On the Surface

The best way to get a surface for pastels or other dry media that has just the right amount of tooth for your taste is to make your own pastel paper. All you need is pulverized marble, pumice or quartz powder; acrylic gesso; a 3-inch brush; water; fixative; and a 100-percent rag paper support–300-lb. watercolor paper works, as does 8-ply, 100-percent rag museum board.

Begin by premixing your gesso with a bit of one of the gritty powders. With your paper lying flat, brush on an even coat of gesso. Sprinkle some more grit onto the wet surface until it’s evenly covered. While the surface is still damp, apply fixative to cement the grit in place. Lift the board and tip it to the side, tapping the bottom edge on the table to shake off excess grit. If you need more tooth, lay the paper down, sprinkle on more grit and fix it once more.

John Kevin Flynn is a conservator in Brooklyn, New York.

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