“That dog won’t hunt.” It’s what I thought to myself when I started to look into how to get layers of pastel to build up. It just didn’t seem possible, or easily possible. But I did my research, and that dog will hunt! Here are a few tips on how to get the layered effects you want when pastel painting.
Major build-up. To get a vibrant glowing surface when painting pastel works, start by putting down a layer of color with the side of a soft stick of pastel. Then spray fixative over the area. Then apply another layer of color, and so on. You can lay down as many layers as you want, fixing in between each one. You can also allow the fixative to dry or experiment with your surface while it is wet.
Feather light. With pastels, it is easy to inadvertently blend or rub in areas, whether by resting your hand on the surface or as a result of too much blending and overlaying of color in a given passage. To brighten up an area again with visual interest, take a hard pastel or pencil and make vertical strokes over the area. It will allow the surface beneath to show through, but will no longer be a flat passage of color as it is built up with the addition of these feathered strokes.
Show us your teeth. The paper that you work with in any pastel painting or drawing should have a good deal of texture if you want it to hold successive layers of pigment. And you’ll want to use the side of soft pastels so that large swaths of area are covered in color that can be layered upon with additional colors.
If you really want to explore all the layering possibilities that pastel painting has to offer, exploring with artist Christine Ivers is the way to go. There’s nothing more dynamic than her series of DVDs, all devoted to discovering and using pastel to capture the world around us. The resources in Pastel People, Places, and Scenes Collection are wonderfully in-depth and give us a solid foundation for understanding this beautiful medium and how to apply it to the landscape, the figure, and more. Enjoy!
P.S. Do you have any strategies on layering pastels? Please share and leave a comment!