This medium has been referred to as pastel, soft pastel and chalk pastel but shouldn’t be confused with chalk. Unlike chalk, which is made by impregnating a limestone substance with coloured dyes, pastels are made with pure pigment mixed with a gum binder and rolled and cut into sticks.
There are various papers, boards and surface preparations manufactured for use with pastel, each have a tooth or an abrasive surface to hold the pastel. A pastel painting is created when pastel completely covers the surface and when not all the surface is covered, it is referred to as a pastel sketch.
The use of pastel has been traced back to the 16th century, but in the 1800's, the artist Degas sparked its popularity for 19th century artists. He made his own pastels and devised techniques to layer pastel and fix it to the surface.
Today, a wide variety of colours in rich pure hues are made by a number of European and North American manufacturers. Soft pastel is even more popular than in Degas’ time and qualifies as a major art medium like oil and watercolour. Its use in various styles and with other mediums finds a growing audience in the world of fine art.
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