Since the Diana Ponting lessons are going fast and furious over at Wet Canvas, I thought I might add some pastel trivia and tips, history and information to keep the enthusiasm up for pastels.
Many of my blog chums around the net have taken up the subject af pastel this month, and I think quite spontaneously.
Yesterday, we looked at the Pastel General, Edgar Degas. I intend to also have a look at a few other luminaries from the past and also the present who work with pastel. If all goes well, we'll peek in on a few of my pastel chums.
This post will be in two parts: 1. (Today) A simple palette box system, 2. (Tomorrow) A brief and simple look at pastel brands and types. I may add a third on how to get outside with them, as that seems to be a big area of 0f interest.
Since I am not in my big studio during my remodel, I am working in the house with my plein air kit. I make my kits from shallow cigar boxes. This one is a PADRON (Nicaraguan, Hand Made) cigar box: 6.5" x 11.25" x 1.75". The shallow depth allows for security of the sticks, and I find that wood's gentle touch is the kindest to my pastels. I notice that few cigar shops actually sell their empty cigar boxes, but those kind ones that do, get my return business. Cardboard is also gentle; plastic transfers too much shock, IMO. For extended trips (air travel), I add a sheet of thin foam bought at an upholstery shop, or scrounged from other places.
Further, I have constructed a tray out of foam core, with foam core dividers glued in place with Elmer's (children's) glue. A ribbon allows me to get the top tray out. When I do go (rarely) out the door, I put a couple of extra long rubber bands around the box.
The little wooden trays are gathered from second hand stores where one may find dried fruit trays, and from tobacconists. They become my working palette.
It is important to get the pastel sticks out of their original boxes, where they seem to be organized randomly, and into something that you can organize and work with. Don't worry about breaking them. They will all be broken eventually. I will show you how to fix that later.
It is a great help to take the paper off, as well. Some artists, like the venerable Daniel Greene, I think, carefully break each one of their multi-thousand dollar full set of Senellier pastels in two. They dutifully store away the halves to use one for painting, and the other for a reference from which they may match the little stub and then be able to re-order individual sticks.
Now, I will gladly do anything that DG does, as he is THE MAN, and a master of pastels. If he enters the studio from the right, I will enter the studio from the right.
But, you are blessed, dear reader, with the fact that you are beginning your pastel life in the digital era. Take a picture of your beautiful new box of expensive pastels. Then, take it apart, and organize it in with the others. Your $250 box of 100 pastels will be absorbed into the vast whole of your palette, and you will be left in shock at how few they actually appear to be. You will shed a tear.
Also, be aware that most art stores have a few color charts relating to the brands of pastels that they sell. And, for the picky, like me, one can get hand made charts (true representations, not ink!) for most brands from Dakota Pastels.