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Saturday, December 07, 2013

A Texture Tip for Pastels

'An Afternoon at the Preserve'                18x24           pastel           ©Karen Margulis

I crave Texture. I love thick and juicy paint. I love seeing brushstrokes in a painting.  That is one of the wonderful properties of oil paint that I love.  The ability to make texture is something that I miss with pastels. But creating texture is possible!  It just take a little more work and some experimentation.

I admire the work of Bill Creevy for his ability to introduce texture to his pastel paintings.  Check out his classic book The Pastel Book for a good introduction to the many ways to use other media with pastels and how to create more interesting textures.

I like use some of these techniques to get a thicker buildup of pastels in my paintings but today I wanted to share a tip I learned from Stan Sperlak...another great pastel artist and instructor.

close up of textured grassy area
 I'm not sure is Stan had a term for this technique but I'll call it SCRAPING.  It involves laying down several layers of pastel and then scraping into it with a sharp tool of any kind. This scraping will reveal the layers underneath.  Kind of like scratch art!  It works even better is you use some kind of fixative in between layers. I use Blair Low odor workable fixative in the green and black can. (if this is low odor I'd hate to smell odor...it smells!) This build up and scraping away of pastel eventually leads to a more textured look to the painting.

It also helps if the bottom layers are dark....like a scratchboard. That way when you scratch it or scrape it you reveal the darker layers underneath.

What tools to use for scraping?

That's the fun part.  In the workshop I attended Stan used the edge of a metal banker's clip but anything tool that is hard, thin and metal does the best job of scraping and scratching. I try to find tools that are both very thin and a bit wider so I can get a variety of marks. Have fun discovering tools to scrape with!

close up of distant marsh with scraping
Scraped and scratched areas can also be reworked.  In the first closeup I scraped grasses into the pastel then I sprayed some fixative before add ing more soft pastel. The scraped areas resisted the pastel leaving marks.

You can also use your scraping tools to remove small areas of pastel. In the second closeup I used a thin metal pin to scrape away pastel making my edges straight and level.

About today's Painting:
This is an 18x24 pastel done as a demo for a private student. This was our lunch break entertainment demo!  I have so much fun sharing the wonderful world of pastels in these private sessions. If you would like to spend a day or 2 or 3 in my Marietta Studio contact me for details. My 2014 schedule is filling but I still have some available time.


David King said...

Stan Sperlak's scraping tool is no secret Karen, he shows it's use on his Youtube videos! I won't reveal it either, you'll all just have to look up the videos. :)

Karen said...

Hi David,Thanks for the tips about the YouTube videos! I had forgotten about it!

Sharon Lefebvre said...

At the end of a workshop I took with Stan this fall, he "dubbed" us all with his special "silver" push pin. It made up for the frostbite!

robertsloan2art said...

I remembered the special term as soon as I read this and looked at the painting. Like many of them, it's Italian. Sgraffito. It can be done in oil painting, I first ran into it with oil pastels (also covered in Bill Creevy's book) and seeing it used so well in soft pastels is exhilarating.

All sorts of scrapers work. One of my favorites is the slightly blunt small knife-blade shape on my nail clippers, a nail cleaner. The tip is just pointy enough for good linear scraping and if I change the angle I can do a wide line with it too. Yet its bluntness means I won't cut the paper with it like I might with a razor blade or sharp pin.

It's a great technique and I love your dark grass lines done with it. That totally makes sense for small details and narrow linear marks as well as edging when you want a hard edge!

Great lesson, you explain it well and show it clearly in several ways. I love this blog.

BJR said...

This sky!!...it's awesome!

Lynne the Pencil said...

Beautiful stuff. Love your rich palette and raw mark-making.