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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What to do with a New Box of Pastels

'Rainy Day Marsh'        9x12        pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $125

Imagine this...you just got a brand new box of pastels. They are gorgeous. The colors are amazing and they sit in pristine condition all nestled in foam in a pretty box. You drool. You show them off to your pastel friends. They drool.  Now what do you do?

My set of Richard McKinley Great American pastels

You DON'T do what I did with this beautiful set of Great American pastels.  I  kept them pristine and unused in their box for three years!  I would take them out to show students what they looked like. I highly recommend this set by the way.  The palette Richard McKinley has put together is wonderful.(he also has selected a set of Terry Ludwig pastels which I also love)

But the time came eventually to get these pastels out of the original box and get them ready to paint with rather than stare at!  We all face this issue. We get a new box of pastels and we aren't' sure of the best way to store them.  Here are a few of my tips:

  • The absolute best way to paint is to have all of your colors in one box such as a Heilman or Dakota box, organized by color and value.  Even if you make a box it is much better to have them all in the same box rather than having to cart around several boxes and hunt and peck for the right pastel color/value. So no matter how pretty they look in their box...take them out and introduce them to your other pastels!
  • Next you have to do some pastel surgery. You need to break them into smaller pieces without the wrapper. Some pastels come in small enough manageable shapes. For example I don't break Terry Ludwig or Diane Townsend pastels. I like to have smaller pieces because I like to make larger swaths of color. 
  • Take the wrappers off or break off a piece. With the wrappers on and full size, I tend to want to draw with them rather than paint.  For these Great Americans, I was able to snap off about 1/3 and pull it from the wrapper. The wrapper and the rest of the pastel stays in the original box and the piece goes into my working box.

After preparing the pastels to use (and not to just drool over)

  • Next take your unwrapped piece of pastel and put it into your working box. (organized by color and value is best)  I usually put all new pastels into my big box. Occasionally I will get a special set such as this McKinley set that I want to keep separate.  I like to challenge myself and use a particular palette for a painting.  I keep some cigar boxes on hand that I line with foam for these separate sets. I have a Stan Sperlak set, Terry Ludwig Arid landscape, Jimmy Wright Great American set that I like to keep separate.
  • Do you mix hard and soft pastels together?  Yes and no.  I like to keep my Nupastels in a separate box all mixed together since I really only use them for underpaintings. I keep Giraults separate since the are so small. Other than that I mix them all together. If you are brand new and don't have a big selection I would but them all together until you build up your collection. Than you can put the very hard sticks in a separate box.
Today's painting was done using only my newly prepared Richard McKinley set. I just love these pastels!


Anonymous said...

Karen, As you know Maggie Price passed away and her article on sorting by value/color/temperature is no longer available. Is there any way that you can post it?

Karen Rodgers

Karen said...

Sorry about the inactive link. I have removed it. I don't have access to the information. I did make a print out of it but it is somewhere buried in my files. If I find it I will share. Thanks for letting me know about the link!

robertsloan2art said...

I like to separate by brands or at least texture groups, but do break sticks and condense them. Larger sets come in more than one tray and start taking up more table space. When I peel and break them, like all 200 colors in my Winsor & Newtons full range box, I can have all the colors in one tray organized hue and value, easier to see and use. The spares trays can go in deeper storage and sometimes became gifts for friends, or got consolidated into a mixed box that's giving me trouble now. I mixed textures in it and that makes it hard to get the stick I want on the first look, the right color may be too soft or hard for the layer I'm on.

Your organizing scheme works fine! That little Heilman sketchbox is so much smaller than their original box!