I received my first set of pastels when I was 10 – I don’t think I loved them quite so much at first, but now pastels are one of my absolute favorite mediums! They are what I use for most of my commission pieces and the medium I’m most likely to use for any of my own projects.
Pastels are created with pigment and a binder compressed into sticks – depending on how much binder is mixed with the pigment you get a harder or softer pastel. When I first started with pastels, and up until a few years ago, Prismacolor Nupastels were the only thing I used. These pastel sticks contain a higher amount of binder, making them a harder type of pastel – this allows me to achieve more details in my work than what I could with a softer pastel. These are also the pastels I use to teach with.
I still use Nupastels in my pastel work but I also have a few other pastel mediums I like to use now too! For smaller detailed areas and textures I love Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils . They come in a wide range of colors and are a similar hardness to the Nupastels.
In the past couple years I’ve also started using PanPastels which are extra soft pressed pastels powders in a pan/cake form and are applied to your surface with soft sponge. I love how rich and smooth these go on! For the most part I use these in my backgrounds and base layers for larger areas and then add finishing details with the pastel pencils on top.
I also have used Sennelier extra soft pastels on occasion – I do enjoy them, however, they can be quite costly!
The surface is probably the most important element though! I started to use Pastelmat a few years ago, it’s surface is velvety and does an amazing job of taking on layers upon layers of pastels. It also comes in a wide range of colors – I love using a darker surface with the PanPastels. I also find it holds the pastel so well that I don’t have to use a fixative on my finished pieces – which always seems to mess with the pastel surface anyway! There are certain times when I want a little texture to my pastel pieces though so I’ll use Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper but definitely doesn’t give you the same effect!
Pieces completed on Pastelmat with PanPastels, pastel pencils & Nupastels
Pieces completed on Canson Mi-Teintes
Some additional pastel pieces!