Pastel Pencils: Reasons to Fall in Love!

If you are anything like me and love art, you might suffer from the same affliction: Art Supply Addiction.  Symptoms include compulsive obsessive art store scouting (both online and in person), yearning for new colours in various mediums and dieting instead of buying new clothes…because that saves budget for more arty stuff!

It was in this way that I found myself the proud owner of only one pastel pencil.  Yes, you read correctly: one single (deceptively innocent) pastel pencil.  Having always had the notion that pastels are messy and difficult to work with, I was determined not to like my single pastel pencil.

But then I did.

Quite frankly I didn’t just like it, I loved it.  My mom, who is the worst influence with art supply buying and whom I openly blame for my affliction, owned a whole set of the deceptively innocent pencils at the time.  She had bought them with the idea of colouring, but was sadly disappointed by how much dust they made and how they did not seem to stick to the paper.  Having watched a myriad of videos and having done a vast amount of research I knew by then that the problem was likely the paper, and therefor I invested in some Pastelmat for that very reason.  I think my fingers were itching in anticipation as I tested her Derwent Pastel Pencils for the first time – I was amazed by the colour, in love with the ability to layer light over dark and basically over the moon at how forgiving and intuitive the medium was.  And right there I swopped my mom a set of Derwent Coloursoft pencils to colour with, so I could get my greedy little fingers on her set of Pastel Pencils!

So what is the difference?  On the left I have a progress photo on a recent commission I did in Pastel Pencils and on the right the Kudu I am currently working on in Coloured Pencil.  There are some obvious differences but allow me to tell you more.

I experience Pastel Pencils to be much more vivid because pastels in general are much more opaque while Coloured Pencil is semi-transparent – in other words your base layers will shine though subsequent layers.  For this very same reason it is important to remember that in Coloured Pencil (much like watercolour) your highlights – and whites in particular – need to be preserved.  Pastel Pencils are much more forgiving with lights easily applied over darks.  Therefor you can work from dark to light – much like oil or acrylic painting. In this sense it is a really fun easy medium!  This also means that Pastel Pencil is a much quicker medium as layers are built up much faster.

Pastel Pencils – like soft pastels – are chalky and dry, while Coloured Pencil tend to be more oily or waxy – this difference relates to the binder of the pigment. I therefor blend my Coloured Pencils with odourless mineral spirits and my Pastel Pencils with a paper stump.

Where Coloured Pencil beats Pastel Pencils hands down though is in preserving your artwork.  Pastels do tend to smudge much easier and when using the incorrect paper you can forget about keeping your pastel on the paper.  Therefor the importance of the paper used cannot be underestimated!  All my commissions are done in Pastel Pencil on Pastelmat and I recently acquired some Fisher400 which I will be testing.  Both of these are sanded papers – meaning that finely ground pumice was added into the paper binder.  The paper has a velvety gritty feel and really grabs the pastel, allowing lots of layers and minimal dust.  When using the correct paper and handling your artwork with care, there is no need for fixative either!

While this is just a quick overview, I hope it has inspired you to at least give those Pastel Pencils a try – in the meantime I have also started experimenting with Soft Pastels, and though I am still finding my way, I love the vivid colours and expressive strokes.

Does all of this mean I am giving up Coloured Pencil?  Not at all!  As you can see I am working on a huge Coloured Pencil Kudu (my biggest yet at about 60cm x 70cm!) and I still love the muted fine art look and amazingly fine detail the medium allows.

Unfortunately though it means my Art Supply Addiction is going nowhere…luckily its New Year, so dieting to save on the clothing budget falls right into the same resolution I have every year!

May 2019 bless you with much ‘Arting’ and may the Pencils of the world give wings to your creative dreams!

Pencil Blessings

4 thoughts on “Pastel Pencils: Reasons to Fall in Love!

  • Hennemarié HarrisJanuary 5, 2019 at 5:15 am

    Henriette,
    Ek dink jou werk is fantasties! Ek is ook ‘n groot potlood “fan”. Daar is ‘n rustigheid en kalmte, maar ook ‘n opgewondenheid in ‘n lekker skerp potlood! (Seker weens die feit dat ek jarelank ‘n Graad 1 juffrou was!)
    Ek skilder (skilder mens, of teken jy met potlode?) graag blomme, voëls en enkel natuurvoorwerpe. Ek is so bly om op jou blad af te kom want ek weet ek kan baie van jou leer.
    Potloodgroete,
    Hennemarié Harris
    Strand, Wes Kaap.

    Reply
  • So ja van der WaltMarch 20, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Henriette
    Dankie dat jy jou passie ook met ons deel! Ek is ook ‘n pastel potlood fan alhoewel ek onlangs begin het! So lekker om iemand van my eie land mee te kan gesels! Lekker dag en deel asb tutorials met ons!

    Reply
  • Rose DouglasSeptember 20, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    Hi Henrietta,
    Please advise me. I am a newbie to Coloured pencils and have bought Faber Castell Polychromos coloured pencils. I am finding the white is not great especially for whiskers. Could I mix a white pastel pencil and get nice fine whiskers with it, or, what do you suggest?

    I love your work, especially your article on Fur on the Art Savings blog..
    Many thx,
    Rose Douglas

    Reply
    • henriettewOctober 1, 2019 at 3:36 pm

      Hi Rose! Thanks so much for the comment! I will reply to you via email, so appreciate your feedback!

      Reply

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