The Renaissance of a Unique Medium

There’s something satisfying about making a mark, and when you learn how to use your tools of the trade, your world opens up to new possibilities. While I tend to rely on a simple, black, fine-tipped pen for my sketchbook, I can vouch that using pastels also has its rewards. It’s almost like a reverse form of sculpting, as you handle the color with your hands to create your desired outcome. Artist Liz Haywood-Sullivan, featured author, has not only learned how to manipulate the medium for beautiful pastel paintings, but she also takes that knowledge and shares it with you. The following comes from her book, Painting Brilliant Skies and Water in Pastel, in a chapter titled “Getting Started With Pastels.”

pastel sticks for art

“When you pick up a stick of pastel, you’re holding light and color in your fingertips. The tactile nature of this medium gives you immediate feedback and a direct connection to both pigment and paper. Pastels offer an artist an unlimited palette with few constraints as to application and expression. Indeed, there seem to be more individual styles than any other medium, in part because pastel can act as both drawing and painting. Best of all is the ability it gives the artist to paint light. The ideal method for painting in pastel is to start with your darks and then, layer by layer, develop the light–wrapping, draping, and illuminating your subject just as it happens in reality.

“In the past 20 years or so, there has been a renaissance in pastel. This new focus has been driven by advances in the actual medium and the substrates upon which pastels are painted, plus there are improved framing techniques to preserve the final art. Many new products were initially created by artists to fill a need for materials they were unable to find. At the same time, venerated lines of pastel used historically by artists such as Degas and Monet were being reinvigorated with availability to new markets, increased demand by artists, and a new generation of artistic leadership.

“Pastels are created using the same pigments found in every medium. However, they’re almost pure pigment with minimal binder and hence contain the highest concentration of pigment of any medium. Due to this renaissance, more artists and collectors than ever before are discovering pastel as a desirable painting medium. The resulting artworks rival other mediums in their competence, beauty, presence, and permanence.” ~LHS

pastel landscape painting by Liz Haywood-Sullivan

Serenity (pastel on Pastelmat, 27×19) by Liz Haywood-Sullivan

Isn’t it interesting how mediums (and so much more) within art can evolve? Haywood-Sullivan, and many others, are continually creating brilliant pastel paintings, and when we look at examples such as Serenity (above), we can be grateful for this. For as many moments as we allow ourselves, we can be taken to another place and time. With the quiet office sounds of fingers on keyboards and printers feeding out paper around me, for example, I can glance through an art book until I see something that I can’t take my eyes off of, and boom–everything else disappears until I mentally return to my computer, phone, and coffee.

I’m sure you can relate to this, because it’s just one of the endless reasons that art is everything.

Until next time,
Cherie Haas, online editor**Free download: Landscape Art: 4 Lessons on Creating Luminous Landscape Paintings
**Click here to subscribe to the Artists Network newsletter for inspiration, instruction, and more!



You may also like these articles: