SAA Pastels - a Stroke of Genius!

Robert Dutton, SAA Professional Artist



I must admit, when it comes to buying art materials I’m a bit fussy. Since I make my living from my art as a professional I need to be.

Only the best art materials will do so when I heard that the SAA had improved some of their pastel packaging, my immediate thoughts were ‘improved - by how much?’



Going back a few years I remembered the SAA pastels of old. They were somewhat hard and a little gritty so it was with great delight that when 48 soft pastel sticks (from a full range of 72 colours) arrived I was keen to give them a go.





The pastels have indeed been improved and although described as being ‘soft’ are quite firm. This is a great advantage really since for a long time I’ve been looking for a pastel that is useful at the start of a painting and right at the end as well to create those all important details, highlights and finishing marks. The SAA pastels are perfect for both.



The density of the pastel means that the pigment stays together unlike really soft pastels that are just prone to crumbling. These don’t. The coverage is fantastic, easily applied with no grittiness and the colours are clean and easily mixed and blended together on many different types of pastel supports to include watercolour paper. Improved pastel most certainly - I just couldn’t put them down!

For me the SAA pastels are similar in quality to ‘Winsor & Newton’ pastels and Rembrandt pastels - I should know I have the full range in both (amongst many other brands also). When the wrappers are removed from all these brands and mixed with the SAA pastels you just cannot tell them apart - honestly, you can’t.

They are not as soft as ‘Unison’, ‘Schmincke,’ ‘Rowney’ or perhaps ‘Sennelier’ but for me, seeing that they have similar properties to ‘Winsor & Newton’ pastels and Rembrandt pastels, they form a very useful addition creating a perfect partnership with all brands when pastel painting.

The wide variety of responsive and expressive marks you can achieve with these pastels is far reaching - there is no limit to what you can achieve with them. I’m delighted with them and I’m sure you will be too!


Stage 1 First impressions





Using SAA soft pastels only, I began to establish the main compositional shapes, tones and colour harmonies to establish the mood and ‘feel’ of the painting for this Lakeland winter mountain scene by using different mark making techniques with a select range of the very responsive SAA pastels applying side stokes of varying pressure throughout. The edges of the round pastels were very useful as well to create linear mark making marks throughout when needed in the all important initial stage of the painting.

Great pastels of superior quality.


Stage 2 - Building up the strength and depth of colour in the composition




Using many different brands of pastels mixed together in this second stage of the painting, I kept returning to the SAA pastels to help re establish the details and assist with colour mixing. I very rarely use my fingers to rub and blend - I much prefer the pastels to do that for me since the marks that are created when doing so are much more exciting. The consistency of the SAA pastels were the perfect tool for this leaving the right amount of pigment on the surface intermixed perfectly with other brands of pastels.

Very useful pastels indeed.


Stage 3 - Final marks and details.


Having established the ambience, glow and overall impression of the scene it was time to give the painting its final tonal balance with the darkest darks and lighter areas and final details. With the SAA pastels at hand with the right density and weight, beautiful sharp lines were easily achieved using the tips of the pastel sticks - particularly useful in the  foreground areas amongst the tussock grasses and undulating rough upland field with its first dusting of winter snows.

Excellent pastels. I highly recommend you give them a try!









Winters glow above Windermere from the Kirkstone Pass

SAA Pastel on Clairefontaine pastelmat, 10 x 14 inches


For further information and to find out about Robert’s other creative pastel techniques using SAA pastels visit or email Robert on [email protected]