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Friday, December 04, 2015

How Many Pastels Do You Need in Travel Set?

'Cardinal Greetings I'             5x7       pastel        ©Karen Margulis
I am making my list. It is the time of year of sales and free shipping so it is when I usually stock up on pastels and paper. I am still deciding on my Terry Ludwig pastel selection. I got some new Diane Townsend pastels and I just got an email from Dakota with their sale. It's a dangerous time of year....but how many pastels do we really need?

I am asked this question often especially by artists new to pastels. It is expensive to build a collection of quality pastels. We want to make good choices. Often the cheaper student grade pastels offer sets that seem like a good deal but they usually have a fatal flaw.....the colors and values are not comprehensive. There is often too many middle value, intense colors. There is often a lack of rich darks and colorful lights and colorful neutrals. I will write more on choosing a basic set later so stay tuned. 

Today I want to talk about my travel set. My go-to travel box is a Heilman Single sketchbox. For years I have used a simple cigar box lined with foam but last year I upgraded to the Heilman. It is the perfect size to throw in a backpack or even a large purse. I have loaded it with about 126 small pastel pieces. These are small worn pieces from my regular studio box. Most pieces are 1/2 inch or less. When a pastel breaks or gets worn down I put it aside for my travel box. I have 126 in my box but you can get away with around 75 pastels for a comprehensive set. (I have often worked with much less but this is the ultimate paint just about anything set)

My Go Anywhere pastel selection
 How to decide which pastels to use?
It takes a little time but it is actually quite simple. Take out a color wheel and your spare pastels. (if you don't have spare pastels yet but want to stock a travel box consider breaking some of your regular pastels or look into some of the half stick comprehensive sets. I like Unison and Great American half sticks.)

  • Take each color on the wheel and choose about 6 - 8  pastels. Choose a warm and cool version of the color and choose a light, dark and middle value of each. Make sure you have some pure color as well as some grayed down colors. Look at the blues in my box....I have some cooler blues and some warmer more turquoise blues. I have some darks, miss and lights and I have some bright blues as well as some grayed down blues.
  • Do the same thing for each color. Do one color at a time so it isn't overwhelming!
  • Choose a few bright intense colors...artificial greens, oranges, red and hot pink for spices.
  • I usually revisit my travel box before a trip and add any colors that I think might be needed for my destination.

painting at the dining table
 I don't always reserve my travel box for travel. It makes a great tabletop box. Today my studio was cold and I didn't want to put on the heat so I painted upstairs at the dining table. The travel box had all I needed to paint these cardinals!

'Cardinal Greetings II'        5x7       pastel       $75

'Cardinal Greetings III'        5x7     pastel    sold


Alejandra Gos said...

Thanks! I have always wondered how to pick colors for a small box.

robertsloan2art said...

Love your little travel collection! Worn down smaller pieces would fit better. They're all clean and lovely too! Gorgeous, inspiring photo! Great suggestion on how to choose the colors for it too. Love those holiday cardinals too, what a lovely seasonal subject!

I have a lot of half sticks and love both my Unisons and GA half sticks sets. The Unison set is great in part for how it's organized by both hue and value. Very easy to glance over it and grab the right pastel at a glance. GA does too in their half sticks boxes.