Pastels: Underpaintings and Toned Paper

Fall landscape pastel demo, 9x12 in on toned Wallis paper

This is the demo from my pastel workshop the other day, the workshop focused on fall landscapes as the subject. One thing I find very important when working in pastels, regardless of subject, is to start on a toned surface. Wallis paper is wonderful and comes in 2 colors–Belgian Mist or Off White. I accidentally bought a pad of off white, I really prefer the Belgian Mist. Belgian Mist is a warm grey sheet, a perfect middle value to do your under drawing on. I find covering a light or white sheet difficult, so if I have a white sheet, I tone it with acrylic. You can use any color, I typically stay with something in the earth tones–yellow ochre, red ochre, sienna, any of those are a good choice. You can also use a color that is the complement to the predominant color of whatever your subject is, for example, a reddish tone would be perfect for a landscape that has a lot of green in it. This is because it neutralizes the local color and helps to establish color variation in the shadow areas with the complementary color.

The study above was done on off white Wallis paper toned with red ochre. Additionally, I did an underpainting in the sky area using a medium blue hard pastel and some water. On top of the underpainting, I began my under drawing with an eggplant colored hard pastel. From there, I worked from dark to light adding in color, staying with hard pastels for the beginning of the painting, and moving into soft pastels to establish the darkest darks and brightest highlights. Working with hard pastels first allows me to save the tooth of the paper to get maximum layering capabilities.

I will have a new pastels course starting on January 14 that runs for 10 weeks at the NJ Visual Arts Center. For more details, click here.


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