Color Spree

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

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Metallic Pan Pastels

Metallic Pan Pastels are the latest invention from Colorfin LLC, makers of Pan Pastels. The range was originally 60 colors, then expanded to 80 with 20 more useful Deep Dark Shades. Pan Pastels are soft pastels that handle like paint. They come in sturdy plastic compacts and are applied with Sofft micropore sponge tools, either knives or sponges shaped to work like different paintbrush styles. I've got the full range, both sizes of trays, a good assortment of tools and found out which my favorite tools are.

I was thrilled to get a pack of four Metallic Pan Pastel colors to try. Metallic Pan Pastels are available now everywhere Pan Pastels can be found, individually or in two sets of 3 or a full set of 6 colors. The two lightest Metallic Pan Pastels, Silver and Light Rich Gold, are each available in one of the sets of 3. Like all the Pan Pastels, they are a little less expensive in sets than individually. If you only get one, Silver would be the mixer handling most like white or light gray, Light Gold more like a bright light yellow. But if you can, get the set of 6 - it's a little more at first but you'll want the deeper Rich Gold, Bronze, Copper and Pewter hues. Pewter is not a dull grayish product but a shimmering rich deep shiny Pewter. The photo doesn't convey the photos that well compared to their shimmery iridescence in person.

My first expectation was that they should handle exactly like the other colors. No matter what artist pigments go into the other colors of Pan Pastels, the texture of the product is the same in every color.

Yes, that's how they work. These are exactly like all the other Pan Pastels. Just shimmery metallic.

That this is a huge big deal only made sense to me at time of writing.

I'm not sure readers who aren't serious artists appreciate just how difficult that was for them to invent. Pigments have different qualities. They weigh different, they feel different, they clump different, they're transparent and opaque, for the makers of Pans to get 20 pure clean colors all with exactly the same texture, feel and handling qualities is darn near a miracle. I think of it in relation to other pastels or paint and I'm boggled. Yet I trusted them to do exactly the same thing with Metallic Pan Pastels. Same feel, some texture, same thickness when it goes on, same opacity, mixability, everything.

To be friendly to them, I started off my test with my favorite surface for Pan Pastels, Clairefontaine PastelMat. This coated pastel card is soft and smooth, clings to pigment like the sticky side of glue and lets me layer as much Pan Pastel as I want. Colors don't mix without a good heavy layer but it's not hard to blend once there's enough color on - so hard edges are easy to get, mistakes easy to lift and mixing on the painting as easy as painting in oils. Painting with Pan Pastels has a little in common with oils except that it's actually dry, it's always workable and much smoother. It's hard to get textured brushstrokes in it, the pigment goes down flat and texture is created by adding new strokes or using sticks for texture accents.

Despite the color it looks in the photo, that's Pewter Metallic Pan Pastel on a Maize color card - a bright sunny warm yellow something like a strong tint of Yellow Ochre with a big dose of Cadmium Yellow Medium to jazz it up. I sketched the composition and subject with a dark green Col-Erase pencil for easy erasing and used a Vanish eraser to correct the lines. Shown is a wedge sponge on the bottom, at the bottom of the next photo I showed the eraser - it's a great eraser. Nice, soft, clean and leaves no residue.

I decided to do a stylized water rendering, just irregular ripple shapes in two or three different contrasting hues of the same value. That'd push the background back while giving it some nice variegation and most of all give my main subject a Shiny Metallic Background - as metallic as if I did this on variegated metallic card. Something closer to Christmas card fancy than impressionist depth. If I'd meant depth, I'd have started playing with the values too and shaded it top to bottom to flatten it into a horizontal plane. So far so good. The value of Pewter is a nice middle value, maybe 6 or 7 if your scale has 10 for black. (I've seen value scales run both ways.)

There's my pretty variegated background! I blended some of the edges to softness to see how the colors mixed, used Copper, a touch of Bronze here and there and Rich Gold for what became a lovely group of Metallic Primaries. Those three colors together are a palette! Start shading them up with Titanium White and down with Black and you will have a muted spectrum of metallic color before you add in any other colors. Pewter is not actually as blue as it looks in this photo because the light from my light well was very bluish sky light - it's a light well and the sun was not directly coming down it so it had a heavy blue cast canceling out the Maize and making the neutral gray Pewter look very blue. But even in the electric incandescent light of my room, those Pewter areas look blue across the room by color contrast with the Copper and Rich Gold.

You get something like the Zorn Palette where black tints can be substituted for all the blue mixes using Pewter and Silver as your cool colors. So in this abstract watery background, I've got primaries and I could paint anything I wanted in a metallic varied-metals icon style. Like all metallic mediums, Metallic Pan Pastels create a glittering surface of matte metal. They look like you took polished metal and gave it a matte surface. It will not create Chrome Effects or burnish to looking shiny and chromelike.

You do those by shading it up with White and down with Black. The best way to get shiny metal effects with the added shimmer of metallic color is to treat it as the value it is. Ignore that it's a metallic pigment and use it for what color it is, then create distorted reflections of everything around the Shiny Thing. I would not necessarily choose Metallic Pan Pastels to render a shiny red Christmas ball ornament because I might get truer realism using Permanent Red as a base and shading, tinting and modifying it with all the other colors in the scene including the hue of the lights on it. I will be tackling this in a lesson in Rob's Art Lessons soon, paint a shiny metallic object using Metallic Pan Pastels. Meanwhile, what I have is exactly what I intended - something that looks like a metallic card for a background to my duck.

So let's paint the duck! I used 10 Painters Colors for him, plus 5 Deep Dark Shades and 5 Tints. This is what I keep for a field set in two 10 color trays, what I use to paint when I don't have the table space to spread out all four 20 color trays at once. 10 Painters is a great starter for using Pan Pastels if you haven't tried them before - it has all the essential mixing colors and several good convenience colors, it's comparable to your 10 or 12 color basic watercolors set for plein air. 20 Painters gives you all the pigments. Tints, Shades and Deep Darks are convenience colors and I love having the Deep Dark Shades for sketching colors because they're like using tinted charcoal on white sketchbook paper.

He was my big test. I used just the Painters colors on his beak, white band and fluffy chest and most of his wings, was painting him basically as a duck from a photo reference on WetCanvas posted by DAK720 for the December "Spotlight" challenge in the Pastels forum. What drew me to him as a subject was his shimmering iridescent green head. I knew I could get an added punch to that iridescence using Metallic Pan Pastels and I wanted to see how well the colors mixed with other Pan Pastels. Could I get Metallic Green by mixing Rich Gold with Pthalo Green and Ultramarine Blue?

Yes. I sure did. I used Violet, Pthalo Green and a little Ultramarine Deep Dark on the shadow side of his head - sketched it in with Deep Dark and touches of Deep Dark Violet, then laid in the color. Did the light side with Pthalo Green and Yellow Ochre to lighten and yellow it, made a tint up near the top where the sun was hitting his head with a little White. I got all my values and hues right before I started in with Rich Gold. I was satisfied with him, he looked natural and some Violet in the shadows gave the green enough punch to create an effect of iridescence. I'd used Violet Deep Dark with White over it in his chest and gotten that difficult grayish lavender fluffiness just right. I liked my duck.

Pow, when I started bringing in the Rich Gold into the sunlit areas first I was stunned at what it did. The sparkle blended into the green and vanished, blended as if I'd brought in more Yellow Ochre. He'd be a touch more shiny if I hadn't used the Yellow Ochre at all but stuck with the Rich Gold throughout, but I built up a final layer and got him to a shimmering iridescence. Shadow side I used Ultramarine Blue with Rich Gold to balance it out closer to the cool Pthalo blue of the main tone and it didn't lose its intensity at all. you can see individual sparkles in the large version of the photo.

What this looks like on my wall is spectacular. It looks shimmering metalic, that addition of Rich Gold into the green head was just enough to unify the painting. I used a little swipe of Rich Gold and background color into his wing to create a splash of metallic accent to tie it all together at the end. The painting would work as a Christmas card though I think I'd need some kind of specialty printer to create the metallic prints! It'd take special inks - or it'd take doing a hand painted design, which might be a whole lot easier.

Whether you're a professional, a leisure painter, a crafter or art journaler, Metallic Pan Pastels have a good place in your palette. They perform like all other Pan Pastels, they're archival artist grade materials and will bring that metallic shimmer to anything you paint with them. Add black and white for a Metallic Zorn palette and try doing a Christmas landscape. I purchased the other two Metallic Pans when I replaced some lost supplies and the Light Rich Gold is exactly the hue of the 24kt Gold Dot available from Jerry's Artarama - that is, Light Rich Gold is precisely the hue of real gold ground to a pigment. Silver is very bright and looks like the Silver Dot, so Gold and Silver accents in icon style paintings or fancy medieval calligraphy are the true hues of precious metals.

Copper is extremely bright pinkish-red copper. Bronze is a very bright bronze, polished bronze warmer than Rich Gold and sitting between the two as a hue - Rich Gold is a very bright cheery brass color. So you can play around with these different metals and their values, shade up a bit with Light Rich Gold and Silver before getting to White and get a stronger "metallic chrome" effect that way. I love the color of the Copper and will be having loads of fun with that painting still lifes - just be sure to shade it with the right other pigments to get the real hues and values of your subject. But that's a topic for another article!

Five thumbs up for Metallic Pan Pastels. The range on one of my all time favorite mediums just expanded. Pan Pastels are insanely versatile, clean, handy, powerful, convenient and archival. Metallic ones now make it possible to get lively, whimsical and dramatic with them. Happy Holidays!

PS -- Sorry about my absence of over a year. This happened due to health problems and some money trouble that made my health problems worse. Since then I've gotten things sorted out and my life is back on track, better than ever. Slowly I'm putting together my habits again. Watch for more reviews in 2013 - I'll start by trying for monthly updates and build up from there!