Test Report

Posted on Sep 4, 1999


Test Report on the new range of ‘Rembrandt Soft Pastels’ from Talens.

I have been somewhat of a fan of Rembrandt pastels over the years. In fact, the box of 90 pastels I purchased some eight years ago, have travelled in my suitcase to far flung places, even when I’m not supposed to be actually painting, like my Honeymoon!

The box has been an ideal size and range for my portable collection and I have come to appreciate their colour quality and their firm handling characteristics which allow for both rapid drawing applications or for careful intricate layering techniques. But like all fans, along with my support, there has been frustration. Some colours were difficult to use because their consistency was different to that of other colours and the warm reds and the green range were rather limited and quite hard.

Well, Talens, the maufacturer of Rembrandt, has come up with a new and improved version of their range of pastels sure to satisfy the most discerning pastelist.

The first thing you will notice is just what a delight they are to handle. They are slightly softer, with improved covering properties and a smooth, velvety consistency.

Whether you are someone who uses the tip of the pastel for a hard edged linear approach or you use the side of the pastel for delicate overlaying and intermixing, the pigment seems to be released effortlessly.

Those of us who have been irritated by excessive pastel dust or despair at the thought of our favourite, or critical colour crumbling before our eyes, will be relieved to hear that unlike some makes of pastel, this does not present a problem.

I was given a Rembrandt Box of 45 Soft Pastels, (Landscape Selection) to test and the first thing that one notices are the new labels, which are clear, allowing you to identify each colour at a glance, easy to peel away and are much easier to read, with the colour numbers printed along the entire length of each stick making identifcation possible even when it is worn down to a small piece.

On pastel card, the pastels allow you to feel a slight ‘bite’ on the abrasive tooth, yet glide over the surface with apparent ease. When applying the pastels expressively, the marks remained fresh and alive, responding well to the different pressures and nuances.

After breaking off a third of the length and using the side of the sticks of pastel, I was pleasantly surprised how well they reacted to having a number of soft edged layers applied on top of each other . They intermixed effortlessly and by gently applying the last layer, the powdery ‘bloom’, which is the unique feature of all quality pastels, created a rich, luminous sparkle.

When I used the pastels on a range of pastel paper, the results were particularly impressive. Because of their slightly creamy consistency, their high concentration of pigment and their medium firmness, they allowed for a full range of emotional responses.

For me, the new colours, are particlarly exciting, with vibrant reds and rich olive greens making a welcome addition to the range, not to mention a certain ‘permanent yellow green'(633.5) that most artists would die for!

The accepted approach with pastels, is to start ‘lean’ and finish ‘fat’. Talens have addressed this by producing a ‘supersoft white’ (101.5), which is softer than the existing white, for finishing highlights.

As well as being available in a variety of attractive boxed sets, including a small box of 30 half pastels, all of the 203 colours in the new range can be purchased individually. Like a great many pastelists, I use a number of different makes of pastel for various reasons; colour, consistency, particular tints and shades. These versatile, new Rembrandt Soft Pastels are definitely going to be on my shopping list.

The only problem I can forsee, is that due to their sheer quality, both you and I might get well and truly spoilt!

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