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Five Benefits to Using Pastel

by Niki Hilsabeck in Recent Posts
If you’re new to pastels, or haven’t tried them yet, here are a few things I love about using soft pastels.
“Bitter Harvest” (Painted on orange-toned paper)
1) Colorfastness
Pastels come in a wide array of colors, most of them wonderfully vivid!  Using pastel on an appropriate surface (any sort of textured paper works great) will give you the opportunity to create bright, colorful pieces with strong contrast with just a few strokes of the pastel.  even when layered, smeared, and blended, the pastels often retain their vivid colors.  A finished pastel painting will hold its color for a long time.
2) Easy to clean
This sounds like a bit of a contradiction, since pastels can be a notoriously messy medium to use.  With a little care, though, pastels are much easier to clean than liquid paint– no turpentine, washing of brushes, scrubbing of palettes– just gently shake the dust into the trash to minimize dust–and a quick wipe with a damp paper towel will take care of your work space.  I’ve also got plenty of clean white shirts stained with acrylic, but none with even a trace of pastel!
Once framed under glass, they’re also easier to keep clean than a canvas painting.  Cleaning glass is much easier than trying to get the dust off of oil or acrylic, especially if there’s varnish removal involved!
3)  Fun for Play
Pastels are my medium of choice when I want to play with a new style, subject matter, or surface.  You can use them wet or dry, brush them with water, scrape them over acrylic, use them for a first layer sketch and paint over them, or even color on the ground with them at a street painting festival!
“Power Pole” (Painted on site, looking through my window)
4)  Convenient
As a busy mom of two little ones, I don’t know that I would have time to create art if it weren’t for my pastels.  Whenever I get a little break to paint, I just tape some paper down and start sketching.  If I’m working with dry pastels on paper, I don’t have to wait for paint to dry.  I can usually get a painting close to finished in a single session if I choose.  They’re also easy to carry on the go for plein air and demo pieces!
“Cool Water” (Inspired by the Impressionists)
5)  History
When I paint with my pastels, I feel connected to some of my favorite artists, such as Degas, Lautrec, and Cassatt.  I also love the wide variety of pastel works available from today’s artists.  Photorealistic portraits, textured abstracts, dreamy landscapes, and rough life sketches are all examples of what you can find from modern artists who work with pastel.  Whatever your preferred style of working, there are plenty of examples of pastel works from past and present to suit your taste!
If you’d like to try my online class on using dry pastels, click here, 
Want to create your own textured piece with acrylic and pastel?   Click here!
Curious about pastels?  Read my piece on  Empty Easel to learn more about working with soft pastels.
Stop by my blog on blogspot to read more of my thoughts on working with pastel!

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