View Full Version : First Attempt With Pastel Cloth

maggie latham
07-21-2007, 06:00 PM
Here goes! This was my first attempt using the very peculiar pastel cloth!

I mounted the pastel cloth onto a 9x12 140lb watercolor block with acrylic medium, the smooth side down, rough side facing up. And left it to dry for a few hours under some heavy books.
Blocked in some large areas of color using a variety of soft and hard pastels. As I didn’t have a thumbnail or sketch to work from, I put in a horizon line, not really knowing how it would develop.


I then added a lot more light colors to the sky and added some thoughts on turning it into a landscape, with a dark blue pastel. I added a lot more tints of the same colors and blended a little with my finger.


Now, I dipped my palette knife into some acrylic matt medium, and started spreading it over my painting. Very little dust shifted, and it knocked back the fibrous look of the cloth. It takes some practice, but very light strokes works fine. I let all this dry for an hour or so.


At this stage I decided that I didn’t want a landscape, and would change it into a minimalist seascape, so added more pastel, adjusted the horizon line, and went over a lot of colors to make them stronger. You can put pastel right on top of the dried acrylic medium with out too much bother. I also thought it would look better eventually cropped down somewhat, and put a mat over it to see which crop would work best. This gives you a good visual of the final painting, and tells you which areas need to be darker etc.



Now I needed to adjust the blues as the yellows and oranges were taking over, and the piece had lost it’s meaning to me. I put down some blues in a crosshatch method before blending a little. Sometimes I cross hatch a lighter blue over a darker blue to give some variation.


I added more atmosphere and contrasting colors to the horizon line, visually correcting the composition, and looked at it again with a mat to see if anything more needed to be corrected.http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Jul-2007/91114-wc9.jpg

The last step was to cover the whole painting with acrylic matt medium once again, using a small flat clean palette knife. If you use soft strokes, it gives some nice texture to the finished piece.http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Jul-2007/91114-wc10.jpg

I let it all dry thoroughly for a couple of hours. I will crop this down and crop out some of the clouds in the left hand top. It may not be a keeper, but it has been a good exercise in a new product (for me). The next painting will be done from a value study or thumbnail, and hopefully won’t be quite so minimalist in style.
• Bill Creevy, who also explains a lot of other alternative techniques, uses this method of applying acrylic medium in between layers of pastel, ~ this method is taken from The Pastel Book.
• I like playing around, but never expect too much from these experiments!


I am self-taught, and use a lot of unconventional methods, and am sifting out which works best for me. This is just one way to paint with pastel on pastel cloth.
Hope you enjoyed this post, and that it has been helpful. Please ask questions.


maggie latham
07-21-2007, 06:36 PM
This is the finished paining, the yellow and blue is slightly off in the scan. Don’t like it enough to keep, but good for the exercise.


Thanks for looking!:cat:

07-21-2007, 07:17 PM
Thanks for posting your experiment, Maggie. Interesting. That helps me understand a lot of things about pastel cloth I was wondering about.

You mentioned in another thread that though your first experience left you feeling frustrated, you would experiment a little more before deciding to continue using this material. What are your feelings now, or are you still experimenting with it?

I'm interested in using fabric as a base for pastel, but right now I am leaning in another direction. After reading a description of this "pastel cloth", it doesn't sound like something that would appeal to me, but I still am interested in hearing other people's experience. I might change my mind someday. It seems to work for some people, but then I am also a hold out on sanded paper.

Dayle Ann

PS: Even your throw-aways look good. sigh

maggie latham
07-21-2007, 08:29 PM
Thank you for your comments. I will definitely experiment some more, and without the acrylic medium. It seems to take pastel pencils well, and hard pastels. I’ll put it away for a couple of weeks, as I need to do something a bit more serious on Wallis….but I haven’t given up on it yet. I did a google search on it, and there seems to be quite a few pastel portrait artists using it, which is interesting

07-21-2007, 08:45 PM
That is interesting-- I wonder if it's to give a more "oil painting" texture? I'll have to do a search now and take a look at what they are doing. I do love doing portraits, but am not sure my style would work with this kind of texture. I was on someone's (mind gap- can't think of name) website just recently, with some demos. He talked about using a synthetic woven cloth with the texture of linen made for pastels, and went on to describe using several coats of gesso to get a smooth texture. My mind went "???". He wasn't doing portraits, so wondering what he saw as the advantage of the pastel cloth. I'm too much a novice to be able to understand things like that intuitively.

Dayle Ann

07-21-2007, 08:54 PM
Thanks for sharing the experience. I always wondered how you coated your work with the medium.

maggie latham
07-21-2007, 09:48 PM
The technique I used above I read about in Bill’s book, and I only use that sometimes in-between layers of pastel. When I talk about varnishing my pastels it is a different thing. Those ones are usually always done on Wallis when the painting is finished and fixed with a coat of fixative. Only then do I brush on one coat of gloss and two coats of matt acrylic varnish. It is a different thing, and I always still frame these under glass because they are on paper.
The only reason I used the acrylic medium between the layers on the pastel cloth was because the ‘fussy’ synthetic fibrous surface really bothered me, and it was a way of dealing with that. I doubt that many other pastel artists who work on pastel cloth use acrylic medium.
If one has time and patience and the inclination I would recommend playing around with stuff…you just have to be able to let it go if it turns out really hideous, and learn what you can from it. I can spend weeks experimenting, and then wonder why I don’t have any new paintings to show for my time!
Dayle Ann,
The name to the artist I was thinking about is: http://www.dangheno.net

maggie latham
07-22-2007, 07:43 AM
I forgot to post this yesterday. This was a quick ‘doodle’ with soft pastels on the interfacing (woven) side of the pastel cloth. As you can tell it takes many layers and you can clearly see the ‘Woven’ effect. As Bluefish and Peggy said earlier, the cloth has a curling problem, and does need to be adhered to a rigid surface. This is mounted on gatorfaom…and is a tiny 4x5 inch sample. Just wanted to show you what it looks like without acrylic medium all over it!


07-22-2007, 05:45 PM
Thanks, Maggie. I am beginning to understand the rational behind this, and will be watching to see what else you do with it. Still not sure it's for me, but hey, I might have to give it a try anyway.

I scooted over to Dan Gheno's website. What a wonderful painter of the human figure. I can learn a lot just by studying his work.

Dayle Ann

maggie latham
07-22-2007, 08:32 PM
Hello Dayle Ann,
Thank you for your comments. As I was so horrible about the product a couple of days ago, I thought I should give it fair deal, and try it out some more. I will post my further experiments in a different post tomorrow, when I get the pics re-sized. I am actually warming to this ‘strange stuff’!
Isn’t Dan Gheno's work fabulous?

07-22-2007, 10:24 PM
How many layers of each do you think the pastel cloth can take, Maggie ?

maggie latham
07-23-2007, 06:28 AM
Well, the fibrous (interfacing) side would take many layers of pastel. You can’t really blend with it too much by using your fingers, as the pastel stays in one place, but you can layer in broken color, scumbling and cross hatching. As far as how many layers of acrylic medium and pastel alternatively…that depends on how thick each layer of medium is. The more build up of acrylic medium, the more ‘plastic’ the look of the piece, and the less it looks like a pastel.
The first experiment above did not work mounted to watercolor paper, as when I took the piece off the block, the weight of the pastel cloth and the layers of medium were too heavy and it is curling. It really needs to be mounted onto a firm surface, which will not buckle, or onto stretcher bars. (But I haven’t come to a conclusion yet about how to finally and permanently fix it on stretcher bars.) One other point: I have been using acrylic medium as a glue to adhere the cloth to gator board…. (only because I am waiting for some other glue to arrive) and you have to have quite a bit to get it to adhere properly, and if you use too much, the acrylic medium comes through the cloth and leaves residue on the surface. It takes ages to dry on gator board, just as everything does. At least with Wallis I have never had the medium seep through to the surface before. I was thinking of applying a coat of gesso to the surface…but this might defeat the object of the fibers and the nature of the cloth.