Friday, July 6, 2018

Summer sale

Summer sale is on. I need to move some of the work to make room for more! checkout the link below. Selected items are half off (9x12, 11x14 sizes).

Click here!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Can I or can't I? my trial and error experience with underpainting

As I mentioned in my last post, pastel artists have many options when it comes to paper. Paper can come in colors or white (tan in UART).

We all know how hard it is to work on a white surface and so, like oil painters do, we color our "canvas" before starting a new piece. We just call it "underpainting".

Many of you are familiar with different products and options for underpainting. This underpainting can go from a simple wash with one color to tone the surface all the way to a more sophisticated and detailed application of liquid prior to starting with dry pastel.

Different materials that I have seen used for underpainting are:
  • watercolor
  • oil (very thin)
  • acrylic (very thin)
  • fluid acrylic (they have more water than regular acrylics)
  • dry pastel with a rubbing alcohol wash
  • dry pastel with mineral spirits
  • dry pastel with water

So let me start by saying that you can try all of the above on UART and it will accept it just fine, retaining all of the qualities of the paper. This is the reason so many pastelists love this brand. Also, the paper is tough enough to be cleaned off and re-used for another painting.

But let's talk about other brands. I made some small samples of what I wanted to show you so that you can see it in photos.

La Carte

This paper does not like any type of liquid, water included. There were some rumors that you could use alcohol on it, so I tested that out. The experiment yield the same results as with water.

When you wet LaCarte, it might seem like nothing has happened, but as the alcohol/water penetrates the sanded surface, the "sand" will start to loosen up and separate from the paper. Check this out:

Black LaCarte with water - at first.

LaCarte with water, after about 5 minutes.


PastelMat works well with watercolors and fluid acrylics - always make sure that the acrylic wash is thinly applied. This is my favorite paper at the moment, and I like to use fluid acrylics on it. - Takes a while to dry, be aware of that.

However, the paper's microscopic rubber hooks that retain pastel particles will literally disintegrate if alcohol is used. You will start seeing a layer of glue that can be moved around on the paper. That was the tooth of the paper. 

PastelMat after alcohol wash. 

Water on pastelMat (no issues here)

Pastel Premier

Pastel Premier also does well with watercolor and dry pastel applied with water. However, applying alcohol produces the same or similar issue as with PastelMat. You start noticing that the layer of tooth in the paper separates from the paper itself. Leaving no tooth to work with. I have also tried Pastel Premier with fluid acrylics and that doesn't work either. I am not sure what the actual issue is here (in chemistry terms) but something in the acrylic itself interacted with the tooth of the paper leaving no tooth in the end. 

Pastel Premier has a plastic or rubbery feel to the touch which is probably some sort of glue that holds the grit on the paper. So, it's possible that this particular material doesn't interact well with acrylic paint. 

PastelPremier after alcohol wash

PastelPremier with water - no issues here.


Here is a table with paper brand and underpainting technique to summarize.  I have not tried all of the combinations. I will test those out and give you and update when I have them ready. In the meantime, if you try something else or another brand let me know!


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

What paper is that? where did you get it? why should I get it?

When I attend workshops I notice many beginners and intermediate pastel artists are overwhelmed not only by the different brands of pastel but more importantly (in my opinion) by the variety and options that exist when it comes to surfaces to paint on.

I learnt about them by trying them all, like most of us did, as they became available on the market.

My intention here is to save you some time with this post. By listing and giving you some information about the products we have available as pastelists. This list is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it sheds some light.

Pastel papers can have different grit, different thickness, different waving and density and not even be sanded at all!

Here we go:

La Carte

This paper is a colored sanded paper, with a lot of grit. It will grab layers and layers of pastel which is great. It's very dense in its sand distribution. You can actually touch and feel the sand particles on it.

La Carte cannot get wet. Water or any kind of fluid will ruin the surface. The strength of this paper to me are the variety of colors that are available and the fact that it can take a lot of material with no problems.


This whitish-cream colored paper is the most similar to the sanded paper that you buy at the hardware store. It comes in grits from 280 - 800. A favorite among pastelists is UART 400. Not too soft, not too rough. It can be bought in sheets or mounted on a board. There are several options when it comes to boards.

Dakota Art Store sells UART pastel boards. There is a 4-ply version with a thin cardboard and borders around the paper itself, and also a 8-ply version with no borders. 8-ply is more sturdy and weights more. They are mounted at the store.

UART is a paper that can "take a beating" a common phrase among artists. You can apply different wet materials to it, color it and it takes many layers of pastel as well.

Dakota UART panels

UART has recently come up with its own panels. The differences are almost unnoticeable. The UART board feels lighter in weight and it's a thinner board (see photo below). I believe they are also the same price as Dakota's. So you can't go wrong with any of these if you like UART.

UART mounted boards

UART board on the left - Dakota UART board on the right

Pastel Premier

This paper is very versatile as well. Its surface is quite gritty but not as much as UART. It comes in a regular grit, and a fine grit. I would compare the regular grit to UART 400. With the fine one being similar to UART 600 or 800.

It comes in white and in colors. Pastel Premier's Italian Clay color is very very popular among plein-air pastelists. This tone is perfect for the outdoors where the natural light can trick the eye and affect the darkness/lightness of a painting. By using Italian Clay, you have something in between and fairly neutral to start painting on. This is a big advantage over other darker colors and obviously over white.

Dakota also has mounted versions.

Pastel Premier 4-ply mounted version Italian Clay color


Richeson is a surface that comes only in one grit (just like la Carte) and in a variety of colors as well. They make their own boards. The boards are super sturdy and light. This paper is different in the way it grabs pastel. Unless you are using pretty soft pastels, I find that the material just falls of the paper. Overall I dont think it grabs as many layers as UART does. It's a surface that has been available forever. I recommend trying it at least once.

Richeson mounted surface


Last but not least, we have PastelMat. Now this paper is different from all of the above. One can't say PastelMat is sanded paper or that it has a grit. It feels velvety and like fabric to the touch. At first it doesn't seem like a paper like this could hold on to pastel pigment but sure it does!

When pastel is applied it "glides" over it and will not sandy at all. But artist beware, that it will grab pastel and hold on to it tight. It super hard, if not impossible, to do any type of blending or even move pastel around until you get to the latests layers of application.

I believe that the paper has very microscopic sized rubber "hooks" where pastel particles are held. Until those are filled up, blending won't happen. Another thing to notice is that once you get to the latest layers of pastel it will become "saturated". At that point you won't have other option than finishing your painting!

PastelMat paper in several colors

I have been using this paper a lot recently. I like to use a lot of material in my work and I love that gliding feeling when painting over it. I am also quite hooked with the colors it comes in. There is white pastelMat but they also have 12 colors to play with. The 3 above are my favorites.
When using white, a wet underpainting can be used but with restrictions.

This is a surface that should be given a shot as well. Warning: it might be addictive. Ha!

In a following post, I will share information about what kind of underpaintings can be done on each of the brands mentioned above. 

Let me know if you have specific questions in the comments section.

Thanks for reading. Hope it helps! oh, and keep painting :)

Monday, March 19, 2018


I was finally able to have hip surgery to fix a tear in my hip joint. I had had pain for almost 2 years and it took a while to correctly diagnose it and also to get my health insurance to approve the procedure.

Recovering from this is a long process mainly because you have to babysit the hip joint a lot so that it wont re-tear.

This is my third week after surgery and I am now able to sit for a while with almost no pain. I started working on some small landscapes with the objective of making larger paintings from them.  I can't really stand up and move close and far from a bigger painting to get good results. Small pieces (6x8 or so) are easier to handle when you have to sit.

The studies are available at

This is one of them:

"Time to head back home" 6x9 pastel.

I am trying to stay positive (time goes by very slowly when you are not having that much fun) and painting once again is helping me on that.

My first workshop this year is with Mike Wise (oils) the last week of April. Need to be able to drive by then. No pressure. I am happy that I was able to get this surgery done with time to heal before plein-air season begins!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Art Show photos

The exhibition of my art works along with Anne Martin McCool's will go until January 14th.
Here are some photos of the opening.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Art Show

"Blueberry Fields Forever" 11x14 pastel.

You are invited!

Join me on December 16th anytime from 1pm - 4pm for the Opening of my Art Show at Hadrian Stone Design and Gallery in Bow, Washington.

Me and another artist will show our latest works. My new landscapes are filled with light and seasonal colors - how I miss the fall!

Come and enjoy a glass of wine, relax, chat and meet the gallery owner Houston Foist. I am grateful to be given this opportunity.

The show will run from December 16th thru January 7th. So there will be plenty of time to check it out if you can't make it to the open.

The gallery's address is  5717 Gilkey Ave, Bow, Washington 98232.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Big piece on display at Christopher Framing and Fine Art, Edmonds

If you are around the area, come visit Edmonds and stop by the gallery to see my biggest piece yet.
A challenging one for me, this luscious and colorful marsh landscape is 20 inches high and 36 inches long.  Michael - the gallery owner- has done an amazing job with the framing. The overall quality of the piece is exquisite. Pastel pigment vibrancy, composition depth and the wood patterns in the frame are worth at least to stop by and take a look.

Michael also has more of my pieces in stock ready for the holiday. It will not disappoint your eye. I promise.

Endless Dream- Pastel.