Pastel Dust experiments with underpainting

I like to do an underpainting on most works.  My typical application is to use a hard pastel and lay in color in the basic shapes of the composition and then wash with 91% Alcohol.  Once that dries – and it does rather quickly, I apply the soft pastels of the painting to the paper, leaving a bit of the color from the wash to peek through in the finished painting.  Often the choice of color for the underpainting will be a complimentary color to pastel used on the final application.

I know some folks are using watercolor washes and oil paint washes, so I decided to give at least the oil paints a go for an underpainting.  I know it needs to be quite thinned to not fill the tooth of the paper so the thinning substance should be something that expedites quick drying…like Gamsol.  One day I was out away from studio and much supply and decided to use what I had.  The linseed oil thins the paint very well, but doesn’t dry…for several days! NOT an option!  I did have Turpnoid and that dried quickly and seemed to work nicely.  I was shooting for some “runs” in the final painting and this achieved that effect.  I will say that I put some pastel over the first underpainting once the linseed had dried (left a tacky surface on UArt paper) seemed to work…but my hesitation to judge it is that I wonder if the oily feature will bleed through the final coats of dry pastel.  Compared to using the alcohol wash with the oil paint wash…I think I prefer the alcohol wash.  Both tests were done on 600 UArt paper.  My reason for the preference is I can get somewhat of a “run” with the alcohol and it dries really quickly.  The quick dry is great for plein air work.  I have also used it on PastelMat successfully.  Another day I will use watercolor.


About bonnie griffith

I am a landscape artist who works in pastels, oils and acrylics. My work focuses on representational studies of the western US. I am basically self taught with lots of workshops and studies with several landscape artists such as Bruce Haughey and Clark Elster. I live in southwestern Idaho, am a native Montanan with a strong connection to the land. I spend as much time as I can in MT painting as well other parts of the northwest. I appreciate getting out in the field and working plein air because there is nothing like completing a painting in the true light of day and visually not being compromised by the use of a photo. In my work, my goal is to produce a piece of work that draws the viewer into the painting and challenges them to explore the scene; get a sense of the time of day, the temperature, the light or lack of. If I have gotten that viewer to step out of their reality and into that painting and enjoy it, then my work was accomplished as I wished. View all posts by bonnie griffith

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