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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Success with Layering Pastels


'Standing Watch'               8x10           pastel       ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting here $95
 To layer or not to layer?  That is something I like to ask myself before starting a painting.  I have been a big fan of layering pastels.  I love the ability to build up layers of color and create interesting multidimensional passages.  Lately I have been experimenting with being bolder and more direct in my pastel application which means less layering. I want to make my marks and leave them alone.

But sometimes I want to layer. I want to build up colors and especially texture in my painting. It's a different approach to a painting and it keeps me excited to paint when I know I can try new methods.

In my recent workshop with Bill Creevy one of the things we worked on was approaches to building up layers of pastel using water, fixative and anything else that might work!
Have a look at the build up of the layers in my raven painting and read some of my thoughts on success with layering.

close up detail


Layer #1 Thin layer of pastel

First layer wet with water and brush 

Second layer ...more pastel and fixative

  • To be successful with building up lots of layers and thick textures you need to use a surface that can take the abuse.  Some sanded papers can take wetting but they may not hold up to all the abuse you want to give it.  I recommend MultiMedia Artboard.  It is a very thin but resilient surface that will take layer after layer of wetting and spray and pastel and on and on. They make it in white and black and a regular smooth surface and a slightly sanded surface for pastels. It is on sale this month at Dakota!
  • Think in terms of adding a layer of pastels and 'setting' it into the surface. I use water to brush in and set the first layer. Subsequent layers can be spritzed with water for an interesting effect.
  • Don't be afraid to use fixative! Fixative will set your pastel layer and can give you a more textured look to the next pastel layers. Some fixatives darken the pastel which can actually be useful. Spectrafix is good to use because it is practically odorless.
  • Be experimental!  Use gels and mediums to add texture and build up layers. Pastel over a textured area can be very interesting!
  • Use a light touch in applying your pastel. If you start with a light touch and harder pastels you will have more room to add more....you won't fill up the tooth of the paper so quickly!

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