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Introduction to Pastel Painting
One of the first things any student of art needs to learn is that there are many different ways to transfer the image into your head onto a piece of paper, board, or canvas. When people see a skillfully done pastel painting, they might think it was made with a brush and wet paint, but the truth is that pastels are something closer to charcoal or crayon. It’s a dry medium that requires a technique that is more like drawing than painting, but in the end, the results look like they the art piece was painted from afar. You need to get up close to indeed recognise a well-crafted pastel piece.
The History of Pastel Painting
Pastel painting dates back to around the 1400s. Leonardo da Vinci created one of the first written records of the medium. It was quickly picked up and used to create sketches. It was a quick drying and highly usable medium, which made it perfect for artists who wanted to get an idea about their new oil painting without having to commit to using the expensive and slow drying oil medium immediately. Eventually, artists would come to appreciate the unique characteristics of the pastel medium itself, especially the bright and playful colours it was capable of producing. That’s why the word “pastel” is used to describe a type of warm, bright colour even though pastels come in dark colours.
Pastel Painting Technique
The pastel medium is beloved because it combines drawing and painting. Skills like cross-hatching and erasing, once reserved for charcoal drawings can be used with pastels too. It’s a very tactile medium, so artists can scratch into it, smudge it, smear it, and even apply thin dust to create a fascinating texture. More so, artists can also use traditional painting techniques like impasto and stippling when creating their pastel masterpieces. Pastel pigment can even be mixed with wet mediums to create a look that’s almost just like a traditional painting.
Some Famous Pastel Painting Artists
Many artists have used pastels, but the most famous might be Edgar Degas, who uses his finely-honed drawing skills to create raw and vibrant pieces of pastel art. Mary Cassatt is another artist famous for her use of the medium. She was the only American, male or female, to have her art shown with the great Impressionists during the height of their power in Paris. She was a friend of Degas who learned from him while applying her unique perspective, capturing scenes of women and families that were too often overlooked by the male artists of the time.