View Full Version : A "Different" Way of Doing Pastels

Kathryn Wilson
06-16-2010, 12:08 PM
There may be others that have heard of this process, but I have not -

I was watching a travel/food show on TV and they did a short piece on Mario Donizetti (Bergamo, Italy) who works with pastels (and egg tempera).

His method was interesting:

He uses canvas on board, then using marble dust (and plaster?), coats the canvas. He lets that dry (I am assuming), then when he is ready to put pastel to paper, he hot steams the plaster and then proceeds to rub in the pastel to the surface, and I guess when it dries the pastel is absorbed into the plaster/marble dust surface.

Forgive me for guessing at some of the method, the presenter was not all that thorough. She likened it to "encaustic pastel" or as a fresco?

I tried to Google for his methods, but most of what is posted on the internet are articles and his egg tempera paintings.

Interesting? eh?

06-16-2010, 12:18 PM
Sounds interesting, but more work than I'd want to go to! :cat: It probably changes the appearance of the pastel too.

Thanks for sharing this Kat.


Deborah Secor
06-16-2010, 06:26 PM
Wow--fascinating. I suspect the result could be quite beautiful. I'll have to go look at his work. Thanks, Kat!


Kathryn Wilson
06-16-2010, 06:38 PM
Thoughtless of me to not include at least a link:


Didn't I read somewhere that Dega steamed his pastels from the back of the paper?

06-16-2010, 06:48 PM
This sounds like a variation of the fresco technique. I wonder if the plaster didn't dry, just firmed up enough after a few hours to accept small amounts of pressure, when the pigments were applied.

You mentioned the plaster was hot steamed. This is curious to me. Was this after the marble dust was applied? Plaster cannot be reactivated in the way that wax can. Although ,dampening fresh plaster that is firm but not dry helps move the lime (calcium hydroxide) through the plaster and to the surface where it carbonizes into a crystalline crust that makes a fresco a buon fresco. The pigment particles are locked into this "lime crust".

As a pastelist who has been painting in buon fresco for the past four years I'd like to know more. Any other leads as to where this video may be found?



06-16-2010, 06:57 PM

Nope not fresco. It seems he makes a gesso with animal glue that is drawn upon and steamed at the end to reactivate the glue, thus locking in the pastel to the gesso. Clever!

The animal glue is basically re-activated with heat and water.


Kathryn Wilson
06-16-2010, 07:12 PM
Glad you found out Mike - like I said, the person who was talking about his art was not totally clear on the method, so I filled in the gaps.

They did mention marble dust also and when he demonstrated the first swipe of pastel, it did look like it was going on similarly to sanded paper.

06-16-2010, 08:49 PM
Good stuff. Animal glue, whitening (such as titanium oxide) and marble dust for texture is a common gesso formula for painting. Until now I never realized it could be used for pastel work too, in the manner he uses it.

Thanks for posting it, I'm grateful to learn this.


Kathryn Wilson
06-16-2010, 09:07 PM
If you decide to use this technique, come back and tell us about it :)

Kathryn Wilson
06-16-2010, 09:28 PM
I found this on Google, but it is a discussion thread here on WC about the fixing of pastels with steam -


06-17-2010, 11:40 AM
i remember Sonni experimenting with steaming about a year ago.

this is a great thread Kat, thanks! I added it to my favorites and also rated it.
Who knows, it could become one of those monster threads:)

i love learning about "new" techniques:)


Kathryn Wilson
06-17-2010, 01:10 PM
Thanks Sara - I know we all hate the framing under glass issue, so this technique might be something for folks to look into. I sure wish the paper manufacturers could come up with something that we could steam and make the pastels as permanent as acrylic and oils.

I've used Genesis before (an oil base paint that needs to be heated to be permanent) - the advantage there is the paint never dries until it is heated with a heat gun.