Sharon Bamber Fine Art

Painting the Living Landscape

About Soft Pastels


My plein air pastel painting set-up, with my beautiful soft pastels!

The following information is from the Pastel Society of America

Technically, pastel is pure powdered pigment, rolled into round or square sticks and held together with minute amounts (enough to just form a stick) of methyicellulose, a non-greasy binder. It can either be blended with finger and stump, or left with visible strokes and lines. Generally, the ground is toned paper, but sanded boards and canvas are also popular. If the ground is covered completely with pastel, the work is considered a Pastel Painting. If much of the ground is visible, the work is a Pastel Sketch.


 When protected by glass, pastel is the most permanent of all media, for it never cracks, darkens or yellows. Pastel works have been proven to last as long as, or longer than works in any other medium. They will preserve their colour and distinctive matte surface with the same freshness as when first applied.


Historically, the origin of soft pastel can be traced back to the sixteenth century, when Guido Reni, Jocopo Bassano and Frederigo Barocci were notable practitioners. Rosalba Carriera, 1675-1750, was the first to make consistent use of pastel. Chardin, 1699-1799, did portraits with a hatching stroke, while Quentin de la Tour, 1704-1788, preferred the blended, velvety finish. Thereafter, a galaxy of artists including Delacroix, Millet, MAnet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Vuillard, Bonnard, Whistler and Hassam, used pastel as finished work. Degas was the most prolific user of pastel, and its champion, for he raised it to the full brilliance of oil.


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