Easy Way to Create Toned Pastel Paper Using White Clairfontaine Pastelmat!

Pastelists who are new to Pastelmat may not know that it comes in a variety of colors. A quick on-line search reveals that you can buy it in single large sheets or in pads of different color combinations.

In the past I have purchased several of these pads. However, experience has shown me that there is always at least one color in the pad I tend to not use.

While I LOVE the performance of this paper, it’s too expensive not to use all of the pad.

So….I looked for a way to tone the paper myself.

I had some oversized colored charcoal blocks sitting around, purchased a few years back from here. (They are also sold as individual block colors.)

Derwent XL Charcoal

I also had a pad of white Pastelmat, so I thought I should do an experiment to see if I could successfully tone and fix the colored charcoal to the paper.

I started by rubbing each charcoal block across the paper. Then I rubbed the charcoal into the paper using a piece of pipe foam insulation.

You could try using a chamois or even some paper towel to rub in the charcoal. Pastelmat is relatively smooth compared to most sanded pastel papers, so it shouldn’t tear up your paper towel.

Once the charcoal was rubbed in, I applied 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol with a cheap brush onto the left side of the color swatches.

I applied plain water to the right side of swatches using another cheap brush so as to avoid contamination from the alcohol.

Here are the results:

Top left to right: Sepia (olive green), Sanguine, Ochre
Bottom left to right: Mars Violet (a warm almost black), Black
The set also includes a white block untested for this post.

Conclusions:

First, the alcohol side dried much more quickly than the side fixed with water. Pastelmat paper is really a heavy cardstock, so it tends to absorb water. Since alcohol evaporates more quickly than water, this absorption is not as much of a problem when using the rubbing alcohol.

In fact, this quick drying would be a great benefit if using this toning method in plein air…hardly any wait time!

Once the applied alcohol or water is completely dry, I found that the charcoal is fixed onto the paper very well!

No transfer of charcoal from side fixed with rubbing alcohol.
Very little charcoal transfer from side fixed with water.

I did notice that the side fixed with water has a bit of a “grainy texture” to it, whereas the side fixed with alcohol tended to look more smooth. This could have been a result of the brushes used to spread on the alcohol/water, but I’m not so sure.

Of course, there may be times when one wants more of a textured look. In that case, water might be more likely to produce that result.

In the past, I have used plain vine charcoal as an underpainting value map paintings done in plein air. I fixed the vine charcoal to my paper using spray fixative. While effective, it’s smelly, probably not great for the environment, and is bulky to carry around for a light-weight plein air set-up.

However, adding a block of this charcoal and a small screw-on plastic container of rubbing alcohol or water, plus a cheap wide brush, could be a helpful addition to your plein air supplies.

Well, that’s it for now!

I hope this gives you another tool in your artist’s toolkit!

Till next time….stay creative!

~R

“Golden Pines” A Soft Pastel Painting

Hello creative ones! I am happy to be sharing one of my latest pastel paintings with you today. 🙂

I am finding that I am seeing myself more as a seasonal painter….although I have to admit that sometimes I am a little behind the season when I get around to painting my subjects.

While some of the United States is looking forward to or even starting to experience some spring-like weather, here in northern Indiana we are expecting snow and sleet for the next few days!

So today I bring you a wintery scene featuring some evergreen trees being lit with golden light.

I hope you enjoy this painting. And if you are curious about how I painted it, click on the link at the bottom of the post to see a time-lapse video on my YouTube channel.

Let me know if you like it!

My reference photo (copyright R. Sorrells)
Thumbnail and brown Clairfontaine Pastelmat paper with line sketch
Well into the process now…Needs just a bit more….
“Golden Pines”
Assorted soft pastels on Clairefontaine Pastelmat
6×8 in.
R. Sorrells, Artist
2020

Till next time!

~R

Pastel Painting Demo: “Fallow Field in Winter“

Hello everyone!

I hope this post finds you well and loving life. I can’t believe it’s already February! My, how time flies…

Well, I’ve been moved in to my new studio for about a month now, and it has taken me some time to adjust to working in the new space….something I wasn’t expecting.

I have spent the last several weeks in this new year cocooned in a sort of creative solitude. My goal was to forge a new process or rhythm of working in my studio balanced with the demands of family life, schooling, and other obligations. Not easy.

Mainly, I have been focused on musical inspiration. Many of you may not know that I play violin, so I have to keep up my skills on that instrument. But recently I have also been learning to play guitar—something I tried to teach myself long ago, but that’s another story….

In addition to learning something new, I don’t mind telling you that I had a little trepidation about creating my first art piece of the new year in the new space….and I was feeling the pressure.

When I feel pressure, it’s usually because I am raising my expectations to unreasonable levels, and then I tend to procrastinate so as to avoid that pressure, and it can become this vicious cycle.

Sigh….

Anyway, I gave the perfection and people-pleasing parts of me a good kick in the pants, and went out to the studio to play. And today’s post is the result!

I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

Let’s start with the piece.

Now for the progress shots….

First, the set up:

Next, an underpainting of cool blues and purples for this snow scene:

Slow building up of color and establishing the sky.

Deepening the shadow areas and beginning to feel my way with those pesky wintry trees:

More development of the dried grassy areas, as well as the trees:

At this point in the photo below, I thought I was getting close to being done, so I put up some black artist tape….Usually, I use a black mat that I keep on hand for this purpose, but I didn’t have a square one handy!

Hmmm. SOMETHING was bothering me. The painting was missing something or a even a few things, but what?

It was at this point that I let the piece sit on my easel for several days while I thought about it. I often need to step away for a day or so while the painting “cooks”.

When I came back to it with fresh eyes, I used my editing app on my ipad to make some notes of things that I thought needed to be changed.

For starters, I wanted more contrast in the overall piece.

Next, I wanted to bring more unity to the color scheme—especially by tying the sky colors into the rest of the piece.

Finally, I needed to lead the viewer through the work with some subtle hints about where to look.

In the photo above, you can see that I added subtle hints of turquoise into the snow shadows to tie the sky into the rest of the scene.

Next, I deepened some of the dark areas for added contrast.

And lastly, I pushed the colors ever so slightly in areas where I want the viewer to look—namely the golden grass near the focal tree and continuing in the mid-ground grass.

And here is the final result once more.

“Fallow Field in Winter” 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches
Assorted soft pastels on Pastel Premiere sanded paper
Rhonda Sorrells, Artist
copyright 2020

I hope you enjoyed this one. Thanks for stopping by and visiting!

Now go get creative!

~R