Saturday, October 28, 2017

To Blend or Not to Blend--That is the Question

Blending Swatches
(Pastels are Cretacolor; paper is Art Spectrum)
A = Two colors (blue, orange) feathered over each other
B = Same, but then blended with a finger protected by a finger cot
C = Blended with the pinky nail
D = Blended with the flat side of a painting knife
E = Blended with a lemon yellow pastel
F = Blended with a yellow-green pastel

Now and then, I have a pastel student who will say, “My last instructor likes to blend with a finger.”   Usually this statement is made in the context of my demonstrating and noting that I like to use hard pastel sticks as blending tools.  But sometimes, I, too, use my finger.  There's no hard-and-fast rule about blending.  I double-checked that much-loved tome, The Pastelist's Standard Desk Reference, and in Volume 43, it mentioned several tort cases involving blending, but no one case established any one method over another.  So, blend with what you will.

But your choice does make a difference.  When I use my finger, it's usually just a quick touch to soften an edge or fill in a spot.  I use the back of my pinky finger's nail to make an adjustment.  Using the pad instead would add oil to the pastel, darkening and muddying it.  If I'm wearing finger cots, this is not an issue.

Other than the finger, just about anything can be used for blending.  Styrofoam peanuts—which can screech like fingernails on a chalkboard—bits of pipe insulation, a variety of erasers applied lightly, painting knives (yes, really), pastel pencils, graphite pencils or vine charcoal sticks.  And cats, which can add a random element to one's approach.

My favorite tool, however, is a hard pastel.  I like a long, unbroken square stick such as NuPastel, Cretacolor or Polychromos.  I hold the stick like a miniature conductor's baton and lightly feather the other end over the passage to be blended.  It requires the most delicate of touches, and the more you work the pastel, the more consistent the color and texture become, and the richer the texture.  (The swatches above are still rough.)  Color choice is also important.  A complementary color will grey down the passage as well as blending or softening it; a richer color can raise the chroma of an area; a cool one or a warm one will cool or warm an area, respectively.

With this post, I've included a few swatches of blending options.

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