In the October 2011 issue of The Pastel Journal, artist Robert K. Carsten demonstrates some of the many ways a pastel artist can prepare a surface with a ground or underpainting as a setup for exciting effects in the painting’s finish. Here are additional options from Robert to explore and consider:
Textured Ground Demonstration: Cliffs at Etretat
Another option for creating a textured ground on your surface is to apply a coat of Golden’s Fine Pumice Gel, or a mixture of Golden’s Soft Gel (or gesso) with some fine pumice or marble dust (in a ratio of about 4 or 5 tablespoons of grit to one cup of gel or gesso). When I want a thinner mixture that’s easier to spread, I add up to 1/4 cup of water to the mixture. Acrylic paint can be stirred into any of these mixtures to obtain a colored ground. And a variety of surfaces may be used, including Multimedia Artboard, Gatorboard, 4-ply matboard or a heavyweight watercolor paper.
Pastel Underpainting Demonstration
Here, I applied a pastel underpainting in various shades of warm pinks and oranges, and then washed it down with mineral spirits (alcohol is another option). The variation and luminosity of my ground colors suggested some of the colors I chose for my overpainting and played a significant role in creating the resulting drama.