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Monday, April 17, 2017

The Secret to Success on Canson Paper

'The Secret Garden'             12x16            pastel             ©Karen Margulis
I began my pastel journey with Canson. Like many pastel artists I didn't really know any better. It was the only pastel paper available at our local Michaels hobby store. I wanted to try pastels so I used my coupon to buy some paper and a small set of Rembrandt pastels. I wasn't very successful.

The pastels were hard and scratchy and my paintings  didn't seem as rich and vibrant as the pastel paintings I saw in books. Was it the paper? Was it the pastels? Maybe it was just me?  I needed to get some lessons and knowledge under my belt. And now 10 years later I understand I needed time to mature as an artist and understand my materials. Canson is now my friend. 

So what is the secret to success on Canson Mi-Teintes paper?

It turns out that the secret isn't just one thing. It isn't just the pastels we use,  it is also the techniques we use that make a difference. I was very lucky to have Marsha Hamby Savage as my first teacher. At that time Marsha painted often on Canson. In fact many of the first pastels painting demos I ever saw were Marsha's landscapes on Canson.  The techniques she used then are ones I return to often especially if I am working on Canson. ( I am referring to Canson Mi-Teintes unsanded paper)

Secret #1   Make sure you have a plan for your painting.
Canson paper is unlike sanded papers in that it doesn't take as many layers of pastel. It is easy to fill the tooth of the paper which will lead to dull flat and muddy paintings. If you have a plan then you will not have to experiment on your painting. You will be able to make marks and leave them alone....leading to less layers. For today's painting I did a 4 value thumbnail sketch and a Notan (black and white) These were the blueprints for my painting. I had a plan!

Secret #2 Begin the painting with hard pastels.
This is common advice for pastel paintings. I don't always follow this advice but on Canson I will always begin the painting with a block in using harder pastels. I like to use hard sticks such as Nupastels or polychromos or cretacolors hard pastels. These pastels have more binder so the pigment isn't released as readily. The tooth of the paper isn't filled as quickly. For today's painting I did a value block in with just 5 Nupastels. I blocked in the darks, lights and most intense colors. This is a wonderful way to start any painting!

Secret #3  Use a Light Touch 
The right touch is always a light touch and this is especially true when working on a non sanded surface. Think of the pastel as a feather. If you press too hard it will bend and break. Light strokes will allow for more layers....even with the softest pastels. I began today's painting with hard pastels and a light feather touch. After the initial block in I switched to softer pastels such as Terry Ludwig pastels. As the painting developed and I got to my final layers I used a heavier touch. For example, the flowers were all painted with one layer.....one heavy single mark for each bloom with a soft pastel.

starting to add some softer pastel layers


close up detail

The secret to success on Canson or any non sanded paper is really a combination of the right pastels and the technique of applying the pastels.....hard to soft, light to heavy, start with a plan....are the three things that I have found to help me not just to tolerate canon but to actually LOVE it!
Explore these techniques further in my PDF demo on Canson available for $6 on etsy.http://etsy.me/1aMpVwU

About the painting:   12 x 16 on burgundy Canson mi-teintes paper, smooth side.
This is a landscape from my trip to Sweden. It  depicts a patch of Monk's weed or Bishop's weed in the shadows. Monk's weed was in bloom everywhere. It is an invasive weed introduced by monks in the Middle Ages. It was used to treat arthritis and gout. It is in the carrot family so the blooms look a lot like Queen Annes Lace which is probably why I love it!


Jennifer Grupp said...

Thanks for this blog. I have been trying to use this paper, but I do get frustrated. When you use it, do you blend much? I am really trying to reduce the amount of blending I do with my pastels. Thanks Karen!

MtnLady said...

I love to study the steps that you take along your journey down your artistic path. The discussion of choices that are considered and finally taken are thoughts many of us can learn from. Thank
you for all you share!

RoK said...

Beautiful pastel! Thank you for the helpful info.

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