View Full Version : Backgrounds

07-25-2002, 09:37 AM
I'm only new to art so forgive my ignorance.

I see a lot of great threads popping up with regard watercolour and acrylic washes being used as backgrounds. DJstar seems to be leading the charge somewhat with some great WIP and progress stuff.

Effective backgrounds seem to be my weak point both in technique and texture.

I've used a few methods for backgrounds but I'm not fully satisfied with any of them. When doing a wildlife scene I've often gone for the detailed close-up with the background being a blurry finger-rubbed look (see below). I might add this background is thick with pastel and clogs the paper's tooth. This method also requires me to work around the detail rather than the detail being layed on top of the background (I guess this is why the watercolour wash threads are coming out!)

The painterly style background doesn't sem to work with the detailed close-up

So far I've self taught myself through trial and error but I can't seem to find a method of creating a light even "wash" of pastel for a background (tried tissues, fingers etc). I may be forced to go down the watercolour/acrylic path but I'd like to exhaust every avenue in pastel first.
So . . a couple of questions:

Does anyone know of a method for producing a light even "wash" with pastels?

Are there some theoretical guidelines with regard background textures/gradations/etc. which aid in making backgrounds more effective (leaving colours aside at this stage)?

Please post examples of your backgrounds along with the techniques used to create them and some comments as to why you think they are effective.

07-25-2002, 11:32 AM
Does anyone know of a method for producing a light even "wash" with pastels? .......

I've not tried this, however, I have read that if you use pastel dust and a cotton ball you can achieve a flat tone of color for the background.

07-25-2002, 03:05 PM
You might check out djstar's demo in the landscape forum in which she used denatured alcohol and pastels. I have never tried this, but her picture certainly turned out great. Here is a link to it http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=51156

07-25-2002, 06:40 PM
Hello Crumbedbrains,

Effective backgrounds seem to be my weak point both in technique and texture.
I've used a few methods for backgrounds but I'm not fully satisfied with any of them.

I think this reflects one of the problems and questions every beginning pastelist (and maybe even the more proficient ones) will struggle with and makes you wonder where to find the perfect pastelground.

Well I certainly have and I haven't found the answer yet.
We are actually talking about two things:
1=tooth, will the ground hold pasteldust and how many layers?
2=colour, pastel looks good on other colour as harmonious colour or more often as a complement, furthermore it allows you work faster, achieve darker colour and you can do with less layers of pastel.

Anyway since I started doing pastels (early this year) I tried some different grounds and here are some:

(Note that I am not after fine and detailed work like I think you are so that won't be shown here but still I feel that some of these grounds do allow pretty fine and detailed painting.)

Nude (pastelcard)
Does not allow rough handling or washes.


Another guy from Corsica (MDF and teinted clear gesso)


on the beach (pumiceground on MDF)


Dutch countryside (teinted pumiceground on MDF)


Nude (sansfix)


Zomer op de zomerdijk (wc paper with wc underpainting)


And gouache always makes a good underpainting for pastels.
Used that in the progress pics I posted lately.
Hope this will be of any use to you and that more ideas/suggestions may follow in this thread.


07-26-2002, 06:32 AM
Thanks guys for the feedback. I took great interest in your posts and will try the various techniques mentioned.

I've got to give a special thank you to Karen as I'm happy to report you have solved my problem. I've tried everything from cotton buds to sponges to foam, styrofoam, rags, fingers, silicone rubber . . you name it and I've tried it . . . except for the humble ol' cotton ball . . .D'uh . . . just the texture and effect I've been searching for . . and the depth of coverage allows even the most detailed work over the top. You have saved me.

Playing around further, I discovered if you draw a relatively detailed background and dab with the cotton ball you can diffuse the colour thus giving aerial perspective as well as softening the edges. PERFECT!!

Expect my next posting to actually have a background!!


07-26-2002, 08:49 AM
I look forward to seeing more. Background or no your work is beautifull!! :)

07-26-2002, 06:54 PM
Crumbedbrains....well I'm so glad that this technique worked for you!! Can't wait to see your next painting.

Laura Brito
07-26-2002, 08:46 PM
Thank you Dick for taking time to post the group like that, it gives me alot of ideas of things I can try to do. I don't like using paper, and I think that paper is so easily ruined, I would rather use some kind of stiff background for my art and that masonite with different things on it would be great. Like Gesso and sand, or other gritty things, pumice stone ground up with some kind of binder on the masonite. I am going to experiement! hehe

Thanks again

07-27-2002, 06:31 PM
Another great idea I haven't tried yet, but certainly intend to is to do an underpainting and at the same time make a textured ground.
This can be done by making an underpainting in gouache through which you have mixed a fine pumicepowder.
Or you could do an underpainting in acrylics mixed with clear gesso base.
If anyone has tried or used such methods I would like to learn about it.