Pastel is a lovely medium. I use it a lot:
Summer days lost - Kangaroo Island
Deliquescence - Lake Torrens
Several years ago I came across a clearance sale where pastels were going for an unbeatable price, and I nabbed as many as I could. Pastel paintings have featured amongst my works ever since.
'Pastel painting?' I hear some of you say, 'Aren't they best described as drawings?' Well, despite the fact that pastels come in crayon or pencil form, the term painting is used to describe a pastel artwork, provided the entire surface of the work is covered. If it isn't, then the term drawing may be used. I usually refer to my pastel works as paintings because I cover the surface with them.
Why do I like pastels so much?
They are easy to use, needing no smelly solvents. You don't have the problem of having to finish working them before they dry (watercolours and acrylics), or waiting weeks until they are dry (oils). The colours are vibrant, despite the fact that used as an adjective, pastel means pale. The artist can achieve a range of textures, from very soft blends and gradients, to rough and raw. If one insists on using them as watercolours, that can also be done, applying water to create a wash effect. They are also easy to go over or erase. Some types of pastels are hard, some are soft, some come in chunky blocks, others come in pencil form. I prefer soft pastels.
One drawback with pastels is that they generate dust. I can get pretty messy when doing a pastel. The dust also creates complications for care of pastel paintings. I always seal my pastel paintings using a spray-on fixative that smells like hair spray. I suspect it is the same stuff! If you’ve ever used hairspray you’ll know that while it holds, it does not make one’s hair as solid as a rock. Similarly, pastel fixative does not completely prevent smudging or dust fall. This is something you might like to note if ever you buy one. When framing a pastel I will put it behind glass, and I’ll also create a gap between the painting and any mattboard I use to mount the work. It is inevitable that over time, some dust will fall from the work. If a gap is left for the dust to fall behind, it doesn’t accumulate on the edge of the mattboard, which would be somewhat unsightly. When transporting a pastel it is important that it is kept upright so that dust does not cloud the glass or fall on the mattboard.
In case you assume pastel is a rather obscure medium, it’s been used by some very famous artists, two you may have heard of being Jean François Millet and Edgar Degas.
Dancers at the Barre, by Edgar Degas.