To Blend or Not to Blend Pastels
Timothy John-Luke Smith
Pastel on Masonite
This is a question that is often asked in the world of pastel painting. Some very accomplished pastel painters such as Edgar Degas and my mentor Harvey Dinnerstein almost never blended their pastel strokes on the surface. This is often a look desired by many pastel painters throughout history. I venture to argue for the blending of the pastel.
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, an oil painter, stated that we should never see the technique but only the objects that we are painting. I feel the same way. Yes, we may lose some of that vibration of color when we don’t blend the pastel strokes on the surface; However, I feel the accurate rendering of your subject is even more important than such vibrations of color through optical effects.
All things around us has a surface texture. The softest cloth, the hardest of wooden surfaces, to the wispy vapors of a cloud all have texture. How would we be content painting all these objects in the same way? I am not saying this is wrong but what I am saying is that our pastel painting can be more convincing and more evocative of emotion if we did the proper blending of the pastel.
If we search to render the different textures while maintaining a blended surface of pastel, our work will not be attributed to a style of “pastel painting” but to all painting. In conclusion, it is up to you and there isn’t a set answer; Although, for greater realism I side with Ingres. We should only see the painting and not the technique in the end result.