Pastel - pastel painting

DEFINITION

A term used both to describe the medium and the finished work. Pastel mediums are colored sticks similar to chalk or crayon that consist of powdered pigment and enough non-greasy binder (methyicellulose) to hold it together. Pastels vary according to the amount of chalk they contain, and the deepest toned are the most pure. The artist may build up colors without touching them once they are applied or achieve blending with fingers or a tool called a Stump. A sense of blending can also be achieved by laying many color strokes beside each other so the eye does the blending. Most pastels have water-based gum or binder, but Oil Pastels have an oil binder and can be thinned with turpentine and used like paint. Oil Pastels are less easily damaged than water-blended pastels. Traditional Pastels are difficult to mix because of the purity of the color, so boxes of Pastels often have over one-hundred sticks of varying shades of colors. In order for the pastels to adhere, a textured surface is required for a ground such as sandpaper and canvas. Then a fixative, either a spray or glass, is used to cover the pastel painting so that it has permanence. However, the glass must have a separating mat, so that it does not touch the Pastels, and fixitive must be used very lightly; otherwise it can alter the color effects and relationships. When properly cared for, pastels "can survive indefinitely" (Mayer) and will never crack, darken or get yellow. Pastel works are generally called paintings because the colors are applied in mass and not by line drawing. However that is true of soft pastels, but some artists use harder, sharply pointed crayons and get a drawing effect. Pastel is the simplest and purest method of painting, since pure color is used without a fluid medium and the crayons are applied directly to the pastel paper. Pastel Painting is rooted in prehistoric painting when visual art was made with dry lumps of colored material. As known today, Pastel Painting was first made popular in Paris in the 1720s by Rosalba Carriera, a Venetian painter. Edgar Degas of France was a prolific pastel painter in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and he in turn influenced Mary Cassatt, one of America's best-known Pastel painters. Other noted American Pastel Painters are Henrietta Johnston, reportedly America's first pastel painter; Andrew Wyeth; Wolf Kahn; Ramon Kelley; Dee Toscano and Lyonel Feininger. Sources: Ralph Mayer, "A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques"; Kimberley Reynolds & Richard Seddon, "Illustrated Dictionary of Art Terms"; Pastel Society of America; AskART database

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