January seems to be a time for artistic experimentation – for me, at least. A time to look back over the last year and decide what to work on this year. This January finds me experimenting with different pastel surfaces. I went through the Dick Blick Catolog and picked out a few that I have never tried and thought might be fun and work for me. Before I get into my reviews of each surface, I will just say the the medium I favor is Conte Pencils, rather than those dusty little sticks that most people think of when you say the word “Pastel”, being pencils with a fairly hard, chalky, slightly gritty pigment, they do behave in their own special way on various surfaces – so, what might suit me, might not work for someone using either pastel sticks OR another brand of pastel pencil….Conte pencils are unique within the genre.
Anyway – trying new surfaces – and you could call this the “1st installement” on the subject , because I have not yet finished, having two more options yet to try (I’m not just grabbing the board/paper and scribbling a couple of lines on it or stroking it with my finger, people, so, it takes time!) I made a little collage, up above, to show some work on different surfaces. In order, going clockwise, starting top left, they are:
- Shizen Handmade Deckle edge Pastel Paper (comes in a multicolor pack of 25) This is a very soft paper and I actually found that my Conte pencils chewed the surface up a bit, so, this example is actually my attempt with the dusty little sticks (!) It can be done in Conte (as you will see below, BUT, my overall feeling is that this one may be better suited to the softer, pastel sticks….I don’t have any other brand of pastel pencils, but, those might be good too?)
- This second one is in a lot of respects, the opposite extreme of the soft, handmade, paper. Richeson’s premium pastel surface on Gator Foam. This is a 1/4″ thick, foamboard, surface, with a fine, toothy, coloured surface. Quite the most expensive surface I have ever drawn on, to date! ($4.52 for a small, 5″x 7″ piece….pheeew!) Anyway, I had some fun with it – It does work quite well with the Conte pencils and holds enough pigment that you can get some good, fine, detail, in there (trust me, I could Never get this kind of definition on most surfaces, at this scale, this is really small, for me!) Pretty good stumping properties, too. The only complaint I have is that a lot of the pigment seemed to fall off and not stay put and I would be interested to see (if I can ever afford some more!) what it would do with pastel sticks, OR maybe even Oil Pastels ?????
- The third across is what I consider to be my original surface of choice, Canson Pastel Paper – The go to paper for many artists in this medium and readily available in any remotely ‘arty’ store, here in the US, at least. Works well for Conte and Stick pastels, good blending ability, regular, predictable tooth,good for blending….cheap, and if you know no different, an artist could be quite happy with this one.
- Number four, at least in the face of all I have tried, so far (and I do have two more to go) remains my TRUE LOVE of pastel surfaces. Sennelier LaCarte Pastelboard – I have been using it for just about a year now and it is like drawing on fine sandpaper, but, it holds the pigment and handles the old Conte Pencils like no other! My only complaint is that it is pretty pricey at $12 for 18″x 24″ and also that if you make a mistake in a dark colour, good luck to you in removing it!!!
- Last in my little collage is my sunlit nephew and this is actually the same paper as the first example, but, this is my Conte Pencil attempt and the one that caused me to complain that the pencils were eating the paper. Other than that it’s not bad, and maybe I could adapt or use pastel pencils (an excuse to buy some new art supplies – Hurrah!)
Anyway, all of that was pretty fun, but, actually the unexpected thing that has come out of all this is that it got me to step outside of my normal way of doing things and try new stuff and yes, it got me to pick up some of the dusty little sticks that sit, largely untouched, in the back of my art cupboard and make a pretty, blue and white portrait that is so totally not my normal style and that is what makes it all worthwhile, isn’t it? The unexpected surprises that creep in when you leave the window open 😉