Pastel Sketching: Awakening an old Love


I’ve always considered pastel a continuation of oil painting, just another medium with the same basic process. I used to smooth the texture and use my finger a lot to create a softness. I have discovered quite suddenly a new vision for my pastels.

Another pastel with a basic idea of the texture and light but the end of a previous series.

It started the last time I picked up pastels, I had more interest in texture and the vibration of color than simply rendering a scene correctly. My mindset was very much like oils and the overall image was what I was seeking.

The water in the distance, I believe worked but everything after seemed to be less than what I was seeking. The new view of what pastels should be was just beginning to form. This was several years ago.

Unfortunately for the last image, it seemed by the time I was finished, I lost the reason I started in the first place, this is how series of work begin and end.

Recently, I had the desire to create pastels but with no image in mind. When there is no image, I miss what is special about the finished product so I tend to stumble in the dark.

It can be a frustrating time not knowing exactly what the finished product should be. When I was traveling, selling insurance, I got into a habit of quick sketches, simple renderings created in one day.

This was a series of fast pastel works that each took no more than an evening. They were all from memory and most from my travels in East Texas.

A New Way of Seeing and Rendering Pastels

Yesterday, I wanted to paint, unfortunately the studio is quite cold and I found myself staring at half finished paintings with no direction. I dug out some poster boards that had been cut a few months ago and decided to start sketching.

What should I start with? The question again seemed complicated but I believe I was overthinking it. I decided to create images I had been talking about creating for the longest time, my son and my grandchild, my son’s dog Ranger and an old friend’s daughter who is by now probably in her teens.

The wonderful thing that happened is I realized details and proportion better than I ever have. Creativity and the skills of seeing are subconscious tools that grow and ferment in the brain and then suddenly you can create what in the past seemed impossible.

Very quickly I used only 4 or 5 pastel colors but I interpreted each color, shadow and line with specific cools and warms, I will later go and perfect some of the colors but I could see how all the parts fit in perfectly and it was almost effortless creating them on the board.

I only looked for the basic form and than only the shadows. It is a wonderful feeling to truly see and decipher that which in the past the conscious might have assumed and took over.

I liked the idea and the discipline of working up tones and putting colors and textures to work with each other. The image slowly appears and it is much like how colors are separated in the CMYK printing process-you lay down a group of colors, overlay another layer of colors and watch as the image becomes itself.

I don’t think I have enjoyed sketching so much as I have in the last two days and I was lucky enough to see old images as new again. To truly see and allow the subconscious to rule the hands is quite a feeling of control and discipline that I needed on this cold rainy March afternoon.

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