Spanish figurative artist Vicente Romero is a master of oil painting, but it is his ability to use pastels that truly sets him on a pedestal. He coaxes out the very essence of his subjects’ souls through his pastel paintings as they leap from his easel, having been blessed with their first breaths of life.
Catalonian Coast by Vicente Romero
As can be seen above Vicente's use of light is astounding—at once dancing on the ocean’s waves as they crash onto the seacoast, and simultaneously glowing through the translucent patterned fabrics worn by his models. He captures a single second in time—an ephemeral moment that will never repeat itself in all of human history—in a manner that will never get old, will never fade, will never tire.
Most artists eschew pastel painting as it is a difficult medium in which to be extraordinary. Whether working on color pastel paintings or pastel drawings, it is a rare artist who can stand above the others the way Vicente Romero does.
To be sure, there have been great artists through the centuries who excelled in the medium. For example, there was Jean-François Millet, the amazing pre-Impressionist Barbizon icon who used pastels almost exclusively during a four-year period in the 1860s, having completed some 90 works in pastel.
Jean-François Millet, Dandelions, 1867-1868, Pastel on Wove Paper
Later, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who had his start in the Barbizon School, which flowed seamlessly into Impressionism, found that he could complete wonderful pastel studies in preparation for his oil masterpieces. In fact, his famous The Great Bathers, which took more than three years to complete in the mid-1880s, was preceded by various studies of the subject using pastels. Of course, Edgar Degas was the one who really left his mark with pastels, having used the medium as his primary means of creating an enormous number of pastel drawings.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Portrait of a Young Girl, 1879
Artists find that the color and texture range that can be used in pastels allows for a richness unique to the medium. Hence the reason why some Impressionists were so enamored with the results, as the Impressionist’s color palette had grown so wide with the technological developments of new pigments and the means to store them. If there is one thing that jumps off of the canvas of the Impressionists, it is their amazing utilization of spectacular colors.
The Dreamer by Vicente Romero
Pastels are essentially pure pigment held together with some form of binding. In the case of the soft pastels, such as the ones used by Vicente Romero, his very rich pigments are bound with tragacanth gum, which allows the pigment to take the form of a stick that can be readily grasped.
Others use a hard pastel, which uses significantly less pigment, instead using a greater percentage of binding. This results in art that has less richness of color, but can be used effectively in creating detail work.
One of the more recent developments in pastels is the “oil pastel”, which again has less pigment and uses an oil binder. Oil pastels will eventually get as hard as oil paint, though the process might take years. As might be expected, oil pastels require solvents to dissolve, whereas soft pastels use water.
Finally, pencil pastels are just what they sound like—somewhat hardened pastel pigment wrapped in pencil wood. This allows for fine details to be applied using sharpened points on the pencils.
Ultimately, for artists to be successful, they must find the means of expressing their visions in a manner that can be appreciated by the viewer. In the case of Vicente Romero, the longer the viewer views, the more appreciative they become, as they witness greatness.
The soft pastels and pastel pencils in Vicente Romero’s studio as the master works on The Dreamer