Monday, September 17, 2012

Revisiting Escalante & Mi-Tientes in the studio

Despite the radio silence, I've been busy.  Some painting, but I've also been preoccupied with transforming our spare bedroom into a dedicated studio - my "girl cave", as it were.  Photos of that in a later post.

Anyway, with the Escalante Canyons Plein Air Festival starting this Friday, I've been wanting to do some paintings of the area as practice.  I put in an order for some Mt. Vision pastels as an accompaniment for my Utah canyon plein air set, and those arrived last week - exciting!

From Wed, at fellow 4C member Jane Mercer's studio, when rain canceled our plans to paint at Baker's Bridge:

Wash Wall Shadows - 10x20"
pastel on Mi-Tientes
© S.Johnson
As much as I love my smooth, black papers, they have their limitations, so I'm trying to expand my repertoire with surfaces.   I previously haven't had much luck using Mi-Tientes, but had this piece, in a medium value tan, and decided it would be good to practice on.   Also, some of the most masterful pastels I've seen have been done on this lowly, old-school paper.  Specifically, I wanted to see how the Unisons in my sky set handled on this paper; on the black paper, they just sheet off.  

They worked like a dream on the Canson.   Perhaps it's because my painting and pastel handling skills have improved, but I am thinking I need to give this paper another shot.  I learned many-a things with this painting, about what works (layering), what doesn't (dark over light - I can do that on my black paper).  This is possibly the first painting I've done on Mi-Tientes that I didn't want to immediately toss in the trash, so that's a plus.

I also ordered some 800# UArt, which may turn out to be my sanded paper of choice.  I do know that Wallis and 400# UArt are just too aggressive for my current painting technique, so we'll see how the finer grits of the UArt go.  Unfortunately, Blick sent me the #600 instead (but are shipping out replacement sheets), so I may try that on my next plein air painting, slated for Horse Gulch, tomorrow afternoon.  

Oh yeah - here's a small study I did last week with Connie, who paints with the Friday group:

Smelter Rapid Study - 6x8", plein air
pastel on black cardstock
Connie said she has struggled painting water and rocks (and thus, doesn't paint them), and wanted to watch me paint.  So, we went down to Santa Rita Park and I gave an informal lesson, which, odd as it sounds, was more about "seeing" than painting.  


  1. I love your pastel work, Sonja, and enjoy following your blog! I was wondering what paper you are using that you refer to as "black cardstock". Thanks for sharing your beautiful paintings as well as telling a little about the process of your art!

  2. Hi Dorothy - thank you so much for your visits and your kind comments! Re: the black cardstock - I probably discussed it back when I started using it, but your comment is a good reminder to mention it periodically :). My favorite brand, made by Wausau, I buy at Target: Eclipse Black Cardstock. It is 65lb, acid-free, and you can't beat the price.

    As you can see, its intended use is for scrapbooking, but I find it pretty much identical to the Strathmore Artagain that I use for larger paintings, surface-wise. What I do to prep it for use with pastels is vigorously sand the surface with a piece of #220 wet/dry sandpaper. This gives it a bit of velvety tooth so the pastels adhere better. It doesn't work well with extra soft pastels and certain individual pastels of various brands, but overall, I love it. It's cheap enough that I don't feel bad tossing paintings. Even if you don't use a square format and trimmed every piece to a 9x12, it's still a great value. I save the trimmings to do color swatches on, or small 1:3 or 1:4 format paintings on.

  3. These are both so pretty, Sonya! I really like your composition on the first piece. It draws the viewer's eye into the painting, and you captured such a lovely feeling of depth, too. Lovely!

  4. Thank you! How sand your papers! I would never have thought of that, and now you've got me curious enough to give it a try. Thanks for sharing, and happy painting!

  5. Hi Darla - thank you, as always, for your comments. I ended up taking photos of this same view on both directions of the hike, without realizing it until I looked at them later, which always tells me that I was really drawn to the view.

    Dorothy - you're welcome! I know a few other pastelists that sand their paper surface, including Canson (that didn't work for me at all!). Keep up the good work, and definitely experiment with different surfaces; you never know what you'll end up loving.


Your thoughtful comments add value to this blog - thank you so much for taking the time to leave them!

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