Shelley told me she had read rave reviews of Pastelmat. We’ve been working on velour paper but have had some frustration with work seeming to disappear – perhaps sinking into the nap – so we were interested in trying something different. I had tried sanded paper but didn’t like it because of all the dust. But Pastelmat was supposed to be different in that regard, so I ordered three sheets – a maize, buff, and light grey.
I drew a design with three sun conures which I was happy with, so decided it was time to try the Pastelmat. I chose the maize because of the sunny tropical feeling of the drawing.
My first experience with the new paper was transferring my drawing to it. I traced my drawing on a piece of tracing paper then used a stylus and actual carbon paper (the kind typists used to use) to transfer the lines. Lesley Harrison had recommended this carbon paper in her workshop last year and it was fine on the velour paper – in fact, it was even a bit hard to see. But on the Pastelmat, it created a very nice, sharp, pretty dark line. So far, so good I thought.
I began my pastel work with Nupastel and pastel pencils. The tooth of the Pastelmat pulled good color from both – better than on the velour paper. But guess what? It wasn’t covering my transfer lines. Yikes! This could be a REAL PROBLEM!!! But I decided to persevere with lesson 1 (transfer with a light touch, and graphite paper would probably be a better choice than carbon paper) hopefully well learned.
I was working with the background in the upper part of the painting – a sky with several layers of palm fronds with the light shining through. After working the sky I moved to the only two palm fronds I had indicated in my drawing, which were the main fronds in the front. This, of course, turned out to be wrong. I should have worked the softer, further back layers of frond first. So I got confused and frustrated. Whenever I have the strong feeling that I don’t know what I’m doing, I should stop and get a grip on the situation. But instead I pressed on, just making the situation worse. So I decided to switch to one of the parrots and had the same result. Of course I didn’t know yet how to work on this paper, and things weren’t going well.
So I had an “art meltdown moment” and decided to go for the “big blend.” I grabbed a terry cloth kitchen towel and RUBBED VIGOROUSLY, blending and also removing much of the pigment. In the end, I kept rubbing and rubbing until I had removed everything that I reasonably could. What I was left with was a very soft rendition of the design. I kind of liked the look so decided to work the rest of the piece in the same manner for the first layer. As I continued with the leaves on the bottom 2/3 of the piece I simply blocked in color, not striving for any detail or much shading as I knew I was going to remove most of the pigment. After blocking in the leaves, branch, and other two birds, I did another “big blend” and I was finished with the first layer. TIME TO SET IT ASIDE. I think it looks a little like a tone paper specially prepared for my painting!
By the way, my transfer lines still show after all the abuse, but I think I can end up covering them.