Color Spree

Color Spree
My favorite color is "all of them." What's yours?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gallery Artists Handmade Soft Pastels

Gallery Artists' Handmade Soft Pastels are the latest addition to the Mungyo Gallery line of reformulated soft pastels. I've tried the Semi-Hard sticks, the Soft Squares and Soft Rounds, finding each of these products to be far higher quality than their economical price suggests. On all these new lines, quality is consistent, the manufacturer claims lightfastness and the products are AP non toxic. It's safe to use them around small children and animals.

I really looked forward to trying the Gallery Artists' Handmade Soft Pastels. So when I received a 30 color review set, I was thrilled. No disappointment here! The color range in the 30 color set is complete with warm and cool primaries and green, a full spectrum, some extremely useful tints, a few of the most useful neutrals and some very useful darks - two dark greens, a very dark blue, dark cool gray and moderately dark reddish brown. Tints include pale blue, dusty pale violet, pale yellow a little darker than ivory, a good medium pink and a light orange excellent for portrait highlights. Whoever picked which sticks to put in this range was right on form to make it a balanced set for general use. Portraits, landscapes, floral still lifes, any subject I felt like painting would be possible just using this set.

Spectrum colors are clear, true and bright. It's much easier to scumble over spectrum bright colors to mute them, or use tints to mute and lighten them or darks to darken and mute them, than it is to try to create strong brights when you don't have them in the box. The colors are so rich and vivid that I've had doubts about the lightfastness, so they may have been finding ways of using Quinacridones among the pigments or some other modern lightfast bright red-violets.

Texture on the Gallery Artists' Handmade soft pastels is very similar to Unisons and a sample stick of Richeson Handmade that I've tried. They're in exactly that category. The sticks are larger than Unisons but smaller than the big Richeson sticks and much smaller than the giant Mount Vision sticks, the other pastels I put in this texture category. They're soft, fluffy, creamy and go on easily. They'll go over all the others adding more layers. It's possible to build up strong impasto effects much easier with these than the other three Gallery pastels. Texture is consistent across all the colors, a big help if you like predictability. None of the colors in this set crumbled or had trouble holding together.

These are finishing pastels. The price is significantly higher, matches the price of Richeson handmade pastels for the same reason. They're hand rolled. They take a lot more hand labor to create than machine-rolled pastels. Sticks are uniform in size for hand rolled, which is to say they vary slightly in shape and length. It looks like each one was made with the same size dollop of paste and the roller sometimes got them a little longer and sometimes a little fatter.

They can be used on unsanded pastel paper with spectacular results. I watched an Arnold Lowrey pastel video on ArtistsNetworkTV and decided to give this set a stretch on Canson Mi-Tientes to see how they perform.

Wow. I should've known. Every one of these has been sweet on my favorite inexpensive sanded pastel paper. Here's my version of the Lowrey demo seascape:

Following the demo, I used light applications, blended and layered. These pastels gave me more layers on Mi-Tientes than others I've tried. They're comparable to Mount Vision on unsanded paper and handled a lot like my Unisons. If you like Unisons, you may want to look close at the Gallery Artists' range for some of the bright colors missing in the Unison range.

Packaging is good too. Good slotted foam padding inside a very sturdy cardboard box slides into a lightweight cardboard sleeve that keeps the box closed and gives added protection, with another layer of foam on top. I'd trust this set to be tossed in its original package into my carry bag when I go out doing street art in San Francisco. Its compact box and good range for the number of pastels will make it a great set for taking out into the city for plein air painting.

Like the rest, these are available at Jerry's Artarama and ASW. Online price is $2.99 a stick, same as the Richeson handmade at Blick. I prefer these to the Richesons because everything else being equal, the color range in Gallery Artists' Handmade Soft Pastels is more evenly balanced with fewer near duplicates even in the full range 200 color wood box set.

That's a wicked temptation. At only $499 it's a glorious big full range set for anyone who likes having a great range of tints per hue in an evenly balanced range without any major gaps. I'm impressed by the color range Gallery produced in these handmade pastels. Excellent all around, Gallery Artists' handmade soft pastels might become my workhorse pastels for street sketching.

I'm relocating to San Francisco at the end of the month. Updates might be a bit irregular since the move has me very busy, but I have lots more good art supplies stacked up to review - four more Stillman & Birn archival journals, Lukas Berlin watersoluble oils, SoHo Urban Artists products, great new brushes and much, much more. Even a Charvin premium linen canvas and set of top quality artists' oils. Of course I'll have to demonstrate the SoHo Urban Artist stuff with urban scenes! Good thing I'm moving somewhere that I can't turn a corner without seeing something paintable!

Sometime in late August or late September, I'll get my license from the San Francisco Arts Commission and pick up my old Street Sketching career. Back when I lived in New Orleans, I was one of the artists who set up in the French Quarter painting outdoors all day and selling off the easel. For more information and articles about my move, see my other blog, Robs Art Lessons. As I pack up my studio, relocate and set up to do my old gig again, I'll describe everything from how to paint for tourists to how I relocate across the continent with all of my kit and get set up again for the job I loved best - street art!


  1. Postscript after moving to San Francisco - the Gallery Mungyo Handmade Pastels, Semi-Hard Pastels and Soft Squares all arrived in perfect condition. Some of those were in my luggage and still arrived in perfect shape.

    So I have to say this for the packaging - they will survive rough handling very well!

  2. Hi - I linked from my blog to your review of the Winsor & Newton Artist’s Field Box today at Sketches & Jottings on WPress. Lovely post, very helpful. Thank you.

    J Walters

  3. Hi, it's been a couple of year since this blog was posted. I was curious if you still feel the same way about Mungoyo handmade pastels, and how have they held up over time as far as fading and such goes. Thank you