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Featured Artist: Barb Pinc

Innovative Pastel Methods

Pastelbord is a rigid panel with a delightful toothy surface that has allowed me a newfound freedom when working with pastels. The sanded surface and absorbency of the panel allow me to work wet or dry and to layer pigments endlessly, creating rich and vibrant pastel paintings. The panel is available in sand, grey, green and white. On the white-colored Pastelbord, my opportunities for varying color are endless! Following are a few techniques you’ll want to try on this great surface!

1) Sketching and Misting

With a pastel pencil, lightly sketch in the initial drawing. Next, mist the board with water just enough to moisten the surface evenly to begin painting the background. I use a cosmetic plastic spray bottle so that the misting is done evenly. Pastel on the wet panel will create really exciting textures for the background. After misting, I begin by laying in my background colors of green. Remember to wipe the pastel first on a towel to make sure clean even color is being applied.

2) Working Wet and Dry

When laying in my background colors I also use a shaving technique to add depth and texture to the background. For example, for a glistening effect, I shaved the edge of a metallic color with a razor over the initial background colors. I allowed the pastel dust to settle onto the surface and then I began my wet techniques. Because pastelbord is a rigid, yet porous surface, you can use water without the fear of buckling or ruining your "paper". After applying the pastels, use a 3/4" angle brush with water to blend them as if painting with watercolors. A very soft and airy background can be created using this technique. You can also use a wet brush to lift off color in areas that have gotten too dark. Just remember to have an old towel to wipe your brush as you lift the color off the Pastelbord.

3) Blending and Softening

While working, keep shaving more colors over the initial background and then misting them with water to soften. Use the mist water bottle along with your watercolor brush to blend colors. This technique helps you create depth of field and provides your basic shapes, forms, and color for your piece. At this stage I also use a flat chisel Colour Shaper to pat down lumps of pastels for varying thickness of pigments. Wipe the shaper or the brush you are using frequently to prevent the painting from getting muddy.

4) Details and Heavier Pigments

Continue using this shaving and layering technique for the leaves, the dark areas of the road, and weeds. Also, to lift color, use a wet brush to lift and then wipe on a towel and repeat until the color has been partially or completely lifted. This is a wonderful technique for bringing back light into your painting when doing landscapes, wooded areas, shrubs, etc. The light will appear natural, almost as if it peeking through the leaves of the trees. For the final touches, use pastel pencils for fine details and where harder edges are needed for volume.

5) Finishing the Piece

Sealing pastels with a fixative tends to deaden pastel colors, so I don’t recommend it. Frame the finished artwork behind glass with a spacer.


Barb Pinc is an award winning watercolor and pastel artist with a background in art education. She operates Studio 61 in Minnesota where she has an art gallery and teaches classes to all ages.