Sunday, December 01, 2013

Pastel Underpainting with Vodka



'Summer Joy'             11x14            pastel               ©Karen Margulis
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There was a misunderstanding. Or so I thought. Whatever happened it inspired me to try it....a Vodka Underpainting!  I was working with one of my online mentoring students last month and the assignment was to do an alcohol wash. I was certain I clarified that I use isopropyl alcohol. But when the assignment was done she told me she had used vodka for her alcohol. hmmmmmmmm. 

I didn't see why it wouldn't work. It's a clear liquid. We just need to wet down the pastel with a liquid. Her painting was wonderful!  She explained that she had seen a Youtube video of a Vodka underpainting so decided to try it.

Well know you know me....if I haven't done it yet I need to try it myself.  So into the liquor cabinet I went for a bit of vodka. 

a little bit of vodka in my empty cup
 I didn't use the good stuff. It was actually Costco brand and at about $10 for a big bottle makes doing Vodka underpainting pretty cost effective. You really only use a tiny bit.  I really liked using the Vodka. It had no odor. I sort of made the pastels spread very smooooooth.  I had put down a layer of Nupastels in warm colors on an 11x14 piece of Uart 500.   It immediately started making interesting drips. I call them spiderwebs or root systems. Usually I get this effect with turpenoid and not as much with rubbing alcohol or water. But the vodka made cool drips.  It did take longer to dry than rubbing alcohol.. I would say nearly 30 minutes for it to be completely dry.

The vodka underpainting when dry

Working on the dried underpainting felt the same as any other wet underpainting. I saw no difference. I did manage to cover up all of the cool drips which often happens. Sometimes I am successful at leaving them show and other times I get carried away with pastel! This time I did get carried away and even added some shaved pastel flowers!

I did enjoy using the Vodka and will definitely give it another try!  Maybe a painting party is in order...cocktails and underpaintings!

close up of texture
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9 comments:

Carol Hopper said...

Well, that was a new process to me! I don't paint in pastel so appreciate and love your work a lot!

Julie Ford Oliver said...

Fun post to read but the paintings are the stars and always so wonderful

Sergio DS said...

I like your blog, I love your painting style, it´s really interesting... so, I follow you.

Lynn Norton said...

This is the second time I have heard of vodka being used for painting! Obviously the first with pastel, but it was a logical approach by the student in the circumstances. The other time was David Bellamy, who paints in watercolour and often at high altitude in cold weather. Obviously vodka freezes at a lower temperature than water, so he used that. He did add that if it got really cold, he could always drink it!
Just like to thank you for being so generous with all the information you give on your frequent blogs. Love reading them and learning a lot - thank you.

BJR said...

I love this painting!! Beautiful!!

Adriana Guidi said...

Love those greens by the way !..and what a great idea...the vodka!..would never have thought of that.

robertsloan2art said...

That is awesome! I love the painting, those flowers are so eye-catching and form a path right into the distance - I have no idea how you can do something so loose and have it come out so planned-perfect balanced. Practice, I think.

That's a great idea. I don't have vodka around but I bought a bottle of cheap Everclear in order to reconstitute SpectraFix concentrate. Needless to say, I haven't used much of it - the SpectraFix goes so far that I only had to mix it twice so far and what I actually drink is rum.

I think the effects will be pretty similar though. High proof drinking alcohol. Vodka was the other recommended mixer for SpectraFix after all.

I also heard of someone doing wet underpainting by using SpectraFix concentrate washed in to give it this rock-solid fixed level of wash, can't remember who it was but I can see why it worked.

Daggi Wallace said...

Love your work and this idea! I have another question: how do you do those shaved pastel flowers? How do you make them "stick" to the surface?

Karen said...

Wow! Thanks for all the comments! I am behind!! Daggi....I just press them into the paper. The big chunks won't stick so they have to be pretty small. Some use fixative first but I don't.