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Thursday, March 25, 2021

Tips for Working on a Textured Surface with Pastels

      'Begin Again'                   8x10                 pastel              ©Karen Margulis       available $255

I love working on homemade boards but I don't love how they can eat up my pastels. I know I could apply the grit with a sponge brush for a smoother surface but I like the rough and random texture created by a stiff brush. I can be frustrating working on a rough surface but I have some tips to help!

I made my board by brushing on some clear gesso that I had tinted with medium brown acrylic paint. I used a stiff hardware store brush and made random brushstrokes on my 8x10 piece of mat board. Clear gesso has a slight grittiness. If you want an even rougher surface you can add powdered pumice to the gesso. 

  • To give myself a head start I do an alcohol wash underpainting to establish the value masses as well as a bit of color. The alcohol did not effect the surface. This underpainting allows me to start the pastel painting with a base in place. That is less surface that I need to cover with pastels. 

  • Next I use hard pastels to block in the same areas. I use dark blues for the trees and some reds and oranges for the foreground. At this point it was obvious that the pastels were not covering the surface completely. The pastel marks were not filling in the grooves of the gesso brushstrokes. This is where it can get frustrating! 

  • I take a piece of pipe foam insulation and rub in this first layer of hard pastel. That is the secret!This pushes the pastel into the grooves making the subsequent layers go on more easily. Less pastel is needed and the softer pastels will not be shredded! Below is a photo of this first layer once it is rubbed into the surface. 

I am now ready to continue layering the layers of softer pastel. I am using Terry Ludwig pastels for this painting. In the photo below you can see the texture of the original brushstrokes. I don't want to fight this texture! I want to embrace it. 

In this  step I use a black Nupastel to paint some of the branches of theses early spring trees. Some are bare and some have only a hint of foliage and flowers. I also block in a suggested pathway through the foreground. This will be covered with grass and flowers but it will hold the foreground together. 

I was still struggling a bit with the texture in the sky. I felt like it was fighting for attention with the foreground and trees. Everything was so busy!  I decided to blend in the sky making it solid and quiet. Now the texture is not visible in the sky.
TIP: You can also use some sandpaper and sand areas smooth. This gives you more control over the amount of texture in certain areas of the painting. 

Below is the finished painting. I really enjoy the texture in the foreground. It helped to make a potentially boring area more interesting! I am happy that I had the tools I needed to work with the texture and embrace it!


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