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About working with pastel.

"Pastel is nothing but pressed pigment with a little binder. Working with pastel can best be described as simultaneously drawing and painting with pure pigment, using your fingers as a brush. Yes, you can make fine lines with the hard pastel and pastel pencils. But I prefer fine-grain and creamy smooth ‘Schmincke’ pastels on a special ‘Sennelier pastelcard’ base, made for pastel only. And sometimes ‘Chanson’ normal paperboard for larger formats. The interaction between the texture of the pastelcard and the pastel itself is so refined… when the light touches it, it glows warmly, like velvet.

The longevity of artwork

There are several brands of pastel. ‘Unison’, ‘Talens’, ‘Windsor & Newton’, ‘Van Gogh’. Hard and less hard-pressed. Soft and very soft. Everyone has their own favorite. The ‘Schmincke’ is my own personal preference. I don’t use fixatives; I hate the smell, and they dramatically decrease the brilliance of the colors. And that clarity, after all, is one of the main reasons for working with pastel. When using aggressive fixatives, the unique color and clarity literally evaporate. In principle, pastel art can survive for decades. A successful combination with acid-free materials, a wooden frame, a properly thick passe-partout so that the artwork does not touch the glass and a dry environment are sufficient guarantees that the art will last longer than we will.
And yes, there are gruesom examples of pastel art that falls off the paper like breadcrumbs. Collectors who have almost had a heart attack when they saw their Degas or Renoir coming off the paper like an avalanche of grey dust. Such nightmares, however, started in the past when the artist used cheap or inferior materials and only became worse when those works of arts were stored in damp basements and safe-deposit boxes. Unthinkable with our present-day materials.

In any case, I've seen magnificent pastels in the Louvre that were made back in the 17th century and still have an appeal as crisp and as fresh as yesterday.

An even lovelier result is achieved when you use a frame with special glass. I use 'museum glass': 'Clearcolor', the name says it all. You look through something that's there but that you barely see. Which is the way it should be. Almost all of the reflections you see in normal window glass are gone. Normal glass is fine, too, but if you hang a work of art beside it that is protected with museum glass, well...

The How and Why of Working with Pastel

“Well.... if you can manage it, it's very exciting to deal quickly and surely with a soft medium like pastel! All the more when you slap the chalk onto the surface with first your left, then your right hand and then go on gently drumming the pastel with your fingertips or carefully sweeping it with the side of your hand, and finally lightly dabbing with your fingertips to tighten up some of the details. Until you may even see a glimmer of art that is unlike what you were expecting. And if you can surprise yourself, you can surprise others even more. That seems to me like a good explanation for why I work with pastel. I have no trouble with any medium, but literally and figuratively, I have pastel right at my fingertips."

 

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