Landscapes in PanPastel - On-line Demonstration by Les Darlow
20th April 2021
Les Darlow trained as a Technical and Scientific Illustrator, and now paints expressively and creatively, producing paintings that are based on feeling, light, energy and movement. He paints in many mediums, runs extensive workshops and his book “Absolute Pastels” details his approach to this medium and contains 5 workshop projects. He has a love and passion for weather and landscapes as light and weather change the subject continuously.
Les begins the Zoom session by talking about materials and his choices of paper. Although he does work in traditional pastels (mainly Unison) he is demonstrating this evening working with PanPastels. These are supplied in small pans in various colour combinations - Landscape, Portraits, etc. They have a very fine texture, add colour to the paper without filling the grain, are semi-transparent and contain 40% more pigment then traditional pastels. They are applied with sponges of various sizes, depending on the effect required. The smaller shaped sponges are held on a sort of painting knife and can create sharp shapes and edges. These pastels can be blended with fingertips, can be drawn over with most pens etc. and it can be lifted off with a clean eraser (before fixing). PanPastel can be mixed like paint, a distinct advantage not achievable with sticks of traditional pastel and Les loves the soft effects he can create with this medium.
The first demonstration is on light grey Pastelmat paper which Les describes as a velvety light sandpaper. He has chosen a dramatic skyscape with strong clouds and a golden light. Les positions a spare piece of card to one side to test his colour choices. He selects a square cut sponge and picks up pigment, mixing a pale yellow on the sponge. He applies this with bold, print-like marks, adding different shades of yellow and orange to give a glow to the paper. Working with shades mixed by picking up colour from two or three of the individual pans, Les gradually defines the cloud shapes varying pressure to apply delicate or stronger tones. Glimpses of blue sky add depth. The distant hills are added with a large sponge and a sweeping motion and the foreground landscape is painted with bolder, smaller shapes with some very dark tones. Less mentions that he likes to use black with red added for warmth. The image comes alive with a lake in the foreground - with highlights in traditional pastel, also used here and there for details. He achieve a crisp line using masking tape which does not disturb the pastel.
Les chooses white Canson Mi Teintes paper for the second demonstration. This paper is 50% cotton and very responsive to PanPastels. He begins to work on the sky, smoothing pigment across the paper with a large sponge, layering so that the colours shine through, gradually adding stronger tones. This paper can withstand “scrubbing”. Using a small sponge he add hints of clouds with pale yellow light on the undersides. The distant hills are in a warm grey. This image has very strong dark tones for some dock in the distance and Les makes interesting bold marks using both pastels and pens. A traditional pastel is used to add tiny bright lights to this area. The sea is built up in the same way as the sky but with more texture and variation. The sunlight is finally added with bold strokes of traditional pastel.
Les works from light to dark, rather like watercolour and mentioned that is worth experimenting with PanPastels on watercolour paper. Canson Mi Tientes Touch is also designed for pastels and has a fine tooth. Some papers are more suitable for blending than others where bold print-like marks give the best results. He feels that PanPastels do not generally need fixing as there is so little pigment on the paper. Using PanPastels as an underlayer, with more traditional pastels for the later drawing is a method he sometimes employs. Sponges are washed after use.
The final demonstration was very simple but stunningly effective. On white paper Les applied layers of blue pigment, darker at the top. He then used various shades of warm and cool greys to define the shadow side of clouds. He cut a plastic eraser to provide a crisp edge and then began to “draw” the negative white shapes at the tops of the clouds, varying direction and using broken strokes. The sky immediately came into being. Further darks enhanced the clouds and a layer of dark trees gave perspective. More work with the eraser illustrated that masts etc. on a seascape, for instance can be easily lifted out as even the darker tones do not stain the paper.
Les was warmly thanked for this excellent demonstration, for sharing his expertise and for answering our various questions. The two different approaches, using different papers, were very interesting. Many of our Members have worked with pastels in the past. PanPastels offer a totally different way of working and an exciting way forward with this medium.
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