Notebook, 1993-


Pastels - The Pastel Chalks - Manufacturing the Chalks - Table of chalks & Binders - Binders - Supports & Grounds - Paper for Pastels - Painting Procedure - Fixative - Care and Display

From: Kay, Reed. The Painter's Guide to Studio Methods and Materials. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983.

Pastels - Painting Procedure

The chalks may be rubbed thinly over the surface, or generous strokes may be built up on the ground. When the tooth of the ground has been filled with pigment, further applications of chalk will powder off. Corrections may be easily made on a rough ground by scrubbing out a passage with a dry, stiff bristle brush, like that used in oil technique. The area will then accept fresh applications of color. A soft, kneaded rubber eraser can be used to clean off thin strokes of color, and stumps made of soft paper or chamois leather are sometimes employed to rub and blend tones.

If the color is to be rather heavily applied in several layers, it is wise to block in the first layer of color and then to spray the picture lightly with fixative. Over this layer of fixed color, further applications of pastel may be developed easily and incisively without too much trouble with blurred and streaking color. The pastel may then be sprayed again and reworked as long as the grain or tooth of the ground will accept more pigment.

Because it is used in the form of crayons, or sticks, pastel is capable of many of the stylistic qualities associated with drawing techniques. Colors are deposited as lines or rubbed tones rather than as the coatings, films, or washes characteristic of oil or water paints. The granular line, obtained so easily and naturally with pastels, allows a most direct conversion of drawing strength into chromatic painting, as Degas demonstrated. Redon's pastels show how rubbed and graded tones may be handled to obtain rich luminous effects over which linear elements are distributed so as to emphasize or clarify a form. The ease with which pastels may be smudged or blended has often led to their abuse. Beginners sometimes allow the structure of the picture to disappear in an aimless softening of every edge between two colors. The result is that salient divisions of form are slurred over and planes are carelessly shaped, while the student is bedazzled by the finished appearance of a blended passage. Also, the ease with which a dark color may be smoothly graded out to a light by use of the white pastel has resulted in a multitude of pastel paintings that are chalky and anemic in color. The so-called saccharine pastel color effect comes about when students render all the light areas in their compositions with the same smoothly blended white chalk instead of setting down the color of each light area as it differs from the others according to the color of the form, the distance, and the atmospheric perspective. As a result, the picture takes on a pale, overwhitened look, and light areas, which might have contrasted chromatically with dark sections, are simply whitened versions of the local color of the form. However, these abuses are not inherent in the material, as is shown in the works of such painters as Picasso, Beckmann, Chagall, and may others.

Pastels are often combined with the water media, such as gouache, casein, and watercolor. There is no difficulty from a technical point of view in such combinations, and these paintings are as durable as their component techniques. There remains only a question as to the balance of the optical effects of the several media. One solution is to use the pastel only for a series of accenting strokes on a rather complete painting in watercolor or gouache. At the other extreme, the watercolor can serve as a sketchy underpainting for a fully developed and dominant pastel picture. In any case the pastel should not give the effect of being a patchy correction or a haphazard caprice, but rather should seem an appropriate and deliberate pictorial development. Such successful mixtures of pastel with gouache and aquarelle can be seen in works by Rouault and Picasso. [pp. 212-213]

[Kay, Reed. The Painter's Guide to Studio Methods and Materials. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983.]



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