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After a long break I got my pastels out again and did a small still life last week. Pastels are such a wonderful medium. Yes, they are messy, but I love how you can get such instant colour, and how you are painting and drawing at the same.

While painting I thought of some tips for you:

Ten Handy Pastel Painting Tips

 1.

Use all the sides of the pastel stick: the stump, the sides and the sharp edge and vary the mark making

2.

Layer your marks for interesting textures. Mix your colours by layering

3.

If you want to work in layers, choose a paper/board that has lots of tooth (texture) to hold the pastel. For drawings and sketches you can choose a more lightly textured paper

4.

Work lightly so you can add many layers and depth

5.

Choose your paper colour wisely, you might want to let it come through here and there

6.

Keep your pastels stored in a dry and safe place. They are fragile and break easily. The original packaging often comes with foam inserts to keep them safe

7.

You don't need hundreds of pastels: get a basic set and practice colour mixing

8.

Do not blow at the pastel dust; nobody wants to breathe in dust particles

9.

Work vertical, so that the pastel dust can drop down on your easel ledge

10.

Always frame a pastel painting behind glass, with a space between art work and glass

 

About the author

Sophie is an artist, art historian, tutor, author and blogger. She writes on oil and pastel painting, art history and the life of an artist. She paints portraits and still life and specialises in painting drapery and lace.

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  1. Hi there. Yes, here in the US quite a number of professional pastel painters are placing museum glass directly on the pastel, using framer’s tape to seal all the edges and then placing it in the frame. See the website WetCanvas for a discussion on this topic. The supposed advantages are, 1. faster to frame, 2. fits in shallower frames 3. Less condensation 4. Less reflection. I don’t think it could work in a humid climate. There is a fare amount of discussion about what happens when the glass is removed. Several artists stat
    e that they have been framing this way for 7-10 years and because the glass is slick, virtually no pastel adheres when the glass is removed and the painting is intact as long as glass is lifted straight up. Never tried it myself.

    Reply

  2. Thanks for your response on proper framing. I also agree with you and continue to use the same standards you do for myself and the students I teach. But what I am am telling you has become a trend here in the USA. Richard McKinley who is President of the American pastel society places the glass directly on the pastel work these days. Other followers are doing the same. I don’t run in their circles, so hoped you might know the exact reason why. No worries. I am comfortable framing them with archival mats, spacers and glass…..

    Reply

  3. Hi Sophie. I love your list. Can you weigh in on the latest trend of framing pastel paintings without mats and with the glass placed directly on the painting? I’m only assuming two things are happening to cause this aboration to proper presentation.
    1. Assumption: Gallery owners want their stable of artists to make their work look like an oil painting as much as possible….musum glass and no mats.
    2. Assumption: Shipping with spacers, mats and glass can have a horrific ending…..dust everywhere amongst shards of broken glass.

    Reply

    1. Hi Carol, I cannot say I have ever heard of this ‘trend’! Perhaps it hasn’t reached here yet. It makes little sense as it is easy to frame pastels in an oil painting style, but one must use spacers (hidden in the frame rebate) to keep the glass off the painting. You don’t need to use mats. I would imagine that framing without a space between the painting and the glass comes from a lack of knowledge, not a trend. It would be a shame to see those paintings ruined when they re-frame and a lot of pastel will stick to the glass and come off the painting. I know it is hard to find a framer who knows how to frame pastel paintings, but then again, it isn’t rocket science either!

      Reply

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