Sunday, October 13, 2019

Supply Lists—Pastel

Some of my pastels - and I have many more!

Continuing in my series of posts on supply lists, I offer here the supply list I use for pastel painters in my plein air painting workshops.  (You can always find the current supply list here.)

Pastels:  You should have a set of at least 36-48 pastels to start with.  The more you have, the better.  Both Polychromos (36-pc set), NuPastel (48-pc set) and Cretacolor (72-pc set) make good sets.  You may also want to consider the "Michael Chesley Johnson Plein Air Set" of 50 pastels from Pastels Girault, which have properties of both hard and soft pastels.  This may be ordered from the US distributor, Pastel Etc.: Michele Aplin, or 310-640-8388 ($245).  Plus a selection of softer pastels such as Blue Earth or Mount Vision.
Commentary: For oil painting, you can do a lot with just six tubes of paint plus white.  But to do the same with pastel, you'll need many more colors.  To replicate the facility of the split-primary oil palette, you need not just cool and warm versions of the three primaries but also the same of the three secondaries, plus four or five steps in value and both hard and soft versions.  Multiply this out (2 temperatures x 6 colors x 5 values x 2 degrees of hardness) and you'll find you need 120 sticks.  I like to supplement this with a few greys and neutrals.
And yes, this can be expensive.  All that said, you can make a decent painting with a 48-stick set of hard pastels, supplemented with a few softer ones for highlights and dark accents.  Another option is the 50-stick set I designed for Pastels Girault, which is a great compromise set.  I use it for travel.  (It's $245 and, no, I do not get a commission.)  You can see the set here.  For free shipping and $15 off, contact Michele Aplin as noted above. 
By the way, please do not bring just a set of eight sticks or a tiny box of odds and ends from back home.  You really need at least a 48-stick set that has cool and warm versions of the primary and secondary colors, plus a good value range.

PaperUArt Sanded Pastel Paper (plan on 2 9x12 sheets per day for full-day workshops, and also a few 5x7 pieces.)  I like the 500-grit.  ArtSpectrum Colourfix will also work for liquid washes, but it is much coarser.  Do not bring Sennelier LaCarte, as it can't stand moisture.
Commentary: I teach two methods with pastel, one in which I use a liquid wash and another in which I don't.  You need a paper that can stand up to water, alcohol and OMS.  For this, I recommend UArt and Colourfix.  (Wallis is ideal—if you can still find any of that discontinued brand.)  The surface on the LaCarte, a paper I do not recommend, is applied with a water-soluble glue and is also rather fragile.  Finally, don't bring just any old sketch paper, as it will buckle when you apply moisture and doesn't have the tooth for pastel.

Backboard to tape paper to
Commentary: Any sturdy board will work, really.  I use foamboard to which I've applied a sheet of white contact paper; the contact paper protects the surface from damage when removing tape.  Gatorfoam is a more expensive but more durable alternative.  A drawing board works just fine, too.

Solvent: either rubbing alcohol or Gamsol.  If you use the rubbing alcohol, try getting it in spray bottle, as I have taken to spraying on the alcohol rather than using a brush
Commentary: Rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol?  It doesn't matter.  Also, 90% rubbing alcohol dries faster than 70%, which can be a problem in an arid climate.  Gamsol dries much more slowly, but if you're like me and you enjoy playing with brush strokes, it gives you plenty of opportunity to make interesting marks.  When demonstrating, to save time I use alcohol; but when painting for myself, I use Gamsol.  When I use my spray bottle of alcohol, I forgo the brush and instead use my nitrile-gloved hand to push around the liquified pastel.

Old bristle brush (cheap 1" trim brush is fine)
Commentary: This is for brushing on the alcohol or Gamsol in the underpainting stage.

Also:  Container for solvent, masking tape
Commentary: Please don't bring a glass container, as it may break.  Instead, bring a Nalgene bottle or the equivalent that won't be dissolved by the solvent.  As for masking tape, bring the buff-colored type.  Don't bring tape with a strong color (blue, green, orange, etc.) as it will distract.  Some artists like drafting tape because it has less tack and doesn't damage the paper as easily.  I prefer masking tape, because I can get it anywhere.  Since I don't leave it on for any longer than a day, I have no problem with it.

Next time, I will share my supply list of miscellaneous items.

Would you like to take a workshop with me?  For schedules and details, visit

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