Jackie Simmonds finds that although very smooth, this pastel paper has a good tooth and is a pleasure to work on.
Landscape, pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat natural sienna coloured paper, 12x9in (30x24cm).
The lovely earthy tone of the paper, a cross between grey and brown, worked as a good foil for the six warm and three cool colours (see below) I chose to give a very different look to the same scene. Again, the side of the pastel gave me good coverage and blended areas, while the edge of the pastel was used towards the bottom of the image to suggest long grasses
This new paper combines the advantages of both gritty and velour surfaces – its smoothness is very surprising, given that the paper is coated with a very fine cork grain that grabs and holds the pastel well. A
first pass with a stick of pastel leaves a layer on the surface that will not easily shift, despite the fact that the surface allows for blending with a finger. When you do blend, very little pastel is lost. Blending with a tissue proves that despite feel and appearances, there is plenty of tooth to the surface as bits of tissue are shed, so it is not be to recommended. But unlike sanded surfaces that will take the skin off your fingers, Pastelmat is smooth, and gentle on the fingers.
Pastel can be built up to several layers without the need for fixative. Heavy strokes of your softest pastels will of course fill the tooth more quickly, but I found the tooth quite sufficient for several layers, which allows for subtle colour mixes and transitions. For my two example pieces (above and right) I began with harder pastels and finished off with softer ones for the topmost layers. Details are remarkably easy to achieve on this surface. It is a pleasure to work on 170lb (360gsm) weight – it is much stronger and thicker than paper.
Water resistanceAccording to the Pastelmat website the paper is water resistant, so I tried using a watercolour wash as an underpainting (top right). Other cork surfaces I have used in the past would lift completely when touched with water, but there were no ill effects on this surface. The water did creep into cauliflower edges, but given that pastel was going to be used over the top when dry, this did not matter. Drying takes some considerable time and colours fade markedly as the surface dries, so if you wish to try this procedure it could be best to use gouache or coloured inks rather than transparent watercolours.
Landscape, pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat Buttercup coloured paper, 8x8in (20.5x20.5cm). Using a small selection of colours, I allowed the yellow of the paper to glow through in places, which reinforced, by contrast, the cool colours (see below) of the pastels used. I mostly used the side of my pastels to sweep colour on to the paper, and worked one colour over another, which provided interesting visual mixes