Monday, March 16, 2009

'Tis The Season!

Pastel on Paper
Jan Gibson

As you can see, I wasn't referring to the Christmas season in the title of today's blog! The foxes haven't been seen for some time but the skunks have been fairly active for a month or more. Fortunately, we haven't seen any here on our farm but lingering odors are proof positive that they're definitely around somewhere.

This painting was sort of an experiment as I received some new FC Pitt pastel pencils in a recent art supply order. Almost everyone in a pet portrait forum I belong to said they used these pencils pretty much exclusively for their animal portraits. Also, Colin Bradley, a famous pastel pencil artist uses the Pitt pastel pencils almost exlusively so I thought I'd try them. I ordered them from open stock to replace some of the CarbOthello pencils I was getting low on and I must say that the colors are really nice. But, I'm not all that crazy about the way the pencils lay down the color. They aren't as smooth as the CarbOthellos but not as scratchy as the Derwents. I think they'll do fine to fill in for the colors I lack but I don't think I'd invest in a complete set of them.

Right now, I have a complete set of the CarbOthellos, a few Derwents, many of the earth tones of the Pitts and a few of the Conte' pencils. The next time I need to restock, I may buy more of the Conte's if they're still made the way mine are made. I had purchased a few of the Conte's from open stock probably 30 years ago or more but never used them much as they were hard to sharpen. When I started working more in pastel pencils, I dug them out and started using them again.

So, my preference in pastel pencil brands are ranked as follows.

1. CarbOthellos by Stabilo

2. Conte'

3. Pitt by Faber Castell

4. Derwent

I admit that I haven't tried every pencil brand in every color and I know that there's a difference between pencils even within brands so the above ranking is based on the colors used mainly for animal paintings.

I haven't tried any other pastel pencils but I think these are the top-rated for lightfastness and I only want to use lightfast, archival materials anyway so may not experiment any further.

I know that I really, really dislike using paper now that I've worked on sanded supports. I guess my favorite support is Ampersand's PastelBord and Hahnemuhle's Velour Paper is second favorite, with ColourFix by ArtSpectrum being ok to use. I'd like to try the Uart and other sanded papers and will eventually order a sampler from Dakota Pastels or something. I'd also like to try the Clairefontaine Pastelmat but I don't think it's distributed in the US at this time.

I guess I'm an art supply junkie but I'm finding out what I really like to use and what I don't like and won't buy again. That's important to me.

I think the best advice I've ever been given is to use what works for me. Unfortunately, that usually means the most expensive products!


twincedar said...

Jan I am glad you are not actually seeing them around your farm. The odor is bad enough! Good job on the skunk, around here we call them pole cats. Don't know why.

Christine said...

Very good work Jan! I like it very much.
Thanks for the great info. regarding pastel pencils. :- )

~Barbara~ said...

I can smell 'em now. We generally see from 4 to 6 of them dead on the road on our way to WW, which will be tomorrow. And that fine aroma comes drifting in any little open place in the van.
Whoop ti do.

Jan said...

Hey, Lori, they're sometimes called polecats around here too. I don't know why either, but, like a rose by any other name, they still smell (just not sweet!)

You're welcome, Christine. The skunk isn't all that great but it was just a test of the Pitt pastel pencils. I do think every artist has to decide for themselves about what supplies they like. What works for me may not work for you. Plus, there's a big difference in pencils even within one brand. I guess it's the pigment used.

I can just see your curled up nose now, Barbara! Wouldn't be so bad if they weren't so stupid as to get hit by cars. I guess they think their odor protects them from everything!

Jeanette said...

Using pastels and finding the perfect paper is a challenge. I too believe that you get what you pay for and often the higher priced papers are worth their weight in gold for ability to hold pigment.

The skunk is a good test of your pastel pencils. We don't have them here on the island, nor raccoons or porcupines or snakes. The benefits of being isolated on an island I guess. However the larger things have made their way or been brought here so they abound.

From what I've heard, while I think they're very cute, I think I'm better off without skunks around.