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The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

In This Issue
Editorial Scribble ......................................................................................................... 2
Guest Judge: Robert A. Sloan .................................................................................... 3
Get Dusty Challenge Results...................................................................................... 4
If At First You Don't Succeed..... ................................................................................. 7
Sennelier Pastel Card- Pros and Cons ....................................................................... 9
Fisher 400 and Clairefontaine Pastelmat Compared ................................................ 11
Canson Mi-Teintes, My Pros And No Cons! ............................................................. 13
Pastelcard and Sansfix ............................................................................................. 14
Home Made Pastel Grounds .................................................................................... 16
Schmincke Pastel Primer.......................................................................................... 18
Grabability .............................................................................................................. 19
Pastel Papers and Surfaces, .................................................................................... 20
An Overview ............................................................................................................. 20
Workshops by PGE Members .................................................................................. 21

Cover image: Concentration, the Fish food

thief, by Ruth Mann

Editorial Scribble
Welcome to this extended issue dedicated
to artists reviews of pastel papers and pastel
grounds available in Europe.
This special issue will make it easier for
you to choose which papers to try, and which
fit your style of painting. Maybe you have not
found your ideal paper? Clea shows you how
to make your own pastel ground.
Get Dusty winner Ruth Mann nearly didnt
enter the challenge, as her painting was not
going well. In her demo she tells about her
struggle and the final choices she made which
lead to winning in a very stiff competition with
many excellent paintings.
The Scribbler Team is taking a well
deserved vacation after this extended issue. We
will be back in September, with new articles
and the results of the Summer Get Dusty

The Scribbler Team

The current team:
Charlotte Herczfeld, edits, writes, does layout
Ruth Mann, edits, writes, and proof-reads
Special thanks to Ryan Evans who
volunteered to help with layout.


May the dust be with you,

Charlotte Herczfeld

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

Guest Judge: Robert A. Sloan

Robert A. Sloan, 57, lives in San Francisco,
California with his beloved longhair colorpoint
Ari, seen in the photo sharing their favorite
armchair. Rob is disabled and lives on Social
Security while building a business as writer, artist
and art teacher till he can become self supporting
again. Ari is 12, undisabled, youthful, muscular
and athletic for a cat his age. Neither of these
middle aged gents like medical appointments,
though Rob doesn't bite or claw his doctors as
Rob gained the nickname of "The Cat Master"
after five solid years of sketching Ari from life
and painting his companion feline in pastels or oil
pastels every chance he gets. Ari has the
reputation of "Most Sketched Feline on
WetCanvas." Both of them enjoy yogurt, little
things they can grab and a nice cuddle in the
comfy chair.
Rob's website, is the first and only dedicated
informational website on oil pastels besides the Oil Pastel Society's webpage. Rob also maintains
several blogs on Blogspot:,, (very much on a Health Permitting
basis) and
Rob paints in a wide variety of mediums but his favorite is pastels of every kind including Pan Pastels.
Formerly a street sketcher in New Orleans' French Quarter, he mastered pastels there and went on to
expand his subjects into landscapes, florals, still-lifes and of course cats. Currently Rob specializes
in cat portraits on commission and studies landscape painting with an eye to incorporating big cats in
his landscapes.
His motto is: "I paint better than I used to and not as well as I will."

Rob's best tips for drawing and painting cats

Sketch small gestures from life, over and over. Each separate attempt is a new observation revealing
more of their form and features. Cats willingly help with this process because even sound asleep,
they'll only hold a pose for two minutes before repositioning. For good active poses in reference
photos, try selecting stills from a digital video of a cat in motion.

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

Get Dusty Challenge Results

The winner of the May challenge Domestic Cats is Ruth Mann, UK. The
prize is a set of 3 pastels from our new sponsor Henri Roch pastels, of La
Maison du Pastel.

First place: Concentration: The Fish Food Thief, by Ruth Mann

Great originality of concept, pose and title. Drawing skills
are brilliant. This cat's weight and musculature are balanced
accurately for a dynamic, interesting pose. Notice her far
shoulder is raised, it's carrying her weight while the
reaching shoulder drops. I thought there was an error in the
muzzle shape until I studied my cat's profile in a similar
mood. It's her mouth expression. With her nose dipped
down like that, her muzzle shape is accurate for a slight
indrawn breath of intense concentration. Her gender and
mature age are clear from her proportions, a fluffy, sagging
belly is perfectly shaped. What made this painting go over
the top on "Drawing" is perfect cat anatomy down to the
subtlest details of expression.
Composition is striking. Tone and value are used to give
wonderful depth, the light catching her tail and far ear help
give the painting more distance. Color harmony is just
right, warm and cool complements balancing with
saturation in the light. A lovely gradient that draws
emphasis to her face and paw. Edges are handled
beautifully, creating a soft fluffy texture to her fur and a
shiny gleam to the ceramic fish food pot. The reflections on
the pot help draw me into the painting.

See cover for larger picture.

Not one stroke is wasted in this painting. Subtle details like

the shadow under the bowl or her elegantly fine eyebrow whiskers are only noticeable on later
viewings, but contribute to emotional impact. Her whisker gesture is part of that immediate, visceral
recognition of her mood. There's dynamic tension: if you interrupt her, the bowl may skitter across the
room spraying flakes everywhere. If you don't, she'll finish her motion and sit there daintily licking her
stolen treat off her paw.

A special treat comments for all entries!

Robert has generously commented on all entries.
Log into the website of the Pastel Guild of Europe
and go to the members Forum, category
Competitions, to see the comments of the entries
which are not shown in this issue.

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

Second place: Bob's Happy Trio by Gillian Lait

Black fur and white fur are the hardest to paint. These three charmers are all in a good mood, all
anatomically accurate and brimming with personality. I love that little tortie looking silly in the lower
left, while the black cat's Innocent Look suggests future mischief. All three are engaged with each
other, visually and emotionally connected. Lazy Girl, House Mother and Mischief Maker are all happy
in distinctly different moods. This painting nearly won because of how difficult a multiple animal
subject is and how well Gillian carried that off.

Third place: A Place in the Sun by Dorothea Schultz

The title says it all - this
painting is about the light.
Painterly, glorious light pours
over white and gray patches
consistently. I liked the weight
and mass of the body. Cats
sleep in different ways and this
one's scrunching up into the
sun patch with a hind leg
tucked under her chin - an odd,
dynamic pose that shifts the
muscles in her thigh and
changes the curve of her back
beautifully. Dorothea resisted
the urge to normalize the shape
of her muzzle or move her tail she's digging her chin into the
fur of her tail and leg so that it
changes the shape of her face.

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

Honourable mentions

Enchanting Eyes

Cat Tag

Fire and Ice

by Yvonne Jensen

by Charlotte Herczfeld

by Sharron Blackmore

It is simple and powerful.

Good contrast and values,
good drawing and a dramatic
composition grabbed me. The
expression on this tabby's face
is full of emotion. She's
captured in a moment of
pleading for something she
wants and I don't want to deny
her the treat. This is a grown
cat making herself look
kittenish, ears front and turned
to push together to look bigger
in relation to her head, eyes
very wide, mouth in a sweet
little pout, head angle turned
to make her face look dainty.
She's saying please! Every
detail of her facial expressions
adds to that emotion, so this
tabby girl made it to my short
list on pure visceral impact.

Gorgeous color and light is

what I always see from
Charlie, a peach fade cat seen
by sunset light outdoors is a
wonderful moment. Her dark
eyes are very dramatic and
natural, I've seen some peach
cats or ginger tabbies have
very dark eyes. That paw from
the second cat coming up on
the deck is endearing. I didn't
see that at first and it made me
laugh, the sunset-watcher is
about to get pounced on! This
painting also tells a story, a
lovely one about an area so
safe it's all right to let your cats
out into the yard without
worrying about wildlife or

Composition is interesting, a
tight macro crop I've seen
more often in floral
paintings. "Touch me and get
clawed, I want to play
rough!" is the story. Sink
your bare hand into that
adorable fluffy tummy and
you will bleed. Every tangle
is natural and accurate, that
fur texture is incredible. Her
odd eyes are striking and
luminous. Good mastery of
edges and especially textures
between the short face fur
and luxurious tangled chest
fluff with soft paw and
forehead in between. Purrfect
realism capturing a side of
cats that rarely gets painted.

See larger images, and all entries, in the

May Get Dusty Gallery
Reminder: To avoid disqualification, do state the actual size of a painting you enter in the
contest. Add size as a comment if you remember the rule after entering.

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

If at first you don't succeed.....

by Ruth Mann

I wanted to tell you about my

experience with the painting of my
winning Get Dusty entry, Concentration,
the Fish food thief.

painting. My plan was to make it a loose,

colourful portrait. You know, the sort with
very little detail and seemingly mad
colours which, somehow, just looks right.
As often happens I lost the shape of the
profile in progress. So I popped it into
windows paint and just drew a line to
remind me approximately how the profile
should look. Note the area to the right of
the Cat's back foot. There was a shape
there, orange in the photo below, which
was brightly lit in the ref photo. I knew this
would be a challenge. (Picture 1.)
With the nose remodelled I carried on
with the fur. At this point I was getting
agitated with it as it was not going at all to

Top: picture 1
Middle: picture 2
Below: the finished painting

Sometimes art is hard and one feels

like giving up, on a particular piece, or
even altogether! This was one such piece
for me.
I sketched the Cat out from the ref
photo and once I was happy with my
drawing I started applying colour,
exaggerating the hues and tones in my

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

several more hours, and some brushing off,
I called it a day. (Picture 2.)
The next day I looked at it, stuck it on
top of the chest in the studio in disgust and
started something else. No way would this
be entered in the Dusty!
It was more than a week later when I
started thinking about doing it again but
couldn't bring myself to start from scratch.
So I just picked it up and looked at it again.
The only part I loved was the near ear but,
on reflection, the face, tail, background and
bowl were OK. The rest was just not
working. I decided that it was worth giving
it another go. So I did some brushing off
and before I knew it I was well into it
again and brought it to a finish that day.
What to do with that annoying shape at the
edge? Crop it off!

See more paintings by Ruth Mann at

What I have learned from this

not to fight my natural style of
if a piece does not go right, stand
back from it emotionally as well as
physically for a while

plan. There was the problem too of what to

do with that shape to the right of the rear
paw. If I lost it completely she looked
even fatter than she a round
barrel! But I couldn't have it brightly lit
and drawing attention of course. After

apply a little lateral thinking to

compositional challenges
if at first you don't succeed...........

The Get Dusty Schedule

September 2012, Category: Landscape, Challenge: an Interior "scape"
October 2012, Category: Portrait, Challenge: a Portrait with a mood, convey an emotion.
November 2012, Category: Still Life, Challenge: Items with Complementary colours.
The Apprentice Challenge will follow on from the Dusty, one month later. The AC subject
for September is Animals, Domestic Cats, and the May AC is extended over summer.
See for details and rules of the member contests

The cards are available

in 14 different colours as
illustrated; you can also
see the surface texture.

Sennelier Pastel Card- pros and

by Ryan Evans

My personal favourites
are the Sienna (3rd on left)
and light blue grey (3rd on
right) as these give me a
nice warm or cool ground
depending on what Im

Ive been using Sennelier Pastel Card ever since

a revelatory experience some years back that made
me completely re-evaluate the medium of pastel
painting. Id first used cheap chalky pastels on
cartridge paper that was just as cheap- you can
imagine the disappointment seeing my painting
literally falling off the page in front of me!

The cons

Later a good teacher taught the value of a quality

pastel stick and a better paper. This was Daler
Rowneys Murano paper- holds a few layers of
pastel, cheap, readily available and a step in the right
direction. I still felt I was drawing and not painting.
At this time oils and acrylics were my medium of
choice due to the range of mark-making, brushwork
and expression achievable.

drawback with this card is
what happens if it gets wet.
If under-painting is a normal part of your pastel
painting practice then this paper will not suit you.
When wet the vegetable and cork grit lifts off the
paper and will take the pastel with it. There are
other papers out there that are better suited to this
approach. That said the 14 colour range does give a
decent starting coloured ground for most paintings.
The generous tooth also allows you to do a dry
under-painting- I tend to use Conte or harder pastels
like Rembrandt, Daler Rowney or Winsor & Newton
to block in. One other issue to note is to be careful
if you are blowing excess pastel dust off as even a
tiny speck of moisture will show up as a dark spot
on the painting that can be tricky to fix. I
recommend tapping the board to remove excess
pastel instead (its healthier for you too!).

During a chance trip to

a new art shop I was
looking at the different
brands and came across
Sennelier Pastel Card pastel
card. I decided to take a
chance and have not been
disappointed. Its not the
cheapest option on the
market but Ill share my
thoughts, pros and cons to
let you decide to try it!

While the grit is less abrasive than sanded paper,

excessive blending and rubbing will result in some
of this coming off the surface. Ive also had some
occasions when using some pastel pencil (if they are
particularly hard) where the surface can be slightly
scored if you press too hard.

Technical details
Pastel Card pastel card is pH neutral archival
quality and comes as 200lb (400gsm) boards. The
texture is slightly abrasive like a sanded paper. The
grit however is actually vegetable flakes and cork
fixed evenly to the surface to create an ideal textured
surface to grip pastel.

The abrasive surface will quickly eat up your

really soft pastels as theres a lot of tooth to fill and
the card is amazing at grabbing and holding the
pigment. I recommend reserving super-soft pastels
for the final layers of a painting.

The card comes in the following sizes and

recommended retail prices
( ):

The pros

65cm x 50cm (25.5 x 19.5) 6.50/8.10

80cm x 60cm (31.5 x 23.5) 10.95/13.65

The choice of colours available in this range is

really pretty good. Sennelier have basically selected
two sets of seven colours, one being warm and the
other being cool. The warm colours stick to ochres
and earth reds, whereas the cool colours are nice
blue-greys. I find all of them usable as theyre not
oversaturated in colour in a way that would compete
with the pastel, but will provide a nice contrast if left
to show through. This is good because if you are

Pads of 12 sheets are available with assorted colours.

You get two sheets of a selection of the six colours:

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

24cm x 16cm (9.5 x 6) 14.95/18.63

32cm x 24cm (12.5 x 9.5) 21.95/27.35
40cm x 30cm (15.75 x 12) 33.50/41.75
60cm x 40cm (23.5 x 18) 69.95/87.17
buying the assorted pads, there is nothing worse than
if you run out of your favourites and are left with
lots of sheets you wouldnt use.

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

In this example, you can see a range of painting

techniques applied together creating a lively surface.
I dont think this variety can be achieved on nonsanded papers like Canson Mi-Teintes.

The thickness of the cards is also great as they

dont need to be mounted onto mat board when
framing. I guess this thickness makes the sheet
more expensive but will save you money in the long
The main advantage Ive found with this card is
the range of mark-making and effects that you can
produce with it. To me it really feels like you are
truly painting with pastels and not drawing. I came
to pastels after learning to paint in oils and acrylic
and with this paper I find I can achieve the same
effects and approach a painting in the same way. I
like to have a range of texture, brushwork and edges
in a painting to give it variety and interest. Ill try to
show you what I mean.

Here you can see some of the ground showing

through (Sienna) to provide a nice contrast with the
greens. Ive managed to build this painting up in
multiple layers of pastel. The tooth in the card will
easily take up to five layers provided you start with
harder sticks and reserve the super soft sticks to the
end. There are passages where Ive scumbled pastel
on top of other layers to allow the layer below to
show through. Dry brush effects can also be
replicated. Finally you can see areas where super
soft pastels (e.g. Sennelier, Unison, Schmincke) are
used with a bit of pressure to achieve an impasto
effect with pastel. The card has no problem gripping
this and holding it. In fact the tooth is so good at
holding pastel I dont need to use fixative at all, I
have the confidence that the mark I make will stay. I
love this as for me fixative dulls and darkens the
colour of pastels even when used lightly.

The surface while abrasive is quite forgiving. If

youre blending with fingers it wont hurt you like
some of the sanded papers can! It feels slightly soft
to the touch. You can achieve soft blended effects
using your fingers. This is great for getting soft
edges, as illustrated above.
If the tooth gets filled with
pastel, or where corrections are
needed, you can easily brush
off the pastel using bristle
brushes and there will be no
loss of tooth.

If youve not tried Sennelier Pastel Card yet, I

strongly urge you to give it a go and see what it can
do for you.

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

means, there is an obvious stroke mark instead of

the hit and miss effect I find with Fisher. The
paper grabs the pastel and you simply cannot
finger blend a thin first layer. It just won't move!
However, I use kitchen towel to blend the first
layer, if I want to. There is, of course, the option
not to blend at all. I should add that I LOVE the
feel of the first pastel strokes on a piece of
PastelMat! When I discipline myself, I again use
the harder soft pastels for my first layers, but
have been known to use softies, like Unison or
Sennelier, where the colours were what I wanted.

Fisher 400 and Clairefontaine

PastelMat Compared
by Ruth Mann
I use both of the above, almost exclusively,
for my pastel work. One (Fisher) is a sanded
paper comparable to the American papers, Wallis
and Uart. The other (PastelMat) is a completely
different type of surface, smooth to the touch
there are no comparables (yet).
Both can be used in similar ways even though
they are quite different.

Both papers are suitable for
watercolour, Gouache, very
thin acrylic paint or pastel
brushed or sprayed with water
or alcohol products. These
types of underpainting hardly
affect the feel of the
subsequent layers of pastel.
pigment it will give an
underpainting with more
depth, when using pastel,
than with one layer on the

Drawing on Fisher 400, with
either a pastel pencil
or a hard pastel like
Cont or Cretacolour,
is easy but don't
expect fine lines,
unless your pencil/stick
is very sharp and you
pressure. It is possible to
erase lines with a normal
pencil eraser or a putty
On PastelMat finer lines
can be achieved and it is still
possible to erase the marks made very effectively,
brushing off the residue which does not adhere to
the paper.

For my underpaintings I invariably use pastel

and water.
Subsequent layers
Both papers will take several layers of pastel.
The lighter it is applied, or the harder the pastel,
the more layers one can achieve. It is my
experience, and I have heard others agree, that
Fisher can take more layers overall than
PastelMat. Once there are a few layers down
both papers are similar to work on with one
important exception. Again, in my experience,
when there are a few layers on PastelMat it is
impossible to use most pastel pencils to make a
mark on top of the pastel. Instead the pencil will
cut a groove through the pastel already laid down
without showing much of its own colour.
However, on the Fisher, with a sharp pastel
pencil and a light touch, one can add detail and
thin lines, say Whiskers on a Cat, with the pastel
pencil marks appearing to stay on top. It follows
that more detail can actually be achieved on
Fisher in the final layers than can be achieved on
PastelMat, unless there are few layers, they are

First layer
I find that the Fisher grabs more pastel in the
first layer, but not smoothly or consistently.
Because of that I find it quite hard to use Fisher
without blending the initial layer. This must be
done with care as the paper is rough, being
sanded. No fingers, unless you want to lose some
skin! No paper towels, unless you want
fragments of paper towel adhering to the paper! I
use the little polystyrene packing nuggets to
very gently blend the first layer into the paper to
give a smooth look. The alternative is to use a
wet underpainting, see below. I find it best to use
the harder soft pastels for the initial layer or
layers. Ones like Rembrandt, Faber Castell or Art
The PastelMat is a different story. The first
layer, using the pastel on its side, glides on and,
while not giving complete coverage by any
very thinly applied, or a very soft pastel, like
Schminke, is used with a thin and light

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

remaining pastel into the tooth. I can then do a

new painting with, sometimes, a very interesting
underpainting! I hear that pastel can actually be
washed off PastelMat but I have never tried this
so cannot comment.

Fisher 400 comes in one colour, a neutral
sand colour. PastelMat comes in 8 colours, from
white through to quite a dark grey. The colour
does not matter too much to
me because,
with the Fisher, I usually do
an underpainting to establish
my base colours. However,
if I do not wish to
underpaint I find that there
is usually a colour
amongst the range in
PastelMat to inspire me.
I cannot analyse my
choice of colour but I
choose the bright
gold colour for
especially those with a lot
of blue in them. I will choose the warm
brownish grey for portraits, maybe because it is
mid value and not too intense a colour. If I use
the white I usually do an underpainting, simply
because the white confuses my choice of pastel

Fisher is an interesting paper to use for

landscapes. If I can resist the urge to blend the
first layers the paper can assist me in creating a
natural look to trees and grasses for example.
This is because the first layer of pastel does not
go on evenly. The next few layers will
also find peaks and troughs in
the paper and this
ideal for the natural
world. This is a
technique I have not
yet mastered but I'm
working on it. Having
said that I often use
PastelMat for landscapes
simply because of the
range of colours. For
PastelMat gives me more
control over the appearance of
the initial layers and I find that, by layering, my
colours will start to blend together more easily
than on the rougher surface of the Fisher.

Other points

For my particular style, the PastelMat is the

best, especially due to my addiction to the feel of
the first strokes of pastel on the paper! I still
happily use the Fisher quite often but I don't get
quite the same kick from that.

I don't use fixative on either paper, between

layers or at the end. Fixative can, of course, be
used on both. Unless one has applied too many
layers so there is pastel dust floating on the top,
all that is needed is a few sharp taps on the back
of the paper to remove any loose particles. The
piece can then be safely framed and will not shed
any particles onto the mount unless it is
mistreated, stored face down or knocked know, like they do when you put a
painting in an exhibition!

For those of you who have tried neither, or

only one, of these papers my strong
recommendation is that you try both as that is the
only way you will see which suits your style best.

Both can have pastel brushed off very

successfully to free up more tooth for further
application. In the (not uncommon for me) event
of a failed painting, both papers can be recycled
and re-used. I brush off as much pastel as I can
(saving it to eventually make some grey pastel
sticks) and then use a damp brush to push the

Editors comment: The Fisher 400 is quite

similar to the US Wallis Professional and the
Uart 400 sanded papers.


The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

wish to paint, so the painting will be livelier,
and the colours dancing.

Canson Mi-Teintes, my pros

and no cons!

Which side of the paper?

Always the flat one for me! Two options:
either I use a few strokes and then I dont
wish to see the papers texture or I decide I
will blend the pastels and then I also need a
smooth surface.

by Marie-France Oosterhof
I paint exclusively on Canson Mi-Teintes
and therefore I know these papers as well as I
love them. I will tell you why.

Which kind of pastels?

I used to start with charcoal for my initial
drawing, then hard pastel sticks - Rembrandt
usually- after that Girault or Unison, and at last
Schmincke, the very soft ones. This means that
I dont do more than five layers. If I need more
Ill use fixative at one stage, but really never
on the last layer (just a good smack at the back
of the sheet of paper to get rid of the excess
My experience is that any kind of pastel
stick will work with the Canson Mi-Teintes. If
I want to colour the paper with the pastel
painting backgrounds for example Ill use
Rembrandt, never softer, so I can go on
painting with some more layers.

The characteristics of this paper are:

Available in sheets 50 x 65cm, or
in blocks 24 x 32cm or 29.7 x
42cm, the weight is 160g/ m2.
The paper has two different
surfaces: one smooth, the other
one with a texture looking like
small cells.
colouring agents added as needed
to the pulp.
Composition: 55% cotton, acid
free (the black is not acid free).

Canson Mi-Teintes and water

They are really good friends! If I wish to
do an under-painting (acrylic, watercolour etc),
I tape the paper safely onto a strong board and
the paper wont buckle at all when drying. I
have to report that once, when framing, I
wanted to stretch the painting at the back of the
passe-partout (mat). So I humidified the back
of the painting before taping it: it worked
perfectly, the colours did not melt or blend.
Well, lets just say dont try this method with a
Degas painting...!

Which one do I use?

Size and colours:
As I said, I paint only on Canson MiTeintes, as I have tried two different sanded
papers but they did not suit my way of
painting. My choice always goes to the large
sheets, and mostly the two grey colours: gris
fume or gris chine. Painting on those medium
greys is very handy for me as the bright
colours are immediately bright and the dark
ones immediately dark. As I use really few
strokes this is very important for me: blocking
in the values very early on in the painting is
Sometimes though I use different colours,
choosing the lavender blue ones if I paint a
landscape, a seascape, or a sky, always for the
same reasons: as I use a few strokes the paper
colour will be part of the painting. When
painting a still life my choice will be a
complementary colour to the background I

Some more pros

These sheets are really light, very handy to
carry in the portfolio and what about the price?
Really cheap for us in France, so not a problem
if I have to throw away the one I painted on a
bad day
I obviously do not find any inconvenience
with this paper, in my opinion it offers all the
qualities I need for my way of painting.
The history of Canson papers is a very,
very old French story, everything began in
1557 (Learn more about this historical
industry on their site
You know Anita Stoll and Tony Allain,
both talented painters, use mostly Canson MiTeintes as well.


The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

Pastel Card and Sansfix

by Charlotte Herczfeld
These papers are of the so
called sanded papers, which are
papers primed with glue or
gesso with some sort of grit
mixed into it.
Both have a grit which is
not abrasive, and you can
finger blend without risking
Pastel Card
Senneliers Pastel Card
(also called La Carte) has grit
which is made out of cork and
vegetable matter. When you
paint, some of the excess grit
comes loose, but there is no
visible effect on the surface.
The surface is applied to a
cardboard, so the paper is

Fresas, by the author. Pastel Card handles smooth, impasto, and detail well.

It is fine for detail work. In the picture

Fresas, you can see how very smooth the plate
is, the fine detail on the berries and the plate,
plus the more impasto and painterly table cloth
in the background. There is no need for fixative
with Pastel Card.

The paper takes pastels very well, in many

layers. There is some texture, but it is not
pronounced once you have a few layers of pastel
on it. It comes in many colours and several
sizes. You can get a very even and smooth look
on this paper. Many who paint in high realism
like this paper, and so do artists who use a more
impressionistic application.

There is really only one disadvantage to

Pastel Card: it is hydrophobic. You cannot use
any wet underpainting on it. Beware of sneezing
or blowing so a drop of saliva falls on the paper
each little droplet of moisture will dissolve the
glue that keeps the grit on the paper. If this
happens, be sure to not touch the paper until it
has dried thoroughly and the glue has settled
back into its solid state.


Sansfix texture is good for instant

foliage, as in the weeping willow
detail. To the left is a close-up
showing how pastel goes onto the


The unusual grit of the

Schmincke Sansfix feels like
tiny smooth pebbles from the
sea. Like Pastel Card, the
paper is a card, but Sansfix is
a paper that can take a lot of
hard handling and painting.
The grit stays in place no
matter what you do to it, and
it handles water very well.
It is both textured and has a relatively deep
tooth. The pastel strokes go on with an uneven
and scumbled look, which is perfect for instant
foliage. It takes many layers. However, fine
lines and details are more difficult to achieve.
This is a paper for the more impasto and
painterly style.

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

The extent of the dust that falls off is quite

surprising. I had a painting where I had to clean
the mat repeatedly, so I put the painting in
storage in my studio. Two years later, I checked
how the painting had fared. Never before have I
seen so much pastel dust on the mat. Normally,
a speck or two escapes onto the mat, but this
was an avalanche! It would not be good if this
happened with a painting a client owns.

Although the name sansfix implies that the

pastels need no fixative, Ive found that this
papers disadvantage is that it holds on to
pigments poorly. Both when you paint and when
the painting is framed. You definitely need
many applications of fixative to keep the
pigments on the surface.

It would be very good if Schmincke could

solve this problem, as the paper otherwise is a
fine one for you who like texture.

Above: Detail of the mat of a painting on Sansfix. Real

width of the mat is 8 cm.
Right: a close-up of the beveled edge of the mat and the
large amount of pigment which has fallen off the


The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

smaller. The larger the size, the more difficult it

will be to get an even layer because the coating
will start to dry in the middle of the process. If
you plan to apply a white coating, it helps a lot
to use a lightly coloured paper, as then you can
see better what you're doing, later on!

Home made pastel grounds

by Clea Mller
If you are not happy with the pastel surfaces
available at your local art shop or simply enjoy
experimenting with new pastel grounds, why
don't you try to make your own supports? It is
easier than you think.

Then, you choose the coating you would

like to apply. There are several brands of
readymade grounds for pastel paintings. These
are convenient and give even results, so try out
if they give you your ideal pastel surface. I have
used the products by Schmincke and Rubens.
Ruben's pastel ground is already tinted in grey
which helps if you use white paper as a support.
Both grounds offer enough grit for the pastel to
be applied easily, but the results are not really a
sanded surface. There are other products by
Lascaux, Nerchau, Art Spectrum and Golden
which I haven't tried out yet.
Left: with marble dust Am See.

I admire many pastel paintings by American

master pastellists and their effects on sanded
papers, but none of those surfaces are available
in the shops nearby. The expense of mail
ordering these papers from the US discouraged
me. After reading Alan Flattmann's book The
Art of Pastel Painting, I have decided try to
make my own sanded surfaces and find my own
techniques to go with them.

Below: with quartz, Schatten (Iris).

My supports end up being slightly abrasive and

too rough for very fine details so they force me
to use a looser style. They eat up more pastel
than normal pastel paper by Hahnemhle,
Canson or Fabriano, but less than Sennelier's
Pastel Card or Schmincke's Sansfix pastel
paper. There is no problem finger blending
pastels on them.
If you are interested in a slightly more
granular surface, I can recommend using a
homemade mixture of gesso (1/3), water (1/3)
and marble dust (1/3).

To start preparing your own pastel ground,

choose a board or paper suitable for wet
techniques. If you are concerned about the
archival quality of your final product, use
archival paper or board. Otherwise, you can use
any leftovers at hand. My favourite supports are
oil painting paper or medium to heavy
watercolour paper with light texture. The paper
I found most suitable, easily available and not
too expensive was Hahnemhle Britannia
Water Colour paper. I have also used paper
with more or no texture, just bear in mind that
this will have effects on the final texture of the
surface! I use sheets sized 50 x 65/70cm or

For more tooth, try increasing the amount of

marble dust or use pumice powder or quartz
powder instead. Pumice and quartz powders are
available in different grades. Experiment which
will give you the result you like best. Be careful
not to inhale the dust, but mix it quickly with
water, because it might be harmful. If your local
art store does not carry these gritty substances,
you can mail order through Kremer Pigmente
GmbH & Co. KG (

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

Left: Materials

For a home-made light texture

without the feeling of sanded paper, try
using just gesso or acrylic paint. Vary the
amount of water you add according to
your needs. The thicker the mixture, the
more pronounced your texture will be.

Right:Mixing the
Middle: Applying
with a roller.

With the mixture ready, you apply at

least two layers of coating on your
surface. For this, you can use a synthetic paint
roller to apply one coating from left to right and a
second from top to bottom of the paper. This will
give you a surface where your coating is evenly
spread out.

ochre, and most often I use the same Rembrandt

pastel stick to tint the paper, in order to keep the
colour consistent. After drying, I spray it with
fixative. This allows me to keep the original
colour even when I choose to wipe pastel dust
off during the painting process!

Alternatively, for more pronounced texture

you can use a (cheap) big brush to brush the
paint on in a similar way. This will give you a
pattern of lines (which are usually not too
even). If you prefer a random pattern of lines,
you brush it on accordingly. You can even
apply the coat along the lines of a sketch or an
under-painting for certain directions in your
texture. For this, I prefer to use transparent
gesso to see what I'm doing. Liquitex clear
gesso is ideal for this. In any case, work
quickly! The mixture tends to dry very fast. Let
the support dry thoroughly afterwards and
straighten it out under some weight for a day or
two if necessary.

Have fun experimenting! Just make sure to

take note of the mixture you used at the back of
the paper for future reference!

For further reference on suitable supports and

gritty substances Clea recommends Richard
McKinley's blogs on these topics:

The nice thing with home-made supports is

that you can prepare them in any colour you
like! You can use acrylic paint in your favourite
colour instead of gesso already for your
mixture. Or you can customize the support at a
later stage with watercolour or pastel wiped on
with a wet brush. Then again, it's your choice to
apply the colour as evenly as possible
throughout the surface or with any type of
gradation, pattern or underpainting you might
like. One of my favourite paper colours is light



The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

What I like most is that I can use the pastel

primer undiluted and produce different surfaces
by applying it with brushes, sponges or painting
knifes, or by treating it with different materials
like scrunched paper or whatever before it dries.
The structured surface that I get this way gives
paintings a loose and painterly style, which I
love for some projects. By the way, this effect
can be an aid for those who want to leave the
copying kind of painting style and search for
more expressive or spontaneous methods.

Schmincke Pastel Primer

by Dorothee Rhler
The pastel primer from Schmincke is a very
variable ground which you can use on different
materials like wood, metal, cardboard or canvas
and I think you could find even more.
As you see here, I paint it on the
passepartout cardboards (matboard) which I
have cut out when framing. I really like to no
longer waste this expensive and high-quality
It is possible to colour it with acrylic
colours before application. On absorbent
materials Schmincke suggest that the support is
prepared with primer on both sides, because
cardboard tends to bend when drying. I avoid
that and weigh the cardboard down with books
or such after the primer is dry enough (this
takes only about 10 minutes), and leave the
books there until the cardboard is completely
The pastel primer is rather viscous, and in
order to get a smooth surface you have to dilute
it with water. Then it gives you a surface very
similar to sanded paper like Art Spectrums

I find it very lasting, a small amount covers

big areas, and I buy it at Gerstcker paper for
14,99 /500gr.
It is worth an attempt if you would like to
experience it!

When it has dried it is water resistant and

you can do under paintings with acrylic paint or
watercolours. It holds the pastel pigments well.
You can rub and smudge the colour if you want
and it grabs several layers. Fixation is no
problem but not necessary as long as you don't
do too many layers.

Left: Rolled on texture

Top right: Brushed on texture with swirls
Bottom Right: Texture detail shots


The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

How well does the paper hold pigments while you paint?
by Charlotte Herczfeld
Most of us who paint on an easel probably
keep some device under it to catch the dust that
falls off the painting while we paint a folded
piece of paper, foil, or a trough of some kind. I
began to notice that the amount of fallen dust
varied between papers, and decided to compare
how much.
The method used is simple. I took the dust
and rubbed it into a long strip of sanded paper,
and measured the length of how much paper the
dust covered. This is not a thorough
examination, but it still gives some indication of
how well the papers hold onto the pigments
during the painting process.
The pastels I used were a mixture of mainly
Rembrandt, Unison, ArtSpectrum, Sennelier,
and Schmincke. For some samples the
Panpastels were used.
Details of the swatches
The top picture shows fall-off from
paintings of the size 30x40 cm (12x16), and the
bottom picture shows paintings made in A4 size
(about 8.5x12), and the last two are painted
with Panpastels.
The Fisher 400 grabs the pigments
beautifully, and surprisingly there is a mere 1,5
cm difference between an A4 and a painting of
the double size. Clairefontaine PastelMat also
holds on to the pigments really well, with only
12 cm for the larger painting. Both papers
continue to hold the pigment once the paintings
are matted (passe-partout) and framed.
Colourfix, which gave all of 22 cm from the
smaller A4. Once matted and framed, there is a
small fall-off, but it ceases after a while.
The Panpastels stuck best to the paper, but
the comparison isnt entirely fair, as a lot of the
dust lodges in the sponge tools which are used
to apply the Panpastels, and the dust is wiped off
of the tools onto a paper towel.

brands. You will find your favourites which

work for your method, and it may not matter to
you how much pastel is wasted, as you make
your own pastels from the fallen off dust. It does
give lovely colour-biased neutrals!

As usual, different results come from

different combinations of paper and pastel

use fixative, they do not take many layers of

pastels. In my opinion, these are not the best
papers for beginners, but in the hands of a
seasoned painter they perform very well. These
papers come in many colours.

Pastel papers and surfaces,

an overview
by Charlotte Herczfeld
Papers can be divided into four major
categories, and then we can add the category of
Other surfaces.

The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

Some of these papers have a too pronounced

structure, which can be sanded down with
ordinary sandpaper. Then the paper will perform
a bit more like velour, and take a few layers
more than the untreated paper does.

Sanded papers, with a hard gritty surface,

added to it. They can be coarser or finer.
Papers with a soft non-abrasive surface
added to it.
Plain pastel papers, where the paper itself is
the surface.
Other papers, as watercolour/aquarelle
papers, charcoal paper, printing papers.
Other surfaces, as for example Linen canvas

Generally, the thicker the paper is, the better

it holds on to pastel.
Other papers
They may be just what you need, for your
style. I recommend that you experiment with
different papers. Generally, look for papers with
some degree of tooth, as it is more important
than structure. Pastel pigments tend to rest on
the top of structure. So a cold-pressed rough
watercolour paper will give you a fight, unless
you do a wet underpainting first, and then you
can create beautiful effects with the pastels
where the underpainting shines through. Pastels
are a wonderful way to save failed watercolour
paintings. To gain more tooth, you can prime the
watercolour painting with a clear gesso with
some grit in it.

Sanded papers
Normally, the hard grit is either mixed into
the binder, or strewn on the binder. The former
tend to have a less deep tooth as ArtSpectrum
Colourfix has, while the latter can be rather
aggressive, like Fisher 400. They both hold
many layers of pastel. The more aggressive the
tooth, the more layers they take. The sandpapery
papers tend to be sand-coloured, while those
with grit mixed into gesso can be had in many

Linen canvas
Often they come with gesso already applied,
and they can be more or less structured. Some
artists apply a pastel primer over the existing
gesso, to gain more tooth.

Softer surfaces
Here we find papers like Clairefontaine
PastelMat, Sennelier PastelCard (LaCarte), and
velour papers. All of them take many layers of
pastel, but the only one who allows for early
blending is Pastel Card, and it is the paper that
holds a hard edge best, the others tend to give
softer edges. All hold on to harder pastels well,
but the velour papers tend to not be amenable to
finish layers with very soft pastels, as that layer
may simply slide off. These papers are made in
many colours.

Tooth, and Structure:

Tooth is how well the paper bites and
grabs onto the pastel pigments. Tooth is in the
texture of the surface, with its grains and spaces
between grains. A deep tooth has deeper
spaces. Compare with ordinary printer paper,
which has virtually no tooth at all.

Pastel papers
The structure of these papers is had by
letting the paper pulp dry on cloth or a metal
grid. The structures of these get indelibly
imprinted in the paper. Papers of the type Ingres
have a striped pattern, while Canson Mi-Teintes
has a structure like honeycombs. The papers
have structure, but little tooth. Both sides of the
paper can be used for painting, and one side is
usually more smooth than the other. Unless you

Structure (can also be called texture) is the

regular or irregular pattern of the surface of the
You can have a paper which gives a very
smooth painting as the structure is minimal, but
the tooth can be deep. And vice versa, a paper
can have lots of structure, but little tooth.


The Pastel Scribbler June 2012

Workshops by PGE members

Charlotte Herczfeld
Paint the light outdoors
Stockholm, Sweden

Malcolm Jarvis
30 september - 6 october 2012
Burgundy, France

Workshop 2012 A: 23 24 July

Workshop 2012 B: 11 12 August

Get Dusty and Apprentice Challenge Announcement

Because of the summer holiday period over the next few months the Get Dusty
competition starting in June will be extended over the summer period with a closing
date of 25th August.
The theme for the competition is.....Free Choice!! What's more, for the extended
competition members may submit two entries if they wish.
For this period the Apprentice Challenge for May is extended over the summer.
Apprentices are encouraged to enter the Get Dusty. Go ahead, there's nothing to
lose! Apprentices, for your Domestic Cats you have lots of time until the September
25th deadline.

Recent and ongoing conversations in the members Forum on the PGE website:
- Tips for composition
- Photo Editor tricks
- Plein Air tips + show us your first one (and last, and inbetween)
- Peer advice for members paintings
Log in and join in!

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