Carmella Jarvi: Introduction to Soft Pastels and Pastel Surfaces
Welcome to Artist Palette Productions at Cheap Joe's Art Stuff!
I'd like to take a moment to share with you some of the pastel products thast are on the market and some of the pastel surfaces and then tell you what pastels work best for me. When you buy soft pastels you can either buy hand-rolled or extruded. Hand-rolled pastels are made by Unison, Sennelier - there are a lot of great products out there. Rembrandt pastels are extruded and this Caran D'ache is too.
The difference between an extruded pastel and a hand-rolled pastel is the shape is very different. If I have a hand-rolled pastel, I can get a lot of great marks when I'm doing my pastel painting. If I have an extruded pastel, what I want to do is break it in half and on a scrap of paper, I will remove the shiny surface. This surface is a coating that's applied to hold this pastel together. what will happen if you don't take this surface off is that you will end up with a really scratchy look.
The products that are my favorites are the Unison and again, this is just what I enjoy. Whatever pastel you get, you should take the paper off of it. What I do is take my exactly knife and carefully make an incision. If I want to keep a record of the color, I can dot the paper like so and then I have a record for ordering. With the hand-made pastels, I don't want to break these in half.
When you're working with pastels, try not to use Black. Use your color theory. For example, if I was doing something with Red, I would use a dark Green as opposed to a black since Red and Green are compliments. If you do use Black, use it very sparingly. In terms of papers that are out there, you have the Canson which is the least expensive paper. It doesn't have a lot of tooth. This works well if you're on a budget and you're just learning how to use pastels.
But if you've been doing pastels for a while, you really want to use a real pastel surface. YOu get some nice tooth - it's almost like a gritty sandy surface. Sennellier la Cart makes a great pastel surface, as does Colourfix and Richeson makes a nice pastel surface as well. Also think about the color using your color theory. I prefer to use a medium to dark color because it's nice the way it shows through.
Here I have some examples that are boards and these are really nice for plein air painting. This way I can take the board to my stiff backing surface on location, it's easier to frame, and works very well. As I've discussed there are different types of soft pastels and there are different types of soft pastel surfaces.
It's important to take the coating off of your pastels if they're extruded. It's also important to use real pastel surfaces because it holds the pastel better and there's no need for fix in the end. When you use spray fix it does change the color and while there are some artists that love it, in my experience it works great just using the professional surface instead.