If you thought pastels are mostly created by little old ladies who like to dabble in a bit of still life, think again....

Pastels - the retiring aunt of the art world?


Pastels get a bit of a hard deal in the art appreciation world. Despite the wonderful effects that can be achieved in the hands of many good artists, they just don’t seem to hit the spot for some people. I’ll admit I’ve never been a great fan, preferring the delicacy of watercolours or the big boldness of oils.

In an attempt to appreciate pastels more, I have even tried to use them but have ended up getting very chalky and producing nothing more than a smeary picture that looks like someone’s tried to rub it out.

Yet this is an incredibly versatile medium and, according to John Ivor Stewart, the president of The Pastel Society, “they are easier to use than oil or watercolour.” 


A stroll around The Pastel Society’s new exhibition which began today in the Mall Galleries is a complete eye-opener. The styles are as varied and exciting as any watercolour exhibition, and the subject matter is far from being a few daffs in a blue vase with a lacey table cloth. Glenys Ambrus, a Surrey based tutor who is an accomplished pastels artist and painter, shared a thought with me.

“There is a misconception that pastel artists are mostly little old ladies who enjoy knitting and dabbling in pastels. It’s far from the truth.”

And, as if to prove this theory false, the winning picture in this year’s Society Award is a wonderfully dark, yet vivid picture of a night club scene painted by Crawford Adamson. The joy of pastels is that they can enhance highlights to great effect and Adamson has used touches of red and flashes of blue to make this picture hum with the anticipated excitement  of a club.

In a complete contrast of style and subject matter, Patricia Cain has won the second prize for an incredibly intricate tryptych of steel girders and RSJs, the detail of which is amazing. From a distance it could be an oil painting, but there I go again, suggesting that somehow that might make it more worthy. It is an incredible piece of work in its own right, as a wonderfully observed and executed PASTEL.

The Mall Galleries is one of the greatest exhibition spaces in London. If you haven’t yet been there, this exhibition by the Pastel Society could introduce you to a not only a wonderful gallery but also a medium you may have previously thought a bit tame.


Love Pastels 2012 runs until February 25 from 10am to 5pm each day including week-ends.

More info from www.mallgalleries.org.uk


Tinx Newton Feb 2012