I could smoosh them around and blend like I do with my waxy Prismacolors.  For this experiment I used a set of 24 Nupastels, a 36 count of an off brand of beginner pastels, a few CarbOthello pastel pencils. a few Cretacolor pastel pencils and several Derwent pastel pencils.  Oh and 2 Conte pastel pencils, white and black, which I really liked because of their waxy feel. (Most like my prismas.)   Hey, I just like the wax's blending power, what can I say.  I haven't tried the Faber Castel Pitt Pastel Pencils yet so I'll try not to pass judgment entirely.  But so far my thoughts are that I like the Derwent least of all because they have a scratchiness to the pastel leads that makes them not as creamy to put down.  But since I currently have the most of them I relied on the Derwents for colors. 

Conclusions from this adventure into pastel:  1.  A much faster media, but again I wasn't trying to be faithful to the line drawing or composition.  So this should enable me to get more down within the plein aire realm;  2. Blending my way into a basic understanding of the media taught me that fingers are the my best tools although I did use the rubber tipped blender tools but I should try stumps for a less messy approach; 3.  I need many more colors of pastels in a better landscape palette to execute a basic scene.  If this sounds like art supply shopping.......................your right!  And what artist doesn't love that!

I hope to get my latest colored pencil piece scanned to post next week.  Off to order some more pastels. 



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