Soft pastels are the purest form of artist colour. They are made almost exclusively of pure pigment with only enough binder to allow them to be formed into usable sticks.
Pastels are very from the very hard ones such as Nu-pastels to the very soft like Schmincke. I love the Schmincke. There are many variations in between. There are also extra soft ones they have an incredible colour range like in the Sennelier extra soft pastels. I thrilled that this year I got myself the king box set of over 500 Sennelier extra soft pastels. The full Sennelier range allows me an incredible choice of tones and colour variations. This is just wonderful if you are a flower painter as I am.
Now comparing into different lines of pastels, it's very much a case of what you like. there is no rule as to which is the best pastel brand.
I started off with the ones that are considered soft pastels like Rembrandt and the Art Spectrum. They are excellent because they don't contain some of the heavy metals and toxic pigments. You still have to be careful because of the pastel dust. Some of the extra soft pastels will contain heavy metals. Some of those pastels that are considered safer to the pigments they contain, at often the dustier pastels.
I find the Rembrandts, which contain clay, and the original Art Spectrum soft pastel are in my option dustier than the extra soft Sennelier pastels I mainly work with now.
I apply the extra soft pastels with a very light touch, I don't seem to create dust.
I wanted to try out the Blue Earth extra soft pastels. I found there was a beautiful consistency softness with each pastel stick within the Blue Earth range of 28 landscape foundation colours.
When I first looked at these they didn't appear to be the ideal colours to paint the Australian landscape. but they are the foundation set and you can build on them. There are two other landscape sets.
I decided to try out the foundation landscapes first. When I opened the box it has a third of seven lovely greens. I don't know that many Australians me seven greens in a set of 28. our landscape is that green. Australian eucalyptus tends to be blue-green or grey-green with golden light.
These is the series of seven earthy, yellow-greens. So half of the foundation landscape set are green colours. So not an ideal starter set for an Australian landscape painter.
The next row of seven are warm earth colours. Those are ideal for painting the Australian landscape. I still feel I need the beautiful red golds and the glowing sunlight hues. I desired more bright colours.
Then there is a row of seven blues. They are satisfactory. I would like it to see an intense dark for my landscape artwork.
The criticism is only of the colours for the type of landscape painting that I paint. So I chose a landscape that these colours would suit for this demonstration and product review.
I have a photograph of an English style cottage garden in an Australian landscape setting. It had a picket fence, and many greens in the foliage. I used black and white soft pastels as well as this landscape set.
Because these pastels have some toxic pigment in then, ones that make them extremely permanent, and non-fading, I did not want to do any blending. Blending would have created dust. I chose a sanded pastel paper.
I wore my dust mask, and I wore a barrier cream. I took precautions and I worked without blending on the sanded paper applying the paste lightly, to create the absolute minimum of dust.
The brand of pastels that I would most closely relate these Blue Earth pastels too, with their lovely velvety feel, is the Schmincke pastels. There was a subtle difference. When I pick up the Schmincke I am in love. Probably because I found the Schmincke before I found the blue earth I didn't feel that same love when working with these Blue Earth pastels.
I did like that each pastels stick I picked up was it the uniform consistency and texture to the other pastel sticks in the set. You don't always find that with every brand of soft pastels. With some brands there is a variation of softness between the different colours or tones within a range.
Blue Earth pastels uniform consistency allows an artist to know how each pastel will handle in advance of applying it to the paper. That's a good point in favour of these pastels.
Blue Earth Pastels are made in the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota. they are relatively new soft pastel, having been manufactured since 2012. I have waited eagerly for them to come into stock in Australia so that I could try them.
They have an interesting rectangular shape and a compact size. As you can see to have an interesting storage box. Here is a convenient box to hold in your hand as you paint. You push back the foam to pick up the pastels stick.
I like to the fact that I didn't have to spend ages I'm wrapping labels off the pastels before I could use them. I love that the pastel was ready to use. Being a compact short stick there was no need to break it in half, or thirds before I used to them. I never worked with a full length of the regular shaped pastels. I like to use a pastel turned on inside, and most pastels sticks are too long for that unless you first break them into smaller segments.
When I turned the Blue Earth pastel on each side it was the perfect size to sweep across the paper and allow you to paint quickly.
To gain the best from each brand of pastel, you often need to work differently for each brand. If I were with my Senneliers I would dry blend of the pastels as an underpainting before doing the final stages of the painting. Because these Blue Earth pastels are slightly dustier than my Senneliers, I am going to wet blend.