View Full Version : New to this with a couple of ?s

10-02-2010, 03:22 AM
I am really keen to try my hand at pastels. I am a real newbie.. have been dabbling in acrylics for around 5 months, and have thus far produced 6 paintings. I love the look of pastel paintings and found a set of conte crayons in my cupboard from my daughters' school days. I live in South Africa where resources are limited, to say the least. I am only able to find Canson paper.. I bought a sheet, as well as a box of 28 Rolfes soft pastels. None of the brands that I see on this site are available where I live, other than the Conte. Would I be able to underpaint in acrylic on the Canson paper? Would I start off with the Conte crayons and cover those in the soft pastels? Sorry for so many questions :o

10-02-2010, 04:58 AM
Hi and welcome to Pastels!
I've never done a wet underpainting on canson but I think it would be worth a try. You may have to tape it down and I can't guarantee it won't buckle. Let us know how you get on.
If not doing an underpainting try using the smooth side of the canson...many pastelists find that it takes the pastel layers better than the textured side (try both though and see which you prefer).
The contes are quite hard pastels and good for initial drawings and detail. You are right that it's probably best to lay them down first and keep the softer pastels for top layers. Once you have a couple of layers of soft pastel on the contes will cut through them rather than laying further colour on top of them.
Oh, and don't do what I did (still do) and put thick coats of soft pastel on. You'll find the tooth of the paper will soon fill so you can't get further layers on. try and use a gentle touch with the softies.
Most importantly...HAVE FUN!!!

10-02-2010, 05:53 AM
Thanks for the reply Ruthie :) . Oh my.. I checked out your website.. seeing paintings like that either make me very depressed or very excited. Depressed because I will never reach that level, and excited because I love looking at other peoples' beautiful works! Exquisite.

Thanks for the tips. I will try both sides as you suggest. My big hurdle is to simply get going. I get rather tense, in case I mess up, which I know I must do in order to gain experience, but I want even my first one to look good! Silly, I know that! I keep staring at the pastels and feeling the paper.. next step is to make the first move! I love the way that pastel paintings look..

10-02-2010, 06:42 AM
Thank you cj!
Well, first off, why not just try out the colours on a smallish piece of paper. See how the different shades layer and blend to create different hues. Make it a sunset or a tree filled landscape. Just do it and practice different strokes and pressures. Doesn't matter how it turns out because it's just a practice....and you MAY end up with a masterpiece!

10-02-2010, 07:04 AM
Hi CJ, I've heard of people trying wet media on Canson, and it definitely needs to be stretched or it dries buckled. But you can use the colour of the Canson as one of the colours in the painting. (Unless you got the white or cream ones.) You can also try a dry underpainting, with the sticks you have, and use turp or isopropyl alcolhol to spread it out (will not buckle the paper). The fluids will also work as a fixative, of sorts, and bind the dust to the paper. For that matter, you can also use fixative for the underpainting.

As you do have acrylic stuff, there are gritty acrylic pastes you can use as primer for pastels, and colour them with acrylic paint. No reason why you can't paint on a properly primed canvas or canvasboard, too. Or paper for acrylic painting, or watercolour paper. You only need a gesso and some grit, if you can't get the gritty pastes.

And, you can make your own pastels, too. Or buy from other countries.

Try our Pastel Learning Center, (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=439) in this Pastel Forum, for tips and tricks.

10-02-2010, 07:31 AM
Thanks Ruthie.. I hadn't even thought of playing around with the pastels to see how they look on paper.. I am so busy marvelling at them in their box! I did have one stroke of the Rolfes pastel - I had no idea how soft it looks.. gorgeous!

Thanks for the reply Charlie :) . I have looked at your site as well. Oh my - superb work. A question for you and Ruthie both. How long have you both been involved in art? Thank you for the many tips - I will definitely try out the underpainting with my pastels and turps, as I am not quite sure what it means to stretch a piece of paper yet, so that would suit me perfectly.

This is a wonderful site.. very inspirational. I literally spend hours drooling over all the lovely work!

10-02-2010, 09:49 AM
Aw, thank you CJ. Stretching wet paper, check out the Watercolour forum, they know *all* about it, but basically it is about stapling or taping the wet paper down to a board so when it dries and shrinks, it dries flat. As for how long, well, since birth? :-) Father was an artist who got a job instead. I started to take my hobby seriously about 8 years ago (working in oils), and then got really serious about 3 years ago, when I picked up pastels and fell in luuuuv. Learned all here at WC, and from books.

10-02-2010, 10:12 AM
Hello and welcome to the pastel forum! As Ruth and Charlie have mentioned, just begin to play with the pastels, experiment and have fun! Pastels are very versatile and they can be done using an underpainting or just working directly. They can be used as a sketching/drawing medium or as a painting with full coverage. Canson is nice because it comes in many colors and the color of the paper can be used as part of the painting.

Don't worry about the outcome at this point. Just practice and have fun! And don't worry about comparing yourself to others! My gosh, if I compared myself to Ruth and Charlie I would get both depressed and excited, too!

Let us know how you are doing with the pastels!


10-02-2010, 12:04 PM
Don, you're so kind :o
CJ. I was "artistic" as a child and passed Art exams at school. Then came a long career which had nothing to do with art.
In 2007 I took early retirement and decided to try an art class in my extra free time.
It's now almost 3 years since I picked up my first pastel and I have been hooked for the last 2 years. Like Charlie, I've learned everything I know from Wet Canvas and from doing loads of pastelling.

Merethe T
10-02-2010, 12:35 PM
Welcome to the pastel forum cj, and welcome to the wonderful world of pastels!
You've gotten good advice already, so I won't add anything reg underpainting as I don't use it myself. But just wanted to tell you what I learned when I started out, and I got it here at Wet Canvas: don't put to much pressure on yourself! Play with your paper and pastels, don't be afraid to ruin a painting and don't expect a masterpiece everytime....because everything you do is valuable - the good and the bad! You'll learn and grow from everything you do....the minute I realized this I was able to relax and have fun, and this has helped me so much.

Have fun with the materials you have available, just be aware you'll probably end up like the rest us - always wanting a new brand, a new color, another paper....lol! Pastels are very addictive.... ;)

Good luck, I hope we get to see your work too.... :)

10-02-2010, 01:23 PM
Thank you all so very much for the lovely, warm welcome :) . I so appreciate the advice, as well as reading about how you came to be where you are today.. to say nothing of the websites and incredibly inspirational art. I think this will be a good lesson in patience for me, as I did indeed play around with some paper and pastels today, and almost ended up in tears.. what I did was HORRIBLE. My plan is to bring a pad and pastels with me to my computer and try to copy a few of the techniques that I can work out from looking at various paintings. I totally agree about the value of this site.. it is amazing in every single way. Thanks so much to all of your for your encouragement and input.. I plan on spending the evening poring over some more wonderful works of art!

10-06-2010, 09:19 AM
hello, and welcome
lots of good advice given
as already said, the 'touch'/pressure used on the paper is very important
- a light touch will not cover the paper completely,
but if you then rub with a folded rag, tissue, or piece of styrofoam,
the colour will spread and cover,
it's also one way to create shading/changes in value
and the paper will still be able to take more layers easily
- kind of like a ' dry ' wash
( some people rub with their fingers, but that means lots of hand cleaning/washing and the skin looses oil = dries out quickly )

have a look in the Sketch Thread at the top of the page ;
- there's quite a variety of styles/approaches,
and no need to make a perfect painting, or even a finished piece

welcome, and enjoy !
:} Ed

10-06-2010, 10:19 AM
cj, if they look 'horrible' after a year of diligent painting and practice, then you're allowed to cry. :-) It takes quite a bit of time to 'get' a new medium.

Here (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=262864)are some demos by Jackie Simmonds you can follow, if you want.

10-06-2010, 10:23 AM
Welcome to the pastel forum CJ!

When I first started painting it was back in 2002 and it was with watercolors. i didn't even know about wet canvas then and bought some learn as you go art books. i practiced the lessons and knew my paintings were not going to be masterpieces, and boy did I have some really bad ones! LOL! but as Merethe said it was all good because everything I did was a learning experience. I was recovering from a divorce at the time and from depression so for me it was therapy. i practiced as much as I could almost daily. (I have chonic illnesses so often not a lot of energy) Back then I had more energy and so could practice 3-4 hours a day. I feel that putting in the practice is what gets you ahead as far as learning goes. i fell in love with pastels a couple of years ago and wish I had more energy to practice. I moved around too much with my boyfriend which contributed to a decline in my health. i'm happy to say I am now somewhere I plan to stay for awhile and plan to get in the studio much more now that it is set up for me.(just an extra bedroom really). I feel i am still in the very beginning of my pastel learning although I have learned so much here the past few years that I have been on. (Maybe it's only been about two but feels longer. i signed up years before that but forgot about it and never went on it so just a couple years back started checking in almost daily). this is long winded but I just wanted to share with you my experience. the more you practice the better you will get. and there are so many really talented people here willing to share their knowledge and lend a helping hand. Also lots of encouragement. i have never heard anything else but encouragement here and so you have come to the right place! good luck and like some have said before me, most of all have fun!


10-07-2010, 02:10 AM
Thanks for the encouragement Charlie :) . I decided to take my piece of Canson paper and cut it into large squares and practise, practise, practise. I played around with both sets of pastels, just to get the feel of them. I know that I am going to love working with these. I am working on finishing off 2 pieces in acrylic, then I will go all out with the pastels. I phoned around locally, and have found a shop that sells Senneliers as well as Sennelier Le Carte and Art Forum Colourfix. I would love to try some of these surfaces out, but will have to put the Sennelier pastels on hold, as I don't have enough for them right now. Thanks for that wonderful link.

Thanks for the reply Sara :) . I agree with you.. it is all a learning curve. Wow, you did indeed put in a lot of practice - I wish I could have your patience! I am so happy for you that you will be getting a studio. It makes such a difference to have a special place in which to be able to spend time with your thoughts and paints. I have just set up in my spare bedroom, as I was painting in the dining room where there is hardly any light. You are right.. this is a WONDERFUL place.. so many helpful, encouraging people. Looking at others' works has inspired me no end!

10-07-2010, 11:42 AM
Hi CJ and welcome! Uh oh, sounds like you're hooked already! :)

I just wanted to chime in and say I've seen some beautiful work here done on newsprint! And great things from six sticks of pastel. Yes, it's fantastic when you have the best pastels and your favorite paper to work with, but the materials aren't going to create wonderful art...YOU are!