A Winter Fantasy
5" x 7"
Richeson hard pastels on Fresh Grey Art Spectrum Colourfix sanded pastel card.
Photo reference by AlainJ on WetCanvas.com for the January 2010 Landscape Challenge.
Yesterday, my new 120 color wood box set of Richeson semi-hard square pastels arrived. I was working on an ATC with pastel pencils and immediately switched to trying the new hard pastels, which were great. I went nuts and did several cool artworks all in the same day playing with my new supplies. I even brainlessly tried creating a full layered painting on a sketchbook page, which didn't turn out too bad as a sketch but should be redone on coated pastel paper.
I've written them up on HubPages at Richeson Semi-Hard Pastels Product Review featuring the gnome ATC, the fruit sketch and its underpainting and a color Conte sketch I did to compare with them. These pastels are artist grade, lightfast and relatively inexpensive. I might try the other two Richeson pastel products as well, though probably not in a full range set to start.
This month I didn't even try to curb my spending on art supplies. I deserved a big reward for getting my novel submission out on time during 2009, so I went to Dakota Pastels for the first time and used the reserve in my account along with my check to put in a $300 order with free shipping. Leaves me tight for January but very happy with a big package coming.
Dakota doesn't do the big coupons Blick did and the high free shipping threshold makes them a bit less convenient. I can't do a Dakota order any given month and save shipping, it would take premeditation to save a little first because shipping starts to run high over $200 -- $15.95 or something like that. The price of my new SpectraFix fixative with the little empty spray bottle thrown in, for an example on this order.
I have heard very good things about their shipping and customer service policies though. They also have some products Blick doesn't. They tend to get Pan Pastel products sooner. They carry the mid-hardness Richeson Soft Round pastels as well as the Handmade top range and the Semi-Hard. They also have some Dakota-specific products that are great, including a wooden foam lined pastel box that comes in three sizes. I'm very tempted to get the compact size and start breaking pieces off every pastel I own to create a compact kit that has all the colors and hardnesses in one place.
One thing specific to Dakota that I finally indulged in was a coated paper sampler and a Green soft pastels sampler. They put these together at Dakota itself, choosing colors for variety but within a range like "green" or "darks" so that you can use the sampler to fill out whatever area your palette's weak in. I love landscapes and can never get enough greens, so I chose the Green sampler.
The paper sampler pieces are all 9" x 12" -- my comfort size for serious painting. Any bigger than that and I start having trouble finishing the project. This will also let me write up a good series of product reviews on coated and sanded pastel papers. They also have a sampler of sanded or coated boards that I might pick up next time.
Their prices run a little higher than Dick Blick, but Dakota Pastels is a specialty store. They have a bigger selection in pastels than any other online supplier and a good reputation with many professional pastelists I know. I'll still use Dick Blick for the things Blick carries, but I'm glad Dakota carries products that don't always make it to Blick.
Hopefully the new trays for Pan Pastels that LLC Colorfin has promised will show up soon at Dakota Pastels. That's one reason I might go back there in a couple of months, though I've been windowshopping at Blick as usual and could easily revert to my old Blick habits, especially if they do a coupon for free shipping on orders smaller than $200 the way they did a few times during the Christmas rush. It would be nice to build up some reserves again so that I could get something really big, like a new laptop in 2010... not going to happen fast though with all these art supply temptations!