FAQ RELATED TO SOFT PASTEL
What paper do you use?
It depends on what I’m painting. For still life, or anything where I want a nice, sharp line, I use Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card. For portraits and animals, I prefer suede matboard. It’s very forgiving, you can work your drawing out on the board (it takes lots of layers), and it makes great looking fur.
My favorite suede matboard is Crescent Moorman. You should be able to get it from any framer. I prefer colors of a medium value. Dark colors seem to take pastel differently, IMO, but you may want to experiment to find what works best for you.
What brand of pastels do you prefer?
I usually use pastels of medium relative softness. Terry Ludwigs are my favorite. Mount Visions are an excellent value - large and soft, and relatively affordable. I also use Girault and Unison, which are both very good brands. I don’t particularly like Rembrandts, but they’re an economical starter pastel. I don't particularly like NuPastels either, but they are a cheap starter pastel as well. Plus you can sharpen them nicely for details. *UPDATE* I received a set of Rembrandts from an award and they were actually quite nice to work with. I don't know if they've changed formula since my original set (they used to have a waxy-ish outer coating) but I wouldn't have a problem using them now.
How do you paint those small details?
I use either a sharpened pastel or pastel pencils, along with my favorite Tuff Stuff Eraser Stick. I find it hard to work without that eraser, so I always make sure I have more than one and lots of refills.
What pastel pencils do you use?
I’ve never met a pastel pencil I didn’t like. Some are softer than others, but I care more about color than softness.
How do you sharpen pastel pencils?
I’m still searching for the perfect sharpener, but my favorite continues to be the Creative Mark Multi-Point. See my blog posts on the subject.
Where do you get your supplies?
Mostly Dick Blick, but occasionally Jerry’s Artarama or Dakota Pastels. I get suede matboard from a local wholesale framing business, but you should be able to get it from any framer.
Do you use fixative?
How do you remove pastel from the paper?
I use a vacuum with the thin nozzle hand-held attachment. If that doesn’t work (you’d think it would, but sometimes not a whole lot comes off) I take an old, stiff paintbrush and brush off the pastel with the vacuum nozzle right underneath it. I’d rather save the dust, but the vacuum keeps it out of the air (and my lungs).
Do you use any protection from the pastel dust?
I use Gloves in a Bottle or Invisible Care lotion and finger cots (order from Dick Blick). I know I should wear a mask, but I don’t.
How do you store pastel paintings?
I frame them. For the rare ones I’m not planning on framing, I tape Glassine over them and store them in boxes. In the past, I’ve used Clear Bags, but I don’t recommend that. There is too much static in the bags.
I used velour paper and my painting fell off. What did I do wrong?
You used pastels that were too soft. Try again using medium to hard pastels (I wouldn't go softer than Mount Vision or Girault). Dakota Pastels has a relative hardness scale on their web site you might find helpful.
Do you have any instructional videos/demos/books?
Not at this time. It’s on my “To Do” list.
Do you conduct workshops?
Not at the moment. I occasionally accept students at my home studio, depending on my workload. Email me if you're interested.
Have a question not listed here? Email me at Kari (at) KariTirrell.com.