Throughout April, we asked three soft pastel artists to try Jackson’s Handmade Soft Pastels. Here, they share their thoughts on their texture, pigment density, and mark-making possibilities.
Above image: A drawing by Jenny Bloomfield, made during a walk from Boggle Hole to Ravenscar, North Yorkshire.
I have been using various brands of pastels for the past number of years, but I had never discovered Jackson’s own brand. That is until now, that I got my hands on a good number of these pastel sticks. I had to try them out. As soon as I received them I noticed the paper jackets are actually rather big. I proceeded to remove them all so I could really grasp the hues.
The colours are very dense and their construction is robust. To produce the same mark in comparison to other pastels I had to apply a hint of more pressure. This may affect artists who like to use featherweight mark-making. These compounds produce a different ‘release’ and ‘glide’, as the pastel stick transits across the drawing surface. Artists need to adjust to this. This is not a distraction for myself, it’s just a different pastel with different characteristics.
The typical Jackson’s Handmade Pastel weighs 15g – probably the biggest mass among the popular pastels in the market.
The pigment content is witnessed in the painting I produced with mainly Jackson’s Handmade Pastels (I added very few other brand pastels to complete this piece as my colour range was limited – over 80% completed with Jackson’s) and they certainly pack a good punch for their price.
The Jacksons pastel colour range is mid-sized (200 colours) and biased towards high chroma colours. Seasoned artists would crave more greys, darks, earths, and cool, desaturated colours (extremely useful in shadow work). I’m sure Jacksons will keep expanding their range over the coming years.
Jackson’s handmade pastels are a force to be reckoned with. Appealing for both starting artists and established pastellists. They are bold, strong, and good value for money. Artists may need some adjustments to their techniques – they may produce slightly less dust and may need less fixative than other brands. Reviews are very personal, so my appeal to artists is to go out and use them.
About Henry Falzon
Henry Falzon is a professional pastel artist based in Malta. His work is increasingly going international and has a strong following in the UK, US and Canada. Henry has a strong background in photography and painting. He spent years painting outdoors en plein air in oils before turning into studio work with pastels. He is also interested in printmaking and will be releasing new bodies of work in mezzotint and linocut later this year.
I had a drawing day penciled in my diary and so in a bid to escape my raging hayfever, I headed to the coast and walked from Boggle Hole to Ravenscar in search of seals to draw and fresh air.
I took the Jacksons Watercolour Sketchbook along – alas it wasn’t for me. I found the paper too textured and it buckled under what I would consider a normal amount of water. A bit disappointing. I also quickly realised it was too small to test the pastels properly…. Jackson’s soft pastels are soft and creamy and brilliant for covering large areas quickly with dense pigment – so my A3 sketchbook was perfect.
They are so dense I could turn a seal into a rock and vice versa no problem. I struggled to get the textures and atmospheric accents I normally use pastels for in my sketchbook, they were too opaque. They would be very good if you want to work graphically. They were brilliant for adding a bright focal point and for this reason I preferred the darker green tones and the fluorescent ones to the subtler shades.
I usually work with mixed media but had mixed results. They didn’t like being laid on top of slightly damp emulsion paint which is something I do a lot, and they resisted a wash – I’m sure I could create some good effects with this, but at the time I was a bit frustrated.
The soft velcro case is brilliant – lightweight, secure with room for plenty of pastels, perfect for on the go. Fixative was essential. The Jacksons fixative comes in a ginormous can which is good value, but no use for out and about.
I can see myself taking a few colours out with my sketchbook from now on for those pings of colour. I’m going to have a go in the studio soon to see how they act when I’m not perched on a rock in the open air (only lost one pastel down between the rocks, but it was one of the nice greens).
About Jenny Bloomfield
Jenny Bloomfield is an artist and children’s book illustrator living in Leeds. In 2014 she wanted to push her art and illustration forward and committed to drawing every day – she has posted on her Instagram account every day since. An avid sketchbooker, she draws from life wherever possible and uses a wide range of materials, often all at once. In 2019 she graduated with an MA in Children’s Book Illustration from Cambridge School of Art and is now working with a number of publishers creating picture books. While her illustration work is often done digitally, her ideas and visual language are rooted in experimentation with materials on the page and use the sense of atmosphere and light that can only be captured with observation.
Just received some Jackson’s Handmade Soft pastels. I had never tried them before, so I was curious how they work and I did a small 9 x 12 in study of Lake Erie dunes on 400 UART paper. I found they are very easy to apply, do not crumble, and have a buttery feeling. I like that they do not produce dust during the process. I paint on sanded paper, so some pastels create a lot of dust.
I used Jackson’s pastels for the underpainting. Normally, I do underpainting with harder pastels, but Jackson’s worked really well. It means I will only need one set of pastels when I paint plein air, less stuff to carry.
They cover paper very nicely and they are not too soft, although they have this nice smoothness. They do not break easily. Usually when I unwrap some brands of soft pastels, they sometimes break into small pieces, which did not happen with these pastels. I like that they are consistent in texture. I used 24 pastels from this brand and did not come across any hard particles.
I really like the colours. I ordered a printed colour chart to have a better idea of what is offered as computer monitor does not really show real colours. There are a lot of colours (200) and they are beautiful! Too bad that when I was ordering most of them were out of stock! They are rich and vibrant, and there are a lot of subtle colours that are sometimes hard to find.
I like the sets of pastels that are available. There are at least three sets of different greens (warm, cool, and light) which is great news for landscape painters who often struggle to find specific shades of green for a particular tree or shrub. The purple set (Set 6) is pretty amazing. It has a lot of dark purples in different shades, some of them are pretty hard to find. I also like Set 5, which I would use it to paint dunes and coastal scenes. It has a lot of shade of sand colour from warm to cool and from light to dark. Although they are not big pastels, they are pretty affordable in comparison to other brands of similar quality.
About Maria Iva
Maria Iva is a pastel and oil landscape painter from Ontario, Canada. She is a nature lover and a tireless hiker. She is a passionate plein air painter and spends all summer exploring and painting Ontario scenes with dry pastels. Her pastel plein air pieces are quick sketches that capture the light and the feeling of the scene. Maria uses vibrant colours and contrast to demonstrate the effect of sunlight on the scene. Maria is an Elected Member of the Society of Canadian Artists and a Master Signature Member of the Pastel Artist Canada.
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