Tuesday, January 27, 2015

More Painterly Notes on Sam's Portrait

I want to reply to a comment made by E about the portrait of Sam, the black lab.  She didn't find my description about using watercolor and pastels in the same piece helpful so here goes.

E, if you remember, the paper I was using came from a pad designed for use with pastels.  To be fair to the manufacturer, I can't be certain I used the correct side of the paper (that's something I still need to get used to- that paper has a right and a wrong side).  The side that I did use had very regular honeycomb depressions.  When I stroked the pastel across the surface of the paper, the color stayed on the ridges forming the shape of the honeycomb, and little to no color got into the cup-like center of the honeycomb.  It makes sense.  The pastels, never used before, had a broad, smooth surface.  When rubbed over the paper, there was no way it could get into the tiny "cups".  The result was an area of obvious honeycombs with clear dimples. Horrible to me.  

Then I thought that the fluidity of watercolor would fill the "cup".  I started with Payne's Gray (the closest to black most water colorists use) on an area that would not be damaged with a solid dead black.  The paint did indeed fill the cup, and the shade of gray on the pure black of the pastel mingled to a new and exciting shade of dark.  So I started experimenting on a blank sheet of the pastel paper by laying down black pastel and using different water colors from the "black" in an inexpensive set all the way through to white also a color not usually used by water color professionals. As a result of those experiments, I wound up using blue-violet, indigo, green (I'm not sure which one), and both sienna and umber water color to create shadows.  For the highlights, both white paint and white pastels were used.

By painting over the pastels, I think the water in the paint caused the pastel "powder" (for lack of a better term) to flow into the cups while also taking on some of the pigment of the paint.  There were also major areas where I didn't use the paint at all.

In the interests of full disclosure, I also used metallic water color for the eyes and luminescent medium (adds sparkle with no color) for both the eyes and nose, archival ink and water color for the whiskers, archival ink for details of hair.  Black and white water colors are in my everyday palette, and I have no problem using them when I need to.

Because I was not sure water the mixture of paint and pastel would do, I did use a light coating of fixative to seal the pastel.

Finally, E, the photo did not include a red color (all that could be seen was a hint of metal that could have been the buckle of a dog tag).  The owner told me his collar was red and that she loved the way it looked on him so I painted it in.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing the details of how you came to mix pastels with watercolor. I can see where it would be frustrating to have the pastels sit on top of the cupped ridges. I don't think I have ever seen pastels on that type of paper, but I'll exam more closely in the future. You overcame a very difficult problem in a creative, innovative way. Best of all, it worked!