Impasto: Working with Heavy Textures

My last week's post showed the preparation of the ground to create impasto for pastels, here are the issues and solutions for the dense pumice ground and how I filled the peaks and valleys without crewing up pastels.


The above abstraction development from my texture experiment. Until I get a finer pumice modeling paste, I had to figure out how to fill in all the course space between the large grains of pumice. If I used my pastels as I normally do and draw over the surface— I would grind down a $4-6 stick in no time and most if the color would fall away into the catch tray below my easel.

Solution Found in Collection of Tiny Pastels

I have a habit of saving tiny bits and leftover chunks too small to hold and draw or paint with. You know: when you drop a pastel and see it explode on the floor and you can only save 75 percent of it? The tiny shards I kept putting in a try figuring one day, I'd either grind them all up to make a middle gray or find a way to use them as their own color.


The tiny bits tray have almost every color I use. The solution was to lay the work flat and press the shards into the cracks and crannies with my fingers. Then I whetted a stiff bristle hog hair oil painting brush and dabbed at the piles of pastel until they turned to a paste and wash in the areas of lighter or more normal texture. Once they all got wet, it was pretty easy to blend the edges and create some middle tones just as I would do if I was washing over a pastel on my easel.


This in turn used way less pastel and gave me strong lights and darks to build over. The drawback is that it is unlikely I could do this outside of the studio. It took all day to dry so I could begin adding layers of color later in the day. I don't even think alcohol instead of water would dry in the high points fast enough to use this technique in plein air.



One of the keys to making impasto work is the use of darker tones under the lighter colors and then use traditional painting methods on my easel. After the pasty under painting dried, I placed the work on my easel as I would any other work without texture. Then I used varying degrees of pressure to scumbled onto the surface bumps the many other layers of color I wanted to show through.

What I learned

  • It pays to be stingy and refuse to through away broken bits of pastels

  • Working with heavy textures in pastels takes patience

  • The spontenaity from working fast in a field sketch can be duplicated because the texture keeps me from making any sharp edges or too many strait lines. I'm liking this experiment and will continue to explore this

  • Richard McKinley I later found has a video on YouTube using texture -- but not nearly as heavy.




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Avon Waters
Modern Artist