”Wild Skies using Pan Pastels”
Les Darlow


For this demo, Art Society members were treated to a fascinating demonstration of pastel work – but pastels with a difference. These were Pan Pastels and what sets them apart is that they don’t shed dust, they are applied with sponges and the tiny size of the pastel grain leave the tooth of the paper free to take pencil, ink and even felt tip marker pens on top of the pastel layers. This enables the artist to create beautifully soft backgrounds, sharper deeper layers for shadows and shapes and tiny intricate details using other defining materials.

Les with a set of PanPastels

Our demonstrator, Les Darlow, admitted that he had initially been unimpressed by the look of these pans but once he started using them became totally immersed – to the extent that his whole style of working has been changed.

Base layer of lights go on first

Working on Pastel Mat paper, he created a misty evening sky in yellows and oranges and showed how the tiniest touch of red galvanised the colour mix. These colours are transparent so can be built up in layers and even erased using an ordinary rubber to create streaks of light.

Selection of sponges for application

The application sponges came in different shapes and sizes and some smaller ones fitted over a special tool. Their edges could create chunky linear marks or could be used flat for smooth washes of colour.

Adding the darker top layers

Les used Paynes Grey and Ultramarine for darker areas with touches of Magenta Violet and Phalo Blue for the distant mountains. Tiny final details were added in pen.

Using a spatula on the second painting

After a short break, he began a second picture, working on smoother Canson Mi-Teintes paper which is more forgiving to the sponges. Again, he built up layers of soft light colour to recreate a snow scene and added final details with pen and ink, marker pens, and highlights with Unison pastels and pastel pencils.

Adding detail on top with a marker pen

Les is an extremely talented artist and watching work progress in these demonstrations is always a joy, especially with the clear close-ups that Zoom offers, but what made this demonstration so special was an introduction to a new and highly versatile (if expensive) art material.

Moya Paul
LRAS Publicity

Finished Paintings by Les Darlow