Some Facts About Pastels

Pastels are made from safe base as are all other fine art paints, including oils and acrylics. The difference is the binder. Pastels use very little binder so it is almost like apply direct pigment to canvas.

Pastels are not chalk. Chalk is made from limestone. Pastels are totally different. Pastels are one of the oldest and most enduring foundations for hand painted portraits.

Pastel paintings do not check, crack, flake or darken because there are no additives, such as oil, to cause them to do so. Therefore it is considered the most permanent of all media.

It is important to have pastel portrait paintings framed under glass. Matting board should be used so that the painting does not rest against the glass. And like all fine art, keep it out of direct sunlight.

A canvas that is entirely covered is called a pastel painting, a canvas that is only partially covered is called a pastel sketch.

Pastel paintings hold their value. Some by Degas from the 19th Century sold for $3,000,000 each.

Pastel is a French word meaning pure, powdered pigment ground into a paste, with a tiny amount of binder. There is an infinite variety of colors ranging from subtle to bold and brilliant. Pastels are not synonymous with “pale”; rather, pastels create vibrant, luminous dark and light hues. They create depth and add magnificent reflective qualities to the painting.

Soft pastels have high pigment which yield brilliant color to a painting. Hard pastels are used for detail work and quick sketching. The artist may use pastel pencils as well for fine detail

Pastel Portraits

Realistic portraits have always been my goal and colored pencils provided the means to accomplish them. I developed a method and even wrote a book on the subject. Now, here is the rub. Colored pencil portraits take from 70 to 90 hours to complete and that is more time than I want to spend or have the patience for. Below is the finished result of one that took over 90 hours.

In an effort to save time I decided to look at using pastels instead. I needed to find a surface that would take the pastels and one that would still result in a realistic portrait. After attempts with several papers including homemade sanded paper I think I came up with the right surface. I went to a fabric store and bought a linen remnant and then glued it to a board. After one coat of white gesso (paint) I was ready to proceed. I used brushes to work the pastel colors into the fabric and the results are what you see below. This “painting” took only 20 hours to accomplish. Now I need a subject for my next one. Any ideas?