“Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.”
Wise words from Pablo Picasso, and the inspiration for me today because if you love pastel art but aren’t sure how to really get the most out of the medium, this one’s for you. Enjoy this list of dos and don’ts that we’ve assembled about pastel painting so you can steer yourself in the right direction and avoid major pitfalls and time sucks.
Where It Starts
Please remember that it all starts with three things:
- Shaking off old habits or assumptions about how pastels should be used. Should is not a word you need to think about while art-making, artists. It is all about what you want and how to get there.
- Rethinking everything you do with painting with pastel. If you have a process, question it. Scrutinize it. And try something new just for the sake of learning something new.
- Question what a drawing is or can be. Cast a wide mental net of all the possibilities that can come together through pastel. The only limits are the ones you put on yourself.
Pastel Art Explorer Dos!
- Use humble materials like newsprint and drawing paper so you can play.
- Use all the materials you’ve been collecting for decades. Now is the time!
- Take photos that give you lots of design options and compositional possibilities.
- Do A LOT of paintings. Stop often. And stop early. Do not seek “done.”
- Explore and judge for yourself to determine what you like. Don’t let other people or trends sway you. You’ve got an eye–use it!
Pastel Art Explorer Don’ts!
- Don’t use your last sheet of an expensive support.
- Definitely don’t use your most precious pastel sticks and materials.
- Please don’t use a reference photo that’s perfectly and symmetrically cropped.
- Don’t keep noodling at something that you should have thrown out an hour ago. Not everything is going to work. Don’t get bogged down. Be fluid and open!
- Don’t ask your significant other his or her opinion. They love you, dingbat! They aren’t going to give you the tough love or critical eye that you need.
Play By These Rules for Success
The biggest takeaways of this list are all about freeing yourself. Use simple and inexpensive materials that allow you to feel free because you aren’t “spending” a fortune mucking about on or with expensive materials.
Make a lot of art instead of just one piece, so you aren’t spending hours and hours chasing a masterpiece. Each time you take the art journey, you will find yourself better equipped to let go of out-of-this-world expectations and embrace the occasions that arise and let go of unrealistic expectations for yourself. Play by this different set of rules and you’ll be happier for it.
To further your journey, embrace the sense of play that Richard McKinley always brings to his pastel art practice. His Pastel Impasto Painting Techniques DVD will show you how to create a bit of surface “intrigue” that tricks the eye. Your next pastel painting will leave people guessing. And you know what, let them! Enjoy!
P.S. Excerpts from Pastel Innovations by Dawn Emerson informed this article. For more of Dawn’s tips and tricks, consider adding her book to your art library!