Q: Why do you have so many pastels?

Barbara's pastels

Barbara’s pastels

A: Our eyes can see infinitely more colors than the relative few that are made into pastels. When I layer pigments onto the sandpaper, I mix new colors directly on the painting. The short answer is, I need lots of pastels so that I can make new colors.

I’ve been working exclusively with soft pastel for nearly 27 years. Whenever I feel myself getting into a rut in how I select and use my colors, I look around for new materials to try.   I’m in one of those periods now and plan to buy  soft pastels made by Henri Roché in Paris.  (Not long ago I received a phone call from their artist’s liaison and was offered samples based on my preferences.  Wow, what great colors!).  Fortunately, new brands of soft pastels are continually coming onto the market. There are pastels that are handmade by artists – I love discovering these – and new ones manufactured by well-known art supply companies.  Some sticks of soft pastel are oily, some are buttery, some more powdery, some crumble easily, some are more durable.  Each one feels distinct in my hand.

Furthermore, they each have unique mixing properties.  It’s an under-appreciated science that I stumbled upon (or maybe I invented it, I’m not sure since I can’t know on a deep level how other pastel painters work). In this respect soft pastel is very different from other paint media. Oil painters, for example, need only a few tubes of paint to make any color in the world. I don’t go in much for studying color theory as a formal discipline. If you want to really understand and learn how to use color, try soft pastel and spend 10,000+ hours (the amount of time Malcolm Gladwell says, in his book, “Outliers,” that it takes to master a skill) figuring it all out for yourself!

Comments are welcome.

About barbararachkoscoloreddust

New York Artist Barbara Rachko www.barbararachko.com shares her perspective on pastel painting, photography, and the creative inspiration she finds in ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, mythology, and travel to remote places, like her new favorite destinations, Bali and Sri Lanka.

Posted on November 24, 2012, in Art in general, Creative Process, Pastel Painting, Studio, Working methods and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Barbara. I like your blog, but I must say the following: if you think you and your fellow soft pastelists do not have enough colors, try being an oil pastelist (like me). We only have four or five artist-quality brands to choose from, and the largest color range available to us is Sennelier’s 125 colors. I’ve had to start melting different-colored sticks together to give myself more colors to work with, which is time-(and money-) consuming.

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