I have been a fan of Kitty Wallis paper from the time I first started using pastels back in 2004. I like the neutral gray color (Belgium Mist), it's smooth texture and it's sturdiness. I can re-used the paper several times if I am not happy with a painting by using a house painting brush to brush the original pastel dust off of the surface. This restores most of the tooth of the paper and I like the "ghost" image left behind. I have been using Wallis paper almost exclusively.
Recently I attending a demonstration by Liz Haywood Sullivan presented by the Rochester Art Club. She did a wonderful demo and I learned a great deal about how she creates her dynamic landscapes. And there was one thing she did that really piqued my interest: she used an alcohol wash to help establish her design and values by liquifying her first layers of pastel in a kind of underpainting. To do this, she worked out her design, drew it on the paper and then laid down the correct value of pastel in those large areas. She then liquifed the pastel using a brush and alcohol, let it dry and then continued to add color.
WOW! Awesome stuff!
I love to experiment with new ideas and decided to give it a try myself.
Now I have used alcohol in the past to liquify pastel in an underpainting wash. But I was not especially controlled in the way I did it. As a result, I didn't really care for the outcome or the extra time it took to do it. I wanted to actually get painting with the pastel sticks themselves! I am all about instant gratification. I have also used water as a liquifier, but that was even worse for me. It took way too long to dry and buckled the Wallis paper, making it impossible to use. Lessons learned and I stopped using a wash... until I watched Liz's demo and decided to give it another try.
This time I sketched out the design on a recycled piece of Wallis paper, blocked in with pastel and washed over each individual color with plain old rubbing alcohol. This time, I was more controlled in my application of alcohol and things worked well. The color wasn't quite as pure as it could have been simply because I was going over a brushed out dud of a painting and some of the old color mixed with the new color. The thing I did notice, and which Haywood-Sullivan had mentioned, was that the surface of the Wallis paper did get a bit gummy in the process of applying the alcohol. I don't know why. It didn't change the wonderful sandy surface of the Wallis paper though and the painting came out beautifully.
|click on image - UArt paper pattern|
I did the same thing with the alcohol wash to some UArt paper and that worked very well too, with no gumminess. UArt is great because it comes in several grades of roughness, similar to regular sandpaper that one would find in a hardware store. The paper I used was a 500 grit. I really like it, but noticed that it seems to have a subtle lined surface to it. It's not a huge deal, but I really like working on a smooth sanded surface. The photo is a close-up to show the patterned surface. I think it's because I use a very light touch with my pastels and very rarely fill in the tooth completely. As a result, that lined pattern was visible. I also noticed that it was more obvious depending on how I had the paper oriented in relationship to the angle at which I paint. There is a definite pattern to it. However that wouldn't stop me from using it again. It's a great paper.
Over all, I enjoyed using the alcohol wash. It seemed to make things go a bit more rapidly since most of the paper's surface is toned already from the wash. I don't know that I would do it all the time because I just like to keep things simple. Paper and pastel. It works for me.
You can see photos of my experiments on my other blog, http://colettesavage.blogspot.com/