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Working with Hard and Soft Pastels

Using pastels is considered a form of painting. This is because the pastels themselves are made up of the same pigments as paint, only delivered in a different medium.

Hard pastels are sticks of pigment compressed with a higher ratio of the dry binder. Though the colors are slightly less bright, they allow for more precise lines and retain fine detail better than soft pastels.

Soft pastels are sticks of pigment compressed with a dry binder. These pastels create bright soft looking paintings because they contain the least amount of binder. They blend easily and require gently handling as well as framing under glass or spray fixative to preserve the painting's integrity.

Safety Procedures
The use of soft and hard pastel naturally creates loose dust of pigments. This dust accumulates on the paper and can become messy very easily. This dust is not safe to inhale or even to handle too often. In order to prevent yourself and others from breathing this dust, it is best to periodically tap the excess dust gently into a trash receptacle. By clearing the dust often you will also prevent smearing of color into unwanted sections of the piece.

One component of the good composition is the rule of thirds. The Rule of Thirds refers to the placing of important compositional elements (ex. horizon line, focal point) along imaginary lines that split the piece into thirds.

The most important part of a painting is developing the composition. The placement of elements is essential to keep a viewer interested.

Oil Pastel and Dimension
Oil pastels can be applied densely to the paper and layered to create new colors. Oil pastel can also be applied in thin layers and blended. In fact, oil pastel techniques are often similar to oil painting techniques because of their similar consistencies.

The most important element of the painting is to understand color. For pastel, this means knowing how the colors relate to one another on the 
color wheeland on paper.

There are many elements to consider when creating a good pastel painting. First and foremost is determining the placement of the horizon line for a well thought out composition. When developing a perspective drawing make sure all angles are properly placed before attempting to add color. Make sure the elements that are farther away in your painting are smaller and more subdued than the elements that are close up. The closer elements should appear larger, brighter and more detailed. See detailed information on perspective.

Creating a piece of artwork always begins with a light outline to determine where the compositional elements will be placed (ex. horizon line, focal point). An outline can indicate placement and even features, by only shading and highlights can create dimension. All 3-dimensional objects cast shadows and reflect light based on the intensity and direction of the light source.

If you would like to learn to work with pastels, come in and see us. This is just one of the fine arts classes taught at 9Muses Art Center. Classes are taught by professionally trained staff.  Check our 
Calendar for more information.