So I tabled it for a while, to see if I got more comfortable using pastels.
One of my beloved Friend-Muse-Patrons sent me a box of Prismacolor Nupastels for my birthday. Those were my favorite pastels in college, if I could have been said to have a favorite in a media I do not love. They are square in profile rather than round and both harder and more waxy than most pastels. I find them much easier to control and they lay down a lot of pigment on my toothy Canson Mi Teintes paper.
I also knew I needed a workable fixatif to freeze each layer of color as I laid it on.
But I was having trouble finding the kind of workable fix I used in art school.
Eventually I figured out that Winsor and Newton “soft fixative” is the same product. It’s sold as Professional Fixative now in the US, I believe. It’s a (virtually odorless! brave new world!) spray fixative that holds the dusty pigments in place, and creates a new layer of tooth for the next layer of pastel to catch on and adhere to. I ordered some and went back to the picture of Viva this week.
The process of adding layers of Prismacolor Nupastels to a portrait on Canson Mi Teintes paper by Suzanne Forbes, 2018
Pastels are imprecise anyway, so I can use them fairly well with my injured hand.
The problem with workable fixatif, or any fixatif, is that when you spray them on, they adhere the pigment particles to the paper with an adhesive medium. Which has the effect of darkening the pigments. I hadn’t had much trouble with the Lascaux fix I’d been using, but the new can totally knocked out my highlights.
After each spray of fix I had to go in and restore the highlights. The paper got coarser and coarser, although as promised the fix does build a new layer of tooth. You can continue to add pigment on the surface for a long time. The lightest values in the drawing you see in the photographs aren’t properly fixed; they could easily be rubbed or wiped off. But that is a problem for another day.
I feel like this is a nice depiction of Viva’s beauty and mischief!
Thanks so very much to my Patrons on Patreon whose financial support makes it possible for me to experiment and grow as an artist. You sustain me.
This first one is of the beautiful Viva Lamore, who wore a marvelous outfit with a cage hoop. Because the theme for this Dr. Sketchy’s was Broken Baroque, everyone was wearing ropes of pearls and masses of ruffles. Plus fluffy white cotton batting wigs.
I’m struggling to control the “dust sticks” as I call them and render some kind of believable volume with such pale colors.
I find it so hard to get any detail with pastels. Especially drawing things like pearls and lace. As you can see, for important areas like the models’ faces, I just cheat and use ink. I’m using both my beloved PITT brush pens and 50% grey scale markers here to add in darker values. For the pearls, I started using a white color pencil.
As much as I’ve hated and ignored color pencils all my life, I can see how on paper this good, they can be a nice tool.
Each of these drawings is on a different shade of Mi Teintes paper, as I randomly chose from my pad of sepia, umber, and buff paper in order to provide “new experiences”. Mighta gone a little overboard on adding complicating factors there, as the effect of each color of pastel stick is startlingly different on light vs dark papers.
So I am working on them just a little bit at a time, trying not to set myself the overwhelming goal of “finishing” or “getting them right”.
You can see the drawings I’ve finished so far from this Dr. Sketchy’s here.
Thanks so very much to my Patrons on Patreon whose financial support makes it possible for me to explore new materials like this. You are the best.
I was scared to work on big drawings with pastels, so I worked on them to procrastinate when I was even more scared of finishing the pastel portrait of Iris!
They’re much too big for my scanner, so I had to photograph them.
Turns out photographing pastels is hard! I guess the dust sticks and grease sticks create a lot of surface specularity.
I hope you get the idea anyway. I am pleased with them, and working on them moved me along the road of using pastels and gave me enough confidence to finish the picture of Iris. Which is much closer to a true pastel painting.
I love the process, even when I’m scared. And I love my Patreon Patrons for making possible the space I am working the process in.