View Full Version : Please help my ignorance!

04-15-2009, 02:30 PM
What wonderful work displayed here! I posted a few pictures in the drawing section awhile back and then settled into the Fiber Art group since I'm doing so much crochet right now. I never drew or painted in my life until in my early 50's (2000) so it's all fairly new to me. I have drawn graphite portraits on bristol paper and a good bit of ink and color pencil drawings of misc.

I tried oil pastel once and wasn't sure what to do with it, but then I came across pastel pencils since I was trying many, many different types of pencil drawing and buying all kinds to try. I have only played with it until recently when I began a pastel pencil drawing on (now don't laugh if this is stupid!) canvas. I'm doing a fairly large drawing of a tree (one of my favorite subjects to draw). I am spraying a little fixative on it as I go so it won't rub off.

My question is, is this unheard of to draw with pastel pencils on canvas? Is it unrealistic to expect it to turn out well? I like it so far and thought it was worth giving it a shot.

I will keep investigating here for pastel pencil help.

Donna T
04-15-2009, 03:25 PM
Hi Bonnie - I'm glad you stopped in to say hello! Your idea isn't the least bit stupid . It's always good to experiment! If you are happy with the look of your pastel pencils on the canvas by all means keep going! You will need to put the finished piece under glass to protect it when you're done. As far as I know, there is no spray that will totally protect pastel particles from being lifted off or wiped off or worse still, washed off. I hope you'll show us your finished piece!


04-15-2009, 04:11 PM
Thank you so much, Donna. Does the fixative spray that I use on my graphite portraits not protect the pastel pencil? I haven't put it to the test by rubbing it but have sprayed one section several times as I layer. I learned the hard way that it has to be protected. :o I do like the look on canvas, but I am going to try paper next. What kind of paper is best for pastel pencil? Would bristol or Stonehenge be good? I have plenty of those, watercolor, and matboard.

04-15-2009, 04:35 PM
Hi Bonnie: I will occasionally paint Pastel on canvas. Of course I prepare the canvas with several extra layers of gesso to smooth the canvas texture then the last gesso layer I use has pumice mixed in to help grab and hold the pastel. I never spray fixative on my pastel unless there is an area I want to rework. The spray changes the colors and doesn't really protect the surface all that much.

Your finished painting will have to be put behind glass.

Your final product will probably have a lot of texture from the canvas surface. Of course that can be a fun result. Many of my pastels I've done on the coarse side of canson paper, or on canvas.

This pastel was painted on my pumice gessoed canvas. The leaves on the trees were lightly stroked in and they just came off on the high ridges and weave of the canvas. Up close it looked like pointilism and several people commented on my use of pointlism. (It was just a interesting side effect of the canvas and pumice)

The little strip of painting in my signature line was done on the coarse side of Canson paper. It doesn't make for smooth lines but I enjoy the softness of the lines.

Donna T
04-15-2009, 04:45 PM
Nice pastel on canvas, Hal! I agree with you about the fixative - I avoid it most of the time. Have you tried to layer without using it, Bonnie? You might find that your colors stay brighter if you don't spray. If you can use your pastel pencils on canvas you will have no problem with them on Stonehenge, watercolor paper or matboard. Is Bristol very smooth? If so, you might not be able to get many layers down without spray now and then. You might find this (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=556034) interesting, though. Something new and very promising!


04-15-2009, 05:30 PM
Thank you very much for the help, Hal and Donna. I wondered if you could do pastel pencils on gesso. I like your picture with the trees.

Donna, I am doing the 2nd half of the tree without spray, except very, very little after layering a lot. It is going ok. I just didn't want to "lose" the picture and thought it might need something in order to layer it. Thanks for telling me about the new product. I will definitely look into it. Bristol paper is very smooth. I figured after canvas, paper couldn't be too hard. ;)

04-18-2009, 05:35 PM

I know that there are dry pastel pencils and I suppose that there are oil pastel pencils.
Usually are the oil based pastels that are applied on canvas, but as the saying goes "rules are meant to be broken".
The only drawback that I see (even is pastel particles from pencils are much smaller and get less lose), is the fact that the canvas has a much "giving" structure than paper and might result into some loseness of particles.
But I suppose it's not that serious.

Kind regards,


04-18-2009, 07:11 PM
Hi Bringer, I'm not quite sure what you are asking.

The canvas I use my soft pastels on has been mounted on masonite and given extra gesso plus a final gesso layer that has been mixed with pumice. This gives a firm surface on which to press your pastels and pastel pencils into. It would also work equally well with oil pastels and yes there are oil pastel pencils.

Stretched canvas would have to much give for my techniques. I'm a grinder. I really grind my soft pastels into the surface. I wouldn't use the same technique with oil pastels. A stretched canvas would not stand up to my technique.

Phil Bates
04-18-2009, 09:08 PM
Hi Bonnie,

My mentor has said that there is only one rule to conform to in art, and that is to use materials that are archival to stand the test of time. I believe that primed canvas (like the gesso technique that Hal mentioned) qualifies.

If you are in the mood to experiment with pastel sticks, you should probably try some of the sanded surfaces like Wallis, UArt, Richeson or Ampersand board. These surfaces can hold a lot of layers which can be a benefit depending on your technique. They might be a little too rough for pencil, though.


04-18-2009, 09:17 PM
Hi Hal,

Yes, that's what I was referring to.
Canvas, not on a rigid surface but on strechers may be too flexible for soft pastels.

Best regards,


04-19-2009, 04:10 PM
Thanks for all the input here. I'm having fun doing the dry pastel pencils on canvas whatever the "rules" are. :) Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but I really did want to know what your ideas were on this. I don't know that I would do it again, but it's been an interesting experiment. As Donna said, paper should not be a problem after doing this on canvas! I sometimes start with the most impossible way to do something.

Donna A
04-19-2009, 09:39 PM
Hi, Bonnie! I absolutely agree with Phil's mentor's comment about archivalness! Absolutely! And with Phil's comment about trying sanded paper! The ones he mentioned are very good, though my favorite, having tried all of them, is Art Spectrum Colourfix. You might order a sample pack of sanded papers from Dakota Pastels and try the different sanded papers to see which you prefer!

Now, when using pastels---or pastel pencils, I always find it best to use a good fixative---and to use it in the way that does not darken the pastel whatsoever!!!

To fix the pastel/pastel pencil so that it does not darken, I don't get the picture wet---that is, I spray it once over quickly and evenly---then let it dry a couple of minutes. Then I spray again once over quickly and evenly---and let it dry again! I never get a darker pastel painting!

Unless I'm purposefully spraying it with fix to get it darker in a particular area because the painting needs it. Then I spray the area I want darkened very throughly, getting it quite wet! It dries darker!

So you might want to try that way of fixing---as well as trying no fixing. I'm a believer in experimenting! We learn a lot that way!

And something else you might want to try, while you are at it---if you decide to try canvas again, is to use the Art Spectrum Primer on it (which has the same material that is silkscreened onto the paper or boards to create the Colourfix paper!) I've used that rather than gesso for images painted in pastel as well as with PanPastel on canvas! It's lovely!!!! It DOES take pastel beautifully on the canvas!

Yes, you will need to frame it under glass, as halthepainter mentioned!

Very best wishes!!! Donna ;-}

04-20-2009, 03:32 PM
Thank you so much for your helpful comments, Donna, especially on the fixative. I was using the same fixative I had on hand and have used on graphite portraits on bristol paper. It hasn't seemed to darken it so far, and I could actually use darkening in some places on this drawing. But I've done it very lightly since I wasn't sure what I was doing with pastels and canvas.