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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Deciding on a Pastel Support


'A Sheep Called Thoka'             5x7          pastel          ©Karen Margulis
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It's getting more complicated. Not too long ago pastel artists only had a few choices for the support they would paint on.  There were a few papers including Canson Mi Teintes and a sanded paper called Ersta. There were few papers dedicated to pastel. Now we have many options from sanded papers to sanded boards. How do we know which support to choose?

I have my personal favorites but  I like to use many different surfaces. I make my choice when I decide on my subject. Some subjects just work better on particular supports. For example, if I am going to do a wet underpainting I like to use Uart paper. If I am going to paint an animal, LaCarte is my go to paper. If I want to be bold and direct, I really like Pastelmat. I like Canson too if I want a soft painterly landscape.

some homemade supports pumice on gator foam

Sometimes it works the other way. I find a support and decide on a subject that will work. Today I came across three small pieces of gator foam coated with a pumice mixture. I had prepared them last year when I had a class on making home made supports. They would be perfect for the Icelandic sheep I wanted to paint!  A case of the support finding the right subject!

I chose the 5x7 piece that I had toned a peach color. I had used random brush strokes to apply the pumice and gesso mixture. This random texture would be perfect to suggest the shaggy sheep and summer grasses. I can't wait to paint more sheep!

TIP: Don't get yourself in a paper rut. We often find our favorites and it is great to really know a surface and what it can do. But make time to experiment and play with other supports.It will serve you well to be familiar with all the options we have available to us as pastel artists!



Painting note: This is 5x7 on a piece of gator foam board with my own mixture of pumice and gesso. I used a combination of Terry Ludwig pastels with some Diane Townsend lights.

5 comments:

Greg Speer said...

I was surprised to recently learn that Gator Board is not acid free and therefore,presumably,is not archival.

Karen said...

Hi Greg, I wasn't aware of that. That's a shame. I really like using it :(

jcwnorfolk said...


What is your ratio of pumice to gesso? I have a pumice gel and gesso, and I mixed these with a little water, but wasn't sure how much was best. thanks

robertsloan2art said...

I love the blazing sunny greens behind the Icelandic sheep and the glorious blues and colors in its lights. Gorgeous painting. Very cool support too! I have got to do handmade supports again sometime anyway, they are fun.

Agree with you it's more fun choosing the support to fit the painting than using the same one all the time. Even with Mi Tientes I loved having a lot of colors to choose from and always picked per painting rather than stuck in the same one rut.

Karen said...

Thanks for the comments!! As for the ratio....I use a few different 'recipes' and don't really measure for any of them. But I usually mix the pumice and gesso and add a bit of water until it is the consistency of house paint..