To blend or not to blend? To fix or not to fix? Do I need to buy those expensive pastels? Where do I start? Are these chalks from the newsagent's any good? How do I move on from my silly looking attempts? I've got more pastel on me than on my paper! I've watched all the Youtube videos on pastel painting and I am still just dabbling about!
If this sounds familiar then keep reading.
I wanted to create a place to tackle all of these pastel troubles and more. A single place where we could practice and learn as much as possible, but also a place where we could 'get real' and bust some myths.
There are so many myths around about soft pastel, it is really frustrating. Many books recommend purchasing hundreds of pastel sticks (enough to put anyone on a budget off) as, they say, you cannot mix colours. Others tell you pastels are not lightfast and therefore not 'serious' art materials. Some talk endlessly about blending as if sugary-sweet plastic looking girls is all we ever want to paint. Many keep pastel well and truly in the realm of amateurs, hobbyists, women, and cutesy pretty pictures. Some think it is only good for pet portraits. And yet we all know the amazing works by Degas and perhaps Redon or Cassatt. They didn't fade, they weren't cutesy, they probably didn't have hundreds of pastel sticks.
I believe there are very few good books about pastel painting and that many of them are a bit stuck in the world of amateur 'pretty pictures' that expect quick results with little effort. As pastel is often not considered a 'proper' art material, this will probably not change any time soon.
But pastel is so fantastic as a medium, and there have been so many amazing pastel artists throughout art history to take inspiration from. The quality of pastel is only improving as more becomes known about the archival qualities and safety of pigments. Professional soft pastels are a world away from the chalks we used at school.
So where do you start?
In order to create a place for 'everything pastel', I had to cover all the bases: pastel types and their uses, pastel brands and their differences, pastel papers and their pros and cons.
Then of course there are the many ways one can paint with pastels. I imagine a creative artist can invent a new technique tomorrow, but I tried to cover a good range of mark making techniques. The more techniques you try and get familiar with, the more you can choose the most suitable technique for painting what ever you want to paint and how you want to paint it.
So in The Pastel Place, as I called this place, we do all these things. We take a proper deep dive into pastel and explore all of it. You will learn which types, brands, papers and techniques you prefer for your personal style and subject matter.
But after we have explored the material world of pastel, we want to create some magic! After all, art is magic; something amazing happens when artists put paint to paper and create something that nobody has seen before. It stops being paint and becomes this other thing.
In order to create magic we need to learn the basics. Boring perhaps, but true. You can't speak the language of love if you don't practise your French verbs, so to speak. And I promise you that the fundamentals of painting are a lot more fun than French verbs. We are talking much more exciting topics such as colour, value, and form. So that's what we do next. We learn about the basics of all painting through exploring colour, value and form. Useful for pastel painters and all other painters alike.
And most importantly, we do explore these basics in a practical way. No lofty treatises but a simple down-to-earth language and approach that makes an introduction into the fundamental painting principles accessible to all.
The last thing I really wanted to include in a place where everything is about pastel is some art history. Of course I have a soft spot for art history (I studied it in university), but it is a soft spot I really want to share. Art history does not have to be stuffy or elitist: it is more like a box of chocolates from which you can pick and choose your favourite. The great old pastel masters can offer any of us tips and tricks on how to paint, not to mention enjoyment in their pure magic. Whether your create a highly detailed copy of an old master, or whether you just look at some old master paintings; you can pick out things that you can use in your own work. You can find out what they did with tricky subjects, and what colour choices they made. It can perhaps inform the choices you make in your next painting.
So I created a place where everything pastel comes together: materials, techniques, art history, subject matter, practical exercises and demonstrations. But no place is complete without visitors, so The Pastel Place would perhaps be boring and stuffy were it not for its visitors. I can be your guide and show you all the wonderful things soft pastel offers, but you all bring the fun and resolve, progress, magic and ART to this place!
See you in The Pastel Place.
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