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Soft Pastel Savants

Traditionally made using a deceptively simple combination of powdered pigments & a binder (Gum Arabic or Chalk for instance), soft pastels are easy to use... yet difficult to truly master.

More popular than their oil counterparts thanks to their versatile nature, vibrant colours & velvety-smooth texture, soft pastels are widely available both individually or in convenient sets from renowned brands such as Winsor & Newton, Unison Colour, Royal & Langnickel & Sennelier

Traditionally made using a combination of powdered pigments & a binder, such as Gum Arabic (or chalk for greater luminosity in pale or bright hues), soft pastels are vibrant, velvety-smooth & easily the most popular version of this versatile medium.

From capturing the fleeting moments of a ballet performance to exploring dreamlike realms of the imagination, we’ll be highlighting the unique perspectives of several masters in order to demonstrate the boundless creativity, expression & sheer possibilities of soft pastels.


Jean-Francois Millet - Peasants Resting (1866)"Peasants Resting" 1866

Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) 

Primarily famous for their paintings, the French Realist artist Jean-François Millet also produced several powerful, expressive pastel drawings.  Often steeped in social commentary, these drawings depicted the rural life & hardships of peasants at the time, perfectly showcasing the ability of soft pastels to convey raw emotion.


Edgar Degas - The Dance Class (1874)"The Dance Class" 1874

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

Known for iconic depictions of ballet dancers & everyday life in 19th-century Paris, Edgar Degas pioneered the use of soft pastels.  Through his mastery of pastels, he captured bold movements using delicate strokes & subtle colour transitions for some truly exceptional examples of the medium.


Odilon Redon - Guardian Spirit of the Water (1878)"Guardian Spirit of the Water" 1878

Odilon Redon (1840-1916)

Contributing to the development of Symbolism in art, Odilon Redon explored the dreamlike & fantastical through vibrant colours & imaginative subjects (such as mythical creatures and dreamscapes).  Redon’s use of pastels is a testament to the medium’s ability to evoke a sense of mystery and emotion.


Mary Cassatt - The Long Gloves (1889)"The Long Gloves" 1889

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)

A contemporary & friend of Degas, Mary Cassatt was an American Impressionist painter, known for her keen observational skills & mastery of colour.  Her pastel portraits often featured mothers & children, with her innate ability to convey emotion and intimacy through soft pastels setting her apart as a leading artist of her time.


Wolf Kahn - Almost Impenetrable (2014)"Almost Impenetrable" 2014

Wolf Kahn (1927-2020)

Aside from having quite possibly the coolest name in history, Wolf Kahn is renowned for his contemporary landscapes, with his use of bold, unconventional colour combinations distinguishing his soft pastel works.  His balance of abstraction & genuine representation creates a wholly unique visual experience that continues to resonate & inspire artists to this day.


Feeling inspired?

We have a variety of options from several brands in our extensive Soft Pastel category, available both individually & in assorted sets suitable for beginners, students & professionals.

If you'd like to secure your finished masterpiece, fixative is a sure fire, professional method.

Don't worry though, if you'd rather not use any aerosols or chemicals, the Pastelmat range of pads from Clairefontaine have been specially designed to secure pastels without the need for additional finishes.


So, what do you think, would you give soft pastels a try (if you haven't already)?
If you have any more questions or want to leave us a comment, just use the details below!

Telephone:  01303 290550

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