I’ve been working with pastels recently after buying a box of 64 Inscribe soft pastels and am keen to take it further. I really like the spontinaity and control that pastels offer along with their rich, vivid colours. With pastels I can potentially create very expressive ‘painterly’ pieces in a relativly short time and without much mess. However, I’ve been struggling a bit.

My recent drawing of St. Cynog’s was okay, but there was something I wasn’t too sure about. I’m not sure whether it’s the paper or whether it’s the pastels, but something just wasn’t quite right.

So rather than trying to concern myself with creating an original piece, I referenced another artist’s work and tried my best to recreate it. It was actually really nice just working with the medium without making any artistic decisions of my own.

However, something about the coverage bothered me. I assumed that the pastels would cover the area better – especially the white. I thought perhaps I had to apply a base layer of pastel, then blend, then reapply over that. But it seemed that no matter how much I blended, I just couldn’t get that thick, rich coverage that I wanted. The colours seemed a little dull and often blending just seemed to rub the colours off the paper. I can’t seem to get that painterly effect that I’ve seen in other artists’ pastel works.

So I’ve been wondering if aside from my lack of technique, if despite being labelled ‘soft pastels’, they may be too hard. Even soft pastels can vary quite a lot when it comes to the amount of binder used. The more binder (chalk and clay) that is used, the less pigment remains, and the less vibrant the colour. Yes, my pastels are ‘soft’ but I guess I expected them to be softer. Apparently, artist-quality pastels are the ones to go for. Unison seems to be a popular brand, but very expensive for a set. And unlike paints, you can’t just buy a set of base colours and mix your own. However, I managed to find a set of Rembrandt pastels for a reasonable price, so I’ve got these on order and will give them a try instead.