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Gifts For Artists - Sennelier Pastels

Updated on November 8, 2012

The Sennelier Factory

Gifts for Artists

Anyone who has read my online articles, knows that I am passionate about painting; pastel painting in particular. This passion spills over into the gifts that I love to receive for Christmas, birthdays and the like. Where 'normal' people might want socks, or cozy slippers, I'd rather have a particular type of paper or a few sticks of pastel in new colours I don't have. The danger with indulging my gift wishes is that I then disappear into my studio for a few days to play with my new toys. Doesn't always go down well!

Sennelier Pastels

From my other articles, you will realise that I'm a huge fan of Unison pastels. Although they remain my number one favourite, I recognise that the pigments have a tendency towards earthy tones, which can be difficult when you want a clear blue or green for example.

So my second all time favourite soft pastels are the Sennelier range. There are 525 pigments in delicate gradients that have a tendency towards white, and so offering clear, non-earthy colours.

The Sennelier company was formed in1887 by Gustave Sennelier, a chemist. He opened his Paris shop to sell artists' fine oil colours. Since then, the range has expanded to include water colours, pigments, oil pastels paints and sticks, plus acrylics; all made with the same Sennelier quality.

Hand Made

Like Unison, the pastels are hand made and have an equally creamy texture, vibrancy and light-fastness. They cover the paper very well, even if you are using a support with a heavy tooth such as Colourfix, enabling the layering and blending necessary for a finished pastel piece. My favourite combination is a mix of Unison and Sennelier pastel sticks, maybe with some Faber Castell Pitt Pencils for fine detail on Fisher 400 support (but I'm giving away all my secrets).

For their anniversary they also produced short runs of pastels (and other products) in black wooden boxes, which would make stupendous gifts if you wanted to buy the artist in your life a really expensive quality present.

Lifeguards Relaxing At Trebarwith Strand

Unison, Sennelier and Pitt pencils on Fisher 400 paper
Unison, Sennelier and Pitt pencils on Fisher 400 paper | Source

Sennelier in Practice

The two pictures to the right illustrate Sennelier pastel sticks in practice. Gull Rock and much of the ocean were painted with Unison pastels - a mix of darks and landscape colours, but the very bright highlights, such as the bright blue in the sea and the red of the lifeguards' clothing were painted with Sennelier sticks. I fixed the area underneath the lifeguards first, to enable better coverage of pigment. The reason I used Sennelier in this instance is that their bright colours are very 'clear', whereas my usual landscape Unison colours tend towards the earthy, and I really wanted the Lifeguards to stand out.

Lifeguards Relaxing At Trebarwith Strand

 Sennelier Pastels and Pitt pencils used for lifeguards and bright highlights
Sennelier Pastels and Pitt pencils used for lifeguards and bright highlights | Source

I chose bright red, not only because this happened to be the colour of one of the lifeguard's clothes, but also because it is a complementary colour for blue as it lies on the opposite side of the colour wheel. I often say to my students that they should use the colour that their painting needs, not necessarily the colour that they see. In this case, my painting needed bright red Sennelier pastels.

In short, Sennelier Pastels have the quality, texture and vibrancy of pigment that professional artists need in their daily work.

Go on, spoil someone with a box. But beware, you might not see them for a few days!

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