Wednesday, March 17, 2010
thinking about underpaintings: watercolor vs. pastel
This week Richard wrote about pastel as an underpainting (link here). And then, Sam, after reading it, had some questions in my comment section. I have been fortunate to work with Richard for many years. I consider him my mentor. He is a very gracious, generous teacher with a great sense of humor... not to mention all the amazing information he has stored in his head. (WOW) If you can, treat yourself with one of his workshops.
I learned watercolor underpainting from him. Watercolor makes a vibrant surface from which to work. When used loosely, slip and slosh (the Richard way), it makes a perfect underpainting from which a pastel can evolve, little by little as if solving a mystery. Oil works the same way and is great for studio works. The stain it leaves on the paper is even more intense. Drips and wonderful accidents are all part of the process. To underpaint with either watercolor or oil you need to use a sanded paper. Big paintings must be mounted and small ones can be taped done to a board (UArt paper works great for this.) I used that method to create the bottom painting. Pastelmat accepts watercolor and oil beautifully, although I find that the marks made are firmer and harder to blend.
Rives BFK is my new favorite. Smooth, yet lightly porous it's a wonderful all purpose pastel paper. When using it I underpaint by rubbing in large shapes or bands of color with a paper towel. It creates a soft feeling (top painting.)
Other options are putting your pastel on a sanded surface and rubbing it in with a paper towel - some times paper towel bits also remain, which is a minor bummer. Pipe insulation is a great tool for blending pastels on sanded paper. It does the work so your wounded fingers are saved. (try that Sam)
Using alcohol or turpentine to move the pastel over the surface is another option. Once again you need sanded paper. I did try this method long ago. I couldn't get past the idea of making pastel do paint's job...why not use paint? A bias of mine I guess.
Water is a method for moving pastel which I don't like. I think it is clumpy and my bias is still there.
Everyone has his/her preferences and those are mine. If you have a new way to add please let us know.
Happy painting, whichever way you choose!