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Monday, March 19, 2012

Getting Started with Pastels...Choosing a Pastel Set

'Wildflower Magic' 8x10 pastel ©Karen Margulis
Painting available by paypal or check $95 click here

I love to share the wonderful medium of pastel with other artists. Today I had the privilege of doing two introductory lessons and I have two new converts to pastel! I have developed a 2 hour introductory lesson during which we review and test the different pastels and papers and other supplies. I also demonstrate a quick and easy way to start a pastel painting. My students then get a chance to work with my assortment of pastels on a variety of papers. My goal is for them to leave with a nice painting, excited about pastels and armed with the knowledge of the available supplies.
I have my own favorite pastel brands but I feel that it is important for those new to pastels to try out a variety of pastels and papers. We all have our preferences and what works for me may not be the best choice for you. Here is what I recommend:

Dakota Pastels sampler pastel set along with my paper samples
I encourage those new to pastels to try a Pastel Sampler set by Dakota Art Pastels. In each set you receive one pastel from each of the 17 lines carried by Dakota. You can choose the color of the set. I have the blue set. The set is not meant to be a comprehensive working set but rather a chance to try a pastel from each of the major manufacturers. This is a great way to test drive a pastel before ordering a larger set.
I made a small paper sample set for students to see and feel the available papers but Dakota also offers a paper sampler. This is an excellent way to try a variety of papers without ordering a large quantity.
Once you have done a test drive and know what pastel brands you like it will be easier to narrow your choices for purchasing a larger set. I actually like a few brands so the majority of my pastels are from small sets and open stock from my favorite brands. Since pastel preferences are so personal it is hard to recommend a set that will work well for everyone. If I were starting out (after trying them all!) I would choose a selection of Terry Ludwig pastels, Great American Artworks and Diane Townsend soft form pastels. My favorite Great American set is the Richard McKinley Landscape set and I would supplement this with some Terry Ludwig darks and vibrants and some Diane Townsend lights. I also like to have a set of harder pastel sticks such as NuPastels or Polychromos.

Today's painting was the demo for my first intro class today.

1 comment:

robertsloan2art said...

Great suggestion! I bought both the Greens pastel sampler - I do a lot of landscapes and never seem to have enough greens, and the Paper Sampler. Never regretted either.

A big set of hard pastels is a joy. They're less expensive than the softer pastels so it's easier to get a 72 or 96 color set for the price of a smaller set in pricier brands.

Another thing that's personal is how many pastels you need for your style, both how many colors and how many different textures. Trying a Dakota Sampler led to my getting small or medium size sets of most of the major brands so that I could use them in combination to get specific effects.

I sorted my pastels by texture with some brands combined and others set apart because they give a special effect. I got this idea from Dakota Pastels because they have a listing of all their pastels by firm to soft - the great thing is that when the paper tooth is full, I can switch to a softer pastel and get another layer or two.

Townsend Terrages and Soft Form have pumice in the filler, which lets them dig into non sanded paper. They have a lovely texture and that's a special effect I enjoy.

Girault are another special effect pastel - the one that can get fine details over heavy applications. I just got some and they became my Cat Whiskers pastels. Anyone who loves painting animals would have much better success on whiskering with at least a white and a black Girault in the box.