Saturday, 26 June 2010

Pastel underpainting with rubbing alcohol

Using rubbing alcohol to create an underpainting with pastel is great because it dries so quickly. An advantage of pastel is immediacy and this technique keeps you going. The other advantage is that you can use the same medium (pastel) for the underpainting.

I use Conté square hard pastels and a cheap synthetic flat brush (as the surface I paint on is like sand paper and I don’t want to ruin a good brush).

A few points I noticed last time I used this technique:

  • In the final painting, I like to blend the colours together with short strokes, so creating planes by washing the pastel pigments in the underpainting creates a welcome contrast to work against.

  • I start by washing light colours to reduce the risk to muddy them. When I started with dark colours, I had to stop and wash the brush with water and soap because a few dark pigments were enough to turn the lighter colours dirty.

  • This technique works well with dark colours. Dark pastel sticks are dryer, brittle and tend to make dust. When I create a wash with rubbing alcohol, it binds the pigments together and onto the support.

  • When the brush is loaded with dark pigments, I can even paint with it elsewhere on the work.

  • I repeat the process more than once. I apply the pastel pigments, wash them with alcohol, wait until the work dries to assess the overall aspect of the underpainting and start again until I am happy with the colours and shapes.

  • It does not matter if the colours are smudged together. This is just the initial stage, not the final painting.

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