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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Favorite Tip to Prevent Overworking a Pastel Painting



'The Proposal'                11x14                 pastel              ©Karen Margulis
I had one of those great Aha Moments last week. It is something very simple and I don't know why it wasn't obvious to me before. There is an easy way to help avoid the dreaded Overworked Pastel Painting. It is something I do all of the time but I just put it all together!

An overworked painting happens for many reasons but one of the most common reasons is the result of adding too many layers of pastel. Our wonderful sanded papers accept so many layers of pastel so we are tempted to keep on layering the color. But the more layers we add the more we risk filling the tooth of the paper. As the tooth is filled the layers begin to physically blend. This often leads to dull muddy looking color.

I find that fewer layers result in fresher and more vibrant colors. Limiting my layers, having economy with my marks...saying it and leaving it alone. These are all things I try to do with each painting. Here is a way to make this easier to achieve:

The block in layer on Uart paper

The block in layer now rubbed in for the dry wash

Start with a toned piece of paper or some kind of underpainting!

Think about it....if you start with white or very light colored paper such as Uart this light color will tend to peek through your pastel layers. This is great if you are painting snow or sand or something very light. But if you are trying to get nice cohesive darks or solid areas of color these little white specks can drive you crazy. It leads to a heavier hand or adding more and more layers until the offensive spots are covered. By the time they are covered....the painting may just have too many layers and can start to look overworked.

Solution: Start with colored supports. I choose colors that I know will work well with my painting. I loved Wallis Belgian Mist because the nice middle value gray-brown was a wonderful unifier of any painting when bits of paper peeked through.

What if you love white or light papers? Consider toning it. One of my favorite techniques is the dry wash with a light layer of pastel that I rub into the paper with pipe insulation foam. It allows me to tone my paper and set up my value map all at the same time! Now I don't have to add layer upon layer to cover up the paper!


1 comment:

robertsloan2art said...

Oh this is so true! i always loved colored surfaces, it wasn't till I took a Charlotte Herczfeld class that I was able to handle white paper - by underpainting.

So I sometimes underpaint even on colored surfaces and still want to try using Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer in different colors to do the underpainting - map out the notan and then paint black under the dark, white under the light, or for a landscape choose colors to go under each color area and lay it out by big value and hue masses.

It will be tricky doing that without brush strokes but I think it could be awesome.