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Friday, March 16, 2018

Making the Most of a Textured Pastel Surface

'Seeking Beauty'        12x16         pastel      ©Karen Margulis
available $175
So you have tried the clear gesso trick. But you may be less than satisfied with your results. Perhaps the texture isn't as obvious as you want or maybe it is making it hard to paint over. I've got some ideas on how you can make the most of the texture from an application of clear gesso.

If you missed the recent post on clear gesso you can find past articles on clear gesso in these links:

To clarify the use of the clear gesso I'd like to add that it can be applied to paper before painting as a preparation or it can be used on top of pastel layers but it will liquify and darken the pastel creating a dark textured underpainting. Don't put it on top of pastel if you don't want to obliterate the painting!

I am starting my annual studio cleanup and came across an older painting that had the clear gesso texture. At the time I thought it was finished but when I looked at it today I realized I didn't make the most of the texture so it went back on the easel. Look at the original below and compare with the reworked painting at the top of the post.

Is it finished? I decided it wasn't.
I realized that the painting needed more layers to exploit the texture. Here is what I did:

  • I started with the sky and added a yellow orange to unite the two spots of bright orange. I also added a pale yellow at the horizon. For these new layers I pressed much harder with the pastel.The pastel was grabbed by the raised areas created by the dried gesso. TIP: After the initial layers are established don't be afraid to PRESS hard to really get some pastel on the grooves.
  •  I added some lighter and cooler blue green and blues to the distant land. I wanted to cover the red violet which was coming forward. I also rubbed in this layer with my pinky finger to eliminate some of the texture. Tip: eliminate some texture where you want to create depth.
  • I used workable fixative on the trees and grasses to darken these areas. Then I went over the areas with more greens and oranges using a harder touch. The dark areas remained in the grooves and the new pastel marks sat on top of the grooves making the texture more visible.
  • I used some harder pastel stick (Nupastels) to draw some linear marks. These marks filled in the areas between the raised textured areas. These marks added to the texture created by the gesso. TIP: Enhance texture with marks from harder pastel sticks.

close up of the texture


Sandi G said...

Do you apply the gesso for raised marks such as grasses and what not after you have done an under painting? Can you add more after you have applied some base or hard pastels? I have tried this with a thicker mix with pumice in it and have had some success . I was wondering ,in the case of grasses ,what do you use to apply the grass like texture gesso? Thanks so much

Karen said...

You can add gesso after some pastel layers but it will liquify and muddy those layers.

robertsloan2art said...

The new one is more beautiful and had another effect, the finished version looks like threatening chill damp weather or rain is rapidly moving in. It's overall dark in exactly the way the rainy days I had last week in Mississippi looked, more muted colors, darker sky, some hue overtones in the sky. Like the orange bits are not the only clouds, more those catching near-sunset light. It has a gut grabbing atmosphere, just reminds me of some wet nights that turned cold enough to chill our camp.

Come July, I'll be dreaming of that kind of weather and more likely to paint it!