Pastel consist of pure powdered pigment combined with an inert binder. The exact composition and characteristics of an individual pastel stick depends on the type of pastel and the type and amount of binder used. It also varies by individual manufacturer.
Dry pastels have historically used binders such as gum arabic, gum tragacanth. Methyl cellulose was introduced as a binder in the twentieth century. Often a chalk or gypsum component is present. They are available in varying degrees of hardness, the softer varieties being wrapped in paper.
There are a lot of types and sizes Pastels, thickness and length of sticks, shape, either round or square, and degree of hardness and softness. They are one of the purest of forms of pigment.
Pastels can be blended or used on end, on its side, or any other way you can hold it to create a variety of strokes. By using different drawing mark-making techniques, the artist can create a plethora of textures.
I like the expressiveness and the rich depth of color I can achieve, and the immediacy of the results with soft pastel. The disadvantages of soft pastel that stick out in my mind are foremost, the framing issues and secondly the fragility of the sticks. Pastels cannot be mixed to create new colors, although they can be blended and layered, so the beginning pastelist will need to acquire a large number of sticks to have a satisfactory variety of colors.
Kinds of Pastels
The softness or hardness of a pastel is determined by the amount of binder used, the hardness of the pigment, and the pressure applied in making the stick.
Hard pastels contain more gum binder and are usually used to begin a painting. They can also be used as a drawing tool. Sharpen them with sandpaper or a knife to create a fine point. Hard pastel doesn’t fill up the tooth of the paper as readily as the softer sticks. Pastels can be easily erased with a rag. They can also be wet and fixed on certain papers for underpaintings, with water or turpenoid spirits.
Soft pastels are buttery and creamy and create lush passages of color. Softer pastels have less binder and more pigment than hard pastels, and are used to create a painterly style. They can be blended more easily and cover large areas very quickly. Soft pastels get used up more rapidly. The softer the pastel, the more expensive and fragile it is.
Pastel pencils are hard pastels encased in wood, and are ideal for intricate work requiring fine lines. They are excellent for scribling, cross-hatching and feathering.
Remember to try each pastel technique with different pastels — hard, semi-soft, and soft — as each gives a slightly different result, as will the various pastel brands.
When choosing a pastel surface, keep the following things in mind:
The Tooth of the paper – Pastel sits on top of the paper. A smooth surfaces won’t hold the pigment. A sturdy paper with a heavier body similar to the weight of 140lb watercolor paper is very good. Fine toothed and textured papers hold fewer layers of pastel, but they are easily blended on. The opposite is also true. A heavily textured or toothed paper can hold 10-20 layers of color, and can take scrubbing and abuse! My suggestion is to experiment and try several different types of papers before you settle on one.
The papers comes in a variety of colors . I prefer to use a soft color paper, I never used white paper, It would be more easy to aplly the lights to a portrait if the color paper is more darker, I prefer something more neutral.
Pastel papers include:, rough watercolor papers, Canson , and an array of sanded and velour papers. Sanded surfaces also come on pastel boards.
Pastel boards are more textured than pastel paper, enabling you to apply color more heavily. Watercolor, cartridge, or drawing paper can also be used for pastel painting. Being cheap, drawing paper is ideal for preparatory studies.
Starting to Draw with Pastel
First you make a drawing of the subjet, with a smooth pencil, very soft don’t try to make a lot of details, but what I used to do was to acent some parts of the draw, in that way I did not loose the draw.
Start applying the pastels (Start with harder soft pastels and for the others layers uses de soft ones)blending with your fingers, that is the best way or you can use a tortillion (a tightly rolled paper usually ending in a point).it is up to you but for me the fingers are the best it gives you total control on the surface of the painting, but remember you need to wash very well you hands and always have a piece of towel paper to clean the sweat of your hands.
You can achieve subtle gradations of shape and color very quickly using blending techniques.
Then you can acent or resalt the painting by drawing with the edges and sides of a pastel, with this thin lines you can acent the eyes, mahe the hair or some other details . Use the point of the pastel to produce lines in various degrees of thickness. Vary the amount of pressure when practicing with your pastels. Experiment with pastels on different types of paper and with various supports to become used to the way in which pastel adheres to each surface. You will develop your own process with a particular combination.
Layering means that you add a layer of color over a previous layer. It could be your first problem because sometimes you are going to feel that the upper layer is taking out the first layer, the layer that is being covered has to be “fixed” or sprayed with a fixative so that the next layer will not disturb this first layer. I did not like to use a fixative until I get the work finished, but if you think you can not manipulate the pastels anymore then use it.
This is a common advice: “Pastel paintings must be fixed to prevent smudging. Fixative is a resin dissolved in spirits; when you apply it the spirits evaporate leaving the resin to hold the pastel pigment in place. Fixative can be bought as an aerosol or in liquid form, which must be applied with an atomizer, not painted on. Always use fixative in a well-ventilated area”, but in my opinion if you can avoid to fix the pastel it would be better, but a pastel painting have to be frame with glass and the glass need to be separate from the painting that is the better way to conservate a pastel.
Here is a picture of some portraits I painted a long time ago, I painted a lot of portraits when I was a student