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

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

“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

Experiment: Underpainting with Pan Pastels

Hello fellow creatives!  I know it has been a while since my last post, but I am still here. 🙂 

I haven’t had as much time at my easel lately as I have been pursuing another of my creative passions—music!  However, I recently completed a painting in which I experimented using PanPastels as my underpainting.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with PanPastels, they are ultra soft pastels that come in a cake-like form. Containing very little filler or binder, they are blendable, erasable, and produce very little dust, making them an excellent option for people who have respiratory issues or other sensitivities.
(Note: I would still be careful with the application of these pastels if a severe reaction is possible.)

For more information on PanPastels, visit http://www.panpastel.com/

For this experiment, I used a more basic set which has 8 colors plus black and white:

In the image above, you can also see the soft pastel stick palette I chose for this experiment.
I used these on top of the PanPastel underpainting and they played very nicely with each other. 😉
You can also see some of the sponge tools I used to apply the PanPastels to my paper.

Speaking of which, you can use pretty much any kind of paper with PanPastels.
For the underpainting below, I used a piece of Pastelmat, which is very easy on the sponge tools.
In the past I have used sanded papers with PanPastels; however, I do not recommend it as it can quickly destroy the applicators!

Here is the completed underpainting using only the PanPastels colors in the basic set:

I actually quite liked the bold colors I was forced to use since my palette was limited!

And here is the final piece with soft stick pastels applied over the PanPastels:

My Thoughts….

As an artist, I am always pushing myself to try new things.
I think that this experiment was meaningful in that it forced me to learn how to apply pastel in a different way—more like painting with a paintbrush. 

I’ll be honest, I probably would not use these pastels on a regular basis; however, if I had large swaths to cover in a loose way, Pans might be an option I reach for.

I personally don’t like to have any sort of application tool between me and my pastels.  
That’s probably why I haven’t gotten into painting more than I have and why I like the immediacy of pastel sticks over pastel pencils.  But hey, that could change!

So give it a go! If you don’t like the dust that sticks can create, or don’t like getting your fingers dirty, these might be just the ticket!

Till next time,

Stay creative friends!

~Rhonda

Pastel Painting Demo: Country View

Hi creative friends!

Today I am bringing you a pastel painting demo for a recent painting I did.
I have included a few progress shots, as well as the video.
(Click on the photo above.)

UArt 400 and the thumbnail

Below you can see the underpainting I did using hard pastels.
I chose rosy hues in four values, and then I smudged these into the tooth of the paper using a piece of foam pipe insulation. 
This lets me start with an unfocused, dreamy quality. 

Underpainting

 

About midway through the painting…

Here is the finished painting. You can see little bits of the rosy underpainting peaking through..

Country View, 4 3/4 x 12

I hope you enjoyed this latest post and video.

If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel—just click on the sidebar arrow on the right near the top of this page.

Thanks for reading….And stay creative!

~Rhonda

 

Toning Paper with Acrylic Paint for Pastel Painting

Hello fellow artists and friends!

In today’s post, I wanted to share my most recent pastel painting video, as well as a peek at the underpainting I used for the painting.

You can click on the photo above to watch the painting demo.

I like to paint on toned paper, but the sanded papers that I like to use do not come in very imaginative colors.
So, time to create my own! 

For this painting, I decided to try toning some Fisher 400, Uart 400, and Pastel Premier papers using Golden acrylic paint in Quinacradone Magenta. 

Untoned sanded papers

 I thinned the paint with water and applied it on each of the papers using a wide brush.

Each paper took on a slightly different tone.

The painting in the video was done on the Fisher 400 paper. 

Here is the painting at the end of the video.
You can see the magenta of the toned paper peeking through….

Violet Sunset

Many thanks to artist Susan Jenkins for sharing the reference photo shown in the video!

I hope you all enjoyed this post.

Till next time,

Stay creative!

Rhonda

 

Pastel Experiment: Oil Stain Underpainting!

Hello again my creative friends!

The weather hasn’t been very nice here lately, and I’ve been feeling a bit cooped up. When I feel cooped up, I get a little restless and bored. And when I become restless and bored, I get the urge to shake things up, artistically speaking.  🙂

So….guess what has been flying around my studio recently? 

OIL PAINT!!!

Yes, indeed. I decided to do some experimenting with oil stain underpainting using oil paints, of course, as well as odorless mineral spirits. 

Now I have done many underpaintings using watercolor, pastels washed in with rubbing alcohol, and even acrylic inks, but I have never used oils in an underpainting.

Why? Well, I had a bias in my mind that oil paints were just generally stinky, messy, and difficult to work with.

HAPPILY, I WAS WRONG!!!

To that end, I gathered my supplies: primary colors of oil paint (yellow, blue, and red), an old bristle brush, Gamblin’s Gamsol (odorless mineral spirits), a jar, a cheap plastic palette, and a paper towel.

 

 

To make my experiment even more meaningful, I decided I also wanted to see how the oil stain would react with some of the more popular sanded pastel papers that I like to use.

So I hinge-mounted my chosen pastel papers to some foam core on my upright easel.

For this experiment I decided to try out the following papers:
Pastel Premier, Uart 400, and Fisher 400.

(Tip: Some papers like Sennelier’s Lacarte will absolutely NOT work well with any kind of wet underpainting, so do a test on a small scrap if you are unsure how a paper might respond!)

Top: Pastel Premier and Uart 400; Bottom: Fisher 400 and Pastel Premier

Then, using vine charcoal, I sketched some simple scenes onto the papers.

For the actual underpainting, I loosely applied a thin mixture of oil paint, thinning the paint liberally with the mineral spirits to the consistency of tea. Keeping the mixture thin is important.
If the mixture is too thick, it will decrease the “tooth” available on the paper and not allow it to grab the pastel when I apply it in the future.

THE RESULTS!

First of all, the paper made a HUGE DIFFERENCE in how the final underpainting looked.

Specifically, the Pastel Premier paper allowed all these really cool spider-webby effects to happen (see the upper left and bottom right in the photo above).

Here is a close-up of what I mean….Isn’t that cooooool???!!!

Close-up of spider webbing on Pastel Premier sanded paper

 

I was also pleasantly surprised at the effects I achieved with the Fisher 400 paper. I would describe the drips and webbing as finer and less dramatic than those on the Pastel Premier paper, but still neat! 

Here is a closer look:

Oil stain on Fisher 400

 

But the biggest surprise and disappointment….my beloved UART paper!

I actually became frustrated at how the paper accepted the oil staining…. I can only describe it as very “fuzzy”.
No wonderful drips or webbing like on the other two papers.

However, if I was looking for a very soft, diffuse-focused underpainting, oil stain on UART would be my go-to.
Take a look:

Oil stain on UART 400

 

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the Pastel Premier vs. UART.
The difference is dramatic!

Same oil stain mixture applied to Pastel Premier (left) and UART 400 (right)

 

The whole point of an doing an underpainting is to provide a head start on the actual painting. It gives the artist something to respond to that isn’t “precious” and also helps get past all that pristine paper.

With that in mind, in my next post I will share how I used one of the underpaintings above as a foundation for a pastel painting. 

Thanks for visiting and taking the time to read about my artistic adventures. I hope you enjoyed seeing my little experiment and would love to know what your favorite underpainting technique is.

Till next time!

~Rhonda

Pastel Painting: “Winter Drive”

Hello all!  Welcome visitors and artistic beings 🙂

I took a little break from the Pastel ColorPlay posts to put my growing color confidence to use in my newest pastel painting.

Today, I would like to share with you the process I used for this painting, and the discoveries I made along the way….

So onto the post!

 

THE REFERENCE

This is my own reference of a scene near my home.  I was drawn by the interplay of sunlight and shadow.  The limitations of the camera lens didn’t pick up the true values and colors I saw with my own eyes, but I actually found that to be helpful when setting my imagination loose to choose and apply color!


SKETCHING-IN 

Using an HB pencil, I lightly sketched out my scene on a white 6×8 piece of sanded paper (Pastel Premier).


UNDERPAINTING

I knew I wanted to apply an underpainting to help me deal with all that WHITE, but I wanted to try something new.  I decided to experiment with some acrylic inks that I have had for a while but haven’t had time to play with.

I also knew I wanted to play up the shadow areas, as well as the darker valued areas like the tree trunks, so I chose three ink colors: purple lake, raw sienna, and sepia.  The inks I used are FW (Daler Rowney) Acrylic Artists Inks and can be bought at most craft stores. (The link is for the primary set.)

These inks can be used straight or thinned just like watercolors, but are permanent once dry.   

The only caveat I should mention is that if you put them on too heavily, they might make spots of your paper a bit slick (less toothy to grab pastel).  I did not have that problem for this painting, however.


INITIAL BLOCKING-IN

 

DEVELOPING TREES & ADDING SKY & SHADOWS

 

DEVELOPING THE FOREGROUND

 

After signing the painting, and letting it sit for a day or two on my easel, I decided it needed one more thing….
Can you tell what I did?

 

THE FINISHED PAINTING

“Winter Drive” 6×8 pastel on sanded paper

 

Thanks for stopping by to visit and taking the time to read about my artistic adventures.  
I hope you enjoy these types of posts and find them helpful.

If you do, please feel free to leave a comment or ask any questions you may have!

Till next time, take care and stay creative!

~Rhonda