Pastel Painting Process (Part 2)

With the drawing complete, now comes time to transfer the image onto the actual support.  In the case of this painting I’m using an 18×24, sand color, Ampersand Pastel Board.  The pastel boards are one of the best supports I’ve found for working with pastels.  The ¼” Masonite board offers a very strong, yet moderately flexible base.  The working surface of the board is evenly coated with a kaolin clay surface, which then has a grit filled primer applied to it to provide the final working surface.  The end product is sturdy, takes a great deal of abuse with drawing, erasing, scraping, etc., and most important takes several layers of pastel.  And because it is a sturdy board, there is much less complication with preparing the finished work for framing.  Compared to many of the pastel papers, pastel board is hands down a better choice.

I transfer the image onto the board by rubbing the backside of the drawing paper with white chalk, or pastel.  The paper is then affixed to the pastel board and secured with tape to prevent it from slipping during the transfer drawing.  Finally, I take a .5 art pen and carefully trace over all the lines in my original drawing.  The pressure of the pen transfers the white chalk onto the pastel board surface giving a near exact copy of the original.


Finally, it’s time to get down to putting color onto the surface.  To do this I use Photoshop to create a 4 level posterized version of my working image.  This gives me some basic shapes, and generalized local color maps to use for laying down what will essentially be the underpainting.  Matching the colors exactly at this point is not a necessity, although it does help to be close.  I try to find ways of using the same color in different areas, in this case the red, tan, rust, and grays were used in several different areas of the painting.  This will lend itself to a sense of continuity as the painting progresses.  It’s also very important at this point not to focus on a great amount of detail.  This is all about covering the surface with color and creating the next stage of roadmap for the final painting.


Once all the underpainting color is laid in, I spray the entire surface with 91% alcohol spray.  This breaks down the pigment and basically lets it melt onto the pastel board surface.  This fixes the pigment to the surface and makes it less likely to smudge or smear.  It also increases the amount of future pastel I’ll be able to lay down on the surface, which will become crucial as the painting gets into the fine detail stage.


Coming up in my next blog post I’ll start putting down the initial color values that will start to bring the painting to a more realistic appearance.  If you have questions about my process, or my paintings, feel free to stop by my store Barry Darnall Art.  Take a look at my current work for sale, or use the Messenger link to contact me directly with your questions.  Barry


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