Thursday, June 8, 2017

Second Thursday Tutorial: Comparing chalk and oil pastels


This post was borne out of the fact I was looking for my Cray-Pas pastels.  I haven't seen them since the latest flood in my basement.  What shocked and surprised me was

how many other pastels I found, even though I didn't find my Cray-Pas, which are oil pastels made by Sakura.  Some of these I have purchased and some were given to me when I helped a friend back in 2002 clean his storage shed.  His mother had been an artist and he was going to throw many, many wonderful art supplies away.  I brought them home, never imagining I would turn into a mixed media artist.  I simply didn't want him throwing them in the dumpster he had rented to clear out the shed.

I believe all these were from his storage shed.  Both sets of oil pastels looked like they had never or barely been used.

The Prang chalk crayons were rather worse for wear, though.

The decorating chalks were given to me, and the small chalks I purchased on clearance.

The pan pastels were purchased over time, each with a 40% off coupon.  They were still very expensive.

I purchased the soft pastels at Tuesday Morning one year and had never opened them.   The other colored chalk I got at a garage sale for $0.50 (USD).

I found these in my stash a year or so ago and have no idea where I got them.  They are hard pastels.

These were sent to me at Christmas by my friend Cindy.  I decided not to compare them, since they were the only watercolor crayons I had and didn't really fit the pastel categories.

These also came from my friend's shed.

Let's begin with the chalks.

I began with the Prang Pastellos that were square shaped.  Right off the bat, I saw the blue left a trail of dust when I placed it on the paper.

On the other hand, the red was so hard, it chipped and flaked as I attempted to spread it.

The blue blended nicely with the white, 

but the red only flaked further.

These are the Prang round chalks I picked up at a garage sale.   They held together better than their sister square chalks. 

They even spread better, too.

They came with a couple of stumps.  I used one to blend the chalks together.   I liked them better than the square Prang chalks, but they didn't blend as well as I anticipated they would.

These decorative chalks didn't come in the colors I was trying to use, so I placed the red on a Q-tip

and tried to blend where the chalk crayon failed .

This was marginally better, but didn't blend too well with the white.

These hard decorating chalks (created, I suspect for the scrapbooking industry) didn't fit in the color scheme I was going for.  They break easily, and are very dusty.

Here is a recap of the chalks I used.

Next up are the Reeves soft pastels and the pan pastels, which I also consider soft.

The soft pastels had never been opened, and it took forever to get them this far.

They were already beginning to break and were quite dusty.

Even though I had the red, white, and blue color scheme in this set, I wanted the colors to be the same as those of the pan pastels.  Therefore, I chose a yellow and blue soft pastel.  It left lots of extra pigment and dust.  I went to my bath cabinet to find the appropriate way to blend the two.

They didn't blend too well, and I was once again surprised how much pigment was removed with the "blending tool."

Now it was time to use the pan pastels.   They claim to be creamy.  They also tout that you never have to blend them with your hands because they have specific tools that will do it for you.   Those tools are extremely expensive, though.  They retail for $36.50 (USD) for the 44 piece set, which look mostly like makeup and eye shadow brushes to me.  I could have gotten a makeup sponge, but chose to use my other "blending tool" instead.

Pigment wise, they are saturated with color, although they are quite dusty.

and when I accidentally brushed my hand over the page to push the excess powder away, the pastels smeared badly.   I also know from having used them in the past, they must be set with a fixative (an actual fixing product or cheap arousal hairspray).

Next up are the firm pastels.

First up is the Weber Costello, a brand I've never heard of.  Obviously they were expensive, at least when they were new.  You can see there was no dust when I laid them on the paper. 

I decided to add them to my other red, white, and blue experiments.

They laid out rather well

but for once, the red blended better than the blue.

Next up were the Nupastels by Prismacolor.  It may not look like it, but I've used a few of these colors in the past. 

They break really easily, though, even though they are firm and don't produce much dust.

I'm beginning to believe the paper I'm using is causing the lack of total coverage.

Again, the blue didn't cover as well as the red and white.

From upper left clockwise: Prang square chalk crayons and Decorating chalk added to red, Nupastel square firm chalks, Weber Costello square firm pastels, and Prang round chalk blended with stump.

The final category of pastels were the oils. 

Unlike the chalk pastels,

these are creamy and buttery.   They can be characterized as having a paper wrapping, too.

I was surprised to see that a Cray-Pas was added to the SMi metallics mix.  Certainly not my doing.

These were beautiful colors, but didn't blend well at all.  The metallics don't show up well on camera, though.

Reeves oil pastels are unique in that they are hexagonal,

but come to a rounded point at the top.  I'd never heard of the brand until I opened the soft pastels above.  In fact, they are so old, Reeves doesn't place them in plastic containers anymore, and none I found in an internet search were shaped like these.  So I must have genuine antique oil pastels.

I had trouble spreading and blending these, but I wonder if it didn't have as much to do with the paper as it did with my inability to spread and blend them properly.

My final oil pastels were from Pentel. 

These were a birthday gift one year from my friend who recently died of cancer.

Reeves oil pastels are on the left and Pentel on the right.

After several hours, this is what I learned:

1.  I have no idea how to use these, whether they are chalk (either soft or firm) or oil pastels.
2.  I need better paper.  I'm sure the paper I used contributed to my lack of good coverage.
3.  I'm sure each of these has its own specific use, but for my purposes, I'm not fond of soft pastels, although they appear to blend better.
4.  Although I liked the oil pastels better, I couldn't get them to blend.
5.  Regardless of brand or type, each must have a fixative applied once you are satisfied with the coverage.  Be sure to keep your hand (or arm) clear of the pastel until it has been fixed (and is dry).
6.  I welcome any advice or knowledge you might share on these products, regardless of brand.

Thank you for joining me today for this tutorial.  I hope this showed you the possibilities that are available to true artists (painters and sketchers).  Once this goes live, it will be on my tutorials page under "Comparing chalk and oil pastels."

18 thoughtful remarks:

Helen said...

what a lot of pastels... I have been watching a lot of you-tube videos and they seem to use a damp paintbrush onto the pastel stick and paint with it. Another chance to experiment maybe? Doubt it would be good for the chalks or pan pastels though. Their blending tools though costly are good. (they are firmer than makeup sponges)

Valerie-Jael said...

Sounds like you had a fun play day! I always use a coat of gesso under pastels, whether soft or oil, the colours hold better and are easier to blend this way. Oil pastels are easier to blend using a baby wipe. I spent most of yesterday clearing my work table and a cupboard. Have a nice day, hugs, Valerie

Cindy McMath said...

Oh Elizabeth, your blending tool really made my day - it cracked me up! I don't use oil anything - I find they are too heavy, and I wouldn't put them with acrylics. They also don't really 'dry' per se - I suppose the fixative resolves that. I have used chalk pastels in the past though. They definitely need a fixative. I think I used an eye makeup upplicator because I was probably mostly applying them to fiddly stamped images. I am pretty sure I used a good cardstock. Anyway I enjoyed your post and hope that someone else can tell you something more helpful.

chrissie said...

Such a fun collection Elizabeth. I have quite a few of the products on show and they are just lurking in a drawer waiting for inspiration. Maybe now is the time to get them out and have a go. Tried some of them a few times but found them messy and not as beautiful as I had hoped they would be.

Love Chrissie xx

kaybee said...

Isn't it amazing what you collect over the years, and then squirrel them away in different places! And then at some point (usually when searching for something else) you find all this stuff you forgot you had! I'm very guilty of that too, and my recent finds were all these different brands of coloured pencils I had accumulated. Your blending tool is inspired! Thank you for a very comprehensive (and amusing) review of all things pastel.

pearshapedcrafting said...

This has ben fun to see(and read) and you have reminded me that I have some around in my craft room - hardly ever used! Time to get them out I think! Hugs, Chrisx

froebelsternchen Susi said...

You have a fantastic pastel supply stock! And every single crayon is useful!!!
The hard pastel ones you can use like watercolor as well.. taking them from the sticks with a wet brush--or you smear them on the surface and spritz or brush them with water. You can also get the pure pigments of them by using a sharp knife - this gives a kind of brushos ...very great effects.
And you can take cheap Modge Podge and the powders you got with the knife and you have your own made cheap permanent glazes to bring on a glace of color over something!
With the oilpastels you can get wonderful color gradients and colour shifts by using a bit of baby-or kitchenoil or odourless white spirit, or even just a baby wipe.
The hard pastels and the oilpastels, both are a fantastic medium to paint or draw on the top of acrylic colors . Specially the white one - you don't ruin a good marker when you use crayons for this purpose. Then just fixing with cheap hairspray.
And a great use for you as an Mixed Media Artist... think of your collages.
Try out to outline and shade the edges of the different elements of a collage and bring so all elements together..that is just a wonderful trick.
I think there are many more fantastic things to do with crayons - I love mine all very much and use them so often.
And if you prime a page firwst with white , clear or black (gesso) or even normal acrylic color all works a bit better than just on unprimed paper - crayons like rough papers.
oxo Susi

CJ Kennedy said...

I have pastels and chalks but don't use them. Your unique blending tool cracked me up. Thanks for starting my day off with a giggle.

My name is Erika. said...

I like oil pastels better than chalk. BUT I did learn in a class I took that you can stamp an image with embossing ink or with a pigment ink and then rub the pan pastels over it and it will stick and make a cool image. (You just shake or gently brush off the excess) No need to use embossing powders. I wonder now if that can be done with other chalks? Great tutorial Elizabeth. I like how you compared so many different products. Boy, you have a lot of chalk pastels. :) Hugs-erika

back2brack said...

Wow, lots of materials, explanation, and examples. I must dog do!e of mine out! Thank you for the tutorial. Some of the responses were helpful too. I must go back and make some notes. Wishing you a terrific Thursday!😊

Sami said...

Can't believe people would just throw pastels or other art material away...
I did paint one picture with pastels many, many years ago, but can't remember how they were used.
Best of luck Elizabeth.

Nancy said...

Helpful information and some good tips in the comments as well. Art supplies can be confusing as there are so many different types and results. A good experiment.

sheila 77 said...

My eyes were out on stalks when I saw your pastels stash. Imagine anyone throwing out art supplies like these, shudder.
My mother used chalk pastels a lot and she used a special pastel paper and then sprayed the painting a little afterwards. As for oil pastels, I always use a very smooth paper and I don't like spraying them with any fixative as it changes the look. Having said that I've got many oil pastel paintings that haven't dried even after many years. That's the sum of my knowledge.
What a fascinating tutorial. You are so thorough. I fell over laughing at your original blending tool.
Thanks a lot for this entertaining and instruction tutorial, Elizabeth.
I'm going to go and say hello to my pastel stash now.

Divers and Sundry said...

"blending tool" roflol! I just loved that :)

I've only used pastels (chalk pastels) with art play when my kids were young. I found them smeary, which wasn't much of an issue in process nut made display challenging. Thanks for comparing/contrasting these.

Meggymay said...

Wow, looks like you had fun and have a selection of great pastels and colours.
I was really interested in seeing your results. It was a super informative post.
Yvonne xx

Jeanie said...

Ah, the basement stash! Looks like you found half of Michael's there! And good for you, using it! I really have never done much with pastels but seeing this makes me think I should make the dig too. In fact, I even know where they are. I think.

kathyinozarks said...

I am not an artist at all with the tools like these-but I really enjoyed your post-and so glad you were able to rescue all these lovely items-it amazes me what people will just throw away instead of finding a good home for them instead.
I learned allot from the comments too-good post-thanks

Gibby Frogett said...

Very interesting post Elizabeth :)
I'm afraid I am guilty of throwing several pastel (all soft I think) sets away a few months ago - mainly because they were very dusty or scratchy on paper surface and didn't leave much colour.

I first had a cheap oil set to use for Pergamano/parchment crafts about 1997 but no longer do that and now want them for art work instead... I'm still new to learning about pastels and drawing and recently read about blending oil pastels with some medium...which I had totally forgot that I knew about from doing with the Parchment crafts..it was odour free (thinner maybe? )something or other - I just looked for bottle and can't find it at present but when I do will let you know what that was. There's probably other blending mediums as well.

The decorating chalks I have, I got to use with rubber stamping - using a clear ink - something like 'versa mark' I stamped my image and then instead of using the little tool that came with them, I used a cotton wool ball dabbed it on chalks and then on the clear stamped image with various colours and then gently rubbed over top with tissue/kitchen roll to remove excess leaving a multi coloured stamped image (hope that made sense). Hairspray or fixative might have been required but I tried to avoid that if possible.

I agree that type of papers certainly seem to matter to outcome and I am still experimenting myself with that - I did use a type of paper for soft pastels which had a very textured 'velour' surface a few months back and didn't get on with that - but maybe that was because of lack of experience with pastels plus I think was also using some pastel pencils also.

I think in the past when I've used soft pastels for drawing face type of things, that I've used a smoothish surface to get details and used pastel pencils for the finer details. I've mainly used my finger to blend although have a couple of cheap rubber blending tools (not sure what you call them) and have some of that grey pipe lagging foam stuff to still try out.
And as for fixatives - arghhhh! - I couldn't get a workable fixative ( assuming that might have been better for layering if my project wasn't finished) and only get a permanent fixative - but I too find pastels rather confusing :(
Gill xxx