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

“Moody Blue” Soft Pastel Painting

Hello friends! Welcome back to my blog.

Today I have my latest soft pastel painting and progress shots. I don’t have a lot of progress photos for this one, as I  got carried away and before I knew it, I was making final marks! 🙂

I started this painting on Pastelmat after doing some fun acrylic ink underpaintings.
Here is the underpainting….

Acrylic Ink underpainting

 I started by sketching and blocking in in a VERY BASIC way…

Sketch-in with Nupastel

 

Block-in

 Pretty far in the process in this next photo:

Developing the sky and tree…

 

“Blue Day” Assorted Soft Pastels on Pastelmat, 4×4 in

 Hope you enjoy this one. Let me know what you think or what you are working on!

Also, you can follow me on Instagram @ArtGoneCountry.

Thanks for taking a peek!

Stay creative!

~R

Pastel Painting: “Paradise Lost”

Hello to everyone, and thanks for stopping to read about and view my latest pastel painting! 

In December of this year, I am going to be offering some of my pastel paintings for sale at a town-wide Christmas open house near me.

I am very excited and a bit nervous. As my daughter used to say when she was very little, “I’m nervous-cited!

First, I don’t really like to “market” myself or my art much beyond this blog, Instagram, and a few other places.
I am just not comfortable with the whole thing, but this open house is a way to dip my toe in, if you like, and hopefully enjoy myself in the process.

So, in order to get ready I have begun painting some smaller pieces that might appeal more readily to those who may attend this type of function. Solitude from my last post, is one of those smaller pieces…

Which brings me to today’s painting. I call it, “Paradise Lost.”

“Paradise Lost”

 

I started this painting with a fun acrylic ink underpainting: 

Underpainting in Acrylic Ink

Next, I blocked in using soft pastels starting with the darks.

 

Adding and building up the form:

 

A few more finishing touches and a signature, and I’m done!

 

“Paradise Lost”  Assorted soft pastels over acrylic ink
on Pastelmat paper, 4 1/8 x 4 1/8 inches 

 Let me know if you enjoyed this piece. I’d love to hear what you think!

Till next time,

Stay Creative!

~R

Pastel Painting: “Nesting Behavior” with progress photos

Hello Friends!

Summer is almost done and we are starting up homeschool next week, so I wanted to take the time to post my latest piece along with some thoughts and progress photos showing my process.

I definitely had a different mindset for this one. 
I was aiming for something a little looser, less refined. More impressionistic, I guess.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it! 🙂 

 

FIRST MY REFERENCE: I took this photo in my front yard. 

Reference Photo

I think the photo is beautiful. But that’s a problem for me because as beautiful as this photo is, I am NOT into copying for the sake of realism. It’s just not my style.

As I grow and change as an artist, I find that I enjoy leaving some things to the IMAGINATION when I create a piece. I am not a camera and my eyes and brain don’t see the same way a camera lens does!

I also think it’s important to leave room for the viewer’s imagination—to suggest some things and let the viewer fill in the rest.
This approach INVITES rather than CONTROLS and let’s the viewer engage with the art.

 

PROGRESS PHOTOS & PROCESS

After selecting my reference, I began to do some expoloration—probably more exploration than I’ve done to prepare than for any other work!

First, I did a simple charcoal study to get a feel for the subject and composition…doesn’t look like much and isn’t meant to!

Vine charcoal sketch

Next, I did a simple line drawing for use on my larger paper.

Simple line drawing

Once I had a feel for the subject, I uploaded my sketch to iPastels to do a more in-depth monochrome study.

Monochrome

Now I was ready to move on to a color study. In the original reference (top), if you look closely you can see lots of green from the vegetation as well as yellowish reflected light. I wasn’t too keen about either, instead preferring to leave the background abstract and focus on all of the beautiful neutrals of the dove.

Completed Color Study

After completing the color study, my next step was to play around with the background. 

Remember, I wanted something loose that wouldn’t compete with the bird itself, so I uploaded the above image into iPastels and tried out different backgrounds…a real time saver and easy way to compare backgrounds side-by-side without wasting materials! 

I finally decided on the top right (blueish) background, and tested it out on the bottom left corner of the photo.

Background Choices

With my color and value studies to guide me, I began my painting on Pastelmat paper using a variety of soft pastels.

 

 

By the time I got to the stage in the above photo, I knew I needed to let my painting sit for a few days so that I could look at it with fresh eyes later.

So….after many days of life getting in the way 🙂 , I made a few white board notes of things I might want to change.

Refinement Notes

And Finally, the finished piece:

“Nesting Behavior” 5×7 Pastel on Pastelmat

Sorry this one was so long, but thanks for coming on this wonderful artistic journey with me!

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please leave your comments in the comment section.

See you soon and stay creative!

~R

A Light From Above: Pastel Painting Demo

Hi Creative Friends!

Today I bring you a brief pastel painting demo and accompanying video of a beautifully lit scene that inspired me to run outside with my camera when I saw it. 🙂

As you can see in the reference photo below, the far tree-line was lit with orangey-gold light, and it contrasted in such a lovely way with the dramatic sky and the darkened foreground…definitely inspiring!

I began my painting with a soft vine charcoal sketch on Pastelmat paper. You can see my thumbnail sketch to the left of my support.

Sketch

 Next I blocked in the major shapes….

Block-in

My palette of colors using a mixture of hard and soft pastels:

 

Here is the final painting!

A Light From Above  6×8 pastel on Pastelmat

Below is the link to my Youtube channel for those of you who would like to watch a video of this painting coming together. I hope you enjoy it as much as I had fun painting it!

 

Thanks for visiting! 

Till next time,
Stay inspired!

~Rhonda 

Pastel Papers: UART vs. Pastelmat

Hello my creative friends!

I have forever been wanting to try a paper that is brand new to me — Clairefontaine’s Pastelmat!
This paper is not brand new to the pastel world, however.  In fact, it has been around for several years.

For more info and colors you can check out pastelmat.com.

The particular paper I purchased was in a pad of 10 sheets with five colors selected by artist Jeremy Ford.
It includes two sheets each of: white, natural sienna, brown, maize, and dark grey, each separated and protected by acid-free crystal paper (glassine, I presume).

However, the paper also comes in anthracite, buttercup, and light grey and can be purchased in pads with different combinations of colors. I bought the Jeremy Ford Pastelmat pad from SAA (the Society of All Artists) at www.saa.co.uk through Amazon for a little over $24.

According to the manufacturer, Pastelmat is a premium card surface (170 lb) coated with cellulose fibers that reduces the need for fixative and holds multiple pastel layers. The packaging on my pad states it is a “smooth cork grain surface.”

The paper is also acid free, lightfast, water resistant (so you can do wet underpaintings), and easy on the fingers and Pan Pastel tools.

Jeremy Ford Pastelmat Pad

 

In my experimentation I found that Pastelmat really holds onto the pastel, even after multiple layers.
Though I rarely use final fixative, I sometimes spray an underlayer of pastel with workable fixative if I find I need more tooth, but this paper did not need it!

I was able to apply multiple layers of pastel—in fact, just as much as I would have applied to my favorite UART 400 sanded paper.

One of the reasons I had not yet tried this paper was because many people recommend this paper for doing detailed drawings with pastel pencils.  Well, I don’t really work with pastel pencils, so I thought this paper wouldn’t be for me.
Boy, was I wrong!! 🙂

I would have to say that I have definitely been missing out by not using this paper, and that it is NOT just for pastel pencil artists.

Below is a direct comparison of a pastel painting I did on white UART 400 paper vs. white Pastelmat paper using the same limited palette.

UART 400

 

 

 

 

Pastelmat

What I Found:

  • The cardstock of the Pastelmat kept the paper from curling more than the UART paper.
    Now, this isn’t a huge deal, I know. I guess it’s one of those things that is more annoying than prohibitive while painting.  After all, I usually tape my paper to my support while painting with any paper, but it was nice that the curling didn’t happen while painting with Pastelmat.
  • The Pastelmat feels ultra-smooth to the touch, but really grabs the pastel.
    In fact, when I first pulled the paper out of its packaging, I felt it and thought, “How in the world is this going to hold onto pastel???”  Well, it does—beautifully!
  • I was able to suggest texture with the Pastelmat paper just like I could with UART paper.
    I realize that perhaps a fairer comparison would have been to look at Pastelmat vs UART 800 (UART’s smoothest grade of paper), however, I wanted to compare the grade of UART I usually use with Pastelmat.
    In both paintings above, you can see the texture that remains in the sandy areas.  The papers helped me achieve that.
  • Blending was possible once I had a few layers on the paper, but I found that I didn’t always want to!
  • This paper allowed me to apply pastel in a more painterly way than I had expected it would.  In other words, detailed, linear work is easily achieved with Pastelmat, but so is painting in a way that suggests with value and relationships between objects rather than directly sketching and then “filling in” a subject.

“A Quiet Dune” on Pastelmat pastel paper

Conclusion:  I will definitely keep this paper in my art cupboard!  It is robust and does everything I need it to do so far.  I will also be looking forward testing how it performs with my style of underpaintings, but that is for the future!
Till next time, stay creative friends! 🙂
~Rhonda