Rolling your own pastels & more...

What do you do with all that pastel dust that collects at the bottom of your easel? How do you roll such unique colors? Where did you get the stuff to do this? When I open my studio in October, these are the most commonly asked questions I get when I'm at the easel demonstrating. So I thought I'd get a head start and educate a few of you on the science of pastels...well, maybe not science. But at least it's interesting stuff if you really LOVE pastels like I do! Anyway, here goes...

You will need the following:
Spray bottle with distilled water.
Paper towels, already separated cuz you'll go through them quickly.
Newspaper to cover your workspace.
Drop cloth
Butter knives with no serrated edges. Smooth ones don't hide pigment in the grooves.
A box of disposable latex gloves.
A jar of Wallis pigment, your choice. (I'm using Quinacridone Magenta and Ultramarine Blue)
A jar of Wallis white pigment.
Ziplock bags, sandwich size.

First, gathert the pastel dust by using a piece of paper or a small spoon to carefully scoop up the dusty pigment. Collect as much as you can get into a zip-top sandwich bag and zip tight with as little air inside. Try not to let the dust escape, cuz it goes everywhere, including your lungs!

Now the best and safest thing I do here is make a workspace outside. I do this because the pigment could ruin your new carpet, or your cat might want to walk over your project and make things worse.
Lay layers of the newspaper down so to protect your workspace. I also have my paper towels pre-separated from the roll and lay them in a pile next to me. I can access them quickly when I to pick up something with my messy gloved hands, like the spray bottle for example.
Take the baggie and mash with your hands the contents so there are no clumps and chunks of pastel. This makes an interesting gray color, but can make some beautiful shades of landscape colors too.

Now that the dust has settled, ha ha, humor at work...anyway, let the dust settle in the baggie and slowly add a few sprays of the water from your spray bottle (keep the baggie closed so the dust doesn't get sprayed out). Since the pigment already has binder in it from it's original state, you will not have to add any more. Close the baggie and mush it up till it is a consistency of playdough. You may have to add some more water. If you add too much water and the pigment becomes runny, it can be dried out by keeping the baggie open for awhile.

Scoop out some of the gray pigment.

I'm wishing to create a grayed purple that would work best for those distant hills in my landscape paintings. You can use any pure pigment to gray down, or just the grey alone. In the photo above, I have a bit of the grey that I just processed on the right, and a few clumps of Quinacridone Magenta and Ultramarine Blue pure pigment from my Wallis Pure Pigments on the left.

Now, get your latex gloves on cuz this is where it gets messy!

Roll in your gloved hands the pure pigment. Roll it and bend it back into a ball, then roll again. Roll until all the color is consistent. This ensures a good mixture of the pigment. Then you can begin to add a series of white pigment to the mix. Break off a batch for every value step.

Here is the roll of grayed purple mixture with a batch of white on the right.

Add white to the grayed mixture and begin to roll, roll, roll. If the rolling seems dry and crackly, add a drop or two of the distilled water to the mixture. If the pigment seems too wet, press it against a paper towel, to absorb the extra moisture.

Here is a stick of rolled pastel. Cut into half the size and set one piece aside to dry. Then take the other half and add a bit more white to it. Roll and repeat, adding white each time until you are happy with the value selection.

Here is a series of two colors with a value shift of at least four of this particular grayed purple.
Let them sit out in a safe spot to dry over the course of about 5 days. Note: I have used a straight edged knife to square off the sticks. You can make them any shape you wish.

Now wasn't that easy?
If you have any questions on this process, just ask me. I've done this enough to know the pitfalls and successes. Happy rolling!

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Blogger Donna T said...

Thanks so much Brenda! I've always wanted to try making my own pastels. You ended up with a beautiful set!

8/29/08, 5:57 AM  

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