Use Pastels To Enhance Your Command Of Colors
By: Karl Sultana
Because of its ease of handling, pastel is an excellent medium for a beginning painter to learn about color or become more familiar with the various pigments derived from diverse sources and how effectively they blend, contrast, or complement one another.
Plan Colors in Advance
A good color reminder is to prepare a 'custom color chart' after you've planned your pastel drawing and chosen your colors, but before you begin work. Using the pastel colors you've chosen (leaving aside black or very dark colors), apply a one-inch horizontal strip of color across a piece of paper (the same type of paper you plan to use for your work). Leave an inch of clean space between each stripe and write the name/number of each color at the far end.
Then, turn your paper 90 degrees and using the same pastels in the same order apply another one-inch strip of color. You may have to clean each pastel after it passes through each of the cross stripes. Take your time so you end up with each color passing over every other color with pure color between. Don't worry if the colors smear just a bit as you're going to be smearing some of them anyway.
When this is done, use your fingertips to gently blend the various combinations where they intersect. Blending diagonally with an additional adjacent color can give you further combinations. Hang your 'custom color chart' where you can see it as you work. Do not use a fixative on your color chart so you can continue to experiment on it to blend colors.
Experiment with Techniques
Experiment using each pastel technique with different pastels (hard, semi-soft, and soft) to become familiar with the slightly different result each gives. Different brands of pastels can also give varying results.
Outlining: For gestural lines and contours, draw with the end of the pastel, wielding it as you would a pen or pencil. Use broad, relaxed strokes employing your whole arm, to achieve expression, and bear down more firmly to alter the thickness of you lines.
Filling in areas of color: Peeling the paper from a pastel and using the flat side in broad strokes will give you large blocks of color. Bearing down harder creates a heavier, darker, color. (Save the paper; storing the pastel stick in its paper helps you remember the color name.)
Hatching and cross-hatching: Using hard pastels or pastel pencils, draw sets of fine parallel lines, either curved or straight to block out your subject. Use several colors, i.e., darker hatching in shadows, light colors for highlights or reflections, consulting your 'custom color chart'.
Blending: Blend by using your fingers or any one of the many blending tools available, such as a tortillon, paper stump; putty, kneading erasers, cloth, Q-tips, or cotton balls. Gently blend filled in single color areas, taking care not to run into lines or adjacent colors and clean your finger or change tools when you move to another color. Where you plan to blend colors, blend the hatching and cross-hatched areas, following your color plan.
Scumbling, feathering, and dusting are other techniques for achieving special effects.
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