HelicalRadiance

ABOUT THE MEDIUM OF PASTEL

The pastel painting medium is created from the same pigments as those used in watercolor and oil paints; only the binder is different. While gum arabic binds the pigment for watercolors, and linseed oil is the binder for oil paints, just enough gum tragacanth is used to bind the pure powdered pigment in the familiar stick form of a pastel. Thus it is the most direct and responsive of all the painting media. And since there is so little binder, pieces of pastel can be ground up, blended, and formed into new sticks, which I often do, creating colors which are uniquely my own.

Pastels can be applied to a multitude of surfaces, including various types of papers and cloth. My preferred surface is a napped canvas manufactured specifically for pastel paintings. It is a heavy artist’s grade canvas with an acrylic primer which, while still wet, is impregnated with fine cotton fibers, giving it a rich velvety surface perfect for my imagery and technique. I also occasionally use a sanded canvas which I prepare myself, using a fine pumice mixture.

Pastels are sometimes mistakenly referred to as chalks. But a particle of pastel pigment seen under a microscope looks like a multi-faceted diamond. Therefore, pastels reflect light like a prism. No other medium has the same power of color or stability. Properly framed, they are one of the most permanent media. Pastel paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries are as luminous today as the day they were created, without the crazing and yellowing common with oils. Though a rough bump may cause some dusting, this is easily cleaned and will not harm the image.

The reflective quality of the pastel particles precludes the use of non-glare, or etched, glass, which prevents light from reaching the facets of the particles and thus deadens the colors. Anti-reflective glass, which does not cause this problem, is preferred as it virtually disappears, but it is more costly. My work is available both framed and unframed.