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Encyclopedia > Pastel

Pastel is an art medium in the form of a stick, consisting of pure powdered pigment and a binder. The pigments used in pastels are the same as those used to produce all coloured art media, including oil paints. Image File history File links Information_icon. ... In the arts, media (plural of medium) are the materials and techniques used by an artist to produce a work. ... For animal and plant pigments, see Pigment, biology. ...

"Pastel" is also used:

  • as a noun - to mean a pastel artwork
  • as a verb - to represent the process of producing an artwork
  • as an adjective - to mean a pale colour.


Pastel Media

Commercial oil pastels.
Commercial oil pastels.

Pastel sticks or crayons consist of pure powdered pigment combined with an inert binder. The exact composition and characteristics of an individual pastel stick depends on the type of pastel and the type and amount of binder used. It also varies by individual manufacturer. Image File history File links Oliepastel. ... Image File history File links Oliepastel. ... A box of Pentel oil pastels Oil pastel is a painting and drawing medium with characteristics similar to pastels and wax crayons. ... For animal and plant pigments, see Pigment, biology. ... In English, to be inert is to be in a state of doing little or nothing. ...

Dry pastels have historically used binders such as gum arabic, gum tragacanth. Methyl cellulose was introduced as a binder in the twentieth century. Often a chalk or gypsum component is present. They are available in varying degrees of hardness, the softer varieties being wrapped in paper. Acacia senegal plant from Koehlers Medicinal-Plants 1887 Gum arabic, a natural gum also called gum acacia, is a substance that is taken from two sub-Saharan species of the acacia tree, Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal. ... Gum tracaganth is the resin obtained from various memebers of the plant genus Astrogalus, also known as Locoweed. ... Methylcellulose (or methyl cellulose) is a chemical compound derived from cellulose. ... The Needles, part of the extensive Southern England Chalk Formation. ... Gypsum is a very soft mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O. // Heating gypsum to between 100°C and 150°C (302°F) partially dehydrates the mineral by driving off exactly 75% of the water contained in its chemical structure. ...

Dry pastel media can be subdivided as follows:

  • Soft pastels — This is the most widely used form of pastel. The sticks have a higher portion of pigment and less binder, resulting in brighter colors. The drawing can be readily smudged and blended, but it results in a higher proportion of dust. Drawings made with soft pastels require a fixative to prevent smudging.
  • Hard pastels — These have a higher portion of binder and less pigment, producing a sharp drawing material that is useful for fine details. These can be used with other pastels for drawing outlines and adding accents. However the colors are less brilliant than with, say, soft pastels.
  • Pastel pencils — These are pencils with a pastel lead. They are useful for adding fine details.

In addition, pastels using a different approach to manufacture have been developed:

  • Oil pastels — These have a soft, buttery consistency and intense colors. They are slightly more difficult to blend than soft pastels, but do not require a fixative. (See separate section on oil pastel for more details)
  • Water-soluble pastels — These are similar to soft pastels, but contain a water-soluble component, such as glycol. This allows the colors to be thinned out using a water wash.

There has been some debate within art societies as to what exactly counts as a pastel. The Pastel Society within the UK (ie the oldest pastel society) states the following are acceptable media for its exhibitions "Pastels, including Oil Pastels, Charcoal, Pencil, Conte, Sanguine, or any dry media" The emphasis appears to be on 'dry media' but the debate continues. A box of Pentel oil pastels Oil pastel is a painting and drawing medium with characteristics similar to pastels and wax crayons. ... A box of Pentel oil pastels Oil pastel is a painting and drawing medium with characteristics similar to pastels and wax crayons. ... Ethylene glycol (IUPAC name:ethane-1,2-diol) is a chemical compound widely used as an automotive antifreeze (coolant). ...


In order to create hard and soft pastels, pigments are ground into a paste with water and a gum binder and then rolled or pressed into sticks — whence the name "pastel" from the Italian pastello, meaning "little bread roll". The French word pastel first appeared in 1675.

Most brands produce gradations of a color, the original pigment of which tends to be dark, from pure pigment to near-white by mixing in differing quantities of chalk. This mixing of pigments with chalks is the origin of the word "pastel" in reference to "pale colour" as it is commonly used in cosmetic and fashion venues. The Needles, part of the extensive Southern England Chalk Formation. ...

A pastel is made by letting the sticks move over an abrasive ground, leaving colour on the grain of the paper, sandboard, canvas etc. When fully covered with pastel, the work is called a pastel painting; when not, a pastel sketch or drawing. Pastel paintings, being made with a medium that has the highest pigment concentration of all, reflect light without darkening refraction, allowing for very saturated colours.

Pastel Supports

Pastel supports need to provide a "tooth" for the pastel to adhere and hold the pigment in place. Supports include:

  • laid paper (eg Ingres; Canson Mi Teintes)
  • abrasive supports (eg with a surface of finely ground pumice or marble dust)

Protection of Pastel artwork

Pastels can be used to produce a very permanent form of art if the artist has given appropriate consideration to archival considerations. This means:

  • pastels use only lightfast pigments. Pastels which have used pigments which change colour or tone when exposed to light have suffered the same problems as can be seen in some oil paintings using the same pigment.
  • works are done on an acid free archival quality support. Historically some works have been executed on supports which are now extremely fragile and the support rather than the pigment needs to be protected under glass and away from light
  • works are properly mounted and framed under glass in a way which means that the glass does not touch the artwork. This avoids the deterioration which is associated with environemntal hazards such as air quality, humidity, mildew problems associated with condensation and smudging.

Some artists protect their finished pieces by spraying them with a fixative. Abrasive supports avoid or minimize the need to apply fixative which tends to darken and dull A fixative is a liquid, similar to varnish, which is usually sprayed over a finished piece of artwork to better preserve it and prevent smudging. ...

Glassine (paper) is used by artists to protect artwork which is being stored or transported. Some good quality books of pastel papers also include glassine to separate pages.

Pastel Societies

There are a number of Pastel Societies around the world.

The Pastel Society in the UK was founded in 1898 and founder members and early exhibitors included Brangwyn, Degas, Rodin, Rothenstein, Whistler and G.F. Watts. Current members are typically professional pastel artists. Admission to membership is via jury selection of artwork for the annual exhibition and agreement of existing members. Signature status is designated by the initials PS.

By way of contrast the oldest pastel society in the USA is the Pastel Society of America - founded in 1972 by Flora Giffuni to promote pastel art and its development. Membership is by jury selection and signature status is designated by the initials PSA.

The International Association of Pastel Societies was founded in 1994 by Urania Christy Tarbet with the aim of promoting pastel art. Its membership is limited to existing pastel societies.

Pastel Artists

Pastel, like oil and watercolour, has always had a high culture status. Natural olive oil Synthetic motor oil Oil, in a general sense, is a chemical compound that is not miscible with water, and is in a liquid state at ambient temperatures. ... Watercolor is a painting technique making use of water-soluble pigments that are either transparent or opaque and are formulated with gum to bond the pigment to the paper. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...

A bravura pastel portrait of Louis XV by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1748
A bravura pastel portrait of Louis XV by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1748

The pastel medium was first mentioned by Leonardo da Vinci in 1495. This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... Louis XV of France (February 15, 1710 – May 10, 1774), the Beloved (French: le Bien-Aimé), was King of France from 1715 until his death. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Leonardo and Da Vinci redirect here. ...

The 18th-century painters Maurice Quentin de La Tour (illustration, right) and Rosalba Carriera are especially well known for their pastel technique. The 19th-Century French painter Edgar Degas was a most prolific user of pastel and its champion. Mary Cassatt, introduced the impressionists and pastel to her friends in Philadelphia and Washington, and thus to the USA. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Portrait of a boy of the Leblond family, c. ... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... Edgar Degas (19 July 1834 – 27 September 1917), born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (IPA ), was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, and drawing. ... The Childs Bath (The Bath). ...

During the 18th century the medium became fashionable for portrait painting, used in a mixed technique with gouache. Pastel is still sometimes combined with other materials in a mixed-media painting, but it is not easily compatible with oil paint. It has been suggested that Portrait painting be merged into this article or section. ... Corridor in the Asylum, black chalk and gouache on pink paper by Van Gogh Gouache (from the Italian guazzo, water paint, splash) or Bodycolour (or Bodycolor, the terms preferred by Art historians) is a type of paint consisting of pigment suspended in water. ...

Pastels have become popular in modern art due to the medium's broad range of bright colours.

Prominent and contemporary American artists who use the medium of pastel include Larry Blovits, Wende Caporale, Tim Gaydos, Daniel Greene, Wolf Kahn, Albert Handell, Judy Pelt, and Madlyn-Ann C. Woolwich. Daniel Greene (born 1934) is an American artist who works in the media of pastel and oil painting. ... Wolf Kahn (b. ... Madlyn-Ann C. Woolwich is a Master Pastelist, Pastel Society of America, signature member and former National Vice President of Knickerbocker Artists USA. Other juried memberships include The Rockport Art Association, (MA), American Artists Professional League, (NYC), advisor and member of The Pastel Society of the West Coast, PSWC, The...

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Image File history File links Commons-logo. ... Wikimedia Commons logo by Reid Beels The Wikimedia Commons (also called Commons or Wikicommons) is a repository of free content images, sound and other multimedia files. ... In the arts of painting, graphic design, and photography, colour theory is a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual impact of specific colour combinations. ... Drawing is the act of defining (or delineating) the outlines of a figure against a background, using any of a wide variety of tools and techniques. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
ArtLex on Pastel (710 words)
A picture made with pastels may be called either a drawing or a painting.
It has entirely to do with whether the resulting image is more linear or more painterly — showing shapes or forms created with patches of color, exploiting color and tonal relationships.
The use of "pastel" in this sense might be understood in context, but art writers are generally wise to avoid using it in order to avoid confusing their readers.
Pastel Lesson - Fine Art Instruction (3339 words)
Soft pastels are more commonly available than hard pastels; soft pastels are generally what come in a common box labeled 'pastels.' But, differences still exist among brands, and even among pigments, so there is still a range of what is considered 'soft'.
Pastels suited the Impressionist temperament - spontaneity, freshness, richness of color relationships, portability for working outside, capturing the fleeting light and the fleeting moment, as well as a sense of physical movement of light and breeze.
Pastel was first used in 15th century Italy, but came to its most popular point in the 18th century in Europe.
  More results at FactBites »



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