View Full Version : Absolute newbie--Paper? underpainting?
08-05-2012, 07:11 PM
I am so new to the idea of pastels, being a graphite pencil user. My question--Do you use a pastel paper that has the main colors of your subject? Does every project need an underpainting? And my understanding of a underpainting is laying down a tone of your project. ( I might be wrong on that.) Have bought 5-6 books, but nothing much on this that I can find or else I'd not be bothering anyone with these questions, but just reading and learning!! -g-
And do you work from dark to light? I read somewhere---Dark to light, thin to think, and if forget the rest. I just want to start something the right way, and right now, I'm only guessing. No classes are being offered this time of year where I am, but hopefully...soon.
ps---is using graphite with pastels a no no because graphite has a shine to it that is very obvious?!
08-06-2012, 06:18 AM
Hi and Welcome to the pastel forum! You'll find lots of threads discussing papers and underpainting over in the Talk section...which is where your thread should be...so I'll move it there for you...but I will leave a redirect in the Gallery, in case you can't find it! You'll also find this thread helpful (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=814221).:)
08-06-2012, 09:13 AM
Unfortunately, there are no definitive answers to your questions! Pastel is a very versatile medium and can be worked in many ways.
Only a few paper makers have a wide variety of color (Canson Mi-Teintes, for example). Many other only come in one color (Uart) or just a few. Personally, if I do have a wide choice, I stick to fairly neutral, light and muted color. As a beginner, that's where I would start - light gray, beige, cream, etc. It also depends on how much of your paper you plan on keeping visible. Most pastel paintings are approached as "paintings" rather than drawings and cover the whole paper. You can, of course, use pastel as more of a "drawing" medium, allowing the paper color and value to play a larger role in the painting.
Every painting does not need an underpainting. I didn't use an underpainting for the first 25 years or so of my pastel work and have only begun doing them lately. There is also no exact definition of underpainting. Many people consider an underpainting to be a first layer done in another medium or done using water, alcohol, mineral spirits to wet the first layer of pastel. We did a Spotlight (our monthly activity thread) on Underpainting a few months ago which can be found here:
Other methods of underpainting might just be considered "blocking-in" - making the first layer of pastel a very general depiction of the larger shapes of the painting. Here is a Spotlight that we did on that subject. This includes a few links to other artist's demonstrations of blocking-in strategies.
Please keep in mind that these examples of underpainting and blocking-in are just some of the approaches to starting a pastel. Many people do use a more linear, drawing type approach - starting with a more detailed drawing. This may be what you are used to coming from a graphite background.
Pastels are often done working from dark to light, but you can work light to dark, too. I have probably done as many paintings using each method. In fact, I often start with the middle values and then work dark and light over that. Pastels - especially the softer brands - are very opaque and lights can be layered over darks fairly easily.
Since you don't want to fill in the tooth or texture of the paper right away, it is important to try to stay "thin" with the initial layers. This will allow you to add more layers at the end.
I would avoid using graphite with pastel as I believe the pastel won't stick to the graphite. Not sure about that - hopefully others will chime in.
Hope this helps!
And welcome to our forum!
08-06-2012, 10:52 AM
Advice from another Newbie.....
Don't bite off more than you can chew. I have abandoned my first project of many greens and different plants and a lot of detail. If into landscapes , Start with an impressionistic landscape of two or three mountain ranges in the distance, a tree and some grass. Practice mark making on another paper before putting it on on a project. I love the immediacy of the pastels, but am finding it harder to get the hang of than oil, acrylic or watercolor.
08-06-2012, 11:17 AM
Some good advice already. I just wanted to mention that if you want a colored ground, Colourfix by Art Spectrum is a sanded paper that comes in different colors. The other sanded papers are either white or a neutral beige or cream, as Don stated.
As far as graphite pencil, I've used it on sanded papers as part of the sketch, and it doesn't interfere at all with the pastels. I know Richard McKinley does it as well, that's where I got the idea from. I know if you use graphite on regular pastel paper like Canson it isn't a good idea because the pastel won't 'stick' to the paper. But for some reason on sanded surfaces it works just fine.
With pastels there aren't many 'rules', the medium really lends itself to experimentation. There are some guidelines that are used, like working from dark to light, and starting off with harder pastels and then applying the softer ones later on in the process. As far as underpaintings, it's just another approach that works for many (I love underpaintings). It is not necessary, but I do find that an underpainting gives the artist something to respond to while painting. It gets rid of that big white (or whatever color) space to paint on, and somehow makes things less overwhelming.
The best advice I can give you is to pick a well known pastel artist that you like that has a book, and try to follow along with their approach. You can get the supplies they recommend so that you don't struggle as much. Some good books to consider are:
Painting with Pastels: Easy Techniques to Master the Medium by Maggie Price
Painting Sunlight and Shadows with Pastels: Essential Techniques for Brilliant Effects by Maggie Price
The Pastel Book: Materials and Techniques for Today's Artist by Bill Creevy
Pastel for the Serious Beginner: Basic Lessons in Becoming a Good Painter by Larry Blovits
Pastel Pointers by Richard McKinley
Just pick one to start with, making sure you really like the artist's work. That always helps when trying to figure things out by yourself.
I hope this helps!
08-06-2012, 11:26 AM
graphite does not mix with pastel , it resists pastel .
charcoal pencil and/or willow sticks ( even better ) is the thing to use
if you are used to a lot of outlining ,
and , at the same time , a gray-scale value underpainting can be made on any paper/colour
by pulling away from or lifting off charcoal from very dark areas
with a stump ( traditional ) , q-tip , folded paper towel ,
or anything else you can think of .
->it's shaping and shading quick and easy , no liquid involved ,
and the same method can be used with pastel sticks (they're both dry pigment ) .
Don's points about coloured paper and method are a good summary ,
and the links are good as well .
warning ; pastel can quickly become mesmerizing and addictive . :evil:
08-06-2012, 03:31 PM
I am amazed, completely amazed, that you think pastels are harder than watercolours to master.
Watercolours are REALLY technique-heavy, without good technique, you will struggle to achieve decent results. Mistakes are incredibly hard to correct without making a mess of things and spoiling the painting. Pastels are extremely forgiving by comparison.
You have been given some good advice - although - sorry - please don't think along the lines of a shopping list of 2/3 mountains, a tree and some grass - there is so much more to painting than this. The maxim "keep it simple" might be a better one to use.
My advice is to follow all the other advice you have been given above, and here is something else you need to know, which may prove to be a bit of a life-saver.
Pastels are chalky things, and if you try to build up lots of layers over the top of other layers, in order to correct passages which don't look quite right, you can soon get into trouble because the paper may refuse to accept more pastel.
SO, make sure you have an old stiff brush - a bristle oil painting brush is ideal - and when you do something you are unhappy with, simply BRUSH IT OFF. This will leave a hint of colour on the paper, but this is fine, you can then work happily over the top.
Please also spend some time with a sheet of pastel paper and your pastels, and practice techniques. Use the point (end) of the pastel, use the side of the pastel, vary the pressure of your strokes, try blending, try overpainting with strokes and marks, see how many different kinds of marks you can make, fill a whole sheet with experiments. It is absolutely the best way to make friends with your pastels and find out what they can do. Don't try to paint anything recognisable until after you have done this, a pure mark-making and technique exercise.
there is a little "step by step" on my recent thread about a still life with eggs - cannot remember what the proper title is, but look down the list for my name, you will find the thread and you can have a look and see how I did what I did. I used an underpainting........but none of the ones in my strap line below were done with an initial underpainting......instead, I did a tonal thumbnail sketch. There is something about that on my latest blog post too.
If you can find a copy of my book "Pastels Workshop" or even the 10-project book "Pastels Workbook" in your library, you will find plenty of demos in those.
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