Wow, what a hot summer this year. It seems the only place that's cool is Barrow, Alaska (now referred to as Utqiagvik, Alaska)at 64 degrees today. The most northern city of the United State, Barrow isn’t where I’d want to spend my winters with the average high of 3 degrees.
Even with the heat, there's a lot of art to produce in the summer. One medium that’s always a bit dicey in the winter is soft pastels. That’s because the dust can get all over the place (including in your lungs), so it’s always best to work with it outdoors or at least, in a room with an opened window.
Right now I’m working on a flower piece from the magnolia tree in front of our house. What a lovely flower and because it’s all white, it’s a bit hard.to capture the shadows.
As you can see above, I’m just starting the project. I am using whites and greys but will add more colors as I go along. White is very challenging because it not only has lots of shadows, but it also picks up reflective colors. Hope I’ll do justice to this piece. I’ll let you see the finished project as I go along.
For now, I’d like to talk more about soft pastels. Last summer I covered oil pastels. So what is the difference? While both can be used on pretty much the same paper (Mi-Tientes, sandpaper, color pencil paper, thick drawing paper), the difference lies in how the pastel sticks are made.
Oil pastels are made with pigment, oil and fillers. I do enjoy working with them, especially in the winter, because they provide immediate color, can be very smooth and present little danger to me.
Soft pastels on the other hand do present a health risk as the little particles of dust can be inhaled, causing some upper respiratory problems. If I had to choose between the two, however, I will always opt for the soft pastel. I simply love them. The color goes down so beautifully, the remaining effect on the paper is brilliant and, although messy at times, are so much easier to clean up after.
Besides that, there are pastel pencils and small hard pastel sticks that make your job so much easier for those itsy-bitsy spots you must deal with. For example, although this is a charcoal pencil drawing, you can see what I can execute with a small point, i.e., the eyes on the lion.
Soft pastels come usually in boxes. First off, I want to stress that you definitely get what you pay for in soft pastels. Unlike oil pastels where you can purchase perhaps a cheaper set like Pentel’s oil pastel and get somewhat of a good result, you cannot do the same with the soft product. That’s because you will get far more filler than pigment in the cheap stuff. Believe me, I’ve tried several products.
What to look for when buying soft pastels?
- Good color selection
- Strong pigment
- Soft, but not so soft, they crumble.
- Good reviews
So how does one start out? I found a product years ago that works for me. It's in the middle--not too cheap and not too expensive. The company's name is Mungyo. It's Korean and has been in business since 1946. Their products are good for starters. For instance, their 48 set is small and not too costly (around $7.50).