Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Love Affair With Pastels

I had used pastel pencils for charcoal work but had no idea of the scope of materials in this genre available to me. I noticed a white pastel pencil was Conte (Paris, France) brand and found the consistency perfect for getting details and the rich pigment I needed for highlights.

Off I went to my favorite art store where I asked for the smoothest and richest pastels they had in the store. One of their staff, who is always so helpful pointed me towards Unison Pastels, but warned especially if I was messy with them, to wear a face mask and gloves, because one of the pastel artists who frequented their store ended up needing a blood transfusion due to cadmium poisoning possibly from breathing in the pastels. I am truly grateful for this information and keep an air purifier right next to me as I work. The Unisons, handcrafted in England, are known to be some of the best in the world, and for good reason. Their consistency is unparalleled for truly smooth, buttery applications, but what I do notice is that it creates quite a lot of dust. Big amounts of dust (in my opinion) have a tendency to 'fog' the rest of the piece with a thin layer of tiny lighter particles, which seems to dampen the saturation of the brighter or darker colors ever so slightly. To counteract this, I firmly press especially thick, rich layers into the paper and then spray the non-toxic casein-based Spectrafix Degas Pastel Fixative about 8 inches away to 'affix' those particles to wherever I put them.

'Josie' 2012 Pastel on Paper
My first large pastel piece was completed in 2012 and was a portrait of my grandma, aptly named, 'Josie.'

I used pink-toned Canson pastel paper which I felt would complement the warm, yellow tones I had an affinity for. I also used the grid method for this piece which I had learned in high school (Mr. D'Avino would be proud).

In 2011 I became a member of the Connecticut Portrait Society and was honored to exhibit this piece in 'Faces of Winter' 2012 at UCONN.

After this, I practiced on Canson papers and did some almost surrealist portraits, trying to seek out my style.