About Pastels

To the art world, pastel refers not to soft pale colors, but to bright, durable sticks of pigment used to make beautiful and exciting paintings.

Pastel is an increasingly sought after medium for its beauty, vibrancy, durability and endless possibilities for technique and style.

Pastels, powdered color pigment formed into round or square sticks, are held together by binders that create soft or hard pastels. Binder converts dry powdery pigment into a moist lump which is formed into sticks and dried. As a compressed pigment, pastels will adhere easily to a variety of acid free papers, boards, sandpapers or canvas with various levels of tooth or texture.

Pastel paintings appeared in Paris during the 1720’s (perhaps earlier as some pre-historic murals, such as those at Lascaux, seem to have been done with similar pigment.) A number of great masters, including Delacroix, Millet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard, and Whistler, have produced brilliant works using pastel. Edgar Degas pushed the envelope of pastel painting and changed the reputation of the medium from a pale medium to a sketching tool into a major artistic medium.

Numerous works by well-regarded 19th Century artists Jean-Baptiste Chardin, and Mary Cassatt are in the pastel medium. Their contributions are inspiring and greatly appreciated by today’s artists and collectors.

A very short subjective list of contemporary pastelists: Wolf Kahn, Casey Klahn, Vianna Szabo, Carole Katchen and Alan Flattman. Our workshops are with modern masters (not an entire list): Desmond O'Hagan, Doug Dawson, Greg Biolchini, Terry Ludwig, Albert Handell, Jeanne Rosier Smith, Robert Carsten, Margaret Dyer, Liz Haywood-Sullivan. Future workshop instructors are Gwenneth Barth-White and Richard McKinley.

Pastel paintings, when protected by glass or plexi, are a permanent medium that never cracks or yellows. When cared for properly, they will last indefinitely.

Pastels come in a variety of types. Hard pastels, such as Nupastels, are used for drawing, edging, blocking in color and finer detail work. Medium pastels, such as Rembrandts and Great American are softer, yet solid and cover a lot of tooth quickly. Still another category is the ultra soft creamy pastels by Schmincke, Sennelier, Mount Vision, Terry Ludwig and others which are used for intensifying or highlighting color. Used alone or together these pastels orchestrate intriguing visual pleasure and enjoyment for both the casual art observer and seasoned artists alike.