The grand scale of Troy Wingard’s pastel portraits and figures (featured in the December 2010 issue of The Pastel Journal)—some of them up to 8 feet tall—creates a vision viewers feel they can almost walk into. Finding a surface suitable for pastels at this size, however—a typical format is about 3×4 feet—was a challenge at first, but Wingard came up with a homemade solution.
His surface preparation involves removing the sizing and applying a ground. “It’s probably the coolest technique that I’ve ever seen,” he says. “I’ve been using it since 1992.”
Below he shares his three-step surface prep method.
Step 1: Remove the Sizing from the Paper
After I’ve made a quick but detailed tonal sketch of my drawing, I lightly erase all of the graphite from the paper (large sheets of Arches, Rives BFK or Stonehenge). Graphite is a very fine material; extra graphite left on the paper could contaminate the color of lighter pastels. I then rub coarse steel wool gently over the paper in a circular motion, being careful not to apply too much pressure as the paper might become scratched. Scratches will show any accumulated pastel. The areas that were prepared should look and feel soft due to the raised paper fibers, which increases the surface area of the paper.
Step 2: Add a Ground
Since I work light to dark, at this point I add a ground of white pastel to these newly raised paper fibers. Traditionally a colored ground is used as a base color or tone in the beginning stages of the drawing, but I use it solely as a neutral color to fill in and infuse all of the raised fibers of the paper with pastel.
Step 3: Blend Color into the Drawing
Once the paper is infused with white pastel, I blend the colored pastel into the prepared areas, using my fingers. The raised paper fibers and the increased surface area act as tiny “fingers,” which effectively hold all of the additional pastel added to the paper without the need for fixative. My drawings are rather durable and remain workable with little pastel falling from the surface. They can be touched up and corrected years later.
In the example below, I’m showing the difference in blending between a pastel mark on unprepared, sized paper (on the left) and prepared (to the right). The colored mark on the left can still be seen ever after being blended with a little pressure by my fingers. The colored mark on the right is easily blended away with the same pressure. The more colors that are added to the blended area on the right, the easier it is to blend away marks; almost like it was painted “wet into wet.” This process of blending is critical to create the realistic depictions in my drawings.
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