View Full Version : Underpainting with Matte Medium

Donna T
08-02-2016, 02:27 PM
I just watched a demo by pastel artist Paul deMarrais (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xf22x0FVIA) in which he uses acrylic matte medium to dissolve pastel and create an underpainting. He uses multimedia art board, which I assume prevents any warping. I'm just curious to know if any of you have ever tried this and if so, did you like it? I would have never thought to use matte medium as it seems like it might fill up the tooth of the surface but apparently this isn't so. What other underpainting techniques am I missing?! :lol:

08-02-2016, 05:57 PM
Hi Donna, I haven't tried the matte medium. But have you seen Karen Margulis' latest video using Art Graf pigment blocks? The color after using very little pigment was quite dark! The underpainting portion starts around 3:30 or so.


She also blogged about the process and showed photos on her August 1 blog: http://kemstudios.blogspot.com/

Donna T
08-03-2016, 08:19 AM
I did see Karen's demo, Rhonda, but thanks so much for posting the link so others can check it out too. What a gorgeous painting she ended up with. Those pigment blocks are yet another underpainting method I need to try. They would probably help me not get fussy in the early stages and just make big blocks of color.

Moqui Steps
08-03-2016, 07:07 PM
Every time I have used acrylics in any consistency even thinner washes, the surface becomes too slick to hold pastels which is why I switched to Dr Martin's Bombay Inks. You can get really dark darks, more than I found possible with watercolors, without filling the tooth of the paper anywhere close to what happens with acrylics, plus I have not had any problems with them dissolving the surface like alcohol does on some papers.

Donna T
08-04-2016, 10:05 AM
Those inks sound really useful, Donald. I've tried blending acrylics with pumice and also using the matte variety of acrylics but still notice the slickness that you mentioned. I learned that alcohol not only dissolves acrylics but also the surface of some sanded papers as well. It's good to know the inks don't do that!

Moqui Steps
08-04-2016, 11:48 PM
They are a shellac based product and I think they may have some alcohol in them but very little. I can't smell any hint of alcohol in an opened bottle.

I have used them on Pastel Premier, Kitty Wallis, UArt and Fisher papers with excellent results. They dry to a transparent, thin, waterproof state quite fast so you can do layered washes that won't affect the under layers if they are dry first. If you put a bunch of heavy washes on the paper it will fill the tooth more eventually, but nothing like what acrylics do. You can thin them with water and use them just like watercolors, but be sure to clean your brushes right after use as it will harden in the brush. They do tend to get hard edges more readily than watercolors so you need to keep washes wet while working, and once dried the hard edge can't be softened as it is a waterproof finish.

This piece on Pastel Premier 320 grit would have been much more difficult to do the way I wanted to without the Bombay inks. I laid in a very solid, dark underpainting for the foreground and the shaddows on the cliffs with the ink but didn't lose the tooth of the paper.

Spring Lupines near Fisher Towers - 11x11 pastel
(Source photo by Tom Till, used with permission from the photographer)

Donna T
08-05-2016, 08:27 AM
Gorgeous painting, Donald! The foreground shadow is convincing; uniformly deep and dark. Thanks for showing such a beautiful example of how you use those inks.

Moqui Steps
08-06-2016, 06:39 PM
Thanks for the feedback on the painting and you are welcome. I clicked on the link to your work and was duly impressed. I particularly liked January Breakthrough. It must be amazing in person.

Not much of the bare underpainting is showing through anywhere in this piece. I used it to develop the base values quickly where I didn't want the paper peeking through, without loading up the tooth with pastels. It has been about 2 years since I started working in pastels. I tend to cuss them more than cajole them, but I am enjoying the journey nonetheless. WC has been a great help.

If you do ever try the Bombay Inks I would be interested in hearing your thoughts & observations.

SAS Designs
08-09-2016, 01:08 PM
Just to say, looked at Artist Graf Pigments, and was staggered by the price for 6.
I've been using, and really liking, the Derwent XL Graphite, 6 blocks. Water soluble too.
Can't remember the price, but know I wouldn't have spent anywhere near what the Artist Graf Pigments cost.

Donna T
08-10-2016, 08:49 AM
I hadn't heard of the Derwent blocks (http://www.dickblick.com/products/derwent-xl-graphite-blocks/), Suzy, so thanks for mentioning them. The description says they have a "silvery sheen." Do you find that to be true after they are washed with water or does that quality go away once they get wet? I'd like to try them.

SAS Designs
08-10-2016, 04:15 PM
I don't see a sheen after they're wet - but then you're reading the words of someone STILL afraid to have cataract surgery :)

Donna T
08-10-2016, 05:18 PM
I don't blame you, Suzy. I'd be afraid too! I'm sure if there was a noticeable sheen your pastels wouldn't stick.