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Monday, March 14, 2016

Can Pastel Premier Paper Take an Alcohol Wash? My Experiment

'Contemplation'          8x10         pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $145
It was a great question. A Facebook friend wanted my opinion on Pastel Premier sanded paper. She also brought up the question of using an alcohol wash on the paper. I have used Pastel Premier and was sure I had done an alcohol wash on it. In fact I had no idea that there was an issue with it.

So I decided to find out. First I looked up the specs on Pastel Premier. Here is what is said about the paper on Dakota Art Pastels:

Pastel Premier - a new Archival Quality paper for the pastel artist! Made in the USA, Pastel Premier is produced on 100% cotton, acid-free paper. Made exclusively for Pastel Premier, the unique surface is created by double priming the 100% cotton base paper, then coating with an aluminum oxide abrasive. This produces an ideal, evenly coated surface for pastel painting. A final seal layer is applied to the primed and abrasive coated sheet to make the surface extremely durable and able to withstand almost any measure of scrubbing and reworking. The paper works with a wide range of wet media including water, mineral spirits, and alcohol (heavy use of alcohol NOT recommended - may soften surface) for under-painting. 
Pastel Premier is available in two surfaces:
X-Fine (600 grit) - a smoother, finer surface in White only
Medium (320-400 grit) - toothy, aggressive surface in 5 colors
Pastel Premier comes in White, Buff, Italian Clay (warm neutral gray), Terracotta, and Slate (dark, cool gray).

So alcohol can be used...just not a heavy application. Next I needed to try it for myself. How much alcohol could the paper take?

I took out a piece of white Pastel Premier. This paper is great for watercolor underpaintings so I wanted to see how alcohol would react to the paper. I used 70% isopropyl alcohol. I never use 90% or denatured alcohol.

I was very liberal with my washes. The alcohol was allowed to drip. I used as much alcohol as I normally do. I didn't worry about using too much. The paper was fine. There as no change in the grittiness and the grit didn't come off. I was feeling really good about it.

Then I went back over a wet area with more alcohol. This is when I noticed that the grit in this area was starting to move or soften.  I stopped and let the underpainting dry.

close up of the alcohol wash

starting to add pastel
 There was a slight wave to the paper but after 30 minutes under a heavy book it was perfectly flat. I use paper unmounted. The pastel went on with no noticeable change in the feeling of the grit. I was able to get as many layers as I needed to finish the painting.

My conclusion after this experiment... I wouldn't hesitate to use an alcohol wash on Pastel Premier. However I would not try to rewet areas or go back and add more alcohol to an area. It is safe to say that the paper accepts a light alcohol wash....which is plenty to create an interesting and effective underpainting. (I also did the same underpainting on Uart and I will report on that in an upcoming post)


Tom Bailey said...

Good info, well presented. Liking the painting itself a lot, too. Thanks.

Elizabeth Merchant said...

'Contemplation' - Some paintings just demand attention. As the eye will naturally drift to what it cannot pigeon-hole and fill in the details. Which is a wonderful method of drawing in the viewer's attention. This is one way to turn buyers into collectors. Really exceptional presentation. Kudos.

robertsloan2art said...

Thanks for testing what they mean by heavy alcohol wash. I don't think I do heavy washes in underpaintings at all, compared to what you just described. Gorgeous painting.

Betty Smith said...

Very good information. Haven't used the pastel premier previously, but I almost always use an alcohol underpainting. So, why don't you use 90% alcohol? I sort of like it because it dries so quickly. Is the denatured ETOH the oil stuff? I know not to pick up the green labeled ETOH, is that the denatured?