All about pastel art, techniques and materials. Part 1: What is pastel art?

As I continue to undertake commissions, in my unique, detailed and realistic style, I thought it worth doing a series of blogs on what makes pastel artworks unique.

There are many questions that people ask about pastel art and materials and although you may find the answers elsewhere, I thought covering a few of the basics may be of interest to you.

In this series, I will cover the main questions that have been asked of me over the years I have been creating my pastel paintings for sale and the many commissioned artworks. 

The questions I will answer include:

What is pastel art?
What are the different styles of pastel art?
What is the history of pastel art?
Who are famous pastel artists?
What materials are used for pastel artworks?
What is the difference between soft pastel and oil pastel?
What is the difference between pastel pencils and coloured pencils?
What techniques are used by pastel artists?
How do you keep pastel from smearing?
How do you frame pastel artworks?
How do you protect and transport pastel artworks?

Just remember if there are any other questions you need answering, please get in touch with me anytime.  

So to begin.......


Pastel art is the creation of an artwork using pastels and the completed artwork is called a pastel ( or a pastel drawing or pastel painting )  

A "pastel" is a stick created by combining a powdered pigment with a binder, such chalk and gum, or oil. These are then shaped into 'drawing sticks' such as those below made by Conte a Paris, Rembrandt, Artspectrum and Unison. These are a selection from my own studio......

Pastels from Ivan Jones pastel artist studio

The finished effect of pastels is closer to the natural dry pigments than that of any other process. This makes it easy to blend into the paper and give a variation of textures, whether smooth or rough......You can see a blending technique below.

Ivan Jones pastel artist blending pastel with finger

I was introduced to "soft" pastels ( in contrast to "oil" pastels which will be discussed later ) by a friend of my father's in my teens. I still have some of my early pastels as seen below (which I do not use now ) but the newer ones do not have cadmium and chromium which have been known to be toxic.  

Early pastel sticks Ivan Jones artist

I find that pastels and pastel pencils are a very flexible medium and, although there can be some challenges, I find that I can easily correct mistakes using an eraser or paintbrush. I also can experiment with colours on the edge of the paper before committing the colour to painting, as I have done below.....

Experimenting with colours of pastel Ivan Jones pastel artist

Pastels also have a vibrancy and richness that is so often underrated and that will become more apparent as I discuss the history of pastels in Part 2 - some pastel paintings by famous artists are over 250 years old!  

But, for now, I hope that answers the question "What is pastel art?" and I look forward to sharing more of my inspirations very soon!

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