Started a new painting, another Tararua sunrise with a slightly different perspective from the last one.
Then I bought a set of Rembrandt half stick. The difference was marked - the cheap ones felt very chalky after using the much better quality Rembrandt sticks.
My next pastels were Winsor and Newton, partly because the art supply shop had the full range in stock, and partly because I found the regularity of the colours appealed to the engineer in me. Five shades in each hue, so you can always get close to the shade you want. A lot of people seem to say that the W&N pastels are not very good quality, but I have used them very successfully (I think :)), as you can judge for yourself on my Pastels page. The Cobalt Blue hue I found to be almost perfect for New Zealand skies, and Permanent Sap Green for our grassy hills.
Not to say they were perfect by any means - some of them seemed almost waxy and did not flow onto the paper easily, and the colours were not entirely consistent between batches.
Unfortunately W&N have stopped making pastels, so I am forced to find others. I have been experimenting with other brands including more from the Rembrandt range and a couple of Schminke sticks.
The Rembrandt sticks are coded by number, which really doesn't tell you much about what colour they are! However, I have now discovered a colour chart on their website that associates names with the numbers so that helps. The shades and tints are not as regular as the W&N range, but I think they are probably sufficient. I haven't found colours yet to exactly match the Cobalt Blue and Permanent Sap Green though.
The Schminke pastels seem nice enough to use, although I haven't tried enough to say for sure. Once again there seems to be a bit of inconsistency in hardness between colours - maybe this is a universal feature of pastels? Generally they seem softer than the Rembrandt pastels.
The other brand that is often mentioned as the best available is Unison. I decided I need to try some, so I have order 15, mainly dark colours, and a set of blues which I hope will be similar to the Cobalt Blue I am used to. I will comment here when I've had a chance to try them out.
Because the painting is very delicate and cannot be touched without damage, pastel paintings are quite difficult to transport. They are either unframed, in which case they have to be secured and packed in such a way that nothing will come into contact with the surface, or they are framed and glazed.
I have heard that glassine paper can be used in direct contact with the surface and as long as it is secured so that it won't move, the surface will not smudge. I have ordered some glassine to try out and will report back.
Meanwhile I have a couple of exhibitions coming up where I will have to transport framed works. In the past I have had glass broken by the couriers, and of course they would take no responsibility for it! This time I will be taping the glass and then wrapping the paintings in bubble wrap followed by corrugated cardboard, and marking them fragile (and using a different courier company!). Hopefully that will work out better.