Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Experiments with Pastel and Conté Sticks

This morning, while my three-year-old grandson was playing games on the computer, I was playing with my art supplies. I did a small series of experiments based loosely on a technique I read about. The article was in the March 1997 edition of the American Artist. I kept the article because I was intrigued with the technique and wanted to try it. So eleven years later….I finally gave it a try (sort of).

The artist Jan Kirkpatrick uses 260 – 300 lb watercolour paper; pastels and washi paper. She soaked the paper, put down the matte medium, coloured with pastels and then put down the washi paper. While the paper was still wet, she washed on watercolour. Her paintings are wonderful landscapes, full of texture. Her website is

I used 3.5 x 5-inch 60lb sketch paper (it was in my bag); pastel and conté sticks; and 1-ply paper towels.

For my first experiment, I put down a thick layer of matte medium. I then used a pastel and coloured over the medium. I repeated this using the conté stick. I really didn’t like this, as I had to keep cleaning off the pastel and conté sticks. The colours were also very washed out.

The second experiment I did the same thing using a thin layer of the matte medium instead of a thick layer. The colours were more intense than those done with the thick medium, but I still had to clean off the pastel and conté sticks, although not as often.

For the third experiment, I coloured blocks of both the pastel and conté sticks and then brushed on a thin layer of the matte medium. I was pleased with this effect, even though while I was brushing on the matte medium, some of the pastel (more so than the conté) came off.

I repeated the third experiment using the coloured blocks with the thin layer of matte medium. I then added the paper towel and put a topcoat of matte medium on it.

To see how the matte medium affected the colours of the pastel and conté stick, I coloured blocks of both and then brushed on a thin layer of the matte medium over only half of the blocks. The medium darkened the colours slightly.

I like the effect that I got with my experiments number 3 and 4. I feel that I can use this technique in a painting. Once I work up some sketches, I will develop the painting on my blog as a Work in Progress.

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