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Thursday, March 01, 2018

Underpainting 101:What is an Alcohol Wash?

'Ribbons of Gold'       12x12       pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available $195
The very first underpainitng technique I ever tried was a simple alcohol wash. I loved it but thought I was cheating! It seemed as if my painting was half done after the underpainting was dry! I have now experimented with many underpainting media and techniques but I still enjoy the good old alcohol wash. So tonight after a long day of non painting chores I decided to play with this favorite!
Here is the resulting underpainting. I used Nupastels and 70% rubbing alcohol.

12 x12 on Uart 500 grit sanded paper

  • An ALCOHOL WASH is simply a technique used to liquify pastel creating a wet underpainting. Using a paintbrush and 70% rubbing alcohol the artist wets the pastel creating a wet wash. Pastel can also be liquified with water and Odorless mineral spirits with slightly different results. ( I have also used vodka which works great!)
  • Sanded paper or paper that can take a wet wash is needed. Note that some sanded papers do not take a wet wash. (LaCarte)
  • It is best to use a harder pastel for an alcohol wash. The softer pastels with more pigment than binder tend to get thick and gummy when wet. I have had success with softer pastels when I apply them very lightly.
  • Take your time! You are turning pastel into liquid gouache take advantage of this and slow down and use the brush to paint! Use brushstrokes to help describe what you are painting. It is not just a matter of getting everything wet....slow down and make the underpainting just as important as the pastel application.
  • Embrace the drips! One of the wonderful things about wet underpaintings is the opportunity for the unexpected! Let the pigment drip and mix and mingle!
Do you have any tips for doing an alcohol wash? Feel free to share them in the comments!


robertsloan2art said...

I love the way an alcohol wash looks and works. It's a solid surface that doesn't blend up into later colors, vivid and intense. Thanks for mentioning that La Carte won't take a wet wash, the stuff has a beautiful texture but that's for dry work only. PastelMat will take a wet wash beautifully, either alcohol or water, and keeps its texture.

Ricardo García said...

Hello, Karen!
I've seen your blog this morning (like every day ...), and you said that Sennelier´s Le Carte not work with wet underpainting.
I have encouraged myself, and I have done a test. Look at my post today, dedicated to you!
It has worked quite well. Test it.
Thank you!