Whoa, I’m going to get started with my new drawing materials! Let’s see how it all works and how I like it. For this tryout, I have chosen a beautiful owl eyes reference photo from pixabay.com, by Graham-h. Challenging!
First, I make some room for my new table easel. Which is not so easy, since my table is not that big… And it’s quite full already, with my laptop, my Polychromos, a pencil box (or rather: a brush box), ipad stand, pencil sharpener, daylight lamp, mini speaker … and now also pan pastels and pastel pencils. But I manage. That gives a much better view on the paper than when it’s lying horizontally on the table!
Of course I am also giving Clairefontaine’s Pastelmat a first try. To not complicate things too much, I pick a white sheet. And notice that it’s not so easy to tear one out of the pad… Oh my, how much force does it need? I don’t want to damage it! But then, finally, relief: it works!
Before taping the paper to the easle, I want a tape frame for the drawing. So that needs a bit of measuring first. I’m bound by my small old ipad air, so I have some math to do. I decide to work with a factor of 1,25. I plot the dimensions on the paper and tape the edges with removable Scotch tape. This works great, but I must remember to tape the outer edge as well next time, otherwise I will still have to use my eraser. Unfortunately, I see that the stiff paper edges are curling… I read on the internet that more people suffer from this. When I’m ready for my next pad, I have to pay more attention to that in the store!
I fit the panpastels into the tray palette right away, nice and organised. A piece of kitchen paper on the side to wipe off the sponges, and a piece of printer paper to mix colours. I use the triangular and the round sponge bar, and two mini applicators. The pastel has beautiful bright pigments. It is tempting to fill the paper with a thick layer of pastel, but I have to resist the urge, otherwise I can’t apply any more layers… Keep it translucent.
Mixing is easy. Mixing on the pans works fine if I already know exactly which colours I need to mix, and in the other case I mix some on the printer paper until it satisfies me.
I am still having trouble wiping the sponges clean. They keep releasing colour, I even wipe an applicator to pieces. I pick up a fresh one to use the colour white, but as soon as I touch another colour, the white is never white again. I wonder how often I’m supposed to take a new sponge… This cannot be right, can it?
Panpastel claims to be easily erasable. Well, not on Pastelmat! The paper has a structured surface and it feels like I’m damaging it and staining it. Better not to make any mistakes, so no erasing is needed. Some artists use an eraser, however, as a technique to light up some parts, so maybe I do have to try that someday.
After playing around with some colours and applying a kind of underpainting – I’m still in doubt which colours are appropriate – it’s time for the Pitt pastel pencils! I’ve read somewhere that you should use darker colours in the underpainting for furs and such, representing the skin or shadows, so you can simply draw the lighter hairs on top of that. So that is what I am going to try now!
The pastel pencils
Ugh! These pencils are scratchy! That’s a new for me… like scratching fingernails on a blackboard! Scratchy pencils on a textured surface. I miss the Polychromos’ gliding over the smooth Bristol board, this is really quite different! I can barely manage to move the pencil in soft sliding strokes, which is my favourite way to make a drawing look ‘soft’. It takes me some time to discover I can also hold the pencil really flat, for a softer stroke. But the result remains very grainy.
The supplier has sent me a complimentary set of paper stumps with my panpastels, and they turn out very useful now! Everything that does not need a ‘sharp’ line gets a treatment with the stump. That helps. And, as to the ‘sharp’: I’m taking care of my pencils, so I only sharpen the ones I really need to be sharp. My hand crank sharpener does the job well, as well as my Faber-Castell hand sharpener. I don’t try to get a point like a colour pencil, for they will probably break easily. I’m not pushing any limits yet…
There is no need to try applying layer after layer with these pastel pencils, as I would do with colour pencils. The tooth of the paper is filled with pastel quickly. So, it is important to carefully choose my colours, since there is a limit to the number of colours I can mix. And there it is, a new challenge: I have to find out how to mix the colours I need using this smaller range of colours – 60, whereas the Polychromos set has 120 of them. Especially the lighter colours are hard to mix, most of the pencils seem to be too dark for me.
So that is actually a good thing, you would say… Because with colour pencil, my drawings are too light most of the time, compared to the reference. As an excuse, I call it “my own style”, clearly recognisable as a drawing and not a photograph. So, this is a nice new challenge with these pastels, to get into drawing deeper and darker!
By the way, I am slightly disappointed in the way the lighter pencils ‘cover’ darker colours. I think I expected too much. I can’t get highlights to stand out, when I apply a light colour over a dark patch. Everything gets a bit muddy and greyish. Maybe it’s my (lack of) technique, maybe it’s the paper, I don’t know, I’ll have to find out.
The paper is really great for pastel. I love the pastel pigments, they are bright and intense, even in just one layer. Both darker and lighter colours are more opaque and less transparent than colour pencil. The panpastel is really nice to work with and superfast. I just have to find out the proper way to use the tools. The pastel pencils are scratchy, which takes some getting used to. Light-over-dark is not as easy as I expected. But I do see lots of new possibilities with this replenishment of my drawing stuff!
As to the owl, I’m leaving it at that. I have tried a lot of different things, as you can see… Now I want to start something new, for even more practice!
To go to the Dutch version of this post:Tekenen met pastel (2) – Uil!