Painting by Richard McKinley
Pastels are unique and versatile because of their ability to be used as both a drawing and painting medium. They are also unique because colors are worked and blended on the paper as opposed to a palette. Whether you work with hard pastels, soft pastels, or both, the following tips will prove to be helpful.
Drawing is an essential part of mastering the art of pastels. You should learn the basic fundamentals of drawing and practice as often as possible. Drawing will teach you about value and line so that you can build a good foundation for mastering pastels.
Your pastel art can be quite interesting and expressive if you combine different types of pastels, or by incorporating other mediums and tools. You can use charcoal, toothpicks, knives, and work with the already applied layers of pastels. This will help to break up the drawing a bit and make it more interesting. Next time you feel uninspired, grab some charcoal and some hard and soft pastels, turn on some music, and just let your imagination go.
Hard pastels are really useful when you want to create detailed lines in your drawings and paintings. Use soft pastels if you want to cover large areas or if you want to create bold strokes or other unique textures.
When choosing the right paper for your pastels remember that pastels will interact differently depending on the papers surface. If you work with soft pastels on a rougher paper surface for instance, you may have to use more pastel to really work the pigment into the paper. At the same time, you will also be able to work with more layers.
If you are on a tight budget and concerned about using too much of your pastels too quickly, try colored paper. With a colored paper, you can utilize more of the papers color as a background as opposed to blocking in large areas of color.
Some artists use fixatives to protect their pastels or to keep the pastels in place while working. Be very careful while using fixatives. Use only in a well ventilated area. Fixatives come in both workable and permanent forms.
Use a workable fixative on your drawings while working to protect layers from mixing or interacting in any way.
Permanent fixatives are used to protect and preserve the final drawing. Do not spray on too many layers and make sure you don't spray in any one area for too long a period of time. There is a difference of opinion as to whether the use of fixatives is harmful or helpful to a pastel drawing or painting. Some artists swear by them, while other artists feel they dull or darken the colors, or possibly even ruin the drawing all together. It is recommended to experiment with fixatives on a few practice drawings to decide whether or not they are beneficial to your style of drawing.
Some basic pastel techniques:
Scumbling - When you apply loose broken color over another layer of color.
Hatching - When you apply parallel strokes close to one another.
Cross Hatching - Apply one set of hatch lines over another, usually in the opposite direction, and you have cross hatching.
Blending - Blending with pastels can be accomplished using two different techniques. You have optical blending where the colors are not actually mixed together but instead lines are drawn closely together as in hatching for instance. The other type of blending is when the colors are actually mixed together, by rubbing with your fingers or using tools like blending stumps.
Tip from: http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/4-24-2006-94330.asp