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Iridescents-and what I LOVE about them!

So when I was a girl, like most girls, I loved ANYTHING with glitter! I mean it was the '70's and disco was the latest craze with pink satin jackets and "Bead-dazzled" rhinestones.

But, like most girls, I grew out of it. Glitter became kitschy and cheap, and I avoided it like the kiss of death.

Iridescent pastels

When I first saw iridescent pastels, I though they were gimmicky, like glitter, and promptly avoided them. Oh sure, I use glittery paint for craft projects but never for fine art.

"Gulf Wave" Pastel 12x16 subtle iridescent in the foam

Then one day, at my favorite candy store; Mount Vision Pastels in Tampa, I saw a boxed set of iridescent pastels and that little disco queen inside me stirred awake and said "YES!" I took them home and they began to find their way into almost every painting. First, it was subtle, a little iridescent white in the foam of a cresting wave. Then everything I painted started to beg for a little bling! Spanish moss needed a little iridescent blue, water needed iridescent sparkle on it, shells definitely need iridescence.

"Stalker" Pastel 18x24 here's where I started to go crazy

detail-you can see the iridescence in the moss

yes, more iridescence, I'm going off the deep end!

Recently, I made a storm painting with iridescence in the sky and the water and realized that I couldn't imagine making a painting now without a little sparkle in it. The added texture and surface works brilliantly with pastel.

"Wind RIders" 24x36 Pastel iridescence in the sky and water

Here's a few tips for using iridescent pastels successfully:

  • Remember that they don't have a lot of tinting power so put a layer of pigment down first and scumble the iridescent on top of it for maximum effect.

  • Iridescent is very soft and should be the last layer, if you put any color on top of iridescent it will lost it's bling.

  • Iridescent is powdery and will flake off onto glass so make sure and use a non-static cling dryer sheet against the glass or plexiglas before you frame the painting. A mat or spacer would work better than passe-par-tout method.

  • Refrain from using it everywhere; a little judicious touch of sparkle works better than all over glazing!

  • Some non-glare and museum glass with cut the sparkle of iridescence a bit.

  • Less is more! If you use iridescence everywhere, you water down the effect.

Many pastel manufacturers now offer iridescent pastels including Sennelier, Mount Vision, SoHo, Diane Townsend, Great American Artworks (pearlescents) and Pan Pastels (pearlescents). Sennelier and Mount Vision both have large sizes that fit nicely into your palm for working large scale. I'm partial to Mount Vision because of the huge variety of colors, and smooth application you get from thier pastels.

Sennelier Iridescents

To achieve the luminous texture of iridescent pastel, many makers combined powdered mica or aluminum silicate with pigment and binder. This is a very fragile mixture, and only works if left unblended (pure strokes). As soon as you touch the pastel you break the crystalline edges which dulls the shine and color. This is why you have to use the iridescent on top of other colors or as a last layer.

Mount Vision Iridescents

Some of my favorite pastel artists use iridescents and have described them as...

"adding a little glamour to any painting" -Gail Sibley

"the Fine Jewelry of pastels!" -Karen Margulis

If you use iridescents, I'd love to hear what you think about them. Please leave me a comment below or send an email...

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1 Comment

Yay…! You’ve come to the dark side! 😜 At least that’s what I was told because I luv my glitter! People told me that real artists wouldn’t be caught doing this! However, they don’t know you and you’re not an inside the box kind of person 🤣 I also use a lot of different mediums that offer glitter, shimmer, metallic (like pencils, crayons, markers, acrylic & even watercolour paints…) but I haven’t seen pastels yet…would they have some at Blick’s??? I’ll certainly be on the lookout for some now! I can’t seem to do anything without adding a bit of pizzaz…my friend describes it as being ”Alified” and that seems to describe it very well! So, let’s call your wor…

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