I used to work exclusively in pastel. Over the years I accumulated an embarrassing number of them. Until recently I hadn’t worked with them for about five years because I had packed them up to make room for oils. One day, out of the blue, I felt like using them again. I cleaned each color and put them out. I tried working with them all spread out but it was confusing and I spent a lot of time shifting boxes around and hunting for specific sticks. Frustrated, I put them away in nifty carts with drawers and took out my small travel box and tried to work out of that. This was better – but not great.
After going to a demo and seeing the neat and organized travel box being used by the artist, I went home, emptied mine out and reorganized it paying very close attention to eliminating duplicates and close values. Better again - but the box was still cramped.
To make a bigger box I decided to create it out of odds and ends in my studio. As the base I used a 20 by 30 birch panel leftover from a previous project. I flipped it over and it became a tray. I added a gently used sheet of foam core for a bit of cushioning. I cut dividers from another sheet of foam core and attached them with white tape then I lined each compartment with paper towel. So much better.
I spent the next day sorting all my pastels into the new box. Having them organized by value in one clean layer makes choosing exactly what I need much easier. Having less pastels organized this way eliminates some of the trial and error that can lead to muddy color. I cleaned up the huge mess and tucked the extra pastels back into the carts. It occurred to me that maybe less really is more.