|Part of my pastel stash, complete with dusty covers|
(that is pastel dust, not home dust, btw)
I was going to break the pastel articles up by brand; however, as I started planning this first post, I realized that it would be better to separate them by hardness since I would be comparing brands in my reviews. "Apples to apples", as they say. During my research over the past few years, I have learned that it is more beneficial to use different types of pastel when creating a painting with many layers of pigment. I am talking about full-on finished works that look painterly, not quick sketches.
I know artists are supposed to be rebels and innovators, but art does have some hard and fast rules when it comes to certain mediums and techniques. We follow them because they are related to physical properties of a medium or ground. You know, oil and water, bleach and ammonia- that sort of thing. If you know that two substances don't work well together, you don't mix them or you mix them in the proper order.
Just as an oil painter follows the "fat over lean" rule, pastel artists use hard pastels for initial layers and move on to softer degrees as they add more layers on top. It is a rule you have to follow because the softest grades will fill the "tooth" of the paper faster, making subsequent layering more difficult. Also, if you have ever tried to use a harder pastel on the top layers, you know that it scratches off or or dulls down previous layers, which is rarely a nice result.
In keeping with the rules, I will start this series of reviews with hard or semi-hard pastel brands and move to the softest pastels for future posts. I consider both Nupastels and Mungyo Gallery to be semi-hard in comparison to classic drawing chalks or crayons, like Conte crayons and Koh-I-Noor or Cretacolor drawing chalks.
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Prismacolor Premier Nupastels
No, I do not work for Prismacolor, I swear! I am just a big fan of their products, and I am not alone. I have used pastels off and on for decades, and I always have my Prismacolor Nupastels on hand. I started using them in my life drawing class at college more than twenty years ago, and I still own and use this brand. During recent perusal of certain artist forums, I have read comments from other pastel artists, saying things like "oh, I can't believe people still use these!" There is a snobby air to those comments, and I am always surprised by this. Yet I have to remember that evaluating a brand, like critiquing art itself, involves 99.9% subjectivity.
Why I Love Nupastels
Nupastels, like many Prismacolor items, are the easiest artist grade pastels to find in the U.S.A. They are not the cheapest brand, but they are affordable. You can buy them in sets or as open stock. I love open stock because I use certain colors up faster than others. I started with a 24 color set from Office Depot (way overpriced, but it was instant gratification), and then I added the colors I wanted here and there with open stock from Jerry's Artarama, where you can buy individual sticks for $1.19 or boxes of twelve for less than $11. I only buy white by the dozen, but I keep spares on hand for a few other colors.
Additional notes on Nupastels:
- Prismas are available in sets of 12, 24, 36, 48, and 96.
- They leave some dust, but it is not excessive
- Blend easily, smoothly
- Not really hard, more semi-hard or "just right" to quote Goldilocks
- Versatile- make tight lines or broad strokes using them on their sides
- Sticks measure 1/4" wide by 3 5/8 " long, or 6 mm by 92 mm
A Short Digression:
|The bottom row shows some Nupastels from a 24 pc set, and|
the labelled sticks are open stock Mungyo Gallery Semi-hard pastels.
Mungyo Gallery Semi-Hard Pastels
- Strong, holds up to a "heavy hand"
- Good for initial layers and fine details, bold strokes
- Rich pigment, large range of lightfast colors (120)
- Sold in open stock (Jerrys) and sets of 12, 24, 36, 48, 96, and 120
- Earth tone and Gray Scale sets available (12 pieces each)
- Colors correspond to other Mungyo lines, perfect for layering