Pastels are made of the same pigments that are used in oil, acrylic, and other paints. The difference is in the binder. Pastels allow direct application of almost 100% pigment to the paper, which is why artists have so many pastels. Unlike oils and acrylics, where you may create a finely nuanced painting with five or six colors, pastels aren't mixed so easily.
Laurel uses pastels for many of her en plein air paintings and often creates studies for the basis of larger works. With the proper care, pastel paintings can last hundreds of years. She prefers the Schmincke brand of pastels, and also uses Sennelier, Rembrandt, Unison, and several other brnads. All of her work is created on museum-quality Kitty Wallis brand paper.