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New ways with pastels

Take a piece of card — matt surface, not glossy. Wet it thoroughly. Then lay down a line into the wet with the side of a chalk pastel – and watch what happens!
These were the instructions given by OCA tutor, Stephen Court, at his workshop on Pastels and Mixed Media at the OCA headquarters in Barnsley last weekend.
What emerged was a rich and vibrant line of colour, with swirls of watery colour bleeding from the edges as the pigment was lifted and carried by the water. We’d never seen chalk pastels behave like that before!

Armed with A1 sheets of card, water sprays and boxes of pastels we returned to our tables and for the next half hour we whirled and swirled the colours over the vast expanse of card (and beyond, as testified by the state of the OCA carpet on later inspection).
After lunch, things stepped up even more when Stephen gave out dollops of PVA and plastic scrapers. After wetting the card and laying down some intense pastel colour as before, he showed us how to load up the scraper with the PVA and use the scraper to push the colour around, lift it up and place it down and, using the edge of the scraper, to cut through it and create lines. The PVA added bulk and formed a translucent film of colour though which the scraper carved out marks and lines. Soft pastels could be crumbled into the wet for extra texture, acrylics could be used to create opaque areas colour, and oil pastels could be used to draw into the wet surface – just see what happens!

We were off again with even wilder sweeps and glides, and within minutes imaginary landscapes appeared all around. Was it Addleburgh, Penn Hill, Stanage Edge, Burbage Moor? Heather, rock, walls, trees, cliffs — you could almost hear the wind in the grasses, Stephen remarked to one lady.
It certainly added a new dimension to working with pastels!

Posted by author: Alison Churchill
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7 thoughts on “New ways with pastels

  • Hi Debbie
    PVA is a kind of adhesive. You can buy it in art shops or, more cheaply, in a DIY shop. It can be used to seal plaster walls before painting them. Have fun!

  • WOW
    those look really good. I’d have never have thought of doing that.I’ve got a silly question though, how are the pastilles after you have wet them. Do they dry out again or do you just have to reserve a spare set of pastille crayons for the ‘wet ‘work.
    I only have one set and as much as I’d like to try this I don’t want to have to replace all of my colours just yet !
    Tina 🙂

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