Thursday, February 11, 2016

Is the Right Side Wrong? Exploring Pastel Paper

'Making Tracks'         9x12         pastel           ©Karen Margulis
I'm taking a poll. What side of Canson Mi-Teintes paper do you prefer?  Answer in the comments if you'd like to share. I am curious to see what most artists prefer.  If you aren't familiar with Canson there is a bumpy side with a honey comb-like texture and a smooth side. Officially the bumpy side is considered the right side or the painting side. If you purchase Canson by the sheet the label is on the smooth side which is considered the back.

Can you tell what side of the paper I used for today's painting of my granddaughter Greta?

The front bumpy side is on the left and the smooth or back side is the back. See the difference in the way the pastel looks?

Here is another poll question: How many times have you started a painting only to discover you were using the bumpy side?  Most artists I know prefer  working on the smooth side of the paper. It is challenging to fight the bumpy texture. I usually work on the smooth side.

So imagine my surprise when I began applying pastel to my painting of Greta. It was the bumpy side! How did I manage to do that! I am usually very careful but in my excitement to start the painting I didn't check.  I had a decision to make. Should I turn the paper over and start again?  I really didn't want to because I had already done the drawing. Usually that wouldn't stop me. It is much easier to start over at an early stage of a painting.  But  this time I had a 'what if' moment and decided to see what would happen if I continued on the bumpy side.



I was working on black paper which really enhanced the look of the texture. The little bits of black paper that resisted the pastel became the glue that held the painting together.  They also broke up the large white areas of snow making it more interesting.  So maybe the right side of the paper isn't the wrong side after all!

14 comments:

Rick Petersen said...

I like the texture and personality of the rough side, especially as you let it "speak" for itself in the composition and execution.

pattisjarrett said...

I like this side, too! As you said, it breaks up the white of the snow and adds texture to the shadows.

Susan Warwas said...

I don't like the bumpy side as it reminds me of a newspaper drawing, or the drawings we used to do in art school for commercial black and white art. Too uniform!

Mario Vukelic said...

I like both sides and think the trick on both sides is not to leave all "holes" visible. Just like you covered some snow areas completely with white and left some black. I specially like how you did the hat.

Eileen Sullivan said...

A lot depends on the subject matter. I usually use the smooth side but sometimes I really want the roughness of the"right" side.

Karla Hull said...

Because I love texture, I prefer the bumpy side of your paper. The darkness "in the bumps" give your painting depth. Of course, the subject matter makes the painting adorable. Thank you for sharing your art experiences with the world, Karen. I've learned so much from your blog and comments. You're a great teacher!

p.s. - Love the "robot" and glad I could prove that I'm not one.

robertsloan2art said...

I can see why the texture side worked so well for your painting of Greta. Very cool effect, working on black helps with that!

I hate the bumpy side, always liked the smooth side and wished they'd bind the pads smooth side up. It'd be a lot more convenient. But they don't, so I pull out the sheet I'm going to use and turn it over nearly every time. Once in a great while I deliberately use the weave side because I want the effect but that is very rare. I like the smooth best.

Marilyn Witt said...

I seldom use that paper, but when I do I use the bumpy side because that is the look I want. Do the same with watercolor paper too. Again, I seldom use watercolor paper either, but used a handmade paper not long ago and loved the look. It was a challenge too. I like that it was an accident that you did this one on the bumpy side and it turned out so very well. It just pulled it all together. The fact that you covered completely some of the snow was perfect for the snow effect. Such a sweet painting. I just prefer the sanded paper and use it mostly. Marilyn

Catherine Selinger said...

I also far prefer the smooth side. Which ever side is used, I've heard somewhere that a light tough up with sandpaper can 'knock down' the texture, perhaps making it more irregular. That's what I normally do. (Is it possible that perhaps I learned that one right here from you Karen?)
It's interesting but I have noticed that when I use the bumpy side both my family and fellow artists tell me that they DON'T like the look. I have also found that people like my work best when I use anything BUT Canson MT (either side!) That might have a lot to do with my lack of confidence in it. Next time I think I will try what you have suggested with the rough side, which is to make sure that some areas are filled in and other parts are allowed to peak through.
I also love your painting of dear Greta! :)

Layne Roach said...

Funny, I generally didn't like it, but starting to. This painting of the child in snow is just wonderful!!! And I see how the dark texture showing through enhances it! I've done one painting with deep gold color paper showing through and I admit, it's pretty cool!

Maybe you'd do another one of this sweet child in the snow? I'd buy it! Reminds me of my love of snow. ;)

Gayle said...

I usually prefer smooth, but I can see now that the other side can give interesting texture, depending on the subject matter. The smooth side looks like a painting, and the rough side has more of a sketch feeling. By the way, I really really enjoyed your interview on Artists Helping Artists!

Adriana Guidi said...

I usually prefer the smooth side,but I love the way you used the rough side!Maybe now after seeing your fun piece with the child in the snow,I won't be so afraid of that side anymore..lol!

tess stieben said...

Interesting question of preference. The smooth side is wonderful for soft gentle portraits, especially of children while the rough textured side is fabulous for aged portraits of elders as it adds character. The smooth side is good when using pastel sparingly, but the rough side is delicious for holding a mega-load of color without having to resort to fixative sprays. The rough side by its nature can hold much more pastel in its tooth, the smooth side can become saturated quickly. So in answer to the question smooth or rough, it all depends on the subject.

Patricia McKeen said...

I think it really depends on the painting. I love the painting of "Greta" it works perfectly with the bumpy side.