Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Playing With Pastels

I did a bit of research about soft pastels online and found that nearly everywhere I looked the beginner was being advised to take the paper off the beautiful new colors and break them into more useful sizes. It took me several days to actually do this (something just seemed wrong about "defacing" brand new art materials), but I'd decided to try to add some soft pastel to my watercolor beach scene, so I did it. Here is some of the mess:

I am so thrilled to find that the baby wipes that I used to clean my fingers off in between colors have dried and the color doesn't appear to be coming off when I rub. I think these will have to find their way into my mixed media altered book.

Once I had removed the paper and broken the soft pastels I was ready to try adding some color to the watercolor beach scene. The paper is extremely textured so I wasn't sure how this was going to go. After the first attempt, I emailed a copy of the picture to my dear sister, Anne, for some feedback.

She thought it was really nice with the added color, but wished the chairs were a bit larger and that the shadow on the beach  wasn't quite so blue and dark. I really wanted the sky to be the main focus of the painting with the chairs being a secondary focal point, so I didn't change their apparent size, but did try to add a bit of shadow to them. I tried to put a bit of lighter color into the shadow on the beach, though. My own critique was that the fences (particularly the one on the right) were lost a bit and that the diagonal swipe of blue in the upper right sky was too linear. Here is what it looks like now. I don't know if this is the end or if I will "fiddle" more.

I think I like this one better, but would really appreciate any feedback you are prepared to offer.

I am hoping to do a bit more organizing of these pastels. I bought an art storage thingy via an online art blog from someone in Florida (sorry I can't remember from whom) and think, based on the searching I did online yesterday looking for storage ideas,  it was intended for pastels. It is about 15 inches wide, 9 inches deep and has three drawers. Here is the one that I put one piece of each color into.

I tried cutting up the 1/4" foam that was over the original pastels in their box, but it is not working very well. I think instead I will put a bit of rice in the bottom of each compartment (another tip I read about online) and assign one compartment to each color group. I'll let you know how that works.

Well, it is almost 1 pm and I haven't had breakfast yet. I suppose I need some brunch actually. I am happy to report that I did make it to my conditioning class this morning and have already made a good start on this day. Who knows what the rest of this lovely day will bring.

I hope you are doing well and that you are finding time to be creative. Please do give me a critique on the soft pastel over watercolor beach scene that is in this post above; I'd really appreciate it.



  1. If I might offer a suggestion? I think perhaps the colors of the fore and background are a bit too "close". Perhaps a more muted yellow in the background? and then I don't know, since photos don't tell all, if you put a dash of color opposite its main block -- the purplish sky, a dash of that on the beach, would lock up the composition pretty nicely. Anyway,just a thought! These are really good works, though, and my thoughts are only extras. Did you mention what size the paintings are?

    I'm very glad you used the rice tip! pastels are quite toxic, especially if they're high quality, and you don't want to be inhaling any of that dust. I have used them only rarely, and have found that keeping my faves in a bowl of dry rice was very effective in keeping the dust out of the air around me. Usually, though, I would use them out of doors so that the wind would blow off the dust from the painting surface.

  2. Vicki, pastel is the one medium i work very little with... so i can't offer you much for advice, only to say that i really love your sky... love the movement and the color in the clouds and that bit of white you added. Also love the shaded part on the sand.
    I totally agree with Boud's comment above... the yellows seem to be competing a bit for attention. Muting the yellow in the sky would probably solve this. Looks great. xoxo

  3. the shadow you cast in the second one is beautiful, they both are,

  4. oh my what beautiful colors. I bet it was scary taking the papers off. My box was unwrapped and even then it was hard to break them up!

    I kine of like the teensy beach chairs. Makes the sky and the beach look more expansive!

  5. Well done with this - I still think the blue in the sky (viewer's right) is too hard edged and needs to be softened or broken with another color. But you've gotten the shadow shape better and the fenceline better, too. I think perhaps the sand is a bit too yellow? But overall, I like this and applaud your working with pastels (and especially with taking those clean wrappers off and breaking them - something I've never done! ha ha). I know you'll get better crits from pastel artists so I'll leave it to them to help out with colors and blending, etc.

  6. It's coming along nicely and I really like the changes you've made. I do agree that the yellow in the beach could be muted a bit. I don't mind the size of the chairs, either. They give a nice scale to the expanse of the beach, sky, and water. As for the storage and use of the pastels, yes, dust can be a hazard and keeping them in rice helps a lot. I don't use them much anymore because of the dust factor. I have used them outside, but I'm reluctant to do it in the house, especially with the windows closed. But then, I have some breathing issues already, as you know! hugs, nancy

  7. I've never had much luck with pastels. Much like watercolors, they're a little too imprecise for me to really feel comfortable with them.

    I like the color of the beach in the top one (I realize you may not have actually done anything to the color, it might just look different with the lighter shadow). I think the blue in the right side of the sky is improving, but maybe it sort of looks like the blue is on top of the clouds instead of the other way around? Try feathering in more gray along the edges, perhaps.

    But like I said, I don't really know what I'm talking about. :) Looking good overall!

  8. Nice job! You've grown a lot in your work since I was here last. I love the sky.

  9. I love pastels but find them too messy/dusty for everyday use. I think you did well with the sky & sea.