For whatever reason, I've been using more non-sanded paper for doing pastels. It's not that I like the texture or surface better than sandpaper, because I don't. However, they do, in some ways, require more planning to use, and I have found this to be useful in a "discipline" sort of way: the paper surfaces of Mi-Tientes and a new paper I've been using, Strathmore 400-series Artagain, don't allow for the layering that the sanded papers do (the quality that makes them so wonderful to work on). Thus, a bit more care must be taken when laying down the pastel, and the usual "light over dark" layering techniques don't work so much. I've been focusing on doing quick (~30-60) min. studies on these papers, and trying to avoid getting too fussy with the paintings or the details. Sometimes, I'm even successful to that end!
Anyway, here are a trio of cloudscapes I've painted. They are shown in chronological order painted. The first was done a few weeks ago when I was still in Bisbee; the second done about 1 1/2 weeks ago, and the third was completed last night (under the influence of a glass of wine). I've attempted to correct the photographs in PE to what they look like in life, but as usual, they fall a bit short. Discussion follows each painting.
A note about the Strathmore Artagain paper: It is a 400-series (acid-free), black paper that is "lightly textured". In reality, its texture is like construction paper - smoother than regular drawing paper but not as smooth as something like Bristol. I really like working on a black surface; it makes the colors pop, particularly when the pastel is not blended.
pastel on Canson, 9x12"
Based on a composite of two photos - one for the clouds and the other (taken at the same time) showing the distal mountains (Mules, viewed from the west) with the cloud shadows falling on them. I am not thrilled with the way the lower/distal cloud layer on the right side looks; the perspective is a bit off.
pastel on Strathmore Artagain, 12x9"
This was my first use of this paper. The reference photo was one of dozens I took from the backyard of the Jonquil, of the clouds and the hillside. I'm not thrilled with it - while the colors are okay, the clouds themselves didn't turn out as I'd hoped - they look stiff and I didn't take quite as much time as I should have to get the shapes correct from the photo. The hillside itself could use a bit more warmth in the palette; I was using two new Richeson handmade pastels I'd purchased that same day. If I were doing this over (maybe I will in oils someday), I'd add more orange to the land.
Stormclouds Over Mule Mtns.
pastel on Artagain paper, 9x12"
Based on a photo taken on the same day, but different location and time, as the first photo above. I think I may have unsaturated the photo a bit while trying to correct it; the subtle pinks, yellows and lavender-grays used don't show that well. I also notice now that I cropped out the foreground area, which was darker than the mountains, and lent a sense of depth and scale to the painting - oops! A variety of brands - Unison, Sennelier and Mt. Visions - were used for the clouds. The late afternoon light cast subtle shadows on the southern face of the Mules, and a light touch of pastel was all it took to capture that. No finger blending used on this - just layering and scumbling. I'm glad I resisted the urge to finger blend here. It was completed in ~35-45 min.