How Adding Texture to Pastel Underpaintings Creates Striking Effects

How Adding Texture to Pastel Underpaintings Creates Striking Effects

Adding texture to your art doesn’t have to be a task that comes later in your work process. In fact, artist Tom Christopher establishes textural elements to his pastel art during the underpainting stage.

“Several years ago, I was able to view an original Jackson Pollock painting. I was immediately taken with the textures and variation of line he was able to achieve simply by dripping paint onto a surface,” recalls Christopher. “When I returned home to my studio, I wondered how I could use the techniques I’d just seen in my pastel underpainting.”

With some practice and drops of acrylic paint, Christopher creates striking texture in his pastel landscapes. However, the key to success is knowing how to apply just the right amount.

5 Steps to Textured Underpainting

For those of you ready to experiment with adding texture to your underpainting, here is a step-by-step demonstration from Christopher.

1. Expose Brushstroke

To begin establishing texture, I start with a 16×20-inch sheet of white 3∕16-inch-thick Gator Board.

I paint the entire sheet with flat acrylic wall paint, usually antique white, using a stiff 3-inch brush. This will leave the brushstrokes exposed.

2. Sketch Abstract Subject

After the paint is absolutely dry, I sketch a loose abstract design of the subject — in this case, a field in autumn — using dark gray watercolor.

3. Employ the ‘Jackson Pollock Technique’

At this time, I identify the areas that will receive texture — trees, rocks and grassy sections — and then mask around them using blue painter’s tape.

I then employ the “Jackson Pollock technique” and use a thin stick to drip acrylic paint onto the surface.

I’m careful to include thin and thick drippings, which will resemble tree branches and native grasses in my final painting.

4. Remove Masking Tape

After the acrylic dries, I remove the masking tape to leave the texture exposed. Now I’m ready to add the pumice gel-and-water mixture.

5. Add the Grit

I create approximately 1 pint of my homemade ground, using Golden’s Fine Pumice Gel and water, mixed to the consistency of pancake batter.

Next, I cover the entire painting with a thin coat of the mixture(5a). It will dry clear, leaving the textured design exposed and enabling the surface to accept several layers of pastel

From Underpainting to Completion: Evaluation the Final Painting

The textured areas are easily visible in my final version of Autumn Feast, but they aren’t noticeable enough to become a distraction.

I’ve found using this type of textural underpainting is a great way to keep my pastel landscapes loose and painterly. The effects through adding texture prevent me from overworking areas by creating implied detail that effectively captures the excitement of the scene.