Add Water and BAM!

I recently had an Emeril Lagasse moment–and it happened when I mixed pastels with water for the first time.

Three Sunflowers on Blue by Jimmy Wright, pastel painting, 30 x 41.
Three Sunflowers on Blue by Jimmy Wright, pastel painting, 30 x 41.

A while back, I confided that I wanted to start an earnest study and exploration of pastel painting. That resulted in me mucking about on my own for a few hours–I just let myself play as I created a pastel drawing. First, I spent time seeing what the stick of pastel can do in terms of mark-making. I varied the pressure I applied to the surface of the paper; I tried holding the pastel like a pencil and also experimented with running it across the paper on its side. I smeared it with my finger, and then reached for the water.

BAM!

At first I thought, what have I done? But I started playing around with the water, applying washes to my pastel-painting paper, and the colors all started to blend together. It was lovely. I tried using a spray bottle, too, which yielded interesting results–the pastel powder got drawn into the droplets of water and ran down the surface when I tilted the paper.

Sunflower with Red Leaves by Jimmy Wright, pastel painting, 41 x 29, 1996.
Sunflower with Red Leaves by Jimmy Wright,
pastel painting, 41 x 29, 1996.

So for my first un-chaperoned tour of pastels, I think I taught myself a lot about pastel painting–mostly about being brave when it comes to trying different things. I felt really liberated. So I hope you get a little fearless with your art, too. Nothing but good can come of it!

I've only touched on one aspect of pastels, but there are plenty more pastel-painting lessons waiting to be learned. For compelling and interesting pastel instruction, check out Claudia Seymour's latest pastel lessons DVD, Pastel Painting Techniques: Still Life Flowers. It offers insights from a professional artist who always shares the best of her artistry with us. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

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