The new issue of Plein Air Magazine celebrates top painters who opt for pastels. In addition to sharing a passion for the work that’s contagious, the featured artists demystify pastels, busting myths about their versatility and longevity.
The More We Know
At last year’s Plein Air Convention & Expo, Richard McKinley gave a presentation, “Why Pastels Are Perfect for Plein Air.” The theme resonated with me and sparked the idea for a series of articles for the magazine.
For many, media such as pastel, watercolor, or acrylic might not come first to mind when they think about plein air painting. But are there qualities of these media that actually make them particularly well-suited to painting outdoors? Have there not been artists using these media to create master works, both in the studio and en plein air, for centuries?
In the previous issue of Plein Air Magazine, we looked at how six accomplished artists use watercolor in the field. In this issue, we hear from top painters who opt for pastels. And next issue, we’ll explore acrylics for plein air. In addition to sharing a passion for the work that’s contagious, the featured artists demystify these media, busting myths about their versatility and longevity. From the artists in this issue, five important takeaways about pastel include:
1. Soft pastels are created from mineral pigments, just like oils, acrylics, and watercolors, but they have the smallest amount of binder, making them almost pure color. (They are NOT chalk, which is compressed gypsum or limestone.)
2. Collectors may be worried about pastels fading, but they are actually the most lightfast of all media since they have so little binder. Once framed, they are more permanent than oils; there are no chemicals to change, no varnishes to darken or yellow them, no cracking.
3. Pastel is easier to clean up and doesn’t ruin clothing or car interiors as easily as some wet media.
4. Used since the Renaissance, pastels were favored by both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. In the 1700s, elite Europeans had their portraits created in pastel, but the Impressionists are most well-known for using the medium to its full potential.
5. When painting plein air with pastels, setup is as simple as opening a paint box — no need to squeeze out a lot of paint or mix colors.
To cap off our pastel coverage, we’re fortunate to have Albert Handell as our cover artist. In this issue, he shares a lifetime of painting wisdom and masterful plein air work. He’s joined in the lineup by talented artists working in all media who share their own unique ways of seeing and approaching their subject matter.
The one thing they have in common is that they’ve put in the hours at the easel, figuring out what they want to say with their paintings and the right materials that allow them to do that — sometimes switching comfortably between media depending on the light and weather conditions and what they want to convey about the landscapes before them.
Whether you’re a painter, collector, or simply an art lover, it’s important to educate yourself, to be exposed to a variety of styles, media, and subjects. Through this process, you’ll find what excites you, what suits your way of working, or what aesthetic you want to create with your art collection. In his Publisher’s Letter, Eric Rhoads encourages us to make 2020 a year of learning. And we know many of us are already doing just that — experimenting with new techniques and materials, or exploring new creative pathways in our work by exaggerating color, playing with composition, or focusing on a single subject in a series. The more we know, the richer and more fulfilling our experience. Let’s take this journey of discovery together.
Plein Air Magazine, August/September Table of Contents: