Making New Pastels from Old

ALT TEXT Every pastelist uses their sticks of pastel until they are so tiny they can't be held anymore, but even then we are loath to toss them into the garbage. Instead, create a divided container into which you toss your nub ends, sorting generally by colour (blues, greens, reds and pinks, yellows and oranges etc.) and save them until you have a small stash. As well, clean out your pastel storage box and tip in any small chips or even the coloured dust that accumulates in there, into the matching colour pieces. 
 IMGP0783rev.jpg  Next, tip one colour of bits onto a piece of foil or waxed paper and crush them together with the back of a spoon until only fine dust remains. Lift the edge of the paper or foil periodically to keep the bits in a pile as you crush them. Keep mixing until one uniform colour is produced, or allow a bit of a mixture--a confetti look--which will give you somewhat random and experimental marks as you use it.
 IMGP0785rev.jpg Add a very small amount of either water (distilled is the best) or rubbing alcohol to the powder, and mix with the spoon until you have a mass about the consistency of cookie dough. Add a drip or two more liquid as needed, but don't overdo it--you can always add more liquid, but if you get it too wet and soupy, you'll have to crush up one of your good pastels and add it, to dry the mixture out enough for rolling. 
Roll out the mixture with your fingers, on a clean sheet of foil or paper, creating the shape and thickness you prefer (rounded, squared, fat or thin). Leave the sticks to dry thoroughly, either in a warm (not hot) oven or on a sunny windowsill.

The resulting pastels will be unique (unrepeatable!) colours, and of a medium hardness, but they are great for underpainting or experiments. Sometimes you'll get one that becomes a favourite!

You can also save the mixed dust that your easel catches to make new pastels (it's a good idea to have a folded piece of card or foil under your paintings to catch the dust as you work anyway, rather than have it spill onto the floor or into the air). Store it in a container until you have enough, then make pastels as above. This dust will create a variety of grey or neutral shades, being composed of many colours, but some of these can be quite beautiful and useful.


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