Cleaning, Sorting, Reorganizing, and Reconstituting Pastels

Cleaning, Sorting, Reorganizing, and Reconstituting Pastels

Cleaning, Sorting, Organizing, and Reconstituting Pastels

I do this about once a year. Especially with my burst of painting last fall for my huge show, this was much overdue. I should have taken a before picture to show you how needed this was, but just imagine a pile of ash colored pebbles, which will pretty well describes it. I was more thorough this time, pulling every pastel out of everywhere (except my hard pastels, my fluorescent pastels, my sparkly ones, and my portrait ones, which each have a dedicated spot).

I collected all other soft pastels of every size and brand, and wiped each off separately on paper towel, and then organized them by color and value. The one’s I put in my good , wooden, Heilman box, are my first string players. This time I included more large ones, because sometime I want to make a really big mark, and for all practical purposes, the side of the pastel is akin to the size of your brush.

For visual impact, I am also mostly interested in lights and darks, for a boring painting is all in the mid-range, which as far as I’m concerned, is to be avoided. I include a black and white photo of each box to show you the value scale. It is easier to see the values on a gray scale, but bright, saturated color often reads as light as white, and this is a feature I utilize often in my paintings.

In a separate, new aluminum box I’ve got all my extras and redundant duplicates. Now I’ve got everything all in one place, I can see what I’ve got. I padded the box with foam from our Christmas gift pears, and two of them fit in there perfectly. The new box has a lid so it’ll keep the dust out, which makes it better than the cookie sheets I’ve used in the past. I can now see all at one glance what I’ve got and what I need. (I’m only short on pink and very light greens.) On a separate, padded cookie sheet I have my huge pastels, which I particularly enjoy using on large works done on my big easel in the driveway, so I don’t keep those in the studio, but on our side porch for easy access seasonally. Then in another box I’ve added the light and dark neutrals that are extras.

During this sorting process, any tiny nubs of pastel or dust, I sort onto plates. Just before finishing, they are ground in a dedicated mortar and pestle, with a bit of distilled water, and rolled into nice, new oval shapes, which I enjoy working with. I took photos below to show you that process. Aren’t those ones we made gorgeous? Once they are dry they’ll be put in that little extra space of my table in my attic/studio.

The photo above shows me taking over the dining room table to perform this labor of love. I’m so glad this is done and all the dust that was created is now cleaned up.. Now I can paint! Hold onto your hat for what will come next!



























I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.


  1. John+gregory 2 years ago

    Look at you! How do you find the hours in the day? Do you make your husband help?❤️


  1. […] my pastels are clean and I feel fully warmed up; what should I paint […]

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