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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Have You Tried to Liquify Your Pastels?

'Prairie Rain'     5x7    pastel (top)   $50 Etsy      'Coming Storm'     5x7    pastel   (bottom) $50 Etsy
Pastels begin life wet.  They are made from pure pigments, a binder and water forming a paste. This paste is formed into shapes and left to dry.  So if pastels were once a wet paste why not wet them again when painting with them?
I love to try different techniques so when I saw Stan Sperlak wet his pastels in a workshop demo I was fascinated.  This was several years ago and I forgot about it until I was preparing my lessons for my Sky and Cloud pastel classes.  I rediscovered this technique and have been playing with it this week.

  • You need to use your softer pastels and a surface that can get wet. I prefer using Pastelbord since it will not warp and doesn't absorb the wet pastel. You will also need a spray bottle of water. I like the small travel size bottles for more control over the spray.
  • Simple compositions are best to start with.
  • Paint your simple scene as usual but try not to build up too many layers. I find that using a somewhat heavy hand with soft pastel and being quick and bold results in the best effects. For some reason too many layers results in the water being absorbed into the pastel rather than having pigment float to the top of the water.
  • Lay your painting flat and spray with water.  Anything goes but try spraying just one area such as the clouds. This will give you contrast between the liquified pastels and regular marks.  As you spray the water you will start to see the pastel liquify. Certain pigments will separate and float to the top of the 'puddle' much like an oil slick.  I don't know enough about the make-up of pigments to know how each color will react. I like the unpredictability of the process!
  • If you want you can manipulate your board and let the pastel run and drip. I did tilt the board for the top painting and I got some rain!
Once I started playing with water I couldn't stop!  I tried all kids of things.  I shaved pastel into the puddles of water. I painted the liquid pastel with a brush. I drew into the wet spots with pastel. I used iridescent pastels for a cool gold leaf effect. I tried the technique on unmounted sanded paper and homemade surfaces. Each thing I tried gave me a different look.  I will post more of my paintings in upcoming posts.  

This is a quick and easy technique to try so get out a spray bottle and get your pastels wet!


Mariela said...

Hello Karen,
your blog is always very inspiring!!
Yoy make want to paint more often with pastels...
Thank you for that!

Kathleen said...

Wow Karen! Beautiful effects! Thank you for sharing some inspiring ideas.