Pastel Paintings

Figurative painting in soft pastel- soft pastel paintingMany of Anna Sponer’s figurative and portrait paintings are created in soft pastel, taking advantage of this art media’s unique color properties and durability. Some of these pastel paintings had been selected in juried exhibits along with her oil paintings.

Pastel as an art media

Pastel is pure pigment, the same pigment used in all art media. It is the most permanent of all when applied to acid free surfaces, kept from sunlight, humidity, and properly framed. Pastel has no liquid binder that may cause the surface to darken, fade, yellow, crack or blister with time. Pastels from the 16th century exist today, as fresh as the day they were painted.

The name Pastel comes from the French word "pastiche" because the pure, powdered pigment is ground into a paste with a binder and then rolled into sticks. An artwork is created by stroking the sticks of dry pigment across an abrasive ground, embedding the color in the "tooth" of the paper, sand board canvas etc. If the ground is completely covered with Pastel, the work is considered a Pastel painting; leaving much of the ground exposed produces a Pastel sketch. Techniques vary with individual artists. Pastel can be blended or used with visible strokes. There is no drying time and no allowances have to be made for a change in color due to drying.

A particle of Pastel pigment, seen under a microscope looks like a diamond with many facets. Therefore, Pastel paintings reflect light like a prism. No other medium has the power of color or stability. Pastel does not oxidize with the passage of time.

Edgar Degas was the most prolific user of Pastel. His protégé, Mary Cassatt introduced the impressionists and Pastel to her friends in Philadelphia and Washington, and thus to the U.S. In the spring of 1983, Sotheby Parke Bernet sold at auction, two Degas Pastel paintings for more than $3,000,000 each! Both Pastel paintings were painted about 1880.

Pastel must never be confused with colour chalk. Chalk is a limestone substance impregnated with dyes.

Today, pastel paintings have the stature of oil and water color as a major fine art medium. Many of our most renowned living artists have distinguished themselves in Pastel and have enriched the art world with this beautiful medium.

Partial reprint from the 1990 Pastel Society of America Catalogue