It is not the materials which maketh the artist.
Good materials are of course a delight to use, and in some cases, particularly for instance watercolour painting , quality makes a big difference, you cannot guarantee good results if you are using inferior paper, inadequate brushes, and cheap paint. They just do not always behave as you might like.
For the artist who works with tubes of paint, and has to mix his own colours, having every tube of paint on the market is simply not necessary. An absolutely HUGE range of colours can be mixed from just a few tubes of paint.
However, it is a very different story for the pastel painter.
Pastellists are naturally drawn to sticks of pastel like a magpie is drawn to shiny objects. Many of them freely admit to being unable to STOP buying pastels - every new manufacturer on the market, every new set of glorious greys, gorgeous greens, brilliant blues. The manufacturers play to this audience, and produce sets which appear to offer "the" answer to the pastellist's dreams - portrait sets, landscape sets, sets which will give the artist perfect thunderstorm greys for clouds or another for perfect tropical scenes - I have even seen an "arid landscape set" - the list is endless.
There is a post running on an artists' website right now, where the contributors admit to owning loads of sets, claiming that they cannot resist them. (I tried being a voice of reason...this was not very well received! oops).
I would just like to speak once more on this subject to my blog audience before retiring quietly and letting everyone get on with spending their money however they like.
You do not need every set of pastels on the market to become a good painter. You do not need all the same colours that your favourite artist uses - it will not help you to paint like him.
You DO need a fair few pastels, in a variety of tones and temperatures, so that you have a good choice at your disposal. A set of, say, 48 good quality soft pastels will give you a pretty good start, plus perhaps a set of less expensive hard pastels which can extend the colour range and can be useful in the early stages of a painting. You can then discerningly buy more sticks individually as you discover that you need them. Not enough subtle greys or greens in your set? Search out some of those. Need a gorgeous creamy-white with sunlight in it? Schmincke makes one of those I would never be without. But PLEASE do recognise that owning a set from every manufacturer of pastels will NOT make you a better painter. What makes a good painter is PRACTICE, PERSEVERANCE and PATIENCE. Plus constant reading and learning to develop your knowledge and understanding of the craft of painting.
Richard McKinley, a working pro landscape painter, takes this set of pastels out on location with him. It is a pretty large kit...260 half sticks...but I have been told that he only uses a small selection from this kit to create his painting.
If you do buy huge sets, do be aware that you will inevitably have purchased, along with useful colours which will be used all the time, some sticks you will never use - a waste of money and space!
Here is a picture of another artist's "on location" kit. This person obviously feels that he or she needs their entire studio with them, laid out on tressle tables. Just imagine how this little lot gets carted around out on location, and try to imagine the scene if it suddenly began to rain..................sorry, I know it is mean and I shouldn't giggle but...............
A PALETTE OF PASTELS
|"Wisteria on the balcony" Venice. Painted on location. 3/4 pinks/apricots; 1 cinnamon; 1 darker pink; 4 greens; 3/4 blues; 1 purple; 1 white. Perhaps a couple of others. No more than 20 or so pastels in total.|
If you are lucky enough to own loads of pastels, or if you are someone who simply gets a kick out of buying and nothing I say will make a jot of difference then please do remember that it is helpful to sort out just such a "palette" of pastels before you begin to paint. Do your thumbnail sketch and think, while you are doing it, about the colours you might need (you always do thumbnails, don't you...........). Then, from your giant set of pastels, sort out about 12-20 or so colours, and put them in a little container, and get cracking on your painting. You might need to dip back into your bigger set as the painting evolves, but having your palette sorted out first will help you to maintain colour harmony in your painting...as Degas achieved in that fabulous pic at the top. I believe he would have sorted out his colour palette in advance. And it would be interesting to try to work out how many different sticks he might have used, too.
Lecture over. Now go have fun in the art materials shop!
last week's painting was sold, I am happy to say. Here is another - I seldom paint animals, but this little one-year-old Birman's colouring and eyes were irresistible. painting size 6"x6". Pastel on paper. Will be provided framed - can stand on a tabletop or be hung.
only $85 plus postage. Email me if interested to firstname.lastname@example.org