How to Make Impasto Pastel Grounds

Textured grounds force me to add layers. Layers add interest in the picture surface and allows for soft edges.

If you have been following my blog for any time, you already know I am an experimenter. A recent critique I had from the adjunct professors -- the Art Prof-- of art from the Rhode Island School of Design encouraged me to continue to explore developing more texture than I had been using with brushed on clear gesso.

Having been an oil painter all my life, I know how easy it is to make impasto using various techniques with mediums, modeling gels, pastes, and with palette knifes or even by varying the viscosity of the paints. But in pastel, I have a stick of color and grounds -- that's it.

The Gel Experiment

On hand I had some student grade acrylic paint and some course Golden Pumice Gel and only my Liquitex clear gesso with pumice. I took a scrape 12x12 etching paper, toned it with blue tinted clear gesso and started using my fingers spread around the course gel. Immediately I saw a problem. The Gel is way too course to not have something transition from it to the clear gesso brushed on. I used the thicker white acrylic paint to try and transition from the smoother paper to the course gesso. It was an experiment, so although not perfect, it would give me an idea of how these materials behaved.

Deciding where to put the texture is a challenge. Typically in oils and acrylics, the thicker paints are on the highlights. Since I had no drawing and was winging the experiment, I decided to use the "L" composition design and spread the texture into the shape of an elle. Not knowing what I might try to paint over this, the paper could be turned any direction so long as my highlights were in an L-shape.

Not pictured: I then let this dry and painted another coat of clear gesso over this above textured surface. Seeing how rough the course gel was, I tried to fill some of the course textured holes with clear gesso to give myself a bit of an easier task when I decided to use the pastels. The clear gesso was also needed to add texture and tooth to the white acrylic paints since they contain no texture when dry.

What I learned

  • It's best to have multiple gels, I only had course on hand. I've got to transition the courses to the smoother more

  • If I had a drawing to paint from, knowing where to put the texture would be easier

  • More experiments are needed: Maybe its possible to wash in the large areas then add gels over the highlights and be more specific as to where they end up. That makes more sense than here, where I'm just guessing

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