I love painting in pastel. Pick up a pastel stick, and you've got immediate color. Paint with it, and it calls up all the pleasure you had as a kid finger-painting. Pastel is also how I got back into painting, so it has a very special place in my heart.
But here's my problem with pastel. It's not easy to restock your pastel box.
I keep my pastels sorted in two ways in my Heilman Pastel Box. First, by hue: Green, blue, violet, red, orange and yellow. (I also have a couple of spots where I stash a few browns and greys.) Second, by value, with dark at the top and light the bottom. If I've recently restocked the box, painting is a real pleasure.
But over time, such as when I'm travelling cross-country teaching workshops, sticks I use frequently get worn down to nubs. Sometimes I even run out of a color. By the time I'm ready to restock, I have to pull out each nub with tweezers and try to match it against my color chart. (See my color charts, above.) For the colors I exhausted while en route, I have to take a long, hard look at my box to see what's missing. Sometimes I don't see what's missing until I need that particular color again.
Restocking the box is, in my mind, a project on the level of doing my annual taxes. And, I have to admit, I restock the box about as frequently as I do my taxes.
I know there are many systems out there for restocking your pastel box. As any of you who've taken my workshops know, I'm a pretty organized guy. I have a good system, so long as I keep on top of it. That's the way with any system - you have to keep on top of it.
My system for restocking my oil painting box is far easier. I have eight tubes of paint. If one tube looks low, I grab a backup. I always keep at least one backup of each color in stock. Keeping track of eight oil colors is a snap compared to keeping track of several hundred pastel sticks.
All that said, I love pastel. If you want to grab color and go, there's nothing like it.
Next time: The Problem with Oils.