So if you noticed last week, I don’t sharpen my pastel pencils.

I have not found a good reason to have a sharp point on the pencils I use.  I find it is really (1) a waste of my time, and (2) it is not needed.

Pastel in the barrels of a wooden pencil is pretty brittle. Over time they get dropped or shaken up, so the insides can break up. There is no stopping that. So when a sharpener is used it just either churns up the pastel inside more and it can keep crumbling, or the tip keeps snapping off. It is a waste of my time to fight it.

Instead, I always do a “block point” on my pencils with a box cutter. It keeps the pastel thicker and stronger. Basically, I just shave the wood off and don’t worry about the pastel being pointy. 

 To the right are lines drawn with a super-sharpened pastel pencil and my “squared off” pencil. Not much difference in line quality. If I am worrying about a line any thinner than the line on the right, then I have to ask myself why do I need such a thin line?  I am painting after all. I may be too much “in the weeds” and forgetting that tiny lines are not going to make my painting any better. That includes painting tiny eyelashes on a portrait.

So when I am in the studio or out and about for a workshop or for painting plein air, I take along a heavy-duty boxcutter. But in order to make sure I don’t hurt myself, I put the blade in this little container below someone gave me years ago and just put it in the handle on site. I believe there are pill boxes or makeup containers like this that are easy to find and it keeps the blade safe for travel, making it a cool little “friend of pastel.”  Otherwise, I use a little blade like this green one below that has a “snap-off” chain of blades to “block point” the pencils. But it makes me nervous to snap off the blades and I just know it is going to hit me somehow… So I normally just stick with the box cutter.

Someone asked last week about what my setup looks like for plein air so I included a pic below to see how the pencils sit above the pastel box in their little fabric wrap. There is the box cutter too. 

Next week…my travel boxes. And here’s a preview- I don’t sort them by hue, chroma or value.

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