It’s not just a dramatic title, in this little art adventure (more like misadventure) I actually did suffer trying to better my art. But more about that in a bit, I’d first like to tell you all why after working so hard to master acrylics and Gouache paint, am I now messing with soft pastels. Well, kind of for sentimental reasons. Firstly, away back in the day my mother was really into art and her main medium was pastels. So, I thought it might be nice to try my hand at pastels and learn a little more about it. Secondly, my mother gifted a set of soft pastels for my birthday a few months ago and I wanted to use them before she started to think I didn’t like them.
As helpful as having a parent that also into art sounds, sadly I can’t ask my mother for art tips. Our styles are miles apart and so very different and we draw completely different things. My mother creates mostly things with flowers or landscape pieces (which I’m terrible at) and as you all know, I mostly draw characters (which my mother is rubbish at) and animals. So, as you see it would quickly become an exercise in futility. Therefore, I teach myself by experimenting (messing around) with art supplies and learning what works or by watching YouTube and to be honest soft pastels had a very steep learning curve.
So, getting back on track I give to you what I learnt from suffering for art:
Don’t breathe in the dust and soft pastels are probably not suitable for asthmatics-
This wasn’t the first thing learnt from this experience, but was the most important lesson and explains why I suffered. So, to emphasise the point, don’t breathe in the dust that’s created by soft pastels. I wasn’t aware of how dusty or dangerous this medium could be and accidentally breathed in the dust and near coughed a lung up (but luckily, I always keep an inhaler close by). So, art responsibly and don’t half kill yourself like me. It’s probably best to wear some type of dust mask while using soft pastels.
Try not to drop the case of pastels-
If dropped the pastels break into pieces. Looking on the bright side, I will repeat what I tell my nieces and nephew when they accidentally break their crayons. “Hey, at least there’s 2 of those colours now, which makes sharing so much easier.”
Soft pastels are really hard to control-
Due to their unusual shape it is incredibly difficult to draw even the basic shapes or thin lines. Not to mention it’s also rather difficult to predict what will happen when the pastel is blended or rubbed. Drawing a character with these would be way beyond my soft pastel skills, so instead I decided to create a bit of an abstract nature themed piece.
Soft pastels are incredibly messy-
Merely holding a pastel and applying it to paper will cover your fingertips in pastel dust. Also using your fingers to blend or rub in the pastel is a really bad idea. Your hand will quickly become unrecognisable (I would share a photo of what happened my hand but it was too gross. It looked like old mouldy cheese).
Drawing with pastels is a little like painting with acrylics, except it’s a lot harder-
You can lay down the basic plan and colours of your drawing like acrylics. However, unlike acrylics you can’t prevent colours mixing or looking muddy, by waiting until the paint is dry before adding another colour. With pastels the colours always have the possibility of blending and muddying. Making working with more than one colour really difficult.
Keep trying until you create something you like-
Despite choking half to death on rainbow coloured dust in the beginning, I kept going and eventually made something nice. Not bad for a first attempt, though if I hadn’t feared choking on pastel dust again, I could have keep going even longer and made something better.
Pastels are actually very difficult medium but they’re also a hell of a lot of fun-
I have a new-found respect for pastel artist, soft pastels are so hard to work with. It must take so much time, skill and effort to create something amazing with soft pastels.
Pastels are a lot of fun to mess around with, so I would like to try to master them. However next time I’ll use better judgment and wear some type of dust mask.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this little art adventure and as always,
Thanks for reading.