Other Weapons for the Battle
We want advantages that can be taken away when we pick pastel as our medium of choice. Each weakness does not have to stay a liability; if we always seek to solve the problems that we face. The techniques and materials I am sharing with you came out of that very spirit of trial and error.
Waterproof markers are an amazing tool. These will enable you to achieve a hard detailed edge that would otherwise be impossible with just using pastel alone. Why not use this to create a better painting? Make sure you use caution with these waterproof markers because subtlety is key here. Today there are so many colors and values with waterproof markers that one can use for so many applications in your pastel paintings. One example could be the crease of the eye lid or a nail bed on the finger. When we let go of convention and only think of problem solving, a whole new world opens up. Some of the best colors are various shades of grays. Pitt, makes a wonderful line of warm and cool grays from light to dark, shades of red from the lightest pink to the darkest reddish browns. There will be many occasions that these will provide a crisp exactitude not available by just using pastels alone.
Erasers are wonderful tools. I like using the standard kneaded erasers that most every pastel painter will use; However there are so many different erasers out there from the softest to the most aggressive erasers. There are pencil erasers and electric erasers that all provide a service when creating texture or lifting color for lightening a value or highlights; To create detail while taken away pigment is called reductive details. It's cleaner than adding pastel on top of pastel.
Razor blades or Exacto knives are amazing for lightly scraping away tight details, such as, the creases in the lips or the light against the wrinkles on a finger. This can not be done as beautifully using just pastel. What is does is that it remove all the pigment exposing the gesso surface underneath.
In the final stages of the pastel painting, I also like to use a liner brush and waterproof ink to paint some of the loose strands of hair. I will dilute the ink mixture to create the transparency that the strands of hair have.
All of these techniques are answers to the limitations that are inherent in pastels. The point that I am making is that we must move beyond the limitations and find the solutions. Your painting journey in pastels should be a linear progression to achieve what was once thought of as the unachievable goal. I love when collectors mention to me that the painting does not look like any pastel painting that they have ever seen. Because as the great Neo Classical painter, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, said, " The technique should be invisible, only the painting should be visible."