Art Techniques: Pastels

 Do pictures of colorful art supplies make you happy? They do me.  There's just something about the bright colors that I just love.  It's almost like it takes me back to when I was a kid and I got a brand new box of crayons.  The best!

When I was a kid my mom would sometimes draw things for the bulletin boards at my elementary school. Often they'd be seasonal, and she'd switch them out.  I have fond memories of her making those displays. I associate pastels with those memories since they were often her medium of choice for those projects.

I don't remember using the pastels that often personally, but I do remember being excited when I got to use my mom's pastels. Now it seems like kids are exposed even less to different art mediums in school than we were as kids, so I'm been trying to make a more conscious effort to have some "art sessions" with my kids. 

I thought it might be fun to talk about some pastel basics here on the blog today, so you can feel a little more confidence to trying them out!  With these basics you'll be able to get started or give your kids a little lesson.  You don't have to be an artist!  I promise! I'm planning on looking at different art mediums with my kids over the the course of the school year.

My hope is that once we've done these "lessons" that they'll have a tool kit of different mediums to use for their art work, and maybe have an understanding of how some mediums are better than others for portraying certain moods or items.

Are you ready to get started?

Step 1:  Let's talk about types of pastels

There are several different types of pastels;  oil pastels, hard pastels, wax pastels, and soft pastels, but I'm mostly going to be talking about soft and oil pastels today.  I think both of those types are really great for introducing to kids. 

Soft pastels are a lot like sidewalk chalk, so kids have some experience with the blending and chalkiness of them.  I use these soft pastelsOil pastels--as you could probably guess from the name--are a lot greasier and not as well...chalky. Both types are pretty inexpensive, and you can even buy a Crayola oil pastel version.  Today most of my pictures will be with the soft pastels, but a lot of the principals are the same.
Both types of pastels can really make a mess. The soft ones because they leave a chalky residue everywhere and the oil ones because the greasyness can be hard to get out of clothing.  

 Step 2: Paper.

Artwork done with pastels is often done on different color background papers. You can use pastel paper  (I like this kind) but for my kids I let them just use regular construction paper.   There are so many different colors and textures to consider!

When I did this "lesson" with my kids I showed them that you can change the look of a drawing based off of the background color that you picked.  We talked about how the blue background made the cloud look like a sunny day, while the black made them think of a gloomy, rainy day. 

 Step 3: Strokes.
Here are some of the strokes that I talked about with my kids.  We talked about how you can use cross-hatching--where lines go over each other in different directions--to mix colors or add different dimension.  Side strokes come from putting the pastel on it's side and rubbing.  Stabs are quick little marks, which are great for adding texture.

Step 4: Blending.
I think blending is the number one big advantage of pastels, and it's what I most wanted to get through to my kids.  We talked about how you can blend really changes the look.  I used the cloud example again.  I showed the difference of pulling upwards, vs. using a Q tip to blend in a more circular motion.  We talked about how you can use your finger, a Q tip, or a tissue to blend the pastels.

Oil pastels are also great for blending too, but they don't create the light fluffy look of soft pastels.  Instead oil pastels are great for adding vibrant colors to an already colorful background.

 After this we talked about what things might be fun to draw to utilize these blending capabilities.

Ellie came up with sheep.
While Lu opted for more abstract shapes.  We saw what happened if we blended just a little or a lot.
 Step 5: Have fun!
After this I just let the girls go and we all had fun drawing with pastels together.

The girls talked about how next time they draw ballerinas with markers, they think they'll use pastels for the tutu.  I told them that that was a GREAT idea.  I can't wait to see what they will do next!

One final note:  Since soft pastels are so chalky, you have to be careful about your artwork rubbing up against anything else.  You can use a fixative, but note that it will make your pastels look a bit darker.  One thing I've had success doing is laminating my kids favorites.

Exploring pastels with my kids was so much fun....I hope you enjoyed this post too and are looking forward to trying pastels too.

See you back here next week!



Just FYI, this post contains affiliate links, which means that a small proportion of any sale through Amazon is given to me.  

If you liked this post, you might like some of my other art posts:

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