The Beauty of Soft Pastels: Cathy Dement's Guide to Mastering the Medium

The Beauty of Soft Pastels: Cathy Dement's Guide to Mastering the Medium

Soft pastels hold a special place in my heart as one of my favorite mediums to work with. Their vibrant colors and velvety texture allow for a level of expression and spontaneity that is unmatched by any other medium. In this guide, I'll share some tips, techniques, and tricks for mastering the art of soft pastels, drawing from my own experience as an artist.

Tips, Techniques, and Tricks

  1. Choose Quality Pastels: Invest in high-quality soft pastels with rich pigment and a smooth texture.  Many also boast color-fastness, making your artwork last without fading for many years. While student-grade pastels may be more affordable, they often lack the intensity and blendability of artist-grade pastels.

  2. Layering and Blending: Soft pastels are renowned for their ability to layer and blend effortlessly. Experiment with layering different colors to create depth and dimension in your artwork. Use your fingers or blending tools like tortillons or blending stumps to blend colors together seamlessly.

  3. Work from Dark to Light: Start with darker colors and gradually build up to lighter shades. This allows you to establish the overall tonal values of your composition before adding highlights and details.

  4. Use a Variety of Surfaces: Soft pastels can be used on a variety of surfaces, including pastel paper, sanded paper, and even textured surfaces like sandpaper. Each surface offers its own unique qualities and effects, so don't be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you.

  5. Protect Your Work: Soft pastel artwork is prone to smudging, so be sure to protect your finished pieces.  Although a fixative spray is one option, it will likely darken your artwork and possibly leave splotches. Storing your work flat and covering it with a sheet of glassine paper is my way of protecting my pastel pieces.  


P.S.  This is one of my favorite pastel pieces.  It is called "Catching Snowflakes".  (shameless plug incoming....)  It is available as a print and also on other merchandise on my website! 

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