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A Review of Rembrandt Soft Pastels
The Studio Work Table
I frequently use Rembrandt Pastels in my work as a pastel artist and especially use them when teaching pastel workshops. Although they are a soft pastel, I would describe them as medium soft, as they are harder than Unison or Sennelier, for example. The benefit of using a medium soft pastel is that they are a little more durable and so last a little longer, especially when using a very 'toothy' pastel paper such as the Fisher 400 that I love to work with.
Their slightly harder texture makes Rembrandt Pastels ideal for making the first marks on your paper, for example when blocking in great swathes of sky. Making the first layer of sky a layer of Rembrandt means that putting on clouds and 'weather' with a soft pastel is much easier, as soft pastel glides over harder pastel smoothly. The harder pastel does not overfill the tooth of the paper, so you can add more layers of soft pastel over the top and blend colours more easily.
I find Rembrandt Landscape Pastels a real boon when teaching pastel workshops as they are much more durable than really soft pastels and therefore much easier for learners to handle. Some of the pigments of my other favourite pastels, Unison, are extremely soft and buttery, lovely for me to use, but they seem to turn instantly to dust in the hands of some students. As I like my students to go home with a painting they love, it's not good if the materials create mud in their hands! So I use Rembrandts extensively in my workshops, with a few Unisons and Pitt pencils thrown in.
The firmer texture of Rembrandts also makes it easier to create fine lines. I scrub the blunt end of the pastel stick on to a test piece of pastel paper, creating a sharp rim all the way around the stick, which is great for rolling on to the paper, thus creating a finely drawn line.
The pastel set I use most has 90 Landscape colours, which is a great range. They comprise clear, true colours and varying tones of these. To date, I can find 225 pastel sticks. Each true pigment has its own number followed by .5, for example, in the olive green range, true olive green will be numbered 620.5. Darker shades of olive green (those with black pigment in) will have numbers below 620.5, such as 620.3 and olive green hues paler than the true pigment (those with white added) will have numbers higher than 620.5, such as 620.10 for example.
Lifeguards Relaxing At Trebarwith Strand
The numbering system makes it very simple to re-order pastels and to add to your range by extending the numbers that you order. The relative hardness of the pastel also makes them much less expensive to buy than market-leading pastels, but without sacrificing too much in the way of quality. They are a great starting kit for anyone wanting to explore pastel painting without blowing the budget.
In my own painting work, I use a mixture of Rembrandt, Unison and Sennelier pastel sticks with a few touches of Pitt pencils. This is how the painting to the right was created.