I’m struck with the vivid colors and immediacy of drawing and painting with pastels, but their dust creates an issue for me, at least for now.
I’ve taken some steps to avoid breathing the dust, such as wearing a mask and tilting my easel so the top of the paper is slightly toward me, allowing the dust to fall away from the surface into a collection bin. I’m also using the harder types of pastel, NuPastel and pastel pencils, which shed less dust than softer brands. Between layers, I’ve also spritzed my drawings with an alcohol or water mist to ‘set’ them on the paper.
But last weekend when I was working on a new piece, the light was just right when the furnace kicked on and I began to see faint, smokey-looking wisps of very fine dust rising from the paper into the air and toward the cold air returns. Yikes!
Because most pigment colors come primarily from minerals and metals, it can’t be good for the fine dust to fly through our air ducts and be distributed throughout the house for us to breathe.
I clearly need to learn more about how pastel artists deal with this issue. And I’m researching dust management methods at various websites to see what other steps I can take.
This medium, for me, may best be used outside or in a separate studio; not my home. It will soon be warm enough to work outside and I’ll try them again then. For now, however, I’m returning to other tools – including dyes, ink, watercolor pencils and paints. I used them all to interpret this reference photo of some red and white tulips against a dark background.
After drawing my composition lightly on some 140 pound hot press watercolor paper, I used an Inktense dye pencil to create a dark, soft background texture around the leaves and flowers. Painting clear water over pencil marks ‘melts’ them into a wash, just once, before becoming permanent. This ensured the background won’t leak into the lighter leaves and petals as I dampen the paper and paint them in.
Next, I added some detail to the blossoms and leaves with watercolor pencil and softened these with water, too.
I then added transparent watercolor paint to the leaves and some areas of the white blossom. I was slightly terrified to add the reds!
Finally, I added darks and more vivid reds with Tombow pens, which are also water soluble.
As soon as the weather warms, I look forward to trying a pastel version of this composition.
If you have any tips on containing pastel dust, I’d be grateful for your comments.