Reference Library: Pastel
:This article is about the art-related use of Pastel. For other uses, see Pastel (disambiguation)
'Pastel' is an art material in the form of sticks, often consisting of pure pigment, the same pigment as used in producing all coloured media. If that pigment is itself stable, pastel art works have a good durability when applied to durable paper and properly framed. Pastel that has not been sprayed with a fixative contains little binder material that will darken, yellow, crack or blister with time. The medium was first mentioned by Leonardo da Vinci in 1495. Pastels survive from the 16th century as fresh as the day they were made. The same lack of binder however implies that it cannot protect the pigment against the light. Light permanency of some colours is therefore poor.
The pigment is ground into a paste with some water and gum binder and then rolled or pressed into sticks — hence the original Italian pastello meaning "little bread roll"; the French pastel first appeared in 1675. Most brands produce gradations to white by mixing more or less chalk. This is the origin of the word pastel referring to "pale colours" as it is commonly used in cosmetic and fashion venues.
A pastel is made by letting the sticks move over an abrasive ground, leaving colour on the grain of the paper, sandboard, canvas etc. When fully covered with pastel, the work is called a pastel painting; when not, a pastel sketch or drawing. Pastel paintings, being made with a medium that has the highest pigment concentration of all, reflect light without darkening refraction, allowing for very saturated colours.
During the 18th century the medium became fashionable for portrait painting, used in a mixed technique with gouache. Famous artists of the time were de la Tour and Jean Etienne Liotard. Pastel is still sometimes combined with other materials in a mixed-media painting, but it is not easily compatible with oil paint.
Edgar Degas was a most prolific user of pastel and its champion. His protégé, Mary Cassatt, introduced the impressionists and pastel to her friends in Philadelphia and Washington, and thus to the USA.
Pastel, like oil and watercolour, has always had a high culture status.
Pastel crayons or sticks, consist of pure pigment combined with an inert binder, such as gum arabic, gum tragacanth, or methyl cellulose. Often a chalk or gypsum component is present. They are available in varying degrees of hardness, the softer varieties being wrapped in paper. The colors are simply drawn onto the artwork surface, usually paper.
The available pastel media can be subdivided as follows:
* Hard pastels — These have a higher portion of binder and less pigment, producing a sharp drawing material that is useful for fine details. These can be used with other pastels for drawing outlines and adding accents. However the colors are less brilliant than with, say, soft pastels.
* Oil pastels — These have a soft, buttery consistency and intense colors. They are slightly more difficult to blend than soft pastels, but do not require a fixative.
* Pastel pencils — These are pencils with a pastel lead. They are useful for adding fine details.
* Soft pastels — This is the most widely used form of pastel. The sticks have a higher portion of pigment and less binder, resulting in brighter colors. The drawing can be readily smudged and blended, but it results in a higher proportion of dust. Drawings made with soft pastels require a fixative to prevent smudging.
* Water-soluble pastels — These are similar to soft pastels, but contain a water-soluble component, such as glycol. This allows the colors to be thinned out using a water wash.
Pastel supports need to provide a "tooth" for the pastel to adhere and hold the pigment in place. Supports include:
* laid paper (eg Ingres; Canson Mi Teintes)
* abrasive supports (eg with a surface of finely ground pumice or marble dust)
Protection of Pastel artwork
Some artists protect their finished pieces by spraying them with a fixative. Abrasive supports avoid or minimize the need to apply fixative which tends to darken and dull colors.
Drawings in a book of art paper can be protected by separating the pages using laid paper.
In all cases, a pastel drawing or painting must be framed under glass to protect it from smudging, environmental hazards, humidity, and so on.
Glassine is used to protect pastel artwork which is being stored or transported.
There are a number of Pastel Societies around the world.
The [http://www.thepastelsociety.org.uk/ Pastel Society in the UK] was founded in 1898 and founder members and early exhibitors included Brangwyn, Degas, Rodin, Rothenstein, Whistler and G.F. Watts. Current members are typically professional pastel artists. Admission to membership is via jury selection of artwork for the annual exhibition and agreement of existing members. Signature status is designated by the initials PS.
By way of contrast the oldest pastel society in the USA is the [http://pastelsocietyofamerica.org/main/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,1/ Pastel Society of America] - founded in 1972 by Flora Giffuni to promote pastel art and its development. Membership is by jury selection and signature status is designated by the initials PSA.
The [http://www.pastelinternational.com/ International Association of Pastel Societies] was founded in 1994 by Urania Christy Tarbet with the aim of promoting pastel art. Its membership is limited to existing pastel societies.
The 18th-century painters Maurice Quentin de La Tour (illustration, right'') and Rosalba Carriera are especially well known for their pastel technique.
The 19th-Century French painter Edgar Degas was well known for his works in pastel, among other media.
Prominent and contemporary American artists who use the medium of pastel include Larry Blovits, Wende Caporale, Tim Gaydos, Daniel Greene, Wolf Kahn, Albert Handell, and Madlyn-Ann C. Woolwich.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pastel".