Pastel School, A Practical Guide to Painting and Drawing with Pastels – a book review


This book, written by Hazel Harrison, is about painting with soft pastels but many of the concepts can be applied to oil pastels and other mediums because its main theme is painting concepts and techniques in general.

A couple of years ago when I started to experiment with oil pastels, I found Pastel School and on a whim purchased it hoping that the concepts could be used with oil pastels.  I was in for a nice surprise because not only was the content great, but was filled with countless photographs of paintings and step-by-step techniques to help move along understanding of concepts described.

Every chapter has nuggets, so as not to overlook but here are three areas that standout for me:

  1. The very best aspect of this book, almost every page has other artists’ work (including her own) where Ms. Harrison  specifically points out examples within the painting so the reader has a visual to evaluate and understand a particular concept described.
  2. Building Up Your Skills – chapter 3, filled with technique.  I really liked the sections on overlaying color, underpainting, and laying a textured ground – how to use these techniques to your advantage in breaking color and adding texture to the overall look of the painting.
  3. Picture Making – chapter 5, which is really painting a scene or subject.  Wow, does she pull this whole chapter apart by type of subject:  landscape, skies and seascapes, still life, portraits, etc.  Ms. Harrison gives you instruction on the little things you can do that will take your scene from good to great like – to name a few:  a dominant foreground, creating space, making the most of skies, painting light, size of figures in paintings, shapes, postures, reflections, and perspectives.

This is one of my treasures and go-to’s in my art library.  If you are looking for an all-round good resource of fundamentals, this would be it.  Hope you enjoy!

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About Mary

Oil Pastelist
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10 Responses to Pastel School, A Practical Guide to Painting and Drawing with Pastels – a book review

  1. cindy knoke says:

    Sounds like a wonderful book~

  2. That must be some book. I went to Amazon and it sells, used for $175.

  3. M. R. says:

    I can only imagine that for wannabe artists this review must be a godsend, Mary.

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