Pastel is an incredibly freeing medium. It almost begs you to loosen up and make flowing gestural marks or rub it around with your fingers. In fact, the pastel painting tips and lessons I’ve learned always emphasize the artist’s hand as the most important tool we have and can lead to so much visual versatility.
I am not a finicky person, so getting my hands dirty to get a job done is totally fine with me. But with painting, I can get so uptight and hesitant that the physical joy of it all goes right out the window. I’m trying to be better about what I’m calling my “straitjacket tendency,” and one way I’m doing so is by exploring pastel a lot more. Read on for five pastel painting tips for loosening up and becoming more confident with the medium.
5 Pastel Painting Tips You Need to Know to Be Successful
1. Work with the tip of your pastel when putting in highlights or when you want sharp detailed lines.
2. Use the side of the stick when you want broad passages of color that almost look like actual brushstrokes.
3. Blending with your fingertip is like magic. Two hatches of color come together in a soft puff of color. It looks like a cloud formation to me — that’s how highly blended the end result is.
4. Draw lines over passages of blending to create depth and texture.
5. Scumble color over color if you want more texture and visual variance on your surface than you would if you layered them and blended them.
These incredibly physical actions are an aspect of pastel that make me feel comfortable and more fully engaged with my surface and, therefore, my artwork as a whole. I also appreciate that there are traditional and nontraditional ways of using pastel.
Since building up layers isn’t always the easiest thing to do with the medium, you can vary strokes, colors and ways of blending. You can tone your entire paper and then pull out the light with an eraser or careful blending, or you can use colored paper to instantly create values in a work.
Let Loose and Enjoy the Process
I’ve realized in the last few years that art-making is definitely a journey and not a destination. But the one thing that makes the road easier — or at least allows me to not trip in the same rut time after time — is trustworthy instruction. When it comes to great pastel painting tips, the instruction I want is directly from a skilled artist, is easily digestible, and is something I can reference again and again. Desmond O’Hagan’s Pastel Painting With Confidence Collection is all the above.
“A key to [working with pastel and oil] is repetition. Keep going. Keep doing it. Keep experimenting,” says O’Hagan. “Experimenting is huge for the way I work. I want to try new things, I don’t want to be bored doing this.”
O’Hagan shows the real sweet spot for artists is a combination of freedom with the medium and strong technical skills. If you feel like you want to loosen up in your own practice, this resource just might be the one that helps you get there. What inspires you to loosen up when you are working? Leave a comment and let me know!
Don’t Hold Back
Now that you’ve learned a few key pastel painting tips and how to let loose with this incredible medium, don’t hold back. Push yourself to the limits by entering your work into the Pastel 100 Competition. Who knows? You might just become a award-winning pastelist. Good luck, artists!