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Tamlyn
10-01-2013, 02:36 PM
Hi all,
I'm working on increasing my skills as an artist in general and pastels in particular. I am starting to incorporate more plein air time as I practice and develop my eye for composition and design.

Do any of you use gouache or water colors for your plein air sketches/studies as opposed to hauling out the pastels? Do you think that gouache would be a better choice for a medium to use for a sketch/study that will be taken back to the studio and used for a pastel painting?

I am building my plein air pastel kit but there's a lot of stuff to haul out to a site and I never seem to find what I want to paint by the road. (I'm always hiking a ways away from the car.) I just thought that gouache or water colors would be easier haul and more spontaneously available. Plus I have a level of comfort with watercolor.

What are your thoughts? Deborah I have seen that you are painting with gouache too, do you ever use it for the under painting in a pastel?

Thanks for any input,
Tamlyn

PS - I do pencil sketches and use a camera but sometimes I want to explore color too.

Davkin
10-01-2013, 02:44 PM
I've found gouache difficult to handle and also very expensive considering the tubes are the same size and price as watercolor tubes yet they don't go much farther than oil paint. I often do little pen and watercolor sketches to use for study and reference, everything I need fits in a small backpack, including a stool.

David

robertsloan2
10-01-2013, 03:23 PM
Pan gouache might be a solution. I used to have a 24 color set of pan gouache that I got from Blick, but I think it didn't make it here in the move. I haven't seen it since I moved. It was very convenient for outdoor painting and like any pans set works well with watercolors. I might replace it. Blick still has the Pelikan 12 and 24 color sets of pan gouache.

These are very large round pans. They're in a somewhat large box but with a waterbrush they work well for outdoor painting, especially in journals. There's also a student grade version by Morocolor that Blick has, if you really think of your gouache sketches as ephemeral or in journals, lightfastness doesn't matter as much. I bought the Morocolor product a couple of times as children's gifts and it's decent paint, but the pans are not as generous as the Pelikan pans.

Since I don't have that here, most often when I'm outside I rely on the contents of my khaki vest of many pockets. I've got a W&N Artist's Field Box in it with two extra half pans tucked in, also a little 8 color Richeson keychain watercolor palette that's only the size of my Zippo and seriously handy with a waterbrush. A handful of colored pencils, sketch pencils, charcoal pencil, assorted pens and stuff fills some of the pockets too along with a pocket Moleskine watercolor journal. I've also always got a 12 color Color Conte set in one of the pockets if I want to do pastels studies, sometimes a 12 color Neopastels oil pastels set in the other pocket. Contents rotate among various small sets and little journals but the watercolor sets, waterbrush and Conte set are permanent.

If I'm using the walker or planning to be somewhere scenic, I'll also bring a 9" x 12" pad and a set of pastels or oil pastels. 48 Mungyo squares seem to be really good for doing outdoor studies, medium-firm texture on Bogus brown paper. Or I'll bring Pan Pastels for it.

I pulled the 10 Painters Colors out of my full range set of Pan Pastels to use them as a field set. At first I did that to test the idea that 10 Painters would be enough to start with, then I started getting used to it and stopped trying to bring the full range with me. Pan Pastels are another really good choice for outdoor painting, they mix like paint and I don't need to bring as many colors. Sometimes I use the 10 color tray, sometimes just screw the stack together with a couple of sponge containers and toss that in a jacket pocket. Depends on how much stuff I'm carrying.

I can see Deborah Secor's point that gouache comes out very similar to pastels, why that'd be a good choice for color studies. If so, I seriously recommend one of the pan gouache sets because that helps solve the problem of trying to handle tubes in the field. That's the only inconvenience with gouache, handling the tubes, but a pan set with a waterbrush is the handy way to do it.

I've also started using watersoluble colored pencils or sticks a lot for outdoor sketching, with waterbrush. It's fast, bold, I can mix colors easily and it has the advantages of both.

Then again, just using a dozen or two hard pastels will work. I've seen folks use Altoids tins and fill them with broken hard pastels, a variety of colors, much more than the 12 brights that I've got in my Conte set. I'm considering doing that with a tin, put a bit of foam in the bottom and just get in as many hard pastel pieces as I can layer on it.

I miss my 48 Color Conte all the time. That was my top favorite outdoor sketch set, its durable heavy plastic box and small size were fantastic. That and any bound journal were enough no matter where I went back when I was in other states, it just didn't get into the boxes when I moved.

allydoodle
10-01-2013, 03:36 PM
I admit I do drag out the sticks when I plein air, but it really is a lot of work. I have a friend that does watercolor, and it's soooo much easier.... I am way more comfortable with pastels, which is why I've avoided watercolor and gouache. Sometimes gouache feels like a liquid pastel to me, if that makes any sense. It is expensive, though I do believe DaVinci makes a decent quality gouache and it comes in really big tubes. Ralph Parker swears by it, and he is a gouache painter, and a good one at that.

I guess if you are more comfortable with the water media, then by all means go for it. There is nothing worse than plein air painting and being uncomfortable with your supplies. You can always translate what you've painted into a pastel, you will remember what you've seen and painted.

You could also use watercolor and gouache for underpaintings in pastel paintings, so it could make perfect sense.

Davkin
10-01-2013, 04:06 PM
Another option is to use a limited pastel palette. I have a pastel setup that fits in my backpack. I made a box that's about 11x14 out of foam board and duct tape and lined it with foam. I put a many of 1/3 stick sizes of my Rembrandts, Polychromos and Mount Visions as I could in it and don't really find myself lacking for color much. I just set the box on a stool or on the ground. I mount my paper to foam board so I just hold that in my lap, no easel or tripod/pochade required. All this fits in a small backpack with room to spare.

David

Colorix
10-01-2013, 04:31 PM
No need to haul everything pastel out there. I used this equipment

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Oct-2013/117343-Travel-set.jpg

when painting in Monet's garden this summer. The small box is meant to hold 6 Unisons (the turquoise set, btw), and I put lots of thin Giraults in it. It fits in my palm. I also had a small sketching pad with pastel papers interleaved in it. It was a short trip, so I only took about 4 pastel papers, slightly smaller than 9x12". I like to travel light. I also need either an easel or somewhere to sit.

But, I do not aim for finished paintings outdoors. I make sketches during one or two hours.

Davkin
10-01-2013, 04:33 PM
Charlie is even more of a minimalist than me. :D


David

Tamlyn
10-01-2013, 04:38 PM
Thank you for the ideas.

Robert the pan gouaches that you mentioned might be just the ticket. I'll be looking into them . I tried pastel pencils for a while but they don't survive the banging around that can happen when I'm hiking (they tend to crumble as you sharpen them). The watercolor pencils might be sturdier. I've never really used gouache but thought is might be a good companion for pastels.

David - That's what I have too; a small kit that has about 24 water colors squeezed out in pans, brushes, various ink pens, pencils and charcoal. So I can so value and color studies. I'm trying to keep it in the car so that when I have some spare time or see something that interests me I can act on it immediately.

Chris - Yes it is a lot of work to put it all together and then get it somewhere. I love love love pastels and want to improve with them but I feel more confident and comfortable using them in my studio, where they're safe and all the colors are available..

I recently bought a pastel box for traveling, the "small" traveler from dakota arts. It's great but it's now full of pastels and weighs at least 15lbs or more. :rolleyes: Ha, I need to pare it down some.

-Tamlyn

Tamlyn
10-01-2013, 04:45 PM
Charlie that's great. I admire your restraint. :) You bring up another concern I've had, how to you keep your finished pastels from getting smeared? Do you use fixative or secure them somehow with glassine paper?

Colorix
10-01-2013, 04:50 PM
Tamlyn, if you're more used to wet media, that may be better for you. But pastels are very well suited for PA work. Monet used to carry a small box and pad of paper in his pocket, just in case he came across a scene when he was taking a walk.

Dave, it is nice if the whole thing fits in a pocket! And I "lied", I had no pad but brought my paper between foamboard, to make it even more lightweight.

It was kind of fun to see how I'd do with minimalism, and balance it so it would be a convenient number of sticks. I only felt the lack of a darker green. 12 sticks is too few to be convenient, and 5 takes *way* too much work (R, Y, B + B,W).

Davkin
10-01-2013, 04:59 PM
Charlie that's great. I admire your restraint. :) You bring up another concern I've had, how to you keep your finished pastels from getting smeared? Do you use fixative or secure them somehow with glassine paper?

I use glassine or tracing paper. I'll either tape the glassine on temporarily with blue painter's tape or if I'm carrying two of my foam board mounted pieces I'll just face them to each other, (with glassine sandwiched between)and use a rubber band to hold them together. Binder clips work as well.

David

Colorix
10-01-2013, 05:22 PM
Tamlyn, I use either a sandpaper similar to Uart 400, or Pastelmat, and the dust stick so well to those. I simply stack the papers between foamcore and clamp it shut with bulldog clamps. (I use the clamps for a pad of paper too.)

Pastels handle pressure very well, so the trick is to see to it that they can't move 'sideways' as that might smear them. Those sketches I mention above first traveled by car from Paris to Brussels, and were then put in my suitcase for flying home. They arrived in perfect condition. And we all know how suitcases are treated at airports... Bang, crash, slam.

I did put the foamcore with the sketches in a plastic bag, to protect them from condensation in the cargo hold.

Studio-1-F
10-01-2013, 05:48 PM
Another option is to use a limited pastel palette. I have a pastel setup that fits in my backpack. I made a box that's about 11x14 out of foam board and duct tape and lined it with foam. I put a many of 1/3 stick sizes of my Rembrandts, Polychromos and Mount Visions as I could in it and don't really find myself lacking for color much. I just set the box on a stool or on the ground. I mount my paper to foam board so I just hold that in my lap, no easel or tripod/pochade required. All this fits in a small backpack with room to spare.
David
I agree with David and Charlie! It's definitely doable. If you want to increase your skill with pastels, it makes sense to use them at every opportunity. Options include smaller sets of regular pastels, bigger sets of smaller pastels (such as Polychromos or Girault), a set of pastel pencils, or a mixture of all three. You can also make up a little spray bottle of SpectraFix fixative. Easy!

It's not so much about having the exact precise right color stick when working plein air, but more about getting the reative temperatures and values right.

But most importantly == have fun! If you love your pastels, find a way to haul some of 'em out to play! :thumbsup:

Jan

Davkin
10-01-2013, 06:20 PM
I've been drooling over the Heilman sketchbox double ever since it came out, hope to buy one someday. If you have the money it appears to be a good option, but then you also need a good tripod and their easel.

http://heilmandesigns.com/?product=heilman-sketchbox-double

That setup could be assembled into a fairly lightweight and compact unit.

David

Davkin
10-01-2013, 10:14 PM
I did a pastel plein air today so I took a photo of my box;

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Oct-2013/201970-pastel_box.jpg

I had this sitting on a folding stool. I had my paper taped to a board and sitting on an easel today because I was just at the park, but I have hiked miles with this box in a backpack, I think it only weighs about four lbs fully loaded. I just hold the work in my lap inside the box lid if I'm not using an easel. The folding stool also fits in the backpack so when hiking I sit on it and just set the box on the ground or a convenient rock.

David

Studio-1-F
10-01-2013, 10:14 PM
I've been drooling over the Heilman sketchbox double ever since it came out, hope to buy one someday. If you have the money it appears to be a good option, but then you also need a good tripod and their easel.

http://heilmandesigns.com/?product=heilman-sketchbox-double

That setup could be assembled into a fairly lightweight and compact unit.

David
The Double is indeed excellent. More on it and other compact alternatives for plein air are here in this WC thread : http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1312096

I use mine with an Easel Butler. I have found the Heilman easel contraption too wobbly. Just me. But you're right. A good tripod is a must.

Jan

robertsloan2
10-02-2013, 03:04 AM
Tamlyn, if you're more used to wet media, that may be better for you. But pastels are very well suited for PA work. Monet used to carry a small box and pad of paper in his pocket, just in case he came across a scene when he was taking a walk.

Dave, it is nice if the whole thing fits in a pocket! And I "lied", I had no pad but brought my paper between foamboard, to make it even more lightweight.

It was kind of fun to see how I'd do with minimalism, and balance it so it would be a convenient number of sticks. I only felt the lack of a darker green. 12 sticks is too few to be convenient, and 5 takes *way* too much work (R, Y, B + B,W).

Oh duh!

Charlie, thank you! You're right of course. I have a 24 color set of color Conte too. I also broke most of them to use on their sides. If I put half sticks of all 24 colors together in the 12 color box, it will still fit in my pocket but I'll have the full 24 color set that's much more convenient. I can work more comfortably with the 24 than the 12 but its size means it's not pocket contents, so it has to go in the basket or the walker.

When I do replace the 48 color set, I might just empty out the other 12 color box for the "sketching" ones and put the other 24 colors into that. Then put one in each pocket and I'm good to go with the full range. Conte are smaller than the other hard pastels and their boxes are so good.

I love your little bitty kit and know what glorious small paintings you've produced with it before, they are so incredible. That's what I aim for when I go out with pastels, even if I bring more than just the Conte.

robertsloan2
10-02-2013, 03:19 AM
David, your box rocks. A folding stool would be better for me than an easel tripod sort of thing because it's a better height for sitting down, which I'd have to do. My power scooter makes it awkward to carry a drawing board, but, if I prop one on my legs and lean it against the handle it is just right like an easel horse. I just need to figure out how to rig some kind of drawing board carrier on the back of the seat instead of trying to carry it tucked in over my feet awkwardly.

I love your generous plein air kit. That's a lot of colors!

Tamlyn, the nice thing about the pan gouache is that it also works great for an underpainting. I would seriously suggest packing a water brush or two with it, they are much more convenient with pans sets than regular brushes and trying to juggle a water cup somewhere. Swish swipe on a rag or paper towel or leftover napkin from lunch and it's clean to change colors or put it away.

What I need to do is take some foam core and make up some small boards with pieces of good sanded paper and tracing paper over them, just make up several and put them into a bag or the little plastic kid's folder portfolio thing - it's like a plastic version of a red wallet portfolio but sized for letter size or 9 x 12" which means that if I put 5 x 7" in it I could put two stacks.

That's about as big as I want to work outdoors anyway unless it's on a pad. And if I prepare the sanded paper first then I'll have really good paper for small plein airs. I've been doing a lot with unsanded papers just because they're in pads and easy to carry.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Oct-2013/70184-Paper_portfolio_blue.JPG

This is the paper portfolio that I like to use when going out if I bring loose paper. It does hold 9" x 12" paper - I just checked what was in it and some 9" x 12" oil pastel sketches were in it and not trimmed or crushed.

It was a dollar store find, school supplies sort of thing, but it is plastic and has stood up to a rainy day a couple of times without losing what was inside. Not an actual monsoon like I used to get in New Orleans rainy day, but a normal San Francisco rain. Because it is about an inch thick or more when expanded, a flat set of pastels or pastels box might fit inside it, like the 48 color Conte box, or a tin with hard pastels sort of thing. But I would tape the tin if it's a tin or a colored pencils tin repurposed to hard pastels by replacing the styrene with a thin foam layer.

Tamlyn, the other thing that would work very well for underpainting is watersoluble wax crayons or oil pastels, if you're using them as if they were pans and don't go so thick it fills all the tooth. I have Derwent ArtBars and they are the same as watersoluble colored pencils for underpainting - a light scribble and then scrub with a waterbrush just gives a more opaque underpainting than if it was in transparent watercolor. Cretacolor AquaStix are sort of like that, but really don't go too heavy for them or they'll fill tooth - a light scribble and wash, or drag the water brush over the crayon to get color onto it. Both will give opaque colors like gouache.

Though those pan gouaches stay opaque even when very thin and they're a great underpainting solution too. I just like to try different things, that's some of what I enjoy is switching around my supplies and not always using the same favorites.

I have sometimes used limited palettes to switch brands of pastels too, especially if I have something like a small set box to put them in. I have some assorted Terry Ludwigs and could take those with me if I broke them to double the colors in one of the boxes.

Last: pastel pencils do not leave my home without a leather jacket or their tin being taped. I had the 72 color set of Cretacolor ones in an expensive but worth it Global Classic leather case, it was just under $30 to get the case I think. But it saved my ever having to buy replacements due to internal breakage.

Watersoluble colored pencils are a little less vulnerable to internal breakage and are fine in a canvas roll-up, but beware the tins they come in - some tins are better than others, but many will let the pencils bang around and fall down into each other cracking the cores. Roll-ups and leather or nylon pencil cases with elastic bands are much safer for any kind of soft-core pencils and pay for themselves in replacement pencils you don't need to buy.

Pastel pencils are nearly as delicate as the Prismacolor pencils that I've been addicted to since age 16. But my Prismacolor Watercolor pencils have now banged around for several weeks in a canvas roll-up from Blick that was cheap and is very effective. The elastic bands keep them from hitting each other and the rolled up canvas holder is something I take care not to drop. So I am thinking of getting a couple of canvas roll-ups for my Stabilo pastel pencils, since those are so good for working small.

jackiesimmonds
10-02-2013, 04:09 AM
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Oct-2013/1805-flags_and_rain_venice.jpg Flags and Rain, Venice.

I used to travel a lot, and many of my works done on the spot were done with a small W&N watercolour travel box, and just one tube of white gouache! Using the white gouache meant that all the watercolour colours could become opaque, so my little travelling box became an opaque watercolour set - which is essentially what gouache is, opaque watercolour! This works particularly well on a tinted paper, so a pad of tinted pastel paper was useful.
I love to prepare small studies with this little kit, and I picked up the idea from travelling many years ago with a group of very successful pro painters, (Robert King) one of whom filled an entire sketchbook in this way, and on his return, he even used those sketches - he framed and sold them! I did exactly that with one of mine at my recent Open Studios, everyone loves the freshness of sketches. An old friend of mine, David Mynett, also works with opaque watercolour on a tinted ground: http://www.numberninethegallery.com/index_numbernine.php?image=davidmynett_237
tho it is possible he used other gouache tubes too. But if you want to keep your kit lightweight, truly all you need is a watercolour paintbox, and a tube (or two) of gouache.

I also use these materials for underpainting too.

I reccommend this approach highly.

Tamlyn
10-02-2013, 01:42 PM
I did a pastel plein air today so I took a photo of my box;

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Oct-2013/201970-pastel_box.jpg

I had this sitting on a folding stool. I had my paper taped to a board and sitting on an easel today because I was just at the park, but I have hiked miles with this box in a backpack, I think it only weighs about four lbs fully loaded. I just hold the work in my lap inside the box lid if I'm not using an easel. The folding stool also fits in the backpack so when hiking I sit on it and just set the box on the ground or a convenient rock.

David

This looks very interesting. Since we come from similar areas I bet we do similar trekking. What is this box? Is it setting in it's lid?
I have some old vintage cigar boxes that I have been thinking of modifying for a small PA kit, but my husband keeps telling me they are worth too much to a collector to modify...but...they are just sitting there collecting dust.

-Tamlyn

Davkin
10-02-2013, 01:48 PM
Yes, the box is sitting in it's lid. When I paint without an easel I hold the lid in my lap and hold the board and the pastels I've used in the lid, that keeps the dust from getting all over my shorts. :)

I made the box out of foam board, I just hot glued all the pieces together, then I covered it all with duct tape to strengthen it and make it somewhat water resistant. I hold the lid on with big rubber bands. That box has travel quite a few miles in a backpack and is holding up great.

I made a small pochade for painting plein air with acrylic out of a cigar box that I bought for 25 cents at a yard sale.

David

Tamlyn
10-02-2013, 02:36 PM
All of your replies have been very helpful to me and I hope others who stumble upon this thread will find it useful too.
The great thing about WC is that you can learn so much from other people's experiences. Which is way cheaper than learning from your own experience. :)
Seriously though, I really appreciate how generous this group is in taking the time to share you knowledge and experience with someone who is just getting started.

One of The heilman boxes is definitely on my list. When I get more confident in being able to do a plein air painting, start to finish, I will be looking into that option and saving up for it.

Right now I take so long on one painting that it is better if I can do several quick field sketches/studies and then bring those plus photos back to do my final piece. Thank you Jackie for your encouraging comments and beautiful painting.

Robert -- you said something that rings true for me too. Which is that I like to try new things so I think I will explore some of the options you mentioned. BTW, both Ralph Parker (who Chris mentioned) and Deborah Secor say that since gouache is rewettable/re-workable that you can just squeeze some into a pan and use it like watercolor. I guess some brands are more workable or better at rewetting than others, specifically M. Graham and Schmincke Gouache. Here's the link to a thread about that http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-1217842.html. So I could build my own palette of colors I like to use.
They don't have quite the same creamy consistency as out of the tube but since I'm just doing studies and sketches I believe it would be a fine alternative or to intermix with my watercolors as Jackie pointed out.

Looking forward to more comments on this thread!
Tamlyn

robertsloan2
10-04-2013, 11:19 PM
Jackie, thanks for posting that study! It's so tempting now to stick a white gouache tube in my pocket one of the times I go out to the hospital garden, that's just gorgeous - a nice balance between gouache and watercolor. I've always got the watercolors on me and yep, all the colors would be opaque with just a bit of gouache.

Tamlyn, yeah, you're right. I could test that with some of my gouache and see how rewettable it is. Won't work with acrylic gouache but the regular kind it might.

Davkin
10-05-2013, 01:44 AM
I've tried both Talens and Holbien brand gouache and found re-wetting them to not be very effective, but maybe I'm expecting too much. Another problem I had with them is when I tried to make my own "pans" as I have with the Holbein watercolor they would crack and not stay stuck to the palette so I'd end up with bits of dried gouache all over inside my little folding palette. The Pelikans are designed to be pans from the start so they may work better but I didn't buy them because they are considered student grade paint. My search at the time, (about a year or so ago.) didn't turn up any artist grade gouache pans.

David

Tamlyn
10-05-2013, 11:55 AM
I've tried both Talens and Holbien brand gouache and found re-wetting them to not be very effective, but maybe I'm expecting too much. Another problem I had with them is when I tried to make my own "pans" as I have with the Holbein watercolor they would crack and not stay stuck to the palette so I'd end up with bits of dried gouache all over inside my little folding palette. The Pelikans are designed to be pans from the start so they may work better but I didn't buy them because they are considered student grade paint. My search at the time, (about a year or so ago.) didn't turn up any artist grade gouache pans.

David

Yes I've heard that cracking and breaking into pieces can be an issue with some brands of gouache and some colors. In the link that I posted previously people talk about that problem. Deborah Secor says M Graham re-wets easily and doesn't crack and crumble. But it does contain honey which attracts bees.
The only color I have experience with is white and it does the cracking and disintegrating thing, so I just carry a tube in my small grumbacher watercolor case and use it fresh... a little goes a long way.