Recently an artist friend recommended that I try pan pastels. She extolled their dustless virtues until I was itching to get myself a set. So when I came across a basic set on sale I jumped on it anxious to put them to the test.
I like the packaging and the way they screw together making a nice, neat stack. My set came with a few sponge applicators, but not handles for the sponge sleeves.
The consistency is creamy and they blend together beautifully. But dustless? They do have less dust than traditional sticks and of course it does make a difference what kind of surface you are using.
My first experiment was on a lovely sanded paper. I did an under painting with the pans. Having just the basic set I felt very limited with the colors available. So I put in the basic shapes of boats, houses, mountains and trees. Then I resorted to my Sennelier sticks.
Leah Wiedemer, soft pastel, 6.5″x9″
Yes, the sticks are much messier, but I don’t mind getting a little dirty when I work. I’m happy with the result but a little disappointed that I abandoned the pans in order to achieve the look I wanted.
For my next experiment I worked on Canson Mi Tientes paper on the smooth side. I wanted to see if I could force myself to complete a painting using only pan pastels. First I laid in an under painting. The sponge applicators are great for blending and kept my fingers clean.
Under painting for Venice Rain by Leah Wiedemer
The colors looked like they were going to work. The pastels blended easily and created a minimal amount of dust. I continued working with the pan pastels indicating where I wanted the umbrellas, people and shop windows. Then when it came to final tweaking I again went back to my sticks. The temptation was just too great. I’m weak. I do love my Sennelier sticks and will probably continue to depend on them. There is something about the directness of stick to paper that makes me feel more connected to the work. Also I like an unblended swath of color here and there. I’ll use the pan pastels too, but only for backgrounds and under paintings.
Venice Rain, soft pastel by Leah Wiedemer 6.5″x9.5″
What is your experience using pan pastels? Love ’em or hate ’em? I’d love to hear how you use them. Leave a comment to tell me what you think.