Pastel 101

I took a pastel workshop in the summer – my first real attempt at any sort of painting. I loved it.

Pastels are layered color – powdery gems all over the paper (and my clothes and my nose). It reminds me quite a bit of the way I approach sculpting a relief. Building up color and depth instead of form and texture.

So… I loved it, but I was busy with classes and art shows through the summer and fall so I didn’t get a chance to dig into it until recently. I did read a couple books and watched a number of videos in the meantime.

The hardest part of starting out was deciding which pastels to get. They’re expensive, and I wanted good quality and a wide variety of colors for my first investment. (You notice that? I think they could be as addicting as clay)

I already have a set of 80 pan pastels * (Love them – both on paper and clay and I bought all of them after my initial set of 20), an inexpensive set of Dick Blicks (Nice set to start with. Good color but on the harder side.) and a set of Carb Othello pencils * (great for details like animal eyes). I finally decided on these Sennelier half sticks*. Aren’t they gorgeous? Luscious color in a box. 🙂

So first thing I did was grab a scrap piece of paper (ordinary shiny printer paper) and see what the colors actually looked like. I started with a really lovely deep blue. Then I grabbed a photo off the bookcase from our beluga encounter and started playing.

Not quite a finished painting… But on the right surface – with some more tooth to the paper – I think it could have become one. I really should have started with a real piece of pastel paper. Pastel paper ranges from about 400 grit sandpaper (really sandpaper) to thick textured paper similar to watercolor paper. You just can’t get much pastel to stick to printer paper.

Love the pastels and I think I’m really going to enjoy painting.

*Amazon affiliate links to what I actually bought

Posted by Skygrazer

Polymer clay addict and artist. Also fascinated by kaleidoscopes.


I thought the pan pastels would be less messy but I’m still covered in them! At least I CAN’T spill them or forget to clise them and they dry out! I have 2 words for ya sea turtle! Please!

Yeah I know… And the stick pastels are MUCH messier than pan pastels. 🙂 At least for the pan pastels I’m using an applicator to apply them. For the sticks your hands are covered, and the dust drifts down…

Most people in the pastel workshop I went to were wore aprons. I try to remember to do that but I just go in to look at something and then I just want to touch up one tiny area.

Fifteen minutes later my husband’s laughing at me because I have pastel under my eye and down the side of my nose 😉

And I will definitely do a sea turtle. Thanks for the reminder. Just have to find the GoPro videos again and choose a good reference image. It was absolutely amazing when we were diving with them.

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