Soft pastels are a chalk base medium and are handled like pencils and charcoal as drawing instruments rather than brushes with water, or oil based paint. Soft pastels come in cylindrical or rectangular sticks or in wood pencil forms. They are easily blended and one can use a corner to achieve fine line or points, or use the short flat or broad side of a whole piece of pastel for wider coverage of color. I use predominantly the round sticks. The finished look will often resemble painting more than pencil drawing depending on the technique and treatment. That is because pastels utilize a combination of drawing strokes and blending. Pastels are built layer upon layer like oils and the eye combines the many strokes to see many colors in homogenous tones. Also, pastels often resemble oil dry brush techniques which create Monet-like soft edges on the paper surface. Artists frequently refer to a pastel drawing as a painting because the stroking process is the same for both pastel and oil. It is simply “painting” with chalk.
Pastel is a much messier medium than oil. One’s fingers become the “brush” handle, thus the fingers get the brunt of the chalk residue. The fingers also become a major blending tool on the paper surface to soften the strokes. Plastic gloves help, but I find they disconnect me from the piece I am doing. I don’t mind getting dirty in the process. It’s like a gardener digging in the dirt, just for pleasant feel of the earth between the fingers.
should be framed under conservation glass to protect the colors from fading. Mating is required so the glass doesn’t touch the paper surface and pastel image. Framing therefore can be more expensive than other media.