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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Are You in a Paper Rut? Pastel Paper Tips

'Daisy Fantasy'         11x14            pastel  on Canson            ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting here $145  
It is that time again. I am running very low on paper so it is time to pace an order for supplies.  I usually place a big online order every few months and wait for a coupon code and free shipping. We do have a couple of local art stores and while it would be a good thing to give them my business they aren't really close and don't always have the quantity I want. It is more cost effective and a time saver for me to buy bulk online.

Whenever I order paper I always order my favorite 'Go To' pastel paper which is UArt 400-600 grade sanded paper. I order 20 sheets of 18x24 which I will cut to size as needed.  But I always choose to order another brand of paper. I alternate brands or look to try paper I haven't used before or in a long time.

 I like to change it up sometimes. 

Pastel on Uart paper with a watercolor underpainting

    Paper really does make a difference in the look and feel of a painting. A pastel done on Canson will have a very different look than one done on sanded paper...even if the exact same pastels are used. (see my daisy paintings as an example)
  • I have a rule of thumb when it comes to pastel paper. I never say I hate or dislike a paper. Instead I remind myself that if I am not having success with a paper it isn't the paper...more likely I haven't found the right technique or pastel for it. If I revisit the paper after a break from it I may discover something that suits it. Never say never!


  • Another rule of thumb is that I encourage my students to try new papers...but they should stick with one paper at a time until they feel like they really know how it behaves. This is especially important to those new to pastels. If you are using a different surface every time you show up at the easel, it is difficult to get to know how the pastels behave. Stick with one paper for a wile, then experiment.
  • When trying a new paper be prepared to do at least 5-10 paintings on it before you decide if it suits you. One try with a paper isn't really giving it a fair shot. Be ready to get to really know it (even if you don't really care for it)

Paper really does make a difference in the look and feel of a painting. A pastel done on Canson will have a very different look than one done on sanded paper...even if the exact same pastels are used. (see my daisy paintings as an example)

Both Blick.com and Jerrys Artarama are having coupon sales with free shipping now through August 1st. Time to get some new paper!

Painting notes: The top painting is on Canson Mi-Teintes paper and the bottom painting is on Uart both with a mix of pastel mostly Terry Ludwig.

1 comment:

robertsloan2art said...

Thanks for this tip on papers! I started out on Canson Mi-Tientes at a time that was pretty much what was available. I think the store may have had a few more expensive papers, maybe even a sanded one but I didn't try it because of cost. I was too interested in the pastels themselves and thought it was a huge deal upgrading to artist grade pastels. It was. They performed so much better!

Once I did discover sanded papers it was fun to try different ones. I still had the habit of liking to change up colors though so I used Colourfix more than all the rest. In a way that's what made Colourfix my favorite, simply because I had choices of colors in it. I also found WetCanvas around the time I tried sanded papers for the first time and got to see others' results on them.

Good advice on returning to a paper I didn't like. I've got Wallus museum grade in a pad, but when I tried it I found out that finger blending on it involves blood sacrifice. Also it really ate up my Sennelier half sticks in the one painting I did, though it took a lot of layers.

But that was years ago and I'm much more practiced at stick blending and other techniques. I might enjoy it more now and white's good for underpaintings or for colourist method with a dry underpainting.

Colourfix became a favorite partly because of how many colors it comes in and partly because I got the primer. A lot of watercolor paper I stocked up for other media became good sanded pastel paper with the Colourfix primers, so I've always got sanded practice paper and sketch paper too with that. But it means most of my practice is on that surface rather than the Uart.

I think I may start really getting into Uart though. I love the way it's got different grits choices and they're all good in different ways. I started with sheets of 500, 600 and 800 but I'll get coarser Uart next time. Seeing how much you order at a time really makes sense. But you do large studio paintings too. I rarely go over 9 x 12" at all and often work at 5 x 7" on a 9 x 12" pad, getting two paintings per sheet, so what I look for are pads. Chopping up sheets is often cheaper for the amount of paper you get.

Sennelier La Carte scares me because I have allergies and I know, just know, that I'll be halfway through a really good painting and sneeze on it. I've got one piece to try in my Dakota Sampler but haven't dared yet. There is a beautiful salmon color though that I've often been tempted to get a sheet of, it'd be so vibrant under a green landscape and make any flowers or sunrise bits pop against the greens. Eh, I'll probably get around to trying it but I may have to plan what season to give it a go!