So I discovered what I call the “powers” of pastel- that not all sticks are created equal. I started to rethink about my past and how I had used watercolors. ( I forgot to mention that when I started painting for myself after college, I worked in the watercolor medium.) Now, watercolor takes guts. Once something is down in a watercolor wash, there is no going back without repercussions. It takes a kind of fearlessness (or is it recklessness?) to work in watercolor because watercolor demands that you give up some control. But I loved it. Portraits in watercolor? Bring it on. Whenever I had worked in oils, I found I was always thinning the oils down and working thickly just seemed really uncomfortable for me. Watercolor was a better fit because I loved the transparency. And not just the transparent washes in watercolor, but also the contrast you could get against the more opaque pigments.

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Dignity, Watercolor 24 x 18″

I loved trying to control that variety, so I began to work with different collections of pastels. “Grading” the powers of them and finding out if I could find “transparency” in an opaque medium. I found that by running a stick over the palm of my hand, it would give me a rather accurate test of the “binder to pure pigment” ratio in the mix. Ah ha!! I have determined that there are very soft sticks that can be low power and hard sticks that can pack a punch. There are even differences between colors in the same brands!! This was such an eye-opener for me and I have been thinking this way about this medium ever since. Now I deliberately pit low-powered and high-powered areas against each other to help tell a story.From left to right is a pastel pencil, Rembrandt, Grumbacher, Girault, Unison, Sennelier and Roche. Notice the “power” increasing!
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For more information on this subject, the Pastel Journal featured my work in the article, “Powering Up” in the 2016 October issue. Check it out! Click on the pictures to buy the magazine.

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