Gliders are the sprinkles on my cupcake. Pastels that are “gliders” are kind of special. They have this uncanny way of gliding over the top of other pastels making them great for deliberate mark-making….

Most gliders are machined (not hand-made) and that makes them more compressed which means they keep the integrity of their “marks” while riding overtop of other layers. The best gliders I have found are Unisons. Roches, Great Americans and the new Richeson sticks are gliders as well.

In my “threads” series of paintings, I have built the threads with Unisons because if I had used, say, Senneliers, they would not have kept such a fine line. The Senneliers would have blended more into the background (they are blenders) and would have given me a more “broken” edge to the lines. Roches will glide too, but are more expensive and have more power. They are much stronger in the higher chroma colors, but if you don’t need the extra power, then Unisons work very well. They are old friends.

“Threads” detail

Unison are the best gliders. I used them here because they are very compact. They must put them under a lot of pressure when making them, unlike the more hand-made brands. Here in this painting, the background is comprised of “burner” sticks and the hand and face are built with “builders.” The strings are my gliders. It is hard to see here, but to me, this kind of division over sections of my work give it a very distinct feel. A sense of space and control.


Above are 3 green lines. The surface is Sennelier LaCarte paper in Sienna brown. From left to right are one layer; 2 layers of color; and then a bunch of layers. (purple section) The green sticks are about the same color and they were made with the same pressure, and yet they each have different textures and “drag”……

The top green line is a Unison, the middle is a Sennelier, and the bottom green line is a Great American. Notice at how both Sennelier and Great American are about the same power- both feel strong, but they drag differently- The Sennelier is creamy, and mixes well into the 4-layer section to the right. The line looks thicker because it is. It falls into a “Blender” category because it is creamier and will “meld” into the layers below. The Great American line at the bottom keeps its texture more throughout the line and will glide overtop of the under layers better. The green Unison line at the top not only can give you a smaller line, but it stays pretty consistent in the hardness of the edge of the line. So important sometimes. I would never use a Sennelier for my “threads” because they are too creamy and unpredictable.

At the far right of the photo I have run my finger down the green lines so you can see how each pastel “moves” or blends into the multiple layers below. The Unison does not move that much, but keeps its edge pretty well. Next is the Sennelier. When I run my finger down it, the brand pretty much obliterates the underlying layers. The bottom line is the Great American and it “holds its place” too. Gliding on top, but they will give more “drag” and texture to a mark than a Unison.

Is this stuff important? It is to me. I used to fight the sticks so much. But now I know their sneaky ways and I can bend them to my will!!!

Fun, huh?

Next week….da da da da…. Blenders!

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