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jackiesimmonds
03-04-2014, 06:59 AM
I have read quite a few posts recently where people have said that they are new to pastels and would like help and advice.......and often, they are recommended to jump straight into using sanded papers.

I want to be a voice of dissent and caution here.

as a tutor of many years of experience, I have found that people who begin to use sanded papers too early on, quickly become disheartened ....far more quickly than those who begin on plain papers and learn their craft thoroughly with them first.

why???? I can hear all the sanded paper advocates yelling at me.

The reason is that sanded papers GRAB the pastel, and are far more unforgiving than a plain paper. A stroke, laid down on sanded paper, is thick and buttery BUT difficult to shift or blend. So the artist has to cover that stroke with more pastel, particularly if the shape is wrong. More and more pastel goes on.....frantically the artist soon realises that even the heavy tooth of a sanded paper becomes too full of pastel, it becomes slick and difficult to work with, and the colour starts to look muddy and overworked. Confidence can quickly become damaged when problems of this type occur.

If working on a simple pastel paper surface,


mistakes can be quickly and easily brushed off a stiff brush.
Colours can be easily blended with fingers without damaging skin.
Edges can be softened with fingers or torch on (rolled paper tube ...these shred on sanded papers).
Pastel can be applied lightly or firmly.
Pastels last longer....they are expensive to buy, so while learning, you do not want, or need, to waste too much.
The paper costs far less, so unwanted paintings can be discarded without too much guilt!


For whatever it is worth, this tutor advises beginning on pastel paper, a good one like canson mi teinte. Use the smooth side...The thick fibres of the paper will accept quite a few layers, enough for the beginner to learn with. Mistakes are so simple to correct with brushing off..I know I said this before but this is worth repeating! It is a vital skill to learn particularly until a thorough understanding of how to avoid muddy mixes is learned.

The jump to sanded papers IS a jump, and it is a jump which means you may miss out on certain useful techniques which are better learned on a straightforward pastel paper. The shift to sanded papers should, I believe, be made when the artist is beginning to work confidently and well with regular paper. Then, an informed decision can be made about preference.

Ok getting off my soapbox now!!!!!

*Deirdre*
03-04-2014, 09:30 AM
Jackie...somehow there were two threads on this subject...so I removed the second one.

Far from being the voice of dissent...I would say it was the voice of reason!
I agree with all your points, especially the one about skin removal...I remember my early forays into the land of sanded paper....my enthusiasm was tempered by having to wait until my fingers healed!!

On a personal note...I would add there is a third path, not quite so sanded as the Wallis or Fisher or Ersta brands...and I have used both extensively but they also are more expensive ...and those brands are AS colourfix....which has a fine tooth ready-primed surface. And of course Sennelier La Carte - which to use their description -This surface is created with finely ground pH neutral vegetable fiber cork applied to 170 lb. pH neutral board stock to create a soft sand-like surface texture....it is lovely to work on...but a word of caution, don't get it wet!!!! IF you do, the surface comes away, so no underpainting :eek:

Davkin
03-04-2014, 10:31 AM
I guess I'll be the voice of dissent, though I do think it's a personal issue, every artist will be different. I can only speak for myself but trying to paint on Canson was pure frustration for me as a beginner, I didn't start to feel at home with pastels until I discovered sanded paper. I think a beginner needs to try several papers and decide which they feel most comfortable with.

David

SSB
03-04-2014, 12:05 PM
Great post Jackie! Well said!!!

allydoodle
03-04-2014, 02:47 PM
When I first played with pastels I used Canson. I almost lost it, literally, out of frustration. However, I persevered. My teacher just wouldn't let me quite, he insisted I push forward, telling me that pastels do have an "ugly" stage. They do, especially on Canson paper, and even more "especially" when it's a beginner's work. They stayed ugly for quite a while. In the end, I found I learned so very much about how pastels work, which I was then able to apply to sanded surfaces. It takes quite a lot of patience to endure through those "ugly" stages, and as a beginner it's quite easy to just quit. Luckily for me I had someone looking over my shoulder "saving me from myself", so to speak :lol: . There is quite a lot of truth to what Jackie says here, though the learning curve can be very painful, for sure.

In the end, the artist has to use whatever materials are most comfortable. If it is possible to try Canson paper and work through the learning curve it is worth the effort. It's not the only way, that's for sure, but it is a good idea. I love my sanded surfaces, they are my favorite I won't deny it. But Canson has its advantages. The cost is also a nice plus, for beginners it's not expensive and doesn't eat up your pastels, all good. I say, for beginners at least give it a fair chance before going to sanded surfaces. Wait a while if you can. If you're miserable, of course make the switch to sanded surfaces, this is supposed to be fun!

Psalm37
03-04-2014, 02:52 PM
Very informative thread, Chris....I esp. relate to your initial reaction to Canson. I gave up on it and went for the sanded. I wouldn't mind working with it again just so I can teach myself to have a lighter touch. You had a very wise and perceptive teacher.

allydoodle
03-04-2014, 03:03 PM
Very informative thread, Chris....I esp. relate to your initial reaction to Canson. I gave up on it and went for the sanded. I wouldn't mind working with it again just so I can teach myself to have a lighter touch. You had a very wise and perceptive teacher.


Yes I did. He is still a great friend, probably my best friend, and I consider him my mentor when it comes to all things art. He really knows his stuff, and he always has my back. I would highly recommend playing around with Canson again, it's great for daily sketches and to develop your skills.

Psalm37
03-04-2014, 03:09 PM
will do :) have you tried the Canson Touch? I bought a piece of it to try it out.

abstract23
03-04-2014, 03:14 PM
I will agree with Jackie, because I have been there.
As a beginner, I have worked on Canson and have found it frustrating as mud gets created quickly, but oh so useful for learning purposes.
Than started on sanded Fisher paper and because I was not a confident, mature painter, became frustrated pretty quickly with how fast my pastels started to vanish on the gritty sanded paper.
Than I found PastelMat paper, which has become my favourite surface because it has the feel of Canson smooth side, but holds many layers similar to sanded papers. It can be experimented with water, alcohol, watercolours for background work, pastels can be brushed off with a stiff brush or scrubbed off with a cloth, and it still retains its capacity to allow layer upon layer buildup after all that hammering. Oh and blending works great with fingers, torchons, colour shapers etc. I don't know of any other paper that does all that.
PS - Just a side note on blending on PastelMat - Make sure to have enough colour in the first layer to facilitate blending. I have found if I paint in my first layer quite generously as a base layer, it will allow blending much easily from the second layer onwards.

allydoodle
03-04-2014, 04:29 PM
will do :) have you tried the Canson Touch? I bought a piece of it to try it out.

No I have not tried Canson Touch yet. I jump back and forth between Wallis and Uart when it comes to sanded surfaces. Wallis is so shaky when it comes to availability, and UArt is the closest thing to it. I still have Wallis in my studio (thank goodness), hoping the stock will come back soon though. I'm pleased with both Wallis and UArt, and I have so much stock in my studio that the thought of buying another surface to try out seems crazy. I have to use up my stock first :lol: . My next mission is to tone UArt the same color as Wallis Belgium Mist (I like Belgium Mist for portraits), then I won't be so frustrated at Wallis' inability to be a consistent supplier. I will have an alternative... I think I'm close to figuring it out :evil: .....

Colorix
03-04-2014, 04:37 PM
Canson Touch is very similar to AS Colourfix, IMHO.

allydoodle
03-04-2014, 05:11 PM
Canson Touch is very similar to AS Colourfix, IMHO.

Thanks Charlie. If this is true, then I probably won't like Canson Touch much. I'm not a fan of AS Colourfix for some reason. I've used it, and I don't love it. I'll stick to Wallis and UArt, both work well for me.

westcoast_Mike
03-04-2014, 07:44 PM
I'm with you Dave. I tried Canson for about a week and ended up throwing most of it out. I then dicovered I could get Colourfix at a local hobby store. It was like Christmas for me. I've used a sanded sheet ever since and not looked back. Current animal of choice is Uart. Though I do like Pastelmat

Psalm37
03-04-2014, 07:50 PM
What do you all think of Uart not being archival though acid free? I have decided not to get bogged down by that fact but in some ways it bothers me still. I have heard that the 320 grit is comparable to Wallis. I know there a lot of artists out there that uses it. I have talked with Dakota Art Supply and they can't guarantee that it will go beyond 200 years.

I won't be around obviously to worry about it but the "non-archival" status bugs me. what do you think?

Lynndidj
03-05-2014, 01:14 AM
UArt is archival as far as I know - and acid free. I have to disagree with Jackie, respectfully. Nothing frustrated me more than working on Canson paper. I worked in watercolor for years, and then moved to pastel. The Canson made me crazy - and I would have quit had it not been for sanded paper. I need the layers to play with and I can't use fixative because of migraine issues - and Spectra Fix was not yet available. I felt like a whole new world opened up to me with the sanded paper, and I have never looked back. I prefer working on watercolor paper to Canson paper! I also prefer to do a watercolor underpainting (the serendipity phase for me) and then going at my painting with the pastels. I could never do that with Canson, and it has become such a part of my process, I would miss it desperately if I could not do it. I guess each of us develops our own way and process through trial and error. I'm forever grateful I found more forgiving surfaces that allowed me to be more free as an artist with underpainting and as many layers as I choose to use.

Lynn

jackiesimmonds
03-05-2014, 01:32 AM
of course, you are all right from a personal perspective, I can only talk from watching beginners over many years of running workshops, painting holidays and pastels courses. Once I explained to them that they needed to brush off passages which were not working, rather than try to build up over and over again in order to correct, they were off and running on Canson. It is about finding out how much pastel the paper can hold, and being aware of its limitations. But in those days there was no PastelMat to use, perhaps I might have recommended it then had it been around.

I am happy to concede that everyone need to experiment and find a surface they enjoy.

Having said that, I noticed that my students mostly really needed to refine their skills slowly....learning how to measure, in order to achieve correct proportions in the first place rather than correcting and correcting; learning how to recognise the right tones rather than guess at what was needed - all of these things helped them achieve a painting which they enjoyed, without the frustration of constant corrections.....and I believe this applies no matter what surface someone is using.

Davkin
03-05-2014, 01:32 AM
My understanding is when it comes to paper PH neutral and acid free = archival, if that's correct then Uart is archival. I think what this usually means is lignin is not used to make the paper. I'm definitely no expert though.

David

Saskia
03-05-2014, 04:18 AM
My understanding is when it comes to paper PH neutral and acid free = archival, if that's correct then Uart is archival. I think what this usually means is lignin is not used to make the paper. I'm definitely no expert though.

David
Actually, not all acid free (or pH neutral) paper is archival. Archival is a higher grade that not all acid-free papers meet. If you look around, you will see plenty of brands that are advertised as acid free but not archival. To qualify as archival, the paper needs to be acid-free, and also be rated to withstand very long spans of time without degrading. Usually such papers are made of cotton as opposed to wood pulp, which is in many lower grade papers (which might still be non-acidic).

Believe it or not, there are regulatory organizations that oversee the ratings of papers on this scale.

Saskia
03-05-2014, 04:25 AM
Jackie, I appreciate your warnings on this matter, and as a beginner in pastel I am inclined to heed you. However, I have used Canson paper in other media and I just don't like it. I'm not sure why, but with that paper it seems people either love it or hate it. Could you possibly recommend another non-sanded paper that might be worth trying instead?

Thank you very much for the words of caution!

Colorix
03-05-2014, 04:38 AM
Jackie, is your point that with simple papers beginners are more or less "forced" to brush off and re-do? While on sanded papers one can build on top without removing, and thus the incentive to learn to do it properly is less?

jackiesimmonds
03-05-2014, 09:30 AM
Two questions to answer.
There is a paper I have used in the uk and found it enjoyable...that is Fabriano Tiziano. But you may not have it where you are. I hope you tried both sides of the canson...the smoother side is easier.

Charlie, not exactly. I think there is a good reason to brush off rather than work over.....for the beginner, to work over becomes a problem, they don't want to spoil what they have done. If they brush off they have a proper second chance at it.
But also, the difficulty of blending on sanded paper is another issue, the fact that sanded paper EATS pastel at a rate of knots is an issue, and the cost can be scary for someone learning.....I have spoken to beginners who have purchased Sanded surfaces and then they admit to being terrified to use it because of what they spent on it! They do not appreciate its versatility, they are just conscious of the cost and it sits on a shelf while they work up the courage to use it. Much cheaper paper somehow gives them permission to fail sometimes...which they need.

Davkin
03-05-2014, 10:42 AM
But also, the difficulty of blending on sanded paper is another issue, the fact that sanded paper EATS pastel at a rate of knots is an issue, and the cost can be scary for someone learning.....

Uart is available in finer grits that would eat the pastel at a much slower rate but allow more layers and control than Canson Mitientes, maybe that would be a good compromise? I really don't consider the expense to be a big issue with Uart, you can wash it off and use it again if you produce a dud.

David

abstract23
03-05-2014, 10:59 AM
David - Uart is freely available to buy in the US, and so is Wallis, but not in Europe.

I have gone through many videos of pastel painting, majority of teachers are from USA and UK. One of the main difference in the teaching aspects in these two countries was that in USA, sanded paper is very popular, while in UK, Canson seems to be favoured a lot. (PastelMat seems to have broken this tradition)

Secondly, I observed that teachers in UK love to blend, for eg. Arnold Lowrey and Jackie Simmonds are but two exceptional pastel teachers that come to mind. In USA, working on sanded paper, blending doesn't seem to be preferred, I suppose due to the sanded surface not lending to easy blending.

Third observation, teachers in USA take about a minimum of 1-2 hours to explain their painting process, whereas in UK they can finish the subject off in 30 mins from start to finish, which is what I personally love, short and precise.

Davkin
03-05-2014, 11:11 AM
David - Uart is freely available to buy in the US, and so is Wallis, but not in Europe.

I have gone through many videos of pastel painting, majority of teachers are from USA and UK. One of the main difference in the teaching aspects in these two countries was that in USA, sanded paper is very popular, while in UK, Canson seems to be favoured a lot. (PastelMat seems to have broken this tradition)

Secondly, I observed that teachers in UK love to blend, for eg. Arnold Lowrey and Jackie Simmonds are but two exceptional pastel teachers that come to mind. In USA, working on sanded paper, blending doesn't seem to be preferred, I suppose due to the sanded surface not lending to easy blending.

Third observation, teachers in USA take about a minimum of 1-2 hours to explain their painting process, whereas in UK they can finish the subject off in 30 mins from start to finish, which is what I personally love, short and precise.

Interesting that you bring up the differences between the US and UK, I've noticed that in the past but it didn't occur to me during this thread and now that you mention it that does make a lot of sense. I don't think blending is less popular on sanded paper because it's not as easy to blend, there are many artists that do it, it just seems the unblended look is the style in the US lately. I'll admit, when I was a beginner I blended a lot more than I do now, now I really try to avoid it, I prefer to see the strokes of the pastel and the luminous look that only uncrushed pastel particles can give.

David

westcoast_Mike
03-05-2014, 11:18 AM
Once I explained to them that they needed to brush off passages which were not working, rather than try to build up over and over again in order to correct, they were off and running on Canson.

One of the things I love about sanded paper is being able to brush off an area and redo it. I find it much more forgiving than Canson in this respect. I'm not sure I'm seeing your point here.

Davkin
03-05-2014, 12:19 PM
Actually, not all acid free (or pH neutral) paper is archival. Archival is a higher grade that not all acid-free papers meet.

Uart claims their paper is PH neutral as well as being Acid free, those are two different things to my understanding. Making a paper PH neutral removes the lignin and that's what makes it archival. Again, I'm no expert, but this is what I've been able to dig up from internet searches. If you can find something that says something else specific about what archival paper is exactly please share.

David

DAK723
03-05-2014, 01:25 PM
Some good points made all around - and as pastel is such a versatile medium which can be used in a wide variety of techniques - many differing opinions, which are all valid!

Since it matters if one blends or not, layers a lot or a little, uses the color of the paper or not, draws or paints, etc. the answers will differ as to what type of paper is preferrable. Speaking just for myself, I prefer the smoother papers such as Canson Mi-Tientes for figurative and portraits. I do more side-by-side blending and minimal layering for those types of painting. Plus, I can incorporate the paper color more successfully, too. For landscapes, I can't even do a successful one on Canson. Not in 30 years! I need a sanded paper (or paper with some tooth) for those, since I need multiple layers.

I can relate to the expense issue, however. When I first started, I was using newsprint to do my college pastel figure drawings and paintings! Yes, newsprint. So, for me jumping to Canson was a huge price increase and quite intimidating! Cost can definitely be a factor for a beginning artist. Plus, you can choose from many colors of paper with Canson, which allows one to use less pastel, too.

Don

westcoast_Mike
03-05-2014, 01:46 PM
Cost can definitely be a factor for a beginning artist.

Very good point. The number of sticks we want (I won't get into how many we actually need) in this medium can make getting started seem daunting. Unlike the 'wet' mediums where one can get by quite nicely with a handful of tubes or pans.

Colorix
03-05-2014, 01:59 PM
Thanks, Jackie. I fully agree that it is better to brush off (or "baking soda-off") the offending area and re-do it from scratch, regardless of paper. One of my early teachers taught "kill your darlings", that is, take off, remove, anything, regardless of how lovely a passage it is, if it doesn't work for the whole. Excellent advice, taught me to be ruthless. Another sage advice was "if you painted it once, you can paint it anew/again".

Sanded papers can be reused so many times that they actually become cheaper in the long run (provided one doesn't save every "fabulous masterpiece").

Anoop brings up an interesting thing. I recently told an experienced UK pastel artist and instructor that UK pastels had a different aesthetics than US ones. And I believed it was the method (blending) and paper (simple) that was part of the difference. Maybe there is a greater awareness of historical ideals, when it was important to have a pastel painting look sheer and sort of transparent, and they abhored impasto strokes and layers.

And other parts of Europe have their own styles.

Many in Europe work on velour (still), and that is yet a different look, as it is very difficult to finger blend on velour.

David, ask Peggy B about archival and PH neutral, (there is a thread somewhere in Talk, like 4 or 5 years ago where she gives extensive info). The difference is clear. Basically archival papers are rag papers, not wood pulp.

Davkin
03-05-2014, 02:40 PM
David, ask Peggy B about archival and PH neutral, (there is a thread somewhere in Talk, like 4 or 5 years ago where she gives extensive info). The difference is clear. Basically archival papers are rag papers, not wood pulp.

Paper made from wood pulp can be made archival if the lignin is removed. Upon further research however I've found that making the paper PH neutral does not necessarily mean the lignin has been removed, other methods can be used which do not make the paper archival. However "archival" is a rather fuzzy term anyway. The reality is just about any art paper we buy nowadays is higher quality than what was used 150+ years ago, in spite of that many works on paper from 150+ years ago are in very good condition. I'm personally not too worried about Uart holding up for a 100+ years, I bet a painting done in pastel on Uart will look better in 100 years than an oil painting done on anything.

David

Colorix
03-05-2014, 03:47 PM
David, I did dig into that those ca 5 years ago, and it was a maze... Found a paper maker who explained, and with all those blurry boundaries and defintions, well, I reached the same conclusion as you did.

I've seen a pastel and an oilpainting side by side, the same portrait. From the 1700s. Yep, the oil was rather damaged, the pastel was as new. (Though, it was on rag paper, have to say that.)

nvcricket
03-07-2014, 03:15 AM
Jackie, a great topic and thread. I will be giving this a 5 star rating!
I started with Canson and your book learning how to work with pastels . My first attempts I thought were masterpieces:eek: I have since progressed to other preferred surfaces.
I think Canson is underrated. It is a very forgiving surface. Imaybe (Ida), a WC poster here, loves working with Canson. She tapes it down like she would with watercolor paper and does a watercolor underpainting on it. You can also buff the surface a bit to bring up a bit more tooth.
I an just amazed what many professional pastelists can do with Canson. Look up the artwork by Lorenzo Chavez for one!
I still have Canson and now find it the most intimidating surface. I plan on bringing it back out to play with thanks to this thread. I'm hoping I'll be able to do some good paintings on it now that I feel more proficient. I'm sure they won't be of the caliber of all of those masterpieces I did when I was just starting out:lol:
For my summery...
1. It is the most affordable surface designed for pastels.
2. Its easy to make corrections on by brushing off or gum erasure.
3. If you don't like what you did you can flip it over to work on the other side., or even tear it into tiny pieces and not feel guilty because of the cost.
4. It comes in many different colors.
5. It's sold everywhere, available in local stores.
6. You don't have to special order it and wait for days for it to be delivered.
7. It's a surface that can be used by beginners to professionals.
8. Yes there are some drawbacks (pun intended)...tooth, colorfastness, archival quality. But in all honesty, I don't paint with the intention of my work hanging in a musuem or art gallery. I paint for the pleasure it brings to me.

Carol. :wave:

Psalm37
03-07-2014, 03:23 AM
Carol: I am almost convinced that Canson rocks....lol....seriously you make some good points. Because of this thread and Canson has been discussed extensively, a few days ago, I lingered at the Canson paper shelf and even looked at the available colors. I haven't done that since I first started working with pastels!

I often think of Lorenzo Chavez and his amazing paintings when I think about Canson. If he can do it, well, can't we?

jackiesimmonds
03-07-2014, 03:27 AM
I doubt anyone could suggest that I produce pastels which are "sheer" or "sort of transparent". Quite the contrary in fact, and now that I have a good deal of experience under my belt, I seldom use the technique of blending, EXCEPT for edges occasionally when I want to soften them...or I might do it unconsciously sometimes when I want one colour to shift subtly into another.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/07-Mar-2014/1805-berwick_street_chefs.JPG Painted on Canson.

I do, however, use blending a lot on Canson to achieve an interesting multi-toned or multi-coloured underpainting, rather than fiddle with wet media to achieve a similar effect on sanded paper, which I rarely have the patience to do. Yes ...before anyone jumps in here...I KNOW it is possible to produce a dry underpainting on sanded paper...but it is far, far easier on Canson! Sometimes I lay down broad sweeps of pastel on plain paper, and then take a bit of tissue or fabric, to blend those early strokes, which I then fix with Spectrafix, and work over the top.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/07-Mar-2014/1805-underpainting_for_olive_grove_series.JPG This is a "dry" blended underpainting - a floaty kinda image which gave me a good starting point for the subsequent painting.


The subject of this threat, and the points I raised, are PURELY aimed at beginners, I want to emphasise that.

It is interesting to me that my hero and mentor, DEGAS, did not work on sanded papers. He did all sorts of things to his pastels, including steaming them and making them claggy and impasto...but he did not have sanded paper to work on. I remember well when sanded papers first came on the scene. The then chairman of our Pastel Society thoroughly disapproved of them, pointing out to all who would listen that sandpaper was then made of up glass particles glued to a substrate....and that glue could well be fugitive, and the painting could well have no longevity as a result. Of course this has changed and the surfaces on offer today have all the proper pedigree that they should have.

I still maintain however that beginners are often intimidated by the cost.
I have spoken to many artists who love to go to art materials exhibitions and buy expensive kit....only to leave it on a shelf, unused, because they are really intimidated by the cost and do not want to "spoil" it until they have more experience. So why not gain that experience with cheaper, tho still good quality, materials, which will allow a full range of techniques, and opportunity to learn without feeling even more intimidated than a beginner all ready feels at the beginning, with so much to learn!

Duende
03-07-2014, 09:48 AM
This article answered so many of my questions. I have been trying to decide whether to splash out on expensive sanded paper or persevere with Canson. Canson also drives me crazy but what Jackie says about "getting it right the first time" rings true for me. I am now inspired to give Canson another try.Thank you so much everyone, especially Jackie, for a very interesting and informative thread!
PS. If I still lived in England I would be knocking at your door for lessons Jackie!

*Deirdre*
03-07-2014, 11:02 AM
In case anyone is unsure of how to rate a thread...http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/07-Mar-2014/33616-rate-thread.jpg


It helps other members, who like to search for star rated, really good threads, more easily!:D

Psalm37
03-07-2014, 01:02 PM
I voted! I had no idea that it helps with searches. This is a great thread and I will probably read it over again.

Okay, one last thought from me, I think Canson has gotten the bad rap from people, including myself; because the "ugly stage" shows up really ugly on Canson! I remember how I would have an inner avalanche of feelings emerge when working on the stuff. On sanded paper there is time, more tooth, more time to calm down!

Man, the more I talk, the more I want to try it out again. Since Wallis is so hard to get a hold of with the production problems and all.

Canson on!

Margaret

*Deirdre*
03-07-2014, 02:23 PM
Margaret...Star rating does make it easier to search for good threads....and it's so quick too! Here's how it's done...

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/07-Mar-2014/33616-Rating-search.jpg

But the thread must be rated by a number of members for it to work...so folk...get rating!:D

CMcLaughlin
03-07-2014, 10:54 PM
As a beginner myself, I definitely agree about the cost issue. Beginners will learn a lot more by doing many paintings on an average surface than doing just one or two on the best quality surface. Plus, beginners (unless they have extensive experience in another medium) usually don't have enough knowledge of color theory to use more than 3-4 layers anyway.

Another low-cost option for beginners is what others have recommended of using regular (non-archival) sandpaper from a hardware store, though the colors and sizes can often be limited and not always ideal. There is also an abundance of sanded papers marketed for children's oil pastels here in China which might be available in other countries too. They are very inexpensive and come in various sizes, the one issue being that the colors are often very bright, but there are usually a few shades that are more neutral.

I think it's not a bad idea for a teacher to require beginning students to use a particular paper and even pastel brand (or at least hardness range). One of pastel's strengths is its great versatility that allows for so many different styles, but for a beginner the multitude of paper types, paper colors, pastel brands, underpainting methods, strokes, etc. can be a bit overwhelming. For a teacher to choose some of these things for the students and show them how to make them work can make for a much easier and enjoyable start.

Carey

jackiesimmonds
03-08-2014, 06:56 AM
Carey great observations. I fully agree with your first sentence...layering and layering without any knowledge of colour theory often leads to just one thing...MUD!!! and frustration. And the issue of being overwhelmed with the multitudes of materials is a good point too, I see people in art materials shops looking SO bewildered, and who can blame them.

Honestly guys, it is not the Canson which drives you crazy....it is the way you are using it. There is nothing wrong with the paper, particularly the smooth side, it is just a matter of finding out how best to use it. And there is an ugly stage with all paintings, no matter what surface you work on. More tooth on a sanded paper, sure, but go back to my comment above about layering..........beware..................

jackiesimmonds
03-09-2014, 05:57 AM
coo I got gold stars. Haven't had those since I was at school.....and actually I am not sure I got many of them then!

well, perhaps it is not exactly ME with the gold stars...it is all you contributors. Thanks everyone.

johndill01
03-09-2014, 01:42 PM
I finally have the time to respond to this post. When I first started in pastels, Canson MT was one of the few papers readily available in this area. There was a small supply of Colourfix and a Velour paper, but little else. I fought the Canson, (or maybe the Canson was fighting me to tell me I was doing it wrong), so I finally ordered some Wallis paper and also any other sanded paper that I could find. It seemed to help, but a lot of the other problems crept in. I must admit to being addicted to trying any new support that comes along.

A couple of years ago, I was privileged to attend a Lorenzo Chavez workshop here in our area. One of the things that he insisted on for the duration of the workshop was for everyone to work on Canson MT, so grudgingly a supply of Canson Mt was obtained. After the first two days, a new appreciation of the paper occurred. It was fun to work with (taped down to a board). Also along the way was the discovery that certain pastels were much better suited to the paper, these being the harder pastels and pastel with added pumice. Seldom was there any need to reach for one of the soft pastels. One of the demonstrations was to paint in the darks, then with the use of a palette knife (or a single edge razor blade) scrape the extra pastel from the paper. The darks were still there, but most of the tooth of the paper had been restored, allowing for much further work. This was also a technique that has been demonstrated many times by Arnold Lowry.

Now when I feel like really playing, out comes the Canson MT and the fun begins. With developing a light touch for the early work, blending of colors is accomplished, edges softened without using fingers, or early work can be painted in with water, alcohol or just rubbed in with a paper towel or a piece of chamois.

I think that now Canson is a staple in my studio and especially for Plein Aire painting.

Thanks Jackie for starting this informative thread.

John

Devonlass
03-09-2014, 03:13 PM
I'm with John on this. I hated Canson when I first started and felt that in order to be a real artist I had to use sanded paper. But this thread and everything Jackie has been saying has spurred me to give Canson another try, and much to my surprise I find I like it! Corrections are easier and it seems to suit the harder pastels very well. The added cost benefit is definitely a plus. Thanks Jackie!

jackiesimmonds
03-10-2014, 04:18 AM
good point about beginning with a LIGHT TOUCH on Canson MT. If you do that, it gives you time, and tooth, to develop the painting slowly. If you like what you have done with the light touch layer, and know for sure you want to move on to added, heavier layers, a burst of Spectrafix fixative will be sufficient to add a little more tooth again. I should have mentioned the "light touch" issue earlier....but seems like some of you worked that out for yourselves. It helps enormously. that, and working on the smooth side.

J

sansea
03-12-2014, 10:33 AM
Wallis preferred.Colorfix white (so I can tone it ) . I did not like Canson touch couldn't get enough layers to suit me.
When I first pastel painted way back when ,all we had was Canson.
I love sanded papers .

Lynndidj
03-13-2014, 01:34 AM
Jackie, I do think the Spectrafix helps you to get more tooth on the Canson. I don't like to use fixative ... But I will use Spectrafix. I readily brush off areas of my sanded paper quite regularly and make changes, so it doesn't matter to me that can also be done on Canson. I think what really did it for me was working on a very complicated painting on Canson for about 15 hours and getting "locked out" before it was finished to my satisfaction. No matter what I sprayed it with, I could no longer work on the painting. After that I said "no more!"

Lynn

abstract23
03-13-2014, 02:29 AM
Canson MT - Excellent for learning. Doesn't accept too many layers even after fixative. 160gsm - Not that thick to handle liquids for background work.

PastelMat - Excellent for everyone. Accepts many layers, fixative is normally not required. 360gsm - Easily handles liquids for background work.

Sanded papers - Excellent for intermediate to advanced users. Accepts many layers,, fixative is normally not required. 270(Wallis) - 360gsm(Fisher) - Easily handles liquids for background work.

jackiesimmonds
03-14-2014, 05:45 AM
Canson MT - Excellent for learning. Doesn't accept too many layers even after fixative. 160gsm - Not that thick to handle liquids for background work.

PastelMat - Excellent for everyone. Accepts many layers, fixative is normally not required. 360gsm - Easily handles liquids for background work.

Sanded papers - Excellent for intermediate to advanced users. Accepts many layers,, fixative is normally not required. 270(Wallis) - 360gsm(Fisher) - Easily handles liquids for background work.

excellent summary!

Judi1957
03-15-2014, 09:39 AM
coo I got gold stars.

And well deserved Jackie!
You, Charlie, Dee and Don (and others, tho I may not be as familiar with) always have great advise and food for thought! I have been on sabbatical from art for a year and feel like delving back in. Luckily I have almost all the papers mentioned and will be back to Don's spotlight and practicing again.

Dea
03-17-2014, 01:11 AM
Excellent thread Jackie.
Not only because poor old canson gets a bad rap at times from more expierenced artist and that probably turns a lot of beginners away from it but also because it is great advise from an accomplished artist and teacher.
I like canson paper, I don't have trouble with it now I have more experience,
Deanna

Stacy Nuin
03-31-2014, 06:02 PM
I wished I had found this post earlier as it has a lot of good info for beginners. I started out using pastel on plain printer paper (colors were really dull on this paper since there weren't much tooth to grab onto) and then switched to canson rough watercolor paper, which ate up a lot of pastels and I couldn't layer enough.

So I switched to Canson Mi-tientes which saved my pastels from a massacre and could hold a bit more layers. However, the colors were not as vibrant as they were on the watercolor paper. And to add to that, I then read that acid free paper might not be archival. This made me worried that while the mi-tientes were listed as acid free it had no mention of it being archival.

So I decided to go back to watercolor paper but this time around, I bought Arches 100% cotton satin hot pressed watercolor paper. It has a very fine grain and I've been pretty happy working on it so far. It doesn't eat my pastels, is just a bit more vibrant in colors, is 100% cotton (which I supposed makes it acid free and archival? It doesn't say on the paper pack), and allows me to cover the paper more completely with pastel than the mi tientes did. On layering, I think it took a bit less layers than the mi-tientes or maybe about the same; I'm not sure yet as I'm still testing this paper out with a new painting I just started.

*Deirdre*
03-31-2014, 06:25 PM
Looks like I had better copy ths thread to the learning centre...if that's ok with you Jackie?

jackiesimmonds
04-01-2014, 02:30 AM
by all means, Deirdre.

re the comment above this one, about working on watercolour paper...nothing wrong with that, but you should know that the reason the colours appear more vibrant is that watercolour paper is white, that's all. white and black grounds offer the strongest possible contrast with the colours of the pastels, so the colours do appear more vibrant. when working on a coloured ground the colour of the paper will affect whatever is put down onto it...until such time as the amount of layering starts to disguise the colour of the paper completely. this can be an advantage...sometimes, vibrant colour contrast with paper is not always what is required in an image, so choosing a coloured ground may aid the artist's eventual intent.

If you can find Wallis papers, they are very bright and white (unless they are elephant grey!) and have great gripping power, moreso than watercolour paper. Also there are a great many different pastel surfaces out there today, pastel cards and boards, all with different surfaces to try, and many with white as an option. It is worth experimenting with all sorts of different surfaces. You can also increase the tooth on white smooth watercolour paper by adding a coating of gesso, or one of the specially made preparations for pastels, some of which are transparent. different techniues and approaches are needed for different surfaces, so time is required to test out different surfaces.

J

robertsloan2
04-02-2014, 06:06 PM
I learned on Canson Mi-Tientes and discovered the smooth side decades ago, when I first bought some with my first box of real pastels as opposed to cheap student ones. Compared to the regular drawing paper I used with cheap student ones and Nupastels, the Mi-Tientes was wonderful and toothy. Smooth side was like heaven and held more layers, it's all relative.

So I might have to go with the original post that it's good to learn on Mi-Tientes and then play with sanded papers.

Christinal
05-04-2014, 11:16 AM
Very illuminating thread! I've been using sandpaper lately and sure enough I'm too new for it. It gets slimy and slick too quickly. I also moved to it due to my dislike of the Canson I bought at first. Edited to say I'm most definitely intimidated by the cost of the sanded papers, even knowing I can reuse them. I'm new enough that I still want to keep my "masterpieces."

I'm glad to know the drawn out ugly stage (for beginners especially) is "normal" for Canson. I thought it was me. Ok, it WAS me being impatient. :D

Funny how things are the same in everything new. In SCUBA diving if you're having difficulties the instinct is to buy a different piece of gear when really one should invest in perfecting technique.

jackiesimmonds
05-08-2014, 03:31 AM
exactly the same thing happens at art materials fairs and shops. People watch demos, ask what the demonstrator is using, then rush off to buy the exact same sticks and papers.........not unreasonable but when the hope is that by using exactly the same items, the same results will be achieved, disappointment is likely to be the result.

Nevertheless, it IS important to try new things out...it just requires patience to learn how to work differently with new materials.

Sanded surfaces becoming slimy and slick means you are working with too heavy a hand from the get go....and probably using soft pastels from the beginning too.....try a lighter touch to begin with, or use only hard pastels in the early stages, the "underneath" layers, because hard pastels do not fill the tooth as quickly as softies do. then, when you are satisfied with shapes, you can go on to develop more richness using your soft pastels.

BCarey
05-21-2014, 12:45 AM
This beginner truly appreciates this thread! Just started my 4th painting and this time on the smooth side of my Canson paper. A new experience. Did not know that it had enough tooth for soft pastel. Had to wipe off the too soft white I tried to layer in the sky. Came off easy. I find that a smoothed pastel under painting really helps begin to build layers.

Having so much fun learning to paint with this medium.
Becky