My pastels have a very soft appearance because I mostly use extremely soft pastel. I also work on 2 different surfaces. The most common one you will find with my work is suede mat board. The Furry texture of the mat, holds a lot of pigment and will take many layers. It also has the added bonus of coming in a variety of bold colors giving me a base color to start with. I have been known to use bright red, purple and orange. When the surface of the mat becomes so full of pastel that it will no longer grab it, I can also spray it with fixative to put more layers on the painting. You end up with a much richer color that glows in different lights. It is a forgiving surface, which is helpful when you need to change different areas of your painting. If you need to you can scrape off your mistakes or cover them with more pastel. With oil and acrylic, if you play too much in one area with different colors; it will end up looking muddy or dull. You don’t have to worry about that with pastel. Unfortunately, the furry surface doesn’t blend as quickly or easily. You can smudge your surface a little, but not very much. The other problem is you have to use very specific and soft pastel pencils for detail. Hard colored pencils or regular pastel pencils will actually remove pastel from your surface. You can add details but you must work with specific pastel pencils and need to fix your surface.
I also paint on sanded paper. That takes less pastel and is much easier to blend but, it will not let you build up many layers. It is a bigger challenge because I have to plan farther ahead and it isn’t anywhere near as forgiving as the suede. But the blending you can achieve! It can almost be like pushing paint around on the surface. I have also played with layers of fixative on the surface too. It doesn’t take as many but you can build up very fine layers on the painting. That is to say, put a little color where you think you may want a hint and then rub it in. You can remove layers of fixed pastel when you are doing this but you will always have a tint of the original color. I have one large piece in my studio that never went anywhere because I ended up staining the original too much.
Working on the Sanded paper, you can add detail and clean lines with most pastel pencils. The pencils will also smudge if you want (or even if you don’t). There is more control with this surface but more challenge for me. Sanded paper will also reflect a truer color than what you find on suede mat. It will look brighter without special lighting, and will photograph more easily. I found that using sanded ceramic board, if your pastel isn’t thick; will reflect the original surface color when you photograph it.
T has been working in soft pastels for approximately 15 years. She is looking forward to the future as she continues in her medium. In 2019 she was awarded a residency at the Spokane Art School where she created an extensive body of work and had a successful one woman show. 2021 she won Best of Show at the Inland Northwest Open Pastel Exhibit. She continues to share her love of pastels through classes and continues to develop as an artist.
T Kurtz lives currently in Spokane WA and serves as The President of the Board of Directors at The Spokane Art School. Her husband, 2 aloof cats, and two faithful dogs put up with the drama of the art career with proud tolerance.