Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Playing in the (Pastel) Dust

There's a pastel technique I've wanted to try since I first started using soft pastel and that's to use the pastels wet.  On first thought, you wouldn't even venture a wild guess that pastels could be water soluble, after all, they're called "dusties" for a reason, right?  But I've seen some beautiful backgrounds and special effects from spritzing the pastel painting with water or pushing the pastel around with a wet brush or even using a pastel on a wet surface.

Most of the time, I don't put much of a background on my pet portraits because many of them are on a colored support and don't really require one.  But, I've started a new floral painting on Ampersand PastelBord and it really needs a nice background.  The painting is a little larger than I normally work and it was getting tedious trying to put in the background with just dry pastel sticks.   So I scribbled in the various colors I wanted and used a wet bristle brush to move the pigment around.  It works beautifully!

Why am I so surprised?  I shouldn't be as pastels are nearly all pigment and that pigment is very finely ground to boot.  It stands to reason that if that same pigment used in watercolors will dissolve in water, then it should dissolve in water even in another form.  And it does! 

I wish I could show you what I've done so far as I'm very pleased with it.  I hope to have the memory card reader fixed soon and am planning to go look at scanners today so maybe I can do a little demo for you later.

If you use pastel as a painting medium, I recommend that you try it wet at least in one painting.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Decisions, Decisions!

I hope you all will forgive me for thinking aloud here today.  I have a decision to make and it helps to make a pro and con list which I'll do in just a bit.  If anyone has any input afterward, don't hesitate to speak up!

Ok, here's the thing.  Yesterday I attended a meeting of our local Pastel Society and am trying to decide whether or not to join.

I'm such a hick and really am not a joiner by nature.  I'm also a real homebody and, if given a choice, I would rarely go anywhere.  So, given my natural bent, I'll start with the pros of joining.

1.  Opportunities for learning more about pastels.  If you all have known me for very long, you'll know that I'm pretty new to pastel and wasn't all that crazy about the medium when I tried it.  However, it's grown to be one of my favorite mediums and it would certainly be beneficial to know more about it.

2.  Opportunity to expand into more varied subject matter.   Painting animals, especially pets, is my focus right now and is something I love to do.  However, pet portraiture is pretty limiting in that clients usually want a photographic likeness of their pet.  Joining the Pastel Society would give me the opportunity to explore other subjects in that there could be an outlet for paintings if I were juried into the various shows they promote.

3.  Opportunity to interact and exchange ideas with other artists.  Any interaction with other artists for me at this time is through the internet.  The internet is wonderful and I value the wonderful people I've met online.  But, it would be great to have real time interaction and, most of all, getting to see other artist's work in person would be such a kick!

Those are the major pros for right now.  There are others but I'm trying to keep this brief and not bore you to tears!

Now for the cons.

1.  Any meetings, shows or social events would involve driving quite a distance from me.  As I said, I'm a country hick and not at all used to driving in city traffic.  It's stressful when I have to do it.  This isn't an insurmountable objection but is a factor in my decision.  The group is having to find a new meeting place and it may end up being even further from me than it is now.

2.  Group politics & inflated egos.  Any group will have political undercurrents and little cliques but I really find myself disgusted with it and that's probably my #1 reason for not joining any art group.  Unfortunately, there were some definite undercurrents of that sort of thing at the meeting yesterday.  I'm not a competitive person, or at least not with other people;  I am competitive with myself.  Anyway, it's difficult for me to deal with half-hidden strife and I'm not sure I need to be in a group where it's evident from the start.

3.  Pastel is only one of the mediums I enjoy.  I like a variety of different art media and I'm not sure I want to focus on pastel to the extent that joining a pastel group would demand.    I'm a slow painter for one thing and for another, I'm not even sure I could produce acceptable work in pastel in subjects other than animal art.  I seem to freeze when pressure is put on me to produce and the whole point of joining the Society for me would be to expand my horizons.  Of course, that's a crisis of confidence and you only get confident by facing your crisis!  lol

Again, there are some other cons & even some that are important to me but personal so aren't listed here.  I'm still see-sawing back and forth about joining even after making this list.

On the one hand, I feel that I should push myself to get out there & use every avenue to both hone my craft and to market my art.  But on the other hand, I feel I would be absolutely miserable doing it!

Decisions, decisions!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Japanese Chin Pastel Painting - Finished

There's no pictures with this blog post as my scanner still does not have any updated drivers available and now the card reader on my computer is not working!  Grrrrrr!

But, I did get the memorial painting of the Japanese Chin dog finished.  For some reason, even using my Preval sprayer still left bubbles in the finish.  A friend had asked that I go with her to Raleigh on Thursday so we stopped by Jerry's Artarama where I was able to get some Golden UVLS Archival Varnish in a spray can.  It was expensive, smells awful and probably isn't environmentally friendly at all but it worked like a dream so I'm glad I got it.

I'll deliver the painting to the customer today and plan to work on some little bunnies for my Zazzle shop next.  Hope I have either a scanner or a card reader so I can show you pictures!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More on Glassless Framing for Pastels - Japanese Chin

I've completed the little Japanese Chin dog and have been working on finishing it for glassless framing.  I used the PVA glue method for the pastel layers and that worked well, I've never had a problem using diluted PVA.
However, I have had problems with the final varnish coats this time.  I'm using Golden's UV Gloss Varnish for the final, protective coats and have gotten tiny little bubbles.  Golden says to watch for these (and also foam) when applying with a brush but it doesn't say how to get rid of them if you get them!

So, I've had to let the portrait dry completely then I've used a very fine sandpaper to sand out the bubbles then  I've used ammonia to smooth and even out any marks that were left.  I don't know if this i the correct way to handle the bubbles but it seems to have worked for me.  If anyone knows of a better way, please let me know!

BTW, if you use ammonia in any way, please open a window or make sure there is plenty of ventilation and don't expose yourself to it for more than a few seconds at a time!  Ammonia can do great damage to lungs!

I want to add that I tried brushing on the varnish this time and do not recommend doing that at all.  You get a much nicer finish if you spray on the varnish.

It's been frustrating for me but I hope my experience helps someone else in the future!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Japanese Chin Pastel Painting - Updated

I'm getting in the short rows with Livie, a pastel painting of a Japanese Chin (I think they're also called a Japanese Spaniel).  The picture was taken with my digital camera since my scanner won't work with this computer now.  Grrrrrr!  Many people prefer to photograph their art but I've always gotten better pictures from a scanner.  Perhaps it's just the way I take the photos or something - I do know that we haven't had suitable weather for photography here lately and the lack of good light may be much of the reason for the poor photos.

Whatever the reason, just look at the progress and not the quality of the photograph posted!  lol

Actually, the painting is all but done.  I have a few details to add such as some feathery strokes to the fur in places and as soon as I get approval from the commissioner, I'll start the final varnishing. 

Let me know if you see anything amiss.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I've been having some computer problems and haven't been able to post here lately.

I've gotten the problems solved but now I'm having problems with some of my old programs and peripherals so am slowly working through it all. 

I have to admit that my computer is a real oldie and was a cheapo to begin with so I think it's done a great job for me so far.  I had just hoped to be able to wait until this summer to get a new one.  Oh, well, it will all work out - it always does, doesn't it?

Speaking of summer - I hope everyone is staying warm and safe in all of these weather incidences here recently.  It seems to be a mess from one coast of the US to the other!

 I'll be back with some sort of scintillating post soon!  lol

Friday, February 5, 2010

New Portrait - Japanese Chin

I've started a new portrait commission of a sweet little Japanese Chin.  Unfortunately, this is a memorial portrait and I'm always so sad to get these as it means the dear pet has departed.  This little girl is being done in pastel on Ampersand PastelBord at about life size which is 8x10 inches.  I haven't prepared any of my own boards in an 8x10 size and since I had one already from Ampersand, I'm using it.  I'll also use the glassless framing process to seal it as it has to be shipped to California - all the way from one coast of the US to the other - and I don't want to chance that it will get damaged.  I'm using my usual pastels:  Richeson sticks for the layout and color blocking, Rembrandt soft pastels for most of it and pastel pencils for details.

The reference photo was from a camera phone and isn't the greatest so I'm going to just have to do the best I can with it.  I just started it this morning and am making good progress with it so I hope to finish it in the next day or so if not sooner.  It's a rainy, cold and nasty day so there's not a lot I can do except paint (or clean house) so I will work on it as much as I can.  

I'll keep you posted on the results.