Is Mixed Media the Best of Both Worlds? Part 2

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In part one of this two-part series on mixed media, I made a reference to combining oils with acrylics. In this part we will discuss the amazing compatibility of pastels and watercolor. If you are a watercolor artist, surely you are very aware of the difficulties of paint application and control. Besides spraying out an undesirable area, there is not much you can do to fix a watercolor, unless you incorporate pastels, especially PanPastel. This may raise your eyebrow. I know–you’re probably saying, “What about the puritan application?”

Before we go further, let’s understand how pigments work. All mediums use the exact same pigments in their raw format. For example, ultramarine blue is the same ground powder from minerals. Once the barrels of this pigment enter the factory, a certain amount of pigment is designated to each medium. The only thing that changes is the binder that holds these mediums together. In the case of oils, vegetable oil is used. For watercolor, manufacturers use gum arabic and, in some brands, honey. The binders aside, pastels and watercolor are exactly the same. In pastels you rub the pigment into grain of the paper, and in watercolor the water liquefies it and it seeps in. When the water evaporates you have pretty much the same result as dry pastel being applied to the same paper.

Mixed media landscape painting tips with Johannes Vloothuis |

In this scene from Gloucester, MA, I felt the house was hovering on top of the boat, rather than receding. The background and the boatyard were competing. I applied light gray PanPastel to make it misty. The boats and dock now appear to come forward, resulting in a more three dimensional aspect.

Can you use pastel to fix a watercolor painting?

Unless you intend to enter your watercolor into a contest that does not allow other mediums, I strongly recommend you find ways to correct or improve any areas in your watercolor that would benefit from pastel. After experimenting, I’ve realized that PanPastel works the best because it has sponge applicators that force the pigment into the grain of the paper and its pastel dust is even more finely ground. If you put your painting in the hands of experienced watercolor experts and you don’t tell them it’s a mixed media, they likely won’t be able to tell the difference; much less so if the painting is framed.

I do not recommend using rough paper for this painting technique, however. The grain is too evident. Cold-pressed paper works the best in any brand. Here are some more tips:
• Pastels are excellent for adding highlights on foliage as well as for hiding muddy or overworked areas.
• Pastel pencils work great for thin lines.
• Scumbling a light gray with PanPastels over a background results in a very convincing foggy area. • You can even paint watercolor on top of the pastel to carve out accents. You can go back and forth as many times as you want until you get it right.
• Stick pastels can add texture such as in depicting old barn wood.

Knowing you have a way out when your watercolor has troubling areas will allow you to relax and loosen up. The viewer can notice where an artist is working spontaneously with assertiveness.

Mixed media landscape painting tips with Johannes Vloothuis |
My evergreen trees ended up too dark so I lightened them with PanPastels. I recommend that once work on a specific area with the pastels, put touches of this same medium in random areas throughout the rest of the painting so it looks like it was all intentional rather than a patch up job. Ordinary stick pastels can do the job as well as long as you use a smudging tool or your finger to force the powder into the paper fibers.

Mixed media landscape painting tips with Johannes Vloothuis |
What made this painting were the sun rays which were done with titanium white from PanPastel.

You can also use wet mediums, such as gouache or acrylics, over a watercolor but, unlike pastels, they leaves a glare on the surface and the viewer can tell it has been worked on. However, this is less noticeable once the painting is framed behind glass. Finally, once you complement your painting with another media you can call it “mixed media.” In my experience, to the buyer it makes no difference if another medium was introduced. The bottom line, you owe it to the viewer to produce the most beautiful piece you are capable of, even if that means using more than one medium.

“The Complete Essentials of Painting Water” and other video courses are available at North Light has also just released a new eBook written by Johannes titled Landscape Painting Essentials. Join his online art classes at

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