Oil Pastelists use a variety of surfaces to paint on. To move oil pastels (OPs) around (without melting) and build layers of the paint it’s essential to have texture (tooth) and my preference is a tightly spaced texture. I’ve tried a number of surfaces, with varied results – here is what I’ve learned in the process:
- Ampersand board and museum board quality surfaces are wonderful to paint on. Fantastic texture, tightly spaced tooth so an artist gets good coverage with multiple layers of oil pastels. Love to paint on these boards.
- Watercolor paper is only good to use if they are heavy enough to withstand multiple layers of applied clear gesso. If not the paper will buckle, but more importantly there’s no texture and spreading oil pastels becomes a real problem.
- Artist canvas/board are okay if clear gesso is applied for texture, without texture the canvas/board becomes slick and limit the artist in spreading oil pastels and in layering.
- Heavy card stock is only good if the card is heavy enough for multiple layers of clear gesso for texture and tooth.
- Pastel papers usually have large checked-type texture. Unless the artist uses the highest quality (Wallis) that is already processed with gesso (or sand/marble dust) the painting will have a lot of white checks and very few layers of OPs can be applied. I don’t like the look of white checks, although some artists do – it’s a personal preference.
- Hardboard I love. Simply because I control the surface preparation. Once I rough up the surface by sanding it, I can apply as many clear gesso coats as I want to create a tightly textured surface giving me exception tooth to paint with. You’ll find most of my work done on this surface.
I just finished preparing 16 boards and I’m ready to get back to some serious painting. What follows are two oil pastel paintings of a marsh located not too far from where I live different surfaces were used:
Nature’s Own (11×14, hardboard prepared with gesso)
Close-up Marsh Study (5×7 doing for a larger painting, pastel paper [no gesso] notice the white checks!)
Can you see what I mean? To me those little white checks are very distracting. What do you think?