Using pastels on dark paper is so weird.
I started this drawing of Viva Lamore at Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin “Broken Baroque” session quite a while back. She is the producer of Full Moon Cabaret as well as lots of other artistic projects, and a frequent Dr. Sketchy’s model; I love to draw her. I worked on this one a good bit at home, but couldn’t figure out how to resolve it.
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.