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Old 03-05-2018, 07:12 PM
Richard Barrere Richard Barrere is offline
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From soft to hard and back again

Hello, I wanted to post my experience lately with soft and hard pastels. When I began with pastels a few months ago, I was completely taken with the experience of soft pastels on sanded paper. I still am, kind of. I went a little crazy trying to collect as many as I could, and to use them as often as time allowed. Due to the expense of those darned things, I researched and began making my own pastels and have had good success. Just recently, however, I picked up a Nupastel stick that was exactly the right color I was looking for, and began to use it to make some small details. Lo and behold, it worked for me in ways I wasn't expecting. I have been using the hard pastel sticks and pencils over the top of parts of my soft pastel paintings, and have been able to get some really interesting effects. By sort of scratching into the thicker soft pastel and varying the pressure, I'm able to get some really nice details such as blades of grass and the like. It does lay down a little color, but it also scratches. I've found that I can use that as a tool. Also, by laying the stick on the flat edge of the short side and using a light touch, I can blend colors really well. Much better than using a dusty finger or a blending tool. Others who have been doing this longer than I probably know all about these techniques, but I thought I would share. I'll make a place in my pastel box for hard pastels after all!
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Old 03-05-2018, 08:18 PM
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Donna T Donna T is offline
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

You are right, Richard, hard pastels are really useful. I would miss my Polychromos sticks if I didn't have them. I found that cross-hatched sections of hard pastel work real well under soft pastels if I'm working on a paper without much tooth. The softer pastels seem to grip the network of hard pastels better than they do the paper (or so it seems sometimes.) They work so well to move pastel around when you really don't want to add more. A stick of vine charcoal is also good to have around. You can feather edges, create tree branches etc.
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Old 03-06-2018, 01:58 PM
Richard Barrere Richard Barrere is offline
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

Hello Donna T, thanks for responding. So you have used the hard pastels in a cross hatch as an underpainting? Do you rub it into the ground, or just leave it? Do you ever use alcohol or water brushing over it? I've tried that with limited success, but I've never tried underpainting with hard pastels and going over them with the soft, without touching the underpainting. If that's what has worked for you, I'm anxious to try it. It is so much fun exploring all the ways to use the different types of pastels.
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Old 03-06-2018, 03:26 PM
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

Richard, I think I've cross-hatched hard pastels on top of an underpainting and also used the technique instead of an underpainting. Sometimes I use them on their sides to block in big underpainting shapes and then wash (brush lightly) them in with alcohol. The colors are not disturbed when soft pastels are then layered over the top, ie. no mud is made. I never rub cross-hatched lines because they blend together and make mud. Here's a link to Barbara Jaenicke's blog from 2013. If you scroll down she does several demos showing how she uses hard pastels to create colored shapes for underpaintings. I have learned a lot from her blog over the years! Here's a close-up of a piece I did by building up cross-hatched layers on a surface prepared with pumice gel. I'm not a portrait painter but doing it this way allowed me to gradually find my way with skin tones. If the tone wasn't right I simply kept adding webs of color on top. I don't think I used much in the way of soft pastels except for a few places at the very end.
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Old 03-06-2018, 06:32 PM
Richard Barrere Richard Barrere is offline
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

Wow Donna, that's impressive! Lovely textures and tones, so rich and deep. I will definitely check out the demos too, it always helps to see it as it is explained. BTW, I checked your website and you have some very lovely work on there. Beautiful landscapes, so deep and subtle and moody. "Snow Moving In" and "Winters Pink Veil" are my favorites. They are very, very inspirational for me. I have so much to learn!
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Old 03-06-2018, 07:25 PM
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

Thanks so much, Richard. I have much to learn too!
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Old 03-06-2018, 07:36 PM
Richard Barrere Richard Barrere is offline
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

Don't we all! Really though, I love your work. How long have you been doing pastels?
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Old 03-09-2018, 12:55 PM
nachele nachele is offline
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

Quote:
Originally Posted by Donna T
Here's a close-up of a piece I did by building up cross-hatched layers on a surface prepared with pumice gel. I'm not a portrait painter but doing it this way allowed me to gradually find my way with skin tones. If the tone wasn't right I simply kept adding webs of color on top. I don't think I used much in the way of soft pastels except for a few places at the very end.


Donna...wow, this is so impressive! I'm doing a portrait at the moment, on sanded paper, but I'm struggling so much with texture and skin tones, do you have some suggestion to try your cross hatching technique? do you know any tutorial on this, and in general on skin tones?
I'm using rembrandt, but I also have a small set of contÚ that are harder...

Thanks,

Nat
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Old 03-09-2018, 01:18 PM
PeggyB PeggyB is offline
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

Quote:
Originally Posted by nachele
Donna...wow, this is so impressive! I'm doing a portrait at the moment, on sanded paper, but I'm struggling so much with texture and skin tones, do you have some suggestion to try your cross hatching technique? do you know any tutorial on this, and in general on skin tones?
I'm using rembrandt, but I also have a small set of contÚ that are harder...

Thanks,

Nat

Nat I'm not meaning to step on Donna's toes here, but i just read your post, and can tell you the answer to your question is right there in Donna's post. Barbara Jaenicke's blog will give you an excellent start on learning more about this technique. You can click on the link in Donna's post.
BTW: I agree that Donna has done a most excellent job on this portrait example. Barbara is a very good tutor.
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Old 03-10-2018, 09:42 AM
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

Hi Nat, thanks for the kind words about my portrait but I really do admit that my "technique" if it is one was done out of complete fear and ignorance. All I knew about painting skin tones at the time was based on my landscape experience and the discovery that texture means that what we see on top must be built on something that exists underneath. A patch of grass looks greener when peeks of reddish soil behind them show through so the rosy glow of a skin tone must look more natural when it is built on top of contrasting cool colors, or so I hoped. I used greens and violets to build the structure of this face and held off on the pinks and peaches as long as possible. I do think that cross hatching allowed tiny bits of cool colors to show through and give a natural look; more natural than if I had just applied what we think of as skin colors to a neutral-colored surface. Barbara Jaenicke's technique with underpainting wasn't used on the face because it involves laying in broad swaths of color and then washing it in. I was so unsure of what colors to use that I thought a trial and error method of cross hatching might serve me better.

Our own Dorothea Schulz has a truly educational thread with great demos here of how she builds natural skin tones on a green foundation. She uses pastel pencils and might be able to offer more help than I can.

In case you'd like to see the entire portrait I painted it's here. I mentioned in this thread that sealing my initial drawing with pumice gel was very helpful because it enabled me to wash off at least one botched beginning and start over without having to re-draw everything.

Thanks Peggy, I wish I could study with Barbara in person. Her blog has been a huge help to me and probably hundreds of others.
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Old 03-13-2018, 07:42 AM
nachele nachele is offline
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

Hi all,

@Peggy sorry if my comment seemed a repetition, I already took a look at Barbara Jaenicke's blog, but I didn't find exactly the technique that Donna used in this painting, I mean crosshatching hard pastels on softer pastels.
But I understand that this is just Donna's genius and it is not a documented technique
@Donna, thanks for the others suggestions, I already knew Cuong Nguyen from some videos I saw online, so after your suggestions I tried to rework the portrait I was doing, by covering it with a layer of green shades and then retried to build skin tones on it.
Well, the tones themselves turned out very well, much better than the starting point, but the paper is not getting more color and some spots are damaged by this, even fixative is not working.
I will redo a portrait, I bought also two Cuong's ebooks, they are very very explicatives, although working with Rembrants is not the same as with CarboOthello, and I have to understand how to layer and "blend" pastels without really blending.
Thanks everyone for your help!

Sorry @Richard if I brought the discussion a bit OT...
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Old 03-13-2018, 12:23 PM
Richard Barrere Richard Barrere is offline
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

Ha, not at all, Nat! It's fun to see where these discussions go. I also tried to find some information on the cross hatching with hard pastels underpainting technique, and decided to try it myself on my latest painting, with mixed results. I think I might have chosen the wrong color to start with, but I eventually got things to work. I want to explore it more. I don't know what I'm doing most of the time, it's mostly trial and error. I learn best by watching something, so a video on this would be extremely helpful. I watch and re-watch videos of pastel artists on youtube and learn something valuable each time. It's fun to see how others work, how different they all are.
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Old 03-16-2018, 06:40 AM
nachele nachele is offline
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

Richard I'd be curious to see your results!
I also watch a lot of videos and follow a lot of tutorials, I love to see artists in action, the process itself is so fascinating to me!
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Old 03-21-2018, 05:24 AM
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

Interesting topic I would like to try the hard pastels.

BTW, the tittle of the thread is hilarious.. the "back again" is what the wife wants
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Old 03-21-2018, 04:00 PM
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Re: From soft to hard and back again

Interesting topic. I like having multiple hardness in my pastels for different effects, it's a lot more versatile.

Donna, I love your skin tones. That sample of the portrait is magnificent. The textures you got vanish at any distance but you've captured nuances in the hue and tone that you can't get just choosing pale and medium neutral colors. The blends of more saturated tints create a lot more living depth. Which is why "skin color" sticks are at best a starting point. Wow!
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