Part 1 Project 1 Exercise 3 – Painting with pastels

I have to say that I found this exercise really surprising.  I’ve used soft pastels, oil pastels (not so much due to not being able to use turps) and water-soluble oil pastels for a long time but you know what? I’ve never really used water to blend soft pastels before.  Just goes to show how learning from books and YouTube videos doesn’t always show you the best way to do things.  

With soft pastels,  I’ve traditionally always laid down either an acrylic wash, water colour wash or just a soft background with the pastels themselves (dry) and then worked over that in increasing layers.  I have never just taken water to them and blended them on the paper, so this was really interesting for me.

I am fairly confident when it comes to the range of marks that can be made with pastels, so didn’t spend time doing this, as I wanted to try out the pastels with water and see what would happen.  However, I think I might have skipped ahead a bit because the experiments I ended up doing were more like creating washes, which I think is for later exercises.   Anyway, I used some Sennelier, Rembrandt and Faber-Castell soft pastels for this blending experimentation – first dry and then with water. The richness of colour is immediately obvious when water is added to the pastels on the paper.

Then I did a couple of sketches first using the Faber Castell soft pastels (and other brands).  The pastel paper I have is all tinted to some degree, so I first used the Daler Rowney Ingres (which I don’t like very much to be honest, never have).

‘Cheer up chicken’ Soft pastels on DR Ingres paper 160g

I battled with this little sketch of my daughter reading to her baby, I couldn’t get the face right and it really bugged me, so gave up eventually.   

Then I did a quick exercise on the Canson Mi-teintes 160gm (quite a dark tinted paper this one) of my eldest daughter’s birthday cake.  I liked how the pastel was so easy to wash over with a brush and how it blended.  I think I should have used a more orange/ochre hued paper but this is just a test and I was having a lot of fun doing this, it felt quite loose. 

‘Birthday cake’ soft pastels on Canson Mi-teintes 160g

I think I had this Odilon Redon image in my head when I was trying out that birthday cake picture:

Cerver F.A. PASTELS for Beginners Konemann 1999
Page 165

I then decided to try my water-soluble oil pastels (Caran D’ache) and decided to go for the darker paper (the Canson Mi-teintes) again. 

‘Cheer up Chicken-2’ water-soluble oil pastels on Canson Mi-teintes 160g paper

I found it so much easier to get going with this little drawing and using the CD sticks is way easier to control for finer work.  That said, this is not intended as a detailed painting, I was just trying to see how the different pastels worked on various papers.   However, I am pleased with this little portrait, it does capture the light and faces a bit better (although my daughter does appear a bit on the manly side when I look at it again!) … I am resisting the urge to work it up, as I think I will just ruin it. 

I had another go with the water soluble oil pastels on mixed media paper, a bit bigger. It’s a much better likeness of my daughter but the baby looks older.   

Cheer up chicken 2 ws oil pastels on multimedia paper

On more loose water-soluble oil pastels painting on A4 Bockingford paper.

Goofy flowers in a vase
A4 water soluble oils on Bockingford paper

For my tutor’s information, these are a few soft pastel paintings I’ve done before starting this course:



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