A free mini-lesson on pastel painting and how to draw with pastels
Here in the Ohio valley, we’re beginning to see the first hints of summer’s end. The green foliage on some of my favorite trees has begun to fade, as the transition to oranges, reds and yellows begins. Even the grass doesn’t seem as vibrant as it was just a few weeks ago. Fortunately, there are scents and flavors that accompany these autumnal changes in color: Pumpkin spice and cinnamon are creeping into coffees and candles in stores, and with them comes the knowledge that “the most wonderful time of year” is also coming, and what sweet memories that can bring!
While your neighborhood leaves may not be in full fall swing at this moment, now’s the time to prepare to paint the changing landscape before you. In the video Landscape Painting in Pastel: Fall Color, Liz Haywood-Sullivan explains how to begin with an ideal underpainting and then add appropriate colors in layers to build up a beautiful autumn landscape. For those brand new to the medium, here are some pastel painting techniques from the artist herself.
Pastel Painting Techniques for Beginners by Liz Haywood-Sullivan
One of the advantages of working with pastel is that there are so many different ways to work with the medium. It is very expressive and can stand on its own, but also works well with other mediums. Experiment with pastel on top of a print, over an underpainting of watercolor, or with charcoal, pencil or oil.
Blending: Blend sparingly. Try patting gently instead of smearing over an area to soften too much detail.
Apply the Technique:Blend for still water, especially when creating reflections; sky at the horizon; corners and bottom of paintings to reduce detail. It’s also good for areas where you wish your painting to be restful and quiet.
Working On Point: Hold the pastel like a pencil and work on the tip, making thin lines.
Apply the Technique: Use for crosshatching, or finished detail work such as tree branches, ship rigging, to sharpen architectural forms and for final accents that require a controlled hand.
On the Side: Broad strokes are made by holding the pastel on its side. Good for blocking in your drawing in the first pass.
Apply the Technique:Build up areas where you wish the broad strokes to indicate information without getting into fussy detail, such as in painting foliage.
Hatching and Crosshatching: Crosshatching is when strokes are placed uniformly at angles to each other, or use random hatching, where the marks are not so uniform.
Apply the Technique: Build up a color and form you don’t want to blend. This technique is also good for working on surfaces with a distinctive pattern or a rough tooth you wish to downplay.
Layering: Layer these broad strokes over each other with a light hand, so the color underneath is still visible and not blended.
Apply the Technique: Use for moving clouds or choppy water. This is so effective it can be used to create an entire painting.
Get your copy of the Fall Color video workshop today so that you can begin learning
the ins and outs of pastel painting for the autumn landscape.
Pastel Painting for Beginners: Working Safe With Pastels
Artists know today that they need to take responsibility for their health when working with any artistic medium. This is especially important when working in any space where your decisions can impact others, especially children. Organizations like ASTM International (see sidebar) act as watchdogs, but safe handling of art materials is an individual artist’s obligation. The issue with pastel is the dust it creates. There are several measures you can take to prevent the transmission of this pastel dust.
If possible, work in a space that is dedicated to your art. If you are unable to do this, then don’t work where food is being prepared. Close a door or place a curtain across a doorway. When you clean up your studio, use brooms and wet cloths or mops to collect the dust. A vacuum will just stir up particles into the air. Of course, working outdoors is the easiest way to get around this.
I have a HEPA-rated air filter that sits on my easel and has revolutionized the cleanliness of my studio and whole house. When turned on, it creates a protective suction of air that draws the pastel dust down into the filter before it can reach my face as I am working. I also use this filter to clean my pastels. I turn it up high, take a pastel and brush it clean. I highly recommend a mechanized air filter system to keep your space clean. The peace of mind is worth the effort!
Pastel dust can have a cumulative corrosive effect on your hands, so I recommend either using medical gloves or a hand cream barrier. Some artists don’t mind gloves although they will make your hands sweaty. Skin barrier creams are a good alternative. Just rub a bit of cream onto your hands and fingernails. Wash it off when you are done. Very effective.
If you don’t have an air filter in your space and you find pastel dust is bothering you, research using an air mask or respirator. Be sure to use one that can screen out the fine particulates pastels create.
EASEL DUST CATCHER
A quick, easy, portable and inexpensive method to keep dust from escaping your easel
is to get a roll of 2″ (5cm) wide masking tape. Pull off a strip that is just wider that the painting on your easel and attach one long edge along the bottom back of your painting, pinching the sides of the tape together creating a trough in front to catch the dust, which is easily discarded when you are done. If you take classes, the facility will appreciate this courtesy.
What is ASTM and Why Should You Care?
You have seen this label on your art materials, but do you know what it is? A label containing the phrase “Conforms to ASTM D4236” means that any art material carrying this language has been tested.
If it contains any component dangerous to your health, then by law, the manufacturer needs to disclose the hazardous component and give you directions as to its proper use on the label. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) was organized in 1898 and its work included developing standards for art materials. Today, ASTM International is one of the world’s largest voluntary standards-writing organizations, creating standards for every product imaginable. ASTM Subcommittee D01.57 has worked to write voluntary standards for the health labeling, performance and quality of artist materials. Currently, this subcommittee is developing a lightfastness standard for the pastel medium, which will ensure that artists are aware which pastels will not fade with time and exposure to light. Next time you pick up art supplies, look for this label—and buyer beware if you can’t find it!