Claude : What exactly is a pastel ?
Thierry : Pastel is a pigment combined with a heavier element, clay, then bound by glue.
Claude : When we look at your materials, you can notice 5 or 6 boxes of colors that contain, I don’t know how many different pastel sticks. About how many do you have ?
Thierry : Maybe 600, from 3 different brands.
Claude : And you need all 600 sticks to work ?
Thierry : I probably only use 20 of them at a time, but I need to be able to dispose of whatever nature has to offer and to be free to choose every possible strategy, because there are strategies in order and ambiance. It is not just a naive observation of things, with a cut and dried result. If that was the case, the readymade recipes found in art reviews would be enough to learn how to paint well, which is not totally exact.
Claude : Are you not telling us that when you work there is a chemistry, that you must combine colors, qualities and matter, perhaps ?
Thierry : Yes of course. There is the quality of the pigment, the hardness of the stick and the way of setting the pastel to obtain, with the second layer, an overlaying that will not be blend with the first layer. So, all of the successions allow you to elaborate a strategy… A whole language !
Claude : And this varies according to your mood and maybe your subject ?
Thierry : It depends on the season and the lighting; with a shadowy lighting and cool temperatures, I tend to use blue. In calcareous spaces, you use yellows from Naples so that the light on the stones stand out.
Claude : The idea of setting the pastel allows you first to reinforce what exists and from there you are able to do overlaying ?
Thierry : Yes, first in a technical manner, by spraying a fixative, thus sealing the first layer to make sure that the second layer does not blend with the first. We obtain an overlaying with richer and cleaner result. This is one of the basic approaches to my work. The first layer sets the foundation, an atmosphere, and the second one helps to define certain things, perhaps leading me elsewhere.
Claude : That means that when you create a pastel, you must set it several times ?
Thierry : Yes of course, I set it 5 or 6 times. The overlays are a central part; They are the history of the painting, written little by little. It highlights the opalescent nature of the pastel, translucid like porcelain, between transparency and opaqueness. I apply these layers on laid paper. Nowadays, many pastellists use very specific supports like « artspectrum and pastelmat ». These are rough type papers on which they can do very little overlay and sometimes without setting. I find this process interesting, in the sketching state, but it never leads to this « textured » work that I chose and that allows you to go further in the painting adventure.
Claude : When we see you setting, it seems almost rudimentary !
Thierry : I always set with a mouth sprayer. Students from the Beaux-Arts call that a bottom blower. The fixative that I use almost doesn’t darken the colors; it is a quality product that I have only found at Sennelier. I buy one liter bottles, which is my cheap side coming out (laughs).