Amanda Mclean

Part 11- Un­der­paint­ing Tech­nique

International Artist - - Contents - Amanda Mclean

Pas­tel Per­spec­tives Part 11-Un­der­paint­ing Tech­nique

Pas­tel is a very ver­sa­tile medium. There are many ways of ap­proach­ing a pic­ture that will cap­ture in­ter­est and pro­vide both op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges to you as the painter. Un­der­paint­ing is one such ap­proach. There are sev­eral dif­fer­ent un­der­paint­ing meth­ods. I will first de­scribe un­der­paint­ing with pas­tel and wa­ter ver­sus pas­tel and odour­less sol­vent (also called odour­less medium). The next part of this series will re­fer to un­der­paint­ing with gouache, inks and water­colour.

There are sev­eral rea­sons to un­der­paint, apart from the de­sire to try some­thing dif­fer­ent. One rea­son might be that you can’t de­cide what colour pa­per to use. An­other, and this is my big­gie, is when you are us­ing a pa­per colour you don’t par­tic­u­larly like to work on. In my case this is white or very light toned pa­per! Some peo­ple love it, but my work­ing style, which of­ten in­volves leav­ing ar­eas of bare pa­per show­ing, means white pa­per just doesn’t do it for me.

I only blend where I re­ally need to. When us­ing white pa­per, I find the white speck­les show­ing through an­noy­ing, so I will some­times choose to un­der­paint. I will also choose to un­der­paint dark ar­eas like fo­liage and the like if I am work­ing on a lighter toned pa­per.

Un­der­paint­ing with pas­tel means that your work

is pure pas­tel as sep­a­rate from un­der­paint­ing with other me­dia such as gouache, water­colour, ink or acrylic. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, I think it is bet­ter to use a wa­ter­based medium for your un­der­paint­ing. It’s been sug­gested that oil-based medi­ums can make your pa­per brit­tle, so I usu­ally avoid them. I some­times use odour­less sol­vent or medium, but us­ing plain wa­ter means less ad­di­tives and a purer work.

Odour­less sol­vent or medi­ums were de­vel­oped for those al­ler­gic to tur­pen­tine. Please be aware that odour­less does not mean fume or vapour­less. The fumes given off by these medi­ums, like turps, can be haz­ardous and should only be used in a well ven­ti­lated area. At least when us­ing turps you can smell it, so you’re aware of its pres­ence in the at­mos­phere.

There isn’t re­ally a great deal of dif­fer­ence be­tween us­ing a prod­uct like odour­less sol­vent, and us­ing wa­ter in terms of “fix­ing” the pas­tel. Both will fix the pas­tel to a cer­tain ex­tent, al­low­ing you to work over the top in dry pas­tel with very lit­tle trans­fer of un­der-colour. I find wa­ter is slightly bet­ter at fix­ing and is friend­lier to both the en­vi­ron­ment and the artist.

Pas­tel is the purest of all the medi­ums, with very lit­tle in the way of chem­i­cals added. It is nice to keep it that way. The dif­fer­ence I find is that odour­less sol­vent pro­duces a flat­ter un­der­paint­ing and wa­ter a more tex­tured un­der­paint­ing. Their use is dic­tated by what you want to achieve. In my ex­pe­ri­ence wa­ter gives you bet­ter run marks. Wa­ter tends to drib­ble and run down the pa­per if it is up­right on the easel. This is an ef­fect that can be used to your ad­van­tage.

Don’t try to un­der­paint the en­tire pic­ture. You are es­sen­tially giv­ing your­self a base colour in selected ar­eas. Where pos­si­ble, keep the un­der­paint­ing to the in­tended broad ab­stract shapes of your paint­ing. You may find, de­pend­ing on the base colour you start with, that you only need to un­der­paint

one or two ar­eas to make it work for you.

Be­fore you be­gin your un­der­paint­ing, make sure your pa­per will ac­cept wet me­dia. Some of the older style, un-sanded pas­tel pa­pers will cockle and warp dra­mat­i­cally, mak­ing them al­most un­us­able. Start by lightly block­ing in the area, or ar­eas, you wish to un­der­paint, lightly be­ing the op­er­a­tive word. Use too much pas­tel in the un­der­paint­ing process, and you will fill up the tooth of your pa­per. If this oc­curs, you won’t be able to add sub­se­quent lay­ers of dry colour to your work.

Once you are happy with your roughly blocked in area, take some clean wa­ter or odour­less medium and a cheap or old paint­brush, dip it in the wa­ter/medium and paint over the ar­eas of pas­tel. I sug­gest us­ing an old or cheap paint­brush as some of the sanded pas­tel pa­pers are very hard on your brushes—so don’t use you best sables!

Dis­pose of any left­over medium as soon as you’ve com­pleted your un­der­paint­ing, as it will con­tinue to evap­o­rate and you will be in­hal­ing the fumes.

Don’t get over en­thu­si­as­tic with the wet me­dia. You can have too much, so start with a damp brush first. You can al­ways add more later. If you want the un­der­paint­ing to run, add a bit more wa­ter/medium and tilt the pa­per, if it isn’t al­ready on an easel. You might pre­fer to wash your brush fre­quently if it clogs. It all de­pends on the ef­fect you hope to achieve.

Don’t be afraid to ex­per­i­ment. Wet pas­tel isn’t go­ing to be­have like your finest wa­ter­colours, it can be quite grainy, coarse and even rus­tic, de­pend­ing on the brand or the par­tic­u­lar pig­ments, but that is OK.

Al­low your un­der­paint­ing to dry com­pletely then pro­ceed with dry pas­tel over the top in your usual man­ner.

Storm Clouds Over Spring Range, pas­tel on white colour­fix pa­per 20½ x 30 cm (8 x 12") As I said pre­vi­ously I pre­fer not to work on white pa­per so here I un­der­painted most of the sub­ject in broad ar­eas and pasteled over the top. You can see the...

Re­flec­tions, Tee­wah Beach, Sun­shine Coast, Queens­land, pas­tel on white Colour­fix pa­per, 30 x 23 cm (12 x 9") Note the run marks can be seen at the bot­tom of the work where the ef­fect works well as part of the wet sand/re­flec­tions.

This pic­ture was painted as a demon­stra­tion piece in a work­shop. Us­ing white pa­per, I blocked in the pas­tel and used ex­tra wa­ter to make the wet pas­tel run. As this pic­ture was done as a demo, there isn’t an im­age be­fore I wet the pas­tel un­der­paint­ing.

Here, a layer or two of pas­tel has been added over the un­der­paint­ing, build­ing on the base I had cre­ated.

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