Today I finished up a pastel of Cassie, my dad’s cat, comfortably perched on the bottom shelf of a coffee table on the porch at my parents’ cottage. This is my first 8 x 10 pastel, most of the previous having been on half sheets but without real margins, so about 4.5 x 6.
I used about a dozen different pastels. When I was in CT recently I visited a few artists in their studios, and the one doing pastels worked very differently from me. She used sandpaper, a heavier, dark maroon paper with grit embedded in it, and had probably 500 pieces of chalk pastels. There were a few dozen of what seemed to be each single color. She said the sandpaper allowed her to lay down up to 20 layers of pastel, and she used different pastels with different hardnesses. This all reminded me of photos I’ve seen of artists studios where they appear to have thousands of pastels all laid out in trays.
Standing there in the studio, I thought, gee, maybe I’d better do that, but on reflection, I’m not sure it got her better results. Her paintings were very nice landscapes, but the difference in materials wasn’t apparent to me in the end. My pastel paper accepts about 4-5 layers, and I have about 3 dozen good pastels, and only so many because I inherited several sets from different people. I’ve brought over my watercolor habits to have a limited palette, and I’m happy with what I create. I only own about 15 watercolor tubes, and any given painting probably only uses 4-5 of them: a red, a blue, a yellow, a brown, and maybe black. I do this on purpose, to give the painting harmony.
I also worked on a watercolor Still Life with Turban Squash which I have been dawdling over.