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Paula Ford
01-04-2010, 10:39 PM
Hello! In one of my recent threads, I did an alcohol underpainting and wanted everone to know how I do it, and maybe get a discussion going about underpaintings. (I'm putting it here to share with everybody, just in case someone missed it in my painting thread.)

I start out with a preliminary, pretty basic sketch on my board (Ampersand Pastelbord) with a charcoal stick and then put down the first layer of color in pastels.

This is my first, preliminary layer of pastel.....I'll explain starting with the sky. I normally use a dark value of blue at the top of the sky, then in the middle sky a medium (lighter than the dark) value, and then at closest to the horrizon or in this case tops of the trees with the lightest value of blue. It almost looks like 3 stripes.

Then I block in the darkest value for all of the trees in the background. In this painting, I used a Mount Vision extremely dark navy blue.

Then in the foreground I use the same blues as the sky for the snow, but in reverse order. The lightest will be the farthest away; the medium will be in the middle; and the darkest will be in the foreground.

That covers all of the board and I've only used 4 colors.

Then I take a cup and put about an inch of rubbing alcohol in it and with a flat, synthetic square paint brush (about a 1/2" wide) I get it wet with the alcohol and starting at the top using crosshatching motions, start to liquify the darkest blue (MAKING SURE THE BRUSH IS NOT DRIPPING WET!!), I keep cleaning the brush by swishing it in the alcohol and then move down to the medium value blue and start liquifying that area, but now I'm starting to bring that medium value up into the dark value so the stripes disappear. Again, swishing off the brush to clean it, I go into the lightest area and also crosshatching and blending it into the medium value. When that is done, I have a nicely blended sky that is soft and has a nice transition from lightest at the tree line to darkest at the top, but there are no hard lines and no longer any stripes. Sometimes no other layers of pastels are necessary if the sky turns out really nice using the alcohol, so I just leave it just the way it is. I love it when that happens :D

Then I wet my brush again and because trees are vertical, I use vertical strokes from the bottom to top with the alcohol until that is all liquified. By starting at the bottom in this stage, the wash is thinned toward the tops of the trees, which trees are in real life (thinner at the top that is).

Then in the background all the way to the foreground I repeat the steps I took in the sky, but using more horrizontal strokes.

In the end all of the first layer of pastel is liquified and is no longer clogging the tooth.

I know that when other artists use this type of method, they let it drip, but I don't! That's just my style.

robertsloan2
01-04-2010, 10:55 PM
Thank you! I love the results in your paintings and I'll try this sometime on Pastelbord. Is this just normal rubbing alcohol like from the drugstore?

PETE K
01-05-2010, 12:09 AM
Paula, I tried it last night on a deep blue sky. I dont know (what i may have did) not add enought colour when i tried the wash. or i did use a wash brush. and mybe i got to much alcohol on it. the alcohol i used is 91% ( non drinkable kind) I did take some of the pastels off when wet but when dried it came out quite well. i did have to add more pastels on tho. than i tried a mist and the sky came out very nice. even transtitions from colours. nice deep blue on top and not so light on bottom. i painted pastels over it and the colours of the palms held without pulling up (mixing) the blues. for the effect i was trying for it did work very well. thank you.

MChesleyJohnson
01-05-2010, 12:25 AM
I use this technique, too, Pete. I found the trick is to make sure you apply enough pastel to the paper and then have a delicate touch with the brush. With too little pastel or too heavy a hand with the brush, you'll get thin spots.

Great description, Paula!

PETE K
01-05-2010, 12:54 AM
Thanks Michael, i figured it was one or the other or both even. i need to play around a little more with it. till i get the touck with it.

Donna T
01-05-2010, 09:57 AM
Thanks for sharing your technique with alcohol washes, Paula. I'll have to try your bottom-to-the-top method with trees - makes sense! I use alcohol in a little atomizer sometimes and like the effect I get. Instead of using a wet brush to move the pigment around I'll use a Viva paper towel (works best on UArt and my homemade surfaces) to get smooth, uniform coverage with pastel and then just lightly mist it with alcohol. I find this is a good way to get dark areas in underpaintings to remain dark and there's no smearing or hard edges to deal with.

DAK723
01-05-2010, 10:03 AM
Paula,

Thanks for the tips and technique description! Aside from Ampersand Pastelbord, what other papers or boards have you used this technique on? Any papers or boards that this doesn't work on, in your experience?

Thanks!

Don

Lisa Fiore
01-05-2010, 10:18 AM
Paula, I'm curious what happens with the original sketch and the charcoal? Doesn't the charcoal muddy up the pastel? Does any of the original sketch remain (after the alcohol dries) as a "guide" for the painting? Thanks! :)

jwcarroll
01-05-2010, 11:03 AM
hrmmm I need to try this. Thanks for the tips.

rankamateur1
01-05-2010, 11:06 AM
I've tried alcohol wash on:

Canson MT - Surprize!!!! it doesn't dry flat.

Matboard with Colorfix primer - works great. Actually, anything covered with colorfix works fine as long as the back is gessoed. The colorix primer seals the board/paper so that the alcohol wash doesn't soak through.

Strathmore Bristol - dries flat.

Uart 400 - worked fine.

Luana

MChesleyJohnson
01-05-2010, 11:35 AM
Also works on Wallis paper. Now, I've heard reports that some of the new batches of Wallis paper don't work as well - the surface actually lifts off. I haven't seen this myself, since I have a quantity of the old batch.

Studio-1-F
01-05-2010, 11:50 AM
Also works fine on Pastelmat paper (http://www.dakotapastels.com/pages/paper-pastelmat.aspx). Tested alcohol wash in my review (http://jan777.blogspot.com/2009/10/examined-pastemat-paper.html). It buckles a tiny bit (if really drenched) but dries flat. The pigment spreads into a very cool looking texture too, if you play your cards right. Fun! Fun!

Jan

vanhulle
01-05-2010, 11:53 AM
Paula:
Thank you for the tips. I do have two questions:
1.) What type of alcohol - just plain old rubbing alcohol?
2.) What do you do with the pastel-contaminated alcholol? I try to be ecology-minded where possible. Can you pour it back into the original container and let the pastel particles fall to the bottom as sediment?
Phil

PETE K
01-05-2010, 12:00 PM
I've tried alcohol wash on:

Canson MT - Surprize!!!! it doesn't dry flat.

Matboard with Colorfix primer - works great. Actually, anything covered with colorfix works fine as long as the back is gessoed. The colorix primer seals the board/paper so that the alcohol wash doesn't soak through.

Strathmore Bristol - dries flat.

Uart 400 - worked fine.

Luana

Luana, Suprize it does dry flat on Canson MT that's the paper i use the most and i haven't had that problem yet. it may take a little longer than the covered papers. being you have some kind of bonding agent protecting the paper. but it does dry flat.

saramathewson
01-05-2010, 12:02 PM
I will have to try this. Paula, you were using uart, I was wondering if you have gone back to pastelbord or if you use both now? And of course why?

Thanks,
Sara

Paula Ford
01-05-2010, 01:08 PM
Robert, I use just 74% rubbing alcohol from any drugstore or Walmart.

Pete, I agree with Michael. You have to have enough pastel on the surface and a have a delicate touch with the brush for this to work well.

Don, I've only used this on Ampersand Pastelbord and Uart. Both work great!

Lisa, Once the pastels and alcohol go over the original sketch, it disappears, but that's ok with me. I don't usually do a detailed sketch. I just put in 3 or 4 main abstract shapes to let me know where things are.

I use thumbnail sketches to refer back to if for some reason everything goes wrong and I have to get back to the sketch.

No, the charcoal never muddies the pastel. They work SO well together whether you use a wet or dry underpainting. I often use them during many stages of the painting also.

Phil, Just normal ole 74% rubbing alcohol. When I'm done, I pour it down the drain. There really isn't much, maybe about 1/4 cup. If anyone thinks that is hazardous, please let me know.

Sara, I love them both so I go back and forth with them.

Thanks so much everybody!

Paula Ford
01-05-2010, 01:09 PM
If you find this thread useful, please rate it. Thank you

Deborah Secor
01-05-2010, 01:22 PM
I also use a spray bottle with plain old isopropyl alcohol in it to blacken Wallis paper. I tape down the Wallis, lay down a layer of very dark pastel (not normally black, usually that lovely dark purple Terry Ludwig makes) and then with the board flat I spray it lightly. It gets dark and wet looking all over. Then I spread it around with my foam brush. I let that dry thoroughly before painting. It fills up some of the tooth but Wallis is deep enough to take it and give back more, so it works. (Here's one thread (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=542662&highlight=blackened+wallis)with a pic of the painting done on a blackened sheet--you can see the color in the upper right-hand corner of the first shot. And here's another (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=501286&highlight=blackened+wallis).)

Just another idea to add to the mix. Thanks Paula!

Deborah

vanhulle
01-05-2010, 01:45 PM
Deborah:
Thank you. Sounds like keeping the alcohol in a spray bottle would resolve my concerns about dumping the alcohol!
Phil

Trikist
01-05-2010, 04:13 PM
I use hard pastels on Wallis's. I have used water over a dark undertones (on Wallis's) to keep it from mixing with lighter tones that I wish to add on top. I want to achieve more of a dry brush affect, rather than blending. Would alcohol work better for this? Is it a better solvent than water for hard pastels?

Regards, Gary

Deborah Secor
01-05-2010, 05:37 PM
Paula, you can always set the cup out and let the alcohol evaporate... then you don't have to worry about pouring it out.

Deborah

Paula Ford
01-05-2010, 06:00 PM
That is the greatest way to tone paper/board! Thanks Deborah, and thank you for the tip about having the alcohol evaporate... great idea!

Gary, In my opinion, alcohol does liquify the pastels better than water, plus it dries much faster.

johndill01
01-05-2010, 10:30 PM
Paula, just had to tell you that I tried this yesterday on a small (6 x 8 in.) piece of pastelmat and it worked great. By coating the paper with the 4 values of blue, then working a rough drawing into the pastel while wet enabled me to complete a painting in less than an hour, after drying time for the alcohol. Thanks very much for this tip.

John

p.s. I gave this thread a rating of 5.

Mstechart
01-05-2010, 11:01 PM
Paula thank you so much for sharing this information! I love working on pastelbord and you did a GREAT job at explaining this technique!!

I'm so excited about all I'm learning here -- THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

MCSosenko
01-06-2010, 12:34 AM
You can use the alcohol (or for that matter watercolor) underpainting on any paper that can handle water. I have used it on art spectrum, wallis and pastelboard. YOU CANNOT USE IT ON LACARTE SENELIER PAPER. The vegetable flakes will fall off and leave craters.
I buy the most concentrated rubbing alcohol and dilute it with water. The more water the longer it dries, but the more time you have to play with it.
Some artists really get into painting shapes etc with the underwash allowing areas to show thru (as in with trees, leaves).
You can get interesting effects by splattering the wet pastel-alcohol on your brush back on the paper. It is so much fun to experiment.
Since you can never duplicate what you have done, it's a good idea to write it down. I find I cant even remember what kind of paper I've used, so I keep a journal.

Potoma
01-06-2010, 01:05 AM
One of my pastel teachers uses a pastel underpainting almost exclusively. She usually uses gin b/c the smell is more pleasing to her.

She also manipulates the pastel so that there are heavier areas and lighter areas of the same color (as in weighting/shaping a tree) to coincide with her goals.

She only uses hard pastels to do underpainting, saving her soft, expensive ones for the top. No need for the grit to waste expensive pastel.

Here's a demo she did for us with a contrasting color underpainting (http://bfbutler.blogspot.com/2009/11/pastel-underpainting.html).

Although I've done a number with pastel and alcohol, doing watercolor underpaintings make so much more sense to me. I like how smooth they are.

rankamateur1
01-06-2010, 08:58 AM
Luana, Suprize it does dry flat on Canson MT that's the paper i use the most and i haven't had that problem yet. it may take a little longer than the covered papers. being you have some kind of bonding agent protecting the paper. but it does dry flat.

Pete, I'll have to give it another try. Thanks
Luana

rankamateur1
01-06-2010, 09:04 AM
Paula:
Thank you for the tips. I do have two questions:
1.) What type of alcohol - just plain old rubbing alcohol?
2.) What do you do with the pastel-contaminated alcholol? I try to be ecology-minded where possible. Can you pour it back into the original container and let the pastel particles fall to the bottom as sediment?
Phil

I use just plain old rubbing alcohol from the pharmacy. I pour it into some kind of container that has a top - an empty pill bottle works fine - and then just keep that same batch going until it runs out. As you suggested, the pastel particles fall to the bottom as sediment and I just leave it there. So I just keep reusing the same alcohol until it runs out, and either toss or refill. I haven't noticed any significant color contamination unless I really mix up the alcohol so that the sediment gets resuspended.

Luana

MChesleyJohnson
01-06-2010, 09:07 AM
Another approach is Turpenoid or Gamsol - odorless mineral spirits. It won't buckle paper, and it dries more slowly, giving you more time to "work" the pastel. I like to play with brush strokes. You can't do that with the alcohol because of the short drying time.

Devonlass
01-06-2010, 09:18 AM
Luana.... That's a great tip, I use alcohol a lot for underpainting, but never realized it was reusable. I'm going to try that.

PS..... (I hope we can get together again when we get into the warmer weather!)

westcoast_Mike
01-06-2010, 10:57 AM
Another approach is Turpenoid or Gamsol - odorless mineral spirits.

Make sure you don't use the "green" can with sanded sheets. It's a VOC free systhetic and you'll wind up with a gummy mess.

MChesleyJohnson
01-06-2010, 06:23 PM
Right, good point. The Turpenoid Natural is *not* the one to use. It comes in a green can. Make sure you use the blue can - regular Turpenoid.

Colorix
01-06-2010, 08:05 PM
With isopropyl, I've detected a slight lessening of tooth. Even tested on a part of the paper where there was no pastel, and yes, the tooth got a little bit less aggressive. Not much, about a layer's worth or so.

Kathryn Wilson
01-06-2010, 11:03 PM
Although I've used all of these materials, I stick with watercolor underpaintings. I think each gives a different look to a painting.

Anyone use oil in an underpainting like McKinley uses? I'd love to try this technique - again, another unique look.

Potoma
01-07-2010, 12:53 AM
The same instructor I pointed out before also does oils and I've seen her demo. It was very cool in that she squeezed out a tiny bit of maybe four water-soluble oils on a paper plate, put in her lines and fills, then was done. It was great; I'd have been putting out a full palette on my EasyL.

She'll often leave dark lines in particular in. If you look at her work (linked from my last post), you can tell the ones with oils.

I just got a set of water-soluble oils in part for this purpose.

MarshaSavage
01-13-2010, 09:35 AM
Thanks Paul for the post on the alcohol underpainting technique. I have used this many times in the past.

Kat, glad you asked about the Richard McKinley technique with oil. I was doing a search here and did not find any posts about this. I am looking for more information about the oil. If you know of a post, would you point me in that direction. I tried it yesterday and need more information.

There is great information here in this post about alcohol -- try it!

westcoast_Mike
01-13-2010, 10:54 AM
Marsha - I don't know of any posts but I can add what I know from when I watched him Demo it. He uses regular oil's not water miscible. The key, as he puts it, was to thin it down to the consistency of tea. From there, it was pretty much like doing a watercolor under painting. The main difference between using oil and WC is the way it bleeds. If you look at one of his August 2008 posts on his Blog (http://pastelpointersblog.artistsnetwork.com/default,month,2008-08.aspx), you can see a bit of it in the greens.

MarshaSavage
01-13-2010, 11:28 AM
Mike, thanks -- I did try it a few months ago and was not having fun. But I did not let it dry enough -- at least I think that was the problem.

A friend -- Carly Hardy -- did a demo at our Southeastern Pastel Society meeting on Monday and showed us what she does, after viewing his DVD. I did go look at his post on the Blog. I read the words, saw Carly, and tried it again yesterday -- the consistency of tea. It did bleed into each other and I was left with a "fuzzy" image as my husband likes to say. I think his images show a more controlled use.

I will try again with a smaller brush. More control. I do not use the water miscible oils, so won't be using them. I like the idea that it dries faster than water. I have used the alcohol method.

So, today later I will try again. I know it is something to learn and not just think I will be as good as Richard on the first try!!! :)

Thanks,

Paula Ford
01-13-2010, 11:39 AM
I've tried the oil underpainting technique. It's really cool! I just don't like the cleanup so I'll stick to alcohol.

Often the alcohol acts just like the oil, in that it turns into those little fingery things. If you've watched Richard's DVD, you'll know what I mean.

helenh
01-13-2010, 02:32 PM
Thanks Paul for the post on the alcohol underpainting technique. I have used this many times in the past.

Kat, glad you asked about the Richard McKinley technique with oil. I was doing a search here and did not find any posts about this. I am looking for more information about the oil. If you know of a post, would you point me in that direction. I tried it yesterday and need more information.

There is great information here in this post about alcohol -- try it!
Here is one thread I started after the class I took at IAPS:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=566429&highlight=richard+mckinley+iaps

allydoodle
01-13-2010, 05:09 PM
Thanks Paul for the post on the alcohol underpainting technique. I have used this many times in the past.

Kat, glad you asked about the Richard McKinley technique with oil. I was doing a search here and did not find any posts about this. I am looking for more information about the oil. If you know of a post, would you point me in that direction. I tried it yesterday and need more information.

There is great information here in this post about alcohol -- try it!

Marsha,

Here is a link to Richard McKinley's approach to underpainting with oils. Hope it helps. (I've never inserted a link before, so I hope I did it right!)

http://pastelpointersblog.artistsnetwork.com/Underpainting+With+Oil+Paints.aspx

allydoodle
01-13-2010, 05:12 PM
Paula,

Great thread. The information is terriffic! I too have used alchohol underpainting and have found it to be very useful. I think I will try it more, and maybe try the spray bottle approach too, as well as the brush approach. Thanks everyone for all the information!