‘The division of landscape’
Unison Colour soft pastel with Rembrandt pastels, rubbing alcohol on Canson Moulin du Roy 300gsm (140lb) ‘cold pressed’ watercolour paper.

Wash effects using rubbing alcohol  mixed with powdered and ground Unison Colour soft pastels form the underpainting on which to create a beautiful, luminous and expressive semi abstract painting. Taking full advantage of the translucent effects created with wash effects with the solvent with an otherwise opaque media, lots of different possibilities are attained for further expressive creative directions with pastel yet again. I’ll show you how.

Associate Artist Robert Dutton explains the benefits of using different solvents with Unison Colour pastels to express your ideas and ‘paint’ with your pastels

The versatility of soft pastel is highly regarded in the art world and by many artists. Whilst each creative artists journey is enriched through the use of pastels, experimentation is paramount to personal development with them.

The common practice for most artists, is to use them mostly as a dry media  to express their ideas or in a mixed media context. However, start to mix your pastels with different types of solvents  and exciting things really begin to happen with them!

Pastel painting 

Unbeknown to many artists, soft pastels can be used diluted with a number of different solvents to create exciting paint like effects. Solvents that dilute pastels transform the media into a paint like form by literally ‘dissolving’ them. This creates an exciting and a new dynamic form with pastels to express ideas for all types of different subjects.

There are three main types of solvents that work well with pastels which are water, alcohol and fixative – either liquid or aerosol.

Personal favourites 

My personal favourite solvent to use with soft pastel is with alcohol. The solvent oxidises quicker than water and colours are left brighter on the surface. Water with pastel creates quite a muted and chalky looking effect and colours are quite subdued when dry. Good to know if this is the intention you wish to create in the final painting and I can think of lots of subjects this will be useful for as a technique. Misty mornings, foggy atmospheric effects and so on are some examples. I’m sure you can think of some too.

Lovely subtle tinted glazes can be created one over the other with diluted pastels and solvents using all three previously mentioned. The key is a direct approach with any glaze of colour each and every time. Ponder at your peril! Doubt what you do, go back in and try and alter one colour over the other by adding more colour or a different shade into the mix and the colour underneath tends to lift and muddy and spoil all those lovely colours.

Think watercolour or the approach with another water media such as acrylic ink for example and you are on the right lines when using diluted pastels. A direct approach works every time. 

Very useful underpainting with pastel and solvents  form a great foundation  on which to work and layer a pastel painting. In the examples I’ve included you can follow each paintings progress combining drawn and painted marks and layering with all three types of solvents shown throughout this article. 


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