I’m back with more about Mom today, I hope that’s okay! She’s given me her art supplies over the years as she downsized, and while I visited her recently she also passed on the last of her vintage pastel pencils.  (Read more of that here.)

Today – I have an art piece to share! It’s a pastel painting of a fur seal; and yes pastels are called, by most artists, paintings, and I think the technique here will show you why. Because I used a paintbrush for the technique!

Tutorial: Colored Pencil vs Pastel Pencil (with Fur Seal painting)

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Colored pencil vs pastel pencil

In the little exercise below, I used Stonehenge – just to give colored pencil a leg up. I could have done this on Pastelmat, but it’s expensive per sheet, plus the pastel REALLY rocks on Pastelmat, so my Prismacolors needed an assist.

I do still love my colored pencils – there are some things they’re better for. Like cards, or any art that’ll be ‘handled’ in any way, because the pigment doesn’t move nearly as much as pastel. For colored pencils, wet blending intensifies color, helps to fill in the white gaps in the paper so it looks smoother. But – once you get a certain amount of pigment on the paper, you reach a point where you can’t add a lighter color on top.

Pastel (sticks or pencils) keep on a-moving – any dry pigment drawn onto paper will move with the slightest touch of a finger, especially if no fixative is used. When wet-blended with isopropyl alcohol, pastel turns into a mushier color rather than brighter. The pigment breaks down and moves with a watercolor effect, but does the opposite of colored pencils. However the technique restores the texture of the paper; think of the pastel as “filling” the valleys between the texture, and when dry, you can only put so much in. But once wetted with alcohol, the peaks and valleys are once again workable.

Both mediums can be sprayed with a fixative – though with the way I use pastel, I have yet to find an excellent fix that holds everything in place without yellowing or changing the color. If anyone has a good suggestion that does better than Delacroix Fixatif by Sennelier – let me know, I’ll be researching it!


Fur Seal painting

This was cobbled together from a variety of references – one of a different kind of seal in this position, another for the rock, and another for the fur seal markings. I created my own lighting situation too which meant imaginging colors!

I’m still torn on whether to add a background – more rocks on a coastal shore. I kinda like him just as is…..

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  1. Chris Muir

    You are an amazing artist. Thank you for sharing your wonderful art and tips.

  2. Glenda

    Your seal, rock and background are all wonderful as they are, in my opinion!

  3. Patricia Vilbaum

    This little guy is so life like. I also love him just as he is with no other background. That Pastel mat looks enough like a sea color that he doesn’t need anything else behind him. It was so much fun watching you work on it. I have some cheap pastels but have always shied away from them because of the messiness. I’ll have to try the alcohol to set them in place.

    • Sandy Allnock

      Give them a try! The top layer ends up looking terrible if alcohol is applied (though I have more playing around to try) – but for the underlayer it makes a world of difference.

      Also – I use a hand vac but one artist has an actual vacuum cleaner hose hooked up! lol. I also have had an old pizza box handy when I was still blowing off color, so at least it collects in something I could drop a lid on and not get dust absolutely everywhere. But the dustbuster is the best solution so far.

  4. Karen Longanecker

    Amazing! Love it, Sandy! Thank you for being so generous passing along all your tips.


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