One of the wonderful qualities of the pastel medium is the pure pigment and how the colour particles catch and reflect light. This same pigment you will find in oil, acrylic or watercolour paint Soft Pastel sticks are made with almost pure pigment and held together with a gum binder. Less binder creates a softer pastel, great for coverage,and lovely to blend with, but can create a lot of pastel dust. Hard Pastel has more binder in the stick, they are more useful for line work, sketching, under painting and can be sharpened. they are also available in pencil form, which is great for detail work. Pan Pastels: are formulated with a minimum of binder in flat compacts (similarto some make up) and applied with special soft micro pore sponge tools. No liquid is involved. A 21st-century invention, Pan Pastels can be used for the entire painting or in combination with soft and hard sticks.
Pastels are very versatile, they can be used dry, and blended with the fingers, paper stumps, and colour shapers, or wet either mixed with water or an odourless solvent and put down as a wash under painting. Most brands produce gradations of colours from dark, the purest colour through to a near white by mixing in quantities of chalk.
The manufacture of pastels originated in the 15th century. The pastel medium was mentioned by Leonardo Da Vinci, who learned of it from the French artist JeanPerreal after that artist's arrival in Milan in 1499. Pastel was sometimes used as a medium for preparatory studies by 16th-century artists, and during the 18th century the medium became fashionable for portrait painting. Edgar Degas was the most prolific user, and one of the better known pastel artists of his time. His protege Mary Cassatt introduced pastel to the United States. Pastels are now enjoying a current increase in popularity, due to their brilliance of colour, permanence and immediacy.
Pastel is mixed and blended directly on the working surface, supports need to provide a "tooth" for the pastel to adhere and hold the pigment in place. Fixatives sprayed on the work are a personal choice, they can darken the colours, some artists use them in between layers to set and create the tooth for more pastel work. Others just on the final layer. Pastel work needs to be framed under glass, whether the support is paper canvas or wood. A spacer between the work and the glass, so there is no contact and risk of smudging, or if using mats use two, the under matt being the spacer which also provides a gap for any loose particles of dust to fall Always use archival materials. Unfortunately there are some pigments that can fade when exposed to harsh light over time, I avoid using them in my work. Museum glass is available for framing which cuts out 98% of UV, but it is expensive. Never hang artwork in direct sunlight or under fluorescent lighting, to avoid UV damage to the work