Just over a week ago, Jessica and I had the great pleasure of watching pastel master Albert Handell do a painting demonstration at the Cincinnati Art Club. The artist was in town for a week-long workshop and on this morning, he demonstrated a pastel painting over a watercolor underpainting. He worked on UART pastel paper dry-mounted onto museum ragboard and began with an initial sketch, using a 2B pencil (and he doesn’t mind seeing some of the pencil show through).The underpainting was painted with Payne’s gray, Hooker’s green and Van Dyke brown, and unlike watercolor painters, who work light to dark, he puts down the watercolors working dark to light. The underpainting is not precise; Handell says he likes to let things “swim and float.”Once dry, Handell started with the pastel, beginning with his favorite dark-green NuPastel to establish the forms and pattern. Concentrating on the center of interest first, Handell brought the tree to life before moving to adjacent areas. Varying the touch or pressure on his pastel, he continued to refine areas until the conclusion. although the artist has experimented with other underpainting possibilities, he says he loves the combination of the watercolor and pastel; and so do I!
If you’d like to see Handell demonstrating pastel over watercolor, he has a DVD available (visit his website for more information). If you’d like to read an interview with the artist about his pastel application technique, you’ll find a feature in the August 2009 issue of The Pastel Journal. He’s also among the artists featured in the magazine’s special anniversary download released earlier this year: 10 Top Interviews.