Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Making my own pastel(s)

... sounds much more glorious than this unsuspecting lump of mid-value grey that's drying on the shelf. I've been collecting pastel dust from my paintings at home - less in an attempt to extend the lifetime of my beige cheap carpet (if anything, I'm looking for an excuse to replace it) but more in hope that all the greens, blues, purple, reds and yellows would come together in the end to make a neutral pastel stick.

Yesterday then was the day: I had collected cool and warm shades separately but the jar with the cool ones looks suspiciously similar to the vastness that is my Blue-Green-Earth Unison set ... I don't quite remember why I bought that set now, but I haven't really used it much at all. After mixing both cool and warm dust and grinding it with pestle and mortar, I added distilled water and rolled it into shape and it's been drying since.

This is the really simple way of making your own pastel - the binder that keeps the pigments together and determines degree of hardness/softness is gum tragacanth - yet, in the pastel dust, it is still contained and does not require anything other than merely adding water.

There are various instuctions on making soft pastels online - ranging from the complex ones like in this article by Phyllis Franklin on Wetcanvas to rather straightforward ones such as on the Earth Pigments website (who also supply, to North America, a glorious range of Natural Earth pigments). One of the few UK suppliers of the binder is the long established Cornelissen and Son in London who supply a wide range of traditional pigments and specialist artist equipment.

Two reasons mad me start looking into ways of making pastels:
- to match the hues and pigments of some of my favourite oil colours
- and more recently as part of my research into the desert sands and how natural iron oxide colours them in a variety of hues from gold to violet.

For the latter, I've come across the Clearwell Caves Ochre mine in England which also supplies fine ground ochre pigment from yellow to an unusual deep purple for painting purposes. That dark purple looks great - and it looks pretty close to one of my favourite dark neutrals I've been using.

Yet - somehow I feel that this isn't the kind of activity that my kitchen surface would welcome... yet another reason to look for some studio space, I suspect!

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