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The Golden Age of Russian Impressionism


 

 

Know Your Art Materials

 

Art Tips | Know Your Art Materials


 

 
1.    Do you lust for the airy and light appearance of a watercolor, but in pastel? You can achieve this effect very easily. Using white paper only, stroke with the broad side of your pastel stick across your paper (break it in half if the stick is too long). Vary the pressure. Use the darkest values first, lightest values last. Apply some of the light values directly onto the white paper and let the paper come through. Try layering complementary colors for beautiful effects.

NOTE: A disadvantage to this method is the tooth of the paper fills up very fast and will not take too many layers as a result.

2.    When looking at the model while rendering a sketch or full portrait, the part you are looking at comes forward. Squinting helps trick our eye so we get the proportions better. Similarly, try looking just off to the side of what you are working on. That would mean working on an ear while looking at the nose.

3.    Ever wonder what to do with all those small pieces of pastel? How about make your own pastels! Begin by collecting them as you work. Inexpensive boxes with small compartments (like a fishing tackle box) work very well. Put all the small pieces of pastel in these compartments, sorting them by color and value (i.e. yellows, browns, reds, etc.). When a section fills up, use a coffee grinder — bought specifically for grinding pastels — to grind together each section (make sure you wear a mask — see safety tips). In a small plastic cup, mix the pastel dust with a few drops of rubbing alcohol to make a paste and roll it into a cigar shape (wearing latex gloves — see safety tips). Lay the stick on a paper towel until the alcohol evaporates. You'll probably have to wait a couple days but afterwards, you will have a new pastel stick! The manufacturer of the pastels has already added the gum to make the pigment stick together. Grinding all the pastel bits together with a mortar and pestle is possible, but requires a lot of elbow grease and strength, whereas the grinder does it in a minute to a fine consistency. This method can also be used to achieve a dark as well (i.e. a dark green can be obtained by using a green and mixing it in the coffee grinder with a bit of black). 

4.    Every pastelist's nightmare — looking down to see the last stick of your favorite pastel on the floor in a thousand pieces! To overcome this 'shattering' experience, get down on your knees and carefully collect every little piece of pastel, including the dust, on a piece of waxed paper. Add a drop of alcohol and roll it into a stick. After a few days, you should be able to use the new stick. It may be somewhat smaller in size but it should be enough to finish the painting!

5.    Scumbling or spreading the pigment. The most frequently used tool to do this is the stump; however, it can take more pigment off than it pushes in. Use a pointed object (it can be a pencil or the tip of a brush handle) wrap a little kneaded eraser around it (actually 'Hold-It' it works better), shape it to a point and work one color at a time. When you want to change color, just knead it to a new clean point.

Paper pointers — every pastelist has their favorite paper. Of course, an acid-free paper is a must to preserve the image and the stability of the pigment on the surface. As artists we owe that to our customers.

Once that issue is taken care of though, it's a matter of tooth, or the actual surface of the paper, we are most concerned with.

If you tend to employ a more painterly approach to the use of pastel, the lightly sanded paper varieties are excellent. Kitty Wallis and Art Spectrum, to name a few, hold more pigment and can take different treatments, such as liquids and sprays.

La Carte, with its beautiful velvet-like surface, holds the pigment well too, but will not suffer any liquids or sprays.

And the Canson and Strathmore series are good papers to work with as well and can tolerate small whispers of sprays. They work really well for vignettes and drawing in pastel.

Another paper is watercolor paper, 300bl arches cold press. This sturdy paper can really take a beating and still comes up looking great. You can start off with watercolor media for the underground painting and finish off with dry pastel on the surface. You can even make big changes right up to the final layer and take advantage of the undercolor when applying the final layer of pastel. A word of warning though - the tooth of the paper is wide and shallow and can support only a few layers of pastel.

1.    If you are planning to use denatured alcohol or water on your paper with dry pigment, make sure the paper is well stapled down on a wood substrate or thick gator board before beginning. The paper will ripple but once dried, the ripples will disappear and the surface will be smooth for the application of dry pigment.

2.    A good magazine is always useful when things slow down or when looking for new ideas, concepts or techniques. When it comes to dry pastel, you may be surprised to learn just how much press your favorite medium is receiving. Here are three rags to add to your 'must-read' list:
•    American Artists Magazine
•    Pastel International Magazine
•    Pastel Journal
Collect these three magazines and you will definitely have an invaluable, and enviable, library of pastel information and inspiration.

2.    There is no "hard and soft" rule when it comes to pastels. So why do we misleadingly refer to them all as 'soft' pastels when it's so obvious that some are harder than others?

The one real difference is softer brands use less binder and therefore contains more pigment.

It all dusts down to a matter of preference. While some artists start with a harder brand and finish with extra soft, others may draw with hard, then apply soft, and finish blending with a harder brand.

Then again, maybe the word 'soft' relates to the light feathery touch you'll need when using a pastel - press too hard and you will watch with dismay as soft pastel stick crumbles into dust! To help you out, here are some brands of varying 'softness' available in Canada today:

Nupastel - very hard
Holbein - hard
Gallery - hard
Winsor Newton - semi-hard
Rembrandt - semi-soft
Rowney - soft
Sennelier - soft
Schmincke - extremely soft

3.    With a little care, pastels can be very portable. If you're taking off to enjoy painting on the trails and want to carry a pack, think small and compact.

A cigar box makes a good-sized container to hold your essential pastel colors. Begin by placing a layer of 1" foam in the bottom to make a soft bed for the sticks. Next, cut a smaller piece of 1" foam to glue on the inside of the lid. This allows the lid to shut tight. Finally, bind the

What about paper you say? Well, cut the number of pieces you'll need, making sure they're all the right size to fit in your pack. Then, cut two pieces of foam core the same size as the pastel paper. Place the paper in between the foam core covers and bind it with elastic. Include 4 small bulldog clips as well.

When you stop to work, place a piece of paper on top of the foam core and secure it with the clips. When you want to start a new work, place the finished one at the bottom of your paper pile inside the foam core covers and secure. The secret is not to let the papers shift and smudge the pastel! You can use only one piece of foam core as long as the stack of pastel paper is wrong side up until you need a piece.

Finally, don't forget a small air cushion to keep your other 'assets' protected from the damp while working, and wet naps for cleaning up. Have fun!

5.    When framing your work, it's best to keep the KISS formula in mind. Even though you may always feel at the mercy of your framer pushing their fancy mats and frames, it's important to remember you are in control!

Artists have to be concerned with the presentation and quality of framing and, of course, the cost. Simple is always best. Heavy, ornate frames may make a decorator statement but they can drown your work. Indeed, the worst thing you can ever hear at an art show is "Nice frame!"

When considering matting, clean white mats with the all-important spacer to let a work in pastel breathe, is key.

You can learn these pointers the hard way through rejection. Jurors, even though the work may be fantastic, will often reject anything with a colored mat. Galleries can find it difficult to hang such works and may also reject over-framed work. Finally, prospective buyers have to be able to imagine the work in their home before committing to purchase it and if the framer's decorator touches are not what they enjoy, it may nix the sale.

Best of all, the cost is often less when quality framing is kept simple but well done. Frames can even be reused for works of similar size, a plus for thrifty artists.

So when framing next time, follow the KISS Formula: Keep it Simply...Simple!

6.    People often ask about the type of paper to use when working with soft pastel. There is a large range available and it is all a matter of preference. A paper that is smooth has little tooth and is very good for drawing in pastel. Painting on this type of paper usually results in a very smooth finish. It only holds a few layers of pastel without using fixatives.

Papers come in a range of colors, although again, it's a matter of preference and intent. A lightly sanded paper holds more pigment. It is very suitable for a more painterly approach. Watercolor papers are also very good, as long as the sizing has been removed. The texture of this paper gives interesting results but it will not hold many layers of pigment. Before you start, know your paper as well as the type of soft pastel you're using.

7.    For most people, including artists, it's only natural to feel bad after making a mistake. Indeed, we learn early in life mistakes are something to be avoided at all costs. For an artist, the fear of making a mistake can be our worst enemy. Accommodate even the smallest insecurity and the familiar white reflection of a fresh piece of paper can become threatening, often with the thought that you don't want to start it as you might ruin it! Well relax. Remember, it is just a piece of paper. Go ahead and enjoy. Painting in any medium is a creative puzzle. It is something to lose yourself in. And if it doesn't turn out, it doesn't matter. You must learn to embrace and own your mistakes. Ask yourself:

'What have I learned from this?'
'How do I fix this?'
'How can I use this information?'

Only an inanimate object can be free of making mistakes. Artists are creative and naturally curious beings. The more mistakes you make in exploration, the more you learn and grow. The only thing to watch out for is not to make the same mistake twice or over and over again. Happy learning!

8.    Site visitors often ask for information regarding a selection of pastels suitable for beginners in soft pastel, either for themselves or for gifts. Pre-set selections on the market rarely fit a beginner's needs. Starting your own kit is cheaper and more convenient as you'll get the colors you want! The following is a very basic starter list of 20 colors. You may add or substitute some colors with those of preference as long as they have the same value. To cut the initial outlay even further, buy half sticks or share with a friend. But be warned - once you start working with soft pastel...your collection will grow and grow!

Dark Colors:
Deep Ultramarine blue, Dark Cobalt blue, two very dark greens (one cold and one warm), dark reddish brown, a dark gold ochre, deep yellow.
Mid Tone colors:
Ultramarine, Cobalt blue, warm yellow, lemon yellow, a warm and a cool red, a warm yellow green and a grass green.
Light Colors:
2 yellows (a warm and a cool), 2 reds (one warm and one cool), ultramarine light.

NOTE: The set can also be used for still life and floral paintings but would need the addition of purples and a larger variety of reds for florals.

9.    Safely storing pastel paintings layered on a shelf or in a large drawer can be a problem, especially when you need to go back through the stack to find a certain piece. A tab with the name, size and other pertinent information can help locate a work without having to sort through every piece. The tab can be either a pH-balanced piece of paper laid over the glassine and allowed to protrude or it can be attached to one edge of the glassine for each painting, much like you would do with a school notebook. Using the thinnest version of pH-balanced foam core board or other non-acid or archival board in the layering process, along with glassine, helps keep the weight of unevenly stacked or slightly different sized paper more evenly distributed. Use interleaving boards that are all the same size and slightly larger than the largest painting paper you are storing. Interleave each piece with glassine and board or use the board every 2, 3 or 4 pieces. (Donna Aldridge)

10.    An alternate method for storing pastel works in progress is to use glassine or tracing paper to cover the pastel. The artwork must be laying flat with the pastel side facing up. Cover the piece with either paper. Use drafting tape (3M, no. 230C) to keep the glassine or tracing paper attached to the pastel work. (Normand Baril)

11.    Try using super-fine, grade 0000 steel wool pads when glass cleaning before framing a pastel. A PAC member tried this tip and it worked beautifully! The glass came out sparkling with very little effort - only the fingerprints needed to be removed with a light glass cleaner. This method works especially well on the icky, filmy residue often found on your glass!

12.    Tired of dry skin, breaking nails or sweaty hands in gloves? A member found "Artguard Barrier Cream by Winsor & Newton". It's perfect! Just put it on before you touch a pastel stick.

13.    Value painting is very important for pastel painters because pastels can easily get muddy and gray. If you have trouble understanding values, simply Xerox your painting, or scan/photograph your work in black and white. The result will show if you have lost your dark colors (and your punch). It will also indicate if you have distributed your dark and light colors properly to make an interesting painting.

14.    Coming from watercolor? In watercolor you work from light to dark, but in pastel, you are building from dark to light. If you have trouble reversing your thinking, try applying your light color areas first and 'save' empty spaces for your dark colors. However, you must make all your decisions from the start because once you have applied light colors, you cannot go over it with a darker value without risking the clarity of your colors.

1.    Paper pointers — every pastelist has their favorite paper. Of course, an acid-free paper is a must to preserve the image and the stability of the pigment on the surface. As artists we owe that to our customers.
Once that issue is taken care of though, it's a matter of tooth, or the actual surface of the paper, we are most concerned with.
If you tend to employ a more painterly approach to the use of pastel, the lightly sanded paper varieties are excellent. Kitty Wallis and Art Spectrum, to name a few, hold more pigment and can take different treatments, such as liquids and sprays.
La Carte, with its beautiful velvet-like surface, holds the pigment well too, but will not suffer any liquids or sprays.
And the Canson and Strathmore series are good papers to work with as well and can tolerate small whispers of sprays. They work really well for vignettes and drawing in pastel.
Another paper is watercolor paper, 300bl arches cold press. This sturdy paper can really take a beating and still comes up looking great. You can start off with watercolor media for the underground painting and finish off with dry pastel on the surface. You can even make big changes right up to the final layer and take advantage of the undercolour when applying the final layer of pastel. A word of warning though - the tooth of the paper is wide and shallow and can support only a few layers of pastel.

2.    If you are planning to use denatured alcohol or water on your paper with dry pigment, make sure the paper is well stapled down on a wood substrate or thick gator board before beginning. The paper will ripple but once dried, the ripples will disappear and the surface will be smooth for the application of dry pigment.

3.    A good magazine is always useful when things slow down or when looking for new ideas, concepts or techniques. When it comes to dry pastel, you may be surprised to learn just how much press your favorite medium is receiving. Here are three rags to add to your 'must-read' list:

1. American Artists Magazine

2. Pastel International Magazine

3. Pastel Journal
Collect these three magazines and you will definitely have an invaluable, and enviable, library of pastel information and inspiration.

4.    There is no "hard and soft" rule when it comes to pastels. So why do we misleadingly refer to them all as 'soft' pastels when it's so obvious that some are harder than others?
The one real difference is softer brands use less binder and therefore contains more pigment.
It all dusts down to a matter of preference. While some artists start with a harder brand and finish with extra soft, others may draw with hard, then apply soft, and finish blending with a harder brand.
Then again, maybe the word 'soft' relates to the light feathery touch you'll need when using a pastel - press too hard and you will watch with dismay as soft pastel stick crumbles into dust! To help you out, here are some brands of varying 'softness' available in Canada today:
Nupastel - very hard
Holbein - hard
Gallery - hard
Winsor Newton - semi-hard
Rembrandt - semi-soft
Rowney - soft
Sennelier - soft
Schmincke - extremely soft

5.    With a little care, pastels can be very portable. If you're taking off to enjoy painting on the trails and want to carry a pack, think small and compact.
A cigar box makes a good-sized container to hold your essential pastel colors. Begin by placing a layer of 1" foam in the bottom to make a soft bed for the sticks. Next, cut a smaller piece of 1" foam to glue on the inside of the lid. This allows the lid to shut tight. Finally, bind the box with strong elastic.
What about paper you say? Well, cut the number of pieces you'll need, making sure they're all the right size to fit in your pack. Then, cut two pieces of foam core the same size as the pastel paper. Place the paper in between the foam core covers and bind it with elastic. Include 4 small bulldog clips as well.
When you stop to work, place a piece of paper on top of the foam core and secure it with the clips. When you want to start a new work, place the finished one at the bottom of your paper pile inside the foam core covers and secure. The secret is not to let the papers shift and smudge the pastel! You can use only one piece of foam core as long as the stack of pastel paper is wrong side up until you need a piece.
Finally, don't forget a small air cushion to keep your other 'assets' protected from the damp while working, and wet naps for cleaning up. Have fun!


 















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