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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Laying it on Thick...A Recipe for Thick Pastel Ground

'Winter Creek' 8x10 pastel ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting with paypal $145
I love experimenting with new techniques. When I read the recent Pastel Journal article about Robert Carsten and how he uses homemade pastel grounds I knew I had to try them. I decided to go for the thickest ground. I wanted to get the most texture possible. I mixed a smaller amount since I only had one 8x10 piece of gatorboard to coat.
The recipe for the Thick Paste-like Ground calls for 1 cup of Golden's Light or Coarse Molding paste mixed with 1/8 to 1/4 cup of water with 4 tablespoons of grit added. I painted my board first with Golden Fluid Acrylic and when this was dry I applied my ground mixture. It made a wonderful textured board with lots of exciting brush marks!

Close-up of my painting showing the texture and underlying brushstrokes
When I began to apply pastel I had a mini panic. The ground was so rough the pastels only stuck to the higher ridges. Not only that it was rapidly eating up my pastels. I was about to give up. I like to experiment but not with my softest pastels! Luckily I had just found a box of Richeson pastels that I had forgotten about. (Don't you love when that happens!) and they worked perfectly on this surface. They were just the right consistency in that they were soft enough to fill in the ridges but hard enough to hold up pretty well. Not to mention the colors were wonderful. One thing I did was to push my first layer into the surface with a piece of pipe insulation foam. That gave me a nice underpainting to build on.

Overall I had fun with this thicker ground once I found the right pastel to use. One thing I would do differently is to apply the ground with a palette knife the way Robert Carsten demonstrates in his article. I like the brushstrokes but it would be fun to get a different kind of texture. I will definitely be doing more thick pastel paintings!
Robert Carsten's article appears in the October 2011 issue of the Pastel Journal. For additional techniques from Robert see the online article on Artist Network.


georgia mansur said...

Hi Karen, great to see you utilising the Golden products in this way! Golden opens up a whole new world for pastellists to explore their chosen medium to greater depths. Have you tried the Absorbent Ground for Pastels as well? It is not as gritty but gives a great surface to draw into, like a finer tooth when you want to get a clean edge.

Rather than toning my support and then applying the ground I sometimes use the a couple drops of the Golden Fluid acrylic (like Quinacridone Gold or Burnt Sienna) into the Golden gels or pastes (or even Gesso)
to create a warm ground that is already textured.

I have pretty much switched to doing my underpaintings for pastel with the Golden fluids as a wash~ it dries in minutes and I even map out my darks this way. It saves so much wear and tear on your expensive pastels that you want to use for the real pastel work to come.

Have fun playing around with the grounds, they are really cool to create depth and dimension! Cheers, Georgia

Karen said...

Hi Georgia,
Thank you so much for your comments. You have given me some great ideas to follow up on. I especially like the idea of using the Golden fluids for underpaintings. I will definitely be trying that! I appreciate you sharing some great information. Thank you!