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Penny Steynor’s Pastel Workshop

On Saturday 24th, 19 people arrived for Penny’s workshop.

With so many people, space was at a premium, but a spot was found for everyone, and Penny treated us to an incredible amount of information as well as a display of how versatile a medium pastel is.

Here are Penny’s notes:

Pastel is a very exciting and versatile medium.  It is a drawing or painting medium and is a Direct medium to use offering wide range of techniques and approaches with Drawing – convenient – direct – quick and expressive with no elaborate preparation with painting – prepare paper and layer pastel in washes.  It can also be used over watercolour, acrylic or mixed media to great effect, or work with “Pastel marks” (John Blockley) – people are recognized by their marks!

Pastels are made from gum tracanthas, a binder and Kaolin and pigment.  Home made pastels are harder as more binder is used.  They are PERMANENT and do not fade as sophisticated pigments are used in their manufacture.

Which side of the paper?  Usually the rougher side is used.
Never use graphite pencil as the oil repels the pastel.  Always draw with charcoal – you can even incorporate the charcoal into the pastel.  Oil pastels are different – we are dealing here with chalk pastels.  There are both hard and soft varieties.  Harder pastels are usually used for the drawing technique.  In painting use the hard pastels first and end with soft.

Work from dark to light, as in oils.  No water or cleaning agents except soap and water, towels, wet wipes and old clothes!  But unlike oils you cannot mix pastels on a palette like paint – you can mix to a certain extent on paper.
In order to ascertain a colour, you have to test it or use it – if it is wrong or racts in a way you don’t want it to, stop immediately and remove with a stiff brush.  YOU CANNOT CORRECT MISTAKES BY OVERLAYING WITH PASTEL.  You will end up with a muddy, tired looking painting.

MUD!  In my experience, mud is caused by using opposite sides of the colour wheel (what would normally cause grey in watercolour and may be beautiful can cause mud in pastel).  Also adding too much white content too soon.  Adjacent colours are best for blending.

DUST!  Do not blow.  Turn over your pastel and tap.  You can also put a piece of wide masking tape, sticky side up, on the bottom edge of your paper, catching dust that way.  Semolina makes a good cleaning agent.


  1. Use genuine turps or water to soften your pastel wash – or scrape pastel onto your board and wipe with a soft cloth to give a “wash effect”
  2. Work from dark to light
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