Pastels
Blog

Pastel Supplies Galore !!

Every pastel painter has preferred brands for each stage of the painting process - different brands for different purposes.

Some pastel brands make soft pastel sticks. Others make hard sticks. Both types are used for different reasons. Soft pastels are good for making broad marks. Hard pastels are good for doing details.

The Variety of Pastel Supplies

In my adopted home Indonesia, the selection of art supplies is limited. Actually, that's not universally true. Both oil and watercolor painters have a pretty big selection, but pastel painters don't.

To clarify, in oil painting, I can achieve different effects in a painting by changing brushes. But in pastel painting, I achieve different effects by using different brands of pastels - or even different pastel tools, such as sticks vs pencils.

Not only do the pastels themselves differ, but painting surfaces for pastels vary as well. Pastel surfaces need to have tooth to grab the pigment the painter lays down, regardless of what kind of pastels are used.

Pastel painters often prefer one brand of pastel surface over others - personal preference.

Pastel Pencils

Who Knew?

When I started with pastels, I didn't realize how many supplies would be important to have and try. But pastel teachers explained why they chose particular brands in their pastel tutorials. And of course, I wanted more pastel supplies.

I soon realized that the quality of my paintings would be restricted based on what I was able to acquire in Indonesia.

Amazon and a Trip to Chicago

Well, I was planning a trip to the Chicago area at some point during the year. So I began ordering pastel supplies to have shipped to my brother's house and decided to make the trip sooner rather than later.

Here is the problem I faced. I wasn't sure which brands would be my preferences. I wouldn't know that until I returned home and actually started using the products. What to do?

Most teachers had suggested buying a small supply of each brand in order to figure out which ones I'd like best. Doing that wasn't possible for me because of my overseas residence. And who knew when I'd make another trip to Chicao - or elsewhere in the U.S.?

You might be thinking that I could order supplies and have them shipped to me. That's true but comes with problems. Shipping products to Indonesia -

  • is very expensive
  • takes a very long time
  • can be delayed in customs

$$$

I could accept the expense, but I'm a very impatient person. So the second and third problems were unacceptable to me.

As a result, I decided to invest a lot of money into something that might end up making me some money. If I couldn't make some money, at least pastel painting would be a great hobby instead.

I ordered just about all the products that my various teachers recommended. Keep in mind that each teacher had different recommendations.

Pastel supplies in suitcase

I saw the validity of each teacher's advice, so I went crazy. I stopped ordering when I became afraid that I'd have more than what would fit into my two suitcases.

I'm now sitting at my brother's house with both suitcases full of precious treasures. And I've accepted that if I don't make money with my painting, that's okay. I'll have a wonderful hobby that I love.

Pastel supplies in suitcase
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Creativity Calls
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Creativity Calls

Creativity can knock on your soul when you're young or old - or at any point in between.

When creativity calls, don't hesitate.

Answer with enthusiasm.

Recognize the Teacher

We've all heard the saying 'When the student is ready, the teacher will appear' - or words to that effect.

But will you be able to identify the teacher?

Will the teacher be a person - or perhaps an event instead?

You may have to be bold and look carefully everywhere to figure out who or what the teacher is.

My Own Teacher

In the mid-90s when I was in my mid-50s and living in Jakarta, Indonesia, opportunity presented itself to me. It wasn't obvious, and I might not have recognized it if I'd been timid or not in the perfect frame of mind.

An acquaintance phoned me in the middle of the night looking for a place to sleep. Danielle (not her real name) was having trouble with her roommates and needed to get away from them. I told her to come right over.

The following morning, I had a brainstorm. It just so happened that Danielle was an experienced artist, so I offered her a place to stay for as long as she needed with the condition that she be my art teacher.

Oil painting

Danielle agreed, took me shopping for supplies, showed me how to mix oil paints, and then gave me one piece of teaching: 'just play with the darks and lights.'

On My Own

Danielle stayed with me for several weeks, and I'm eternally grateful to her even though she didn't take on the role of teacher. I had to teach myself all the in's and out's of painting with oils.

I'd never taken any art classes in high school or college - not even art appreciation. Without any previous instruction, all my painting was done by trial and error. I loved it, though, and painted pretty consistently for a short while.

I was happy with what I produced but then began working as a tour director (another opportunity that I grabbed even though friends and family tried to discourage me).

Being on the road much of each year made it difficult for me to continue painting. Whenever I got into a painting groove, I soon had to break my rhythm and head out to lead tours.

My oil painting stopped - at least for the time being.

Creativity Calls Again

Now, after more than 20 years of not painting, creativity knocked again.

This time though, I felt moved to paint with pastels instead of oils. That doesn't mean that I won't pick up my brushes again at some point and do some oil painting, but for the time being, I'm really happy with the vibrancy of pastels and how pastels are so personal.

Pastel strokes

What I mean is that pastels are almost like finger painting. I hold the colored pastel in my fingers and make strokes with it. Then I might even use my finger to blend the pastel on the paper. Very personal.

And yes, my fingers get very dirty with pastels. A good dirty.

Even so, cleaning up after a painting session isn't nearly as much work with pastels as with painting.

Technology to the Rescue

Technology has made my life living overseas so much easier than before we had ATM cards, international credit cards, Skype - and so much more.

And technology has even made my painting life easier. I now devour online pastel video tutorials. I've found a site called Patreon that provides a place for teachers of all kinds and eager students to meet.

Of course, in my case, I'm following several art teachers who specialize in pastel styles that I aspire to learn. I want to develop expertise in painting animal portraits. People who want portraits of their pets will want a realistic interpretation of their beloved animal, so I've subscribed to some artists who do great animal portraits.

But I want to develop a painterly style as well. And I've found a couple of pastel artists that have wonderful painterly styles.

Watching tutorials of both groups of artists provides me with great inspiration to work on developing my own style for both realistic pet portraits as well as paintings that are more impressionistic.

And the Results ?

Give me a few months. Right now, I'm at my brother's house in the Chicago area. I've ordered pastel supplies and will be heading home in another week. When I get there, I'll break out my new supplies and put my learning to the test.

Come back here to see future results.

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Kate Benzin Art
Blog

Don’t Be Like Me!

Don't let someone else's idea of what is possible influence what you do with your life.

A lot of people who know me would say that I didn't do that. But I'm here to tell you that I did exactly that. But I guess it's never too late, and I'm finally following my artistic calling.

Let Me Explain

My mother made Wonder Woman look like a wimp. My mother could do everything. At least, that's how it seemed to me as a child growing up. I even believed that well into adulthood. I could only aspire to do half as much as she did.

So when my mother said that she couldn't do anything artistic, that she didn't have an artistic bone in her body, I was certain that art was not something I should even think about. After all, if she couldn't do something, there was no way I could. After all, she was Super Woman.

Kate Benzin Art

But Art Kept Knocking on My Soul

Yes, somehow, I had a yearning to learn how to paint. And one day, an angel came into my life and helped me to summon the gumption to give it a try.

An artist friend was staying with me indefinitely. She couldn't afford to pay me for rent or food, but that was okay with me. I just asked that she give me some lessons in painting.

She took me shopping for art supplies and then gave me the only piece of advice that she ever gave me. 'Just play with light and dark,' she said.

This was many years ago, but I still remember her surprise at my first oil painting. She asked how I knew to paint the strokes in particular directions. My answer was that it just felt right.

Another time, she commented on what nice movement my painting showed.

Creativity can be yours.

No More Lessons

That was it. I didn't get any lessons from her, but she got me started. That was the greatest thing she could have done.

I painted in oils for a few months for a few years. Then I took about 20 years off because I started working as a tour director and was on the road much of the year.

Now that I've retired, I have time to paint again. I'm working in pastels now, but I might pick up my brushes to paint in oils from time to time.

Please join me on my painting journey and release your creativity.

Let your creativity flow
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