Day 8 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” Applying the Marble Dust Mixture to the Masonite

Applying the Marble Dust Mixture to the Masonite Panel.
Now it is time to apply the marble dust gesso mixture to your panel. It is imperative that you apply this mixture to your surface with an untextured paint roller and not a brush. The main focus is that the application has to be smooth and uniformed. Make sure that you have the Masonite panel on a flat surface. Here are the materials that you will need:
the marble dust gesso mixture
1- small cut piece of sand paper P80 grade about 2×3”
1-6-inch non-textured paint roller
1 Paint Pan
1 Cold glass of water (in case you get thirsty).
Pour some of your marble dust mixture into the paint pan and evenly roll your paint roller to saturate the roller. Starting vertically, apply an even coat over your Masonite panel. Try not to have any patterns. This is important to remember during this process. After the first coat is applied, wait about 20 – 30 minutes for it to dry. Check to see if it is fully dry. Even if it is not wet, touch it to make sure that it’s not cool to the touch. This would mean that it is not ready for the next step.
Once the panel is fully dried, take your hand and move it along the surface to check and make sure that there are no imperfections such as lumps of gesso or hairs. If there are imperfections, take the piece of sand paper and gently file them away in a circular motion. Once this is done you are ready for the second coat.
Now for the second coat you want to apply the marble dust mixture in a horizontal direction. This will help to create a uniformed non-patterned surface. Repeat the process and let it dry. As I had stated before, make sure that the surface is dry and not cool to the touch before checking for imperfections. Now you may repeat the process of gently sanding away any lumps or hairs.
The third and final coat you will be applying the marble dust mixture vertically once more. Now you will notice that the surface is a more opaque white. It may take a little longer for the third coat to dry but please do not sand away the imperfections until it is totally dry and not cool to the touch. After sanding away the final imperfections you now you have a perfect surface for the application of pastel. Here is a link to a YouTube video of mine demonstrating the application of the marble dust mixture:  
Applying the Marble Dust Mixture
Next, we will begin with the drawing stage of your painting using the Pastel Palette Method.

Day 7 My Book; “The Pastel Palette Method” The Marble Dust and Gesso Mixture.

Pastel On Masonite
Now you want to prepare your Masonite panel to accept many layers of pastel. This is a crucial step in making sure that you will create a successful pastel painting. We are going to make a mixture of gesso, marble dust and water. This mixture will create the perfect surface to receive pastel. The proper ingredients are paramount and need to be correct if this is going to be successful. Here are the materials needed:
Fredrix Ground Marble Dust
Blick Artist’s Grade Waterproof Acrylic Gesso
1 Quart Container
1 Cup Mixing Unit
1 Tbsp Mixing Unit
You definitely want to use the gesso that I had mentioned above. The gesso needs to be thick like whipped butter and it also needs to be waterproof. If either of these characteristics are missing in your gesso, the mixture will not give you the desired results. The marble dust is readily available at Amazon as well as Blick Art Supplies. Make sure you have a clean 1-quart plastic or glass container with a lid.
In the container put one cup of water. After the water’ place one cup of the acrylic gesso. Now it is time to apply 15 heaping tablespoons of the powdered marble dust. With a plastic spoon or knife mix the ingredients together. If you are having trouble blending the ingredients you may need to get a wooden paint stick that they sell at a house paint store or The Home Depot. Once you feel it is well mixed, place the lid tightly and shake well for about 1 minute. Now you have a solution that will prepare about at least 7 medium sized boards.
Next, we will apply the marble dust mixture to our Masonite panels.

Day 6 My Book; “The Pastel Palette Method” What is the best surface for pastel?

What is the Best Surface for a Pastel Painting?
There are a ridiculous number of surfaces that art supply companies and manufacturers throw at you. They all claim that it is the best for pastel. I have seen velvet, sand paper, Canson, and Clay Boards just to name a few. Do you want to know the one thing that all these surfaces have in common? They are all too expensive and not perfect for you. I am going to share with you the best surface for pastels at a fraction of the cost.
First, we need a surface that is not going to crease. With that being said, we need to forget about Canson paper. They will easily get ruined and you will not be able to do any scratching techniques. You will have to worry about over saturating the paper if you decide to employ any under-paintings. Canvas is just too textured and it will take copious amounts of gesso just to fight that texture. Canvas also shrinks and expands with the temperature surroundings and that is not good for a pastel painting. Clay Boards and other boards manufactured just for pastel painting are not very good choices for a few reasons. They come in very limited sizes and are extremely pricey. I would rather you spend your money on framing your own paintings or purchasing some beautiful additions to your pastel collection than to soak all your money in Clay Boards. Here is my solution, drum roll please, untempered Masonite panels.
These panels are available at your local home improvement store such as The Home Depot, or Lowes. They come in various sizes and I like to purchase 4 x 6-foot piece. They will cut it on location for you at no additional cost. I usually end up with 1 large, 2 medium and several smaller panels for way under 10 dollars USD. In Clay Board, the prices would be well over the 100-dollar USD range. One other thing, the Clay Board manufacturer is deciding what is the best surface for you. I believe that is a decision that you, the artist, should make. Don’t you agree?
In the next chapter I will discuss the mixture that makes these Masonite boards the best  for your individual needs as a pastel painter. What a book huh? You save lots of money and get to have the optimal surface for your pastel paintings.

Day 5 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” Coming up with your idea for a pastel painting..

Coming up with your idea for a pastel painting

I want you to truly contemplate what you will paint. Even if it is a relatively simple design, I still want you to plan what you are going to spend a considerable amount of time working on. I often paint simple portrait compositions but I definitely want a photo reference that is clear with a resolution at the very least of 800 x 600 pixels. To work from an image any smaller and you will not be able to see or decipher the details in the picture. Make your life easier and be certain that you are working from a great image that is both very detailed and with a good range of lights and darks.

Once you have the image that you would like to paint or draw and it’s a simple portrait; you will now need to decide what size is the artwork going to be and your composition that you will design. This entails, cropping out one area or perhaps choosing the negative space or background. Will the background take up a large or smaller portion of your composition? I want you to think about this deliberately and not take this stage likely. One suggestion to get ideas is to look at the work of the Old Masters and how they composed similar subject matter. For example, if you are planning a self-portrait, perhaps studying some of Rembrandt’s self-portraits will give you ideas on composition and background of your painting.

Now sketch out your idea on a little sketchbook. Play around with different compositions until one feels right to you. It’s at this point that you are ready to go to the actual acquisition of your references and how to get your idea on the surface that you will be working on.

I am often asked by my students, where do I get my ideas for a painting? This is not an easy question to answer, but there are some steps that I often share as to how a painting develops from a tiny vision to a fully realized pastel painting.
Currency #1 Pastel on Masonite

I will use my painting “Currency #1” as a prime example of the process of my work, from idea to completed painting. This pastel painting started out with a little spark of an idea. One day, as I held a dollar bill in my hand, I noticed that when it was folded in a certain way it read, “ONE DOLL” as the word “ONE DOLLAR” was cropped.

I quickly gotten out my sketch pad and sketched the concept of “ONE DOLL” and thought of putting the model in the space that George Washington occupied in the center of the bill. I then developed the pose of a young woman to reflect her in quiet contemplation within a world obsessed with finances.

Once the final sketch, which is usually the size of my 4×6” sketch pad, was completed, it was time to get some reference material for the background and make an appointment for the model to pose for the painting. Later in this book, I will go into detail about my methods of photographing the model.

This is how I create a painting from idea to sketch and to completion. In future chapters, I will discuss how to find a model, photography and the first steps to creating a pastel painting using the Pastel Palette Method.

Day 4 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” Peanuts as blending tools.

What do you need to blend the pastel with?
My foam and foam core triangles are best suited for applying the color on the surface and are not as optimal as blending tools. They are not the best for blending because they would most likely have pastel colors already on them. Even if you were to use a clean triangle, they aren’t versatile enough since they only have a small surface area. To blend pastel, I like to have a larger surface area along with a smaller one.
There are expensive items on the market that are geared toward the function of blending the pastel areas together. One item on the market is very similar to make-up blenders used in the cosmetic industry. These load up with pastel rather quickly, thus having a short lifespan and are not very practical for blending color.
Everything that I tried always seemed to do half the job. I used paper stumps and they often became over saturated and soon they were ready to be thrown out along with the make-up blenders. The second issue with paper stumps was the very small surface area. I needed something versatile to blend both small and large areas.
A friend of mine recommended packing peanuts and they worked very well for the large areas, such as the backgrounds; However, they were big and were useless when blending smaller areas. I knew that I needed something that was for both. The packing peanuts that I tried so far were not malleable. So, the hunt for the perfect blending tool was still on. 

Then I was in a Staples, the office supply store and I found these wonderful, green packing peanuts which had a large surface area; However, you can squeeze and manipulate them into tiny points just like a kneaded eraser. They were the blending answer that I was looking for. These packing peanuts were able to blend large and small areas alike. Although these packing peanuts come in a green color, they don’t leave any color when you rub them on your painting surface. They come in a large plastic bag and usually cost between 8-10 dollars USD. Trust me, once you have these packing peanuts in your pastel studio, you will throw away those blending tools that you purchased at the art supply store.

These packing peanuts are the perfect addition to my method of painting in pastel. Their function is extremely complementary to the glazing techniques used in the Pastel Palette Method. I will further explain these glazing methods in a future chapter.

Day 3 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method”, Foam as a paint brush

The Foam Door Hanger Triangles

These are the triangles that we need to use when the foam core triangles are no longer able to apply pastel to the surface effectively. This happens as the surface has a few layers of the pastel pigment and it is no longer effective to scumble the color. The foam core seems to just push the existing surface pigment around, no longer effectively applying new color. This is when we need to apply the pigment with more precision and softer pastel pigment.

These triangles you may purchase at a hobby store, such as Michael’s, or AC Moore, or Hobby Lobby. They are a bit thicker than the foam core. There are used as blank signs that go on the doorknob. They are used as “Do Not Disturb “signs. These soft foam products come in different colors but I recommend that you purchase the white since a brighter color may skew your perception of the color before you apply it to the surface of the painting. I cut these the same way as the foam core triangles and keep them separated from the foam core.

I mix softer pastels on the Pastel Palette with the foam triangle before loading the tip of the triangle with the pigment. I then apply the pigment to the painting surface more deliberately. This enables more detail and control. Just as the foam core triangles, I adjust the tips with a pair of scissors. This can assist you to create a clean tip and to achieve even greater detail when needed.
The foam triangles are good all the way until the completion of the painting. This is the tool I use for the bulk of the painting process. Remember to cut a sufficient number of the foam triangles before each and every painting session. I usually need about 20 per painting.  Remember to use different triangles for different color mixtures. This will ensure that your colors are clean and not muddy.

Day 2 My Book; “The Pastel Palette Method” The Sand Paper Palette

In the early 2000s I would give demonstrations of my new method to small art clubs and organizations in and around Northeast New Jersey. I didn’t think twice about my method and of sharing it. I was just eager to spread the findings of my new technique. The artists at the demonstrations were astounded at this revolutionary approach to the classical medium of pastel. It was so much fun to share it.
One day, at an art show years later, a fellow artist whom had attended several of my demonstrations exclaimed, “Did you see that an art supply company, stole your idea?” It was then she told me about the company’s said pastel product line. This line of pastel and method of painting seemed directly derived from my technique of the Pastel Palette. I was upset and I went on line to explore this company’s product even more.
I was relieved that the pastel line and their method of applying the pastel on the surface was only half correct, incomplete. The most important element of the Pastel Palette Method is the mixing of the pastel pigment before it is applied. Even though I was relieved, I never again demonstrated my technique in public or on line to the public. I felt if I did that, the rest of my method and its discovery would be stolen. Since that day and until now, the Pastel Palette Method has been kept secret by me.
Here is the birth of the idea for the Pastel Palette. When I began to explore the concept of mixing pastel pigments on a palette like an oil painter mixes their oil paints, powdered pigments came to mind. The main issue faced with powdered pigments was that they have no binders and they would not adhere to one another or the surface. I needed pastel pigments that had a binder already in them. The thought of using existing pastel sticks that were already plentiful in my studio came to me. The problem was how to get the pastel sticks into powdered form.
As a pastel painter, over the years, I worked on a variety of surfaces but most of them have a textured surface to some degree. This textured surface has a two-fold purpose. The first is that the pastel has to be able to fill the surface slowly, otherwise the pigments will not stay on the surface but move around on the upper layer. This is why pastels do not work on smooth papers or boards. A well textured surface accepts many layers of pastels to create depth and luminous color. The second reason the pastel surface is needed to have texture is to remove the pastel pigment from the pastel stick. The rougher the texture, the more pastel pigment is released. That was the light bulb needed to come up with the concept of the Pastel Palette. The perfect surface would be a mid-grade sand paper.
I love the idea of the wooden palette and spreading the colors out to see the beautiful spectrum of paint to mix together. What is pastel but a form of dried paint. The colors have the same properties as oils, acrylic or watercolor. The color mixtures follow the same color theories. I already have all the pastel pigments I need in my studio and chances are, you do too.
The Wooden Palette and the Sand Paper
The wooden palette that I decided to use was exactly like the one that I worked with during my years in art school and later in my own studio. It’s a 12×18” palette which is standard. This is what I used as the starting point of my concept. Now how do I apply the sand paper to the surface of the palette so that it does not move around?  I decided to cut the sand paper to the size of the mixing area on the palette. This is about 8×10 inches.  I use a strong masking tape and this seems to work just fine. This is easily removed and replaced when the sand paper becomes over loaded with pastel or you are beginning a new painting. The grade of sand paper that is best is P80.  It has the perfect roughness to scrape the pastel powder off the pastel stick.
The pastel that you use in this method is the same for conventional pastel application. You start with your hardest pastels and as you complete layer upon layer, you progressively use softer pastel. This is what I like to call, economy of surface. Even the best surfaces for pastel have a limit as to how much pastel it can hold.
The Foam Core Triangles, the First Tool
This is the tool that you will use to apply the first layers of pastel pigment on the surface of your painting. I use these little triangles to scumble in the initial washes of color with the hardest pastels that I use.
This is the done with the 1/16” foam core that is used for framing paintings. It usually comes in sheets of 24×36” or 30×40”.  They are not very expensive. I think the most I ever paid was $6.00 USD. I cut them down to manageable strips and I start making about 3” triangles. I make about 30 tiangles per painting. I put them in a container next to my palette. I will be needing to utilize these triangles throughout the beginning stages of my painting.
When I want to use these triangles, I carefully peel the outer paper layer of the foam core. What lies underneath is a soft paper surface that will be able to grab the pastel from the Pastel Palette and then apply it to the painting surface. I use these triangles to mix different color pastels and then use them like a paintbrush, much like that of an oil painter would their oil paints.
When one side of the foam core triangle is over saturated with pastel, I like to peel the thin paper from the other side and utilize that. I also like to use a pair of scissors to adjust the point of the triangles to apply the pastel pigment with more precision, such as, painting in the eyes of the portrait.
Remember to always have plenty of these wonderful little triangle brushes on hand. They do the job better than anything that you could purchase in an art supply store. Next, I will discuss the triangles that I use in the later stages of the painting; when I am using softer pastels and needing more vibrancy and detail.

Day 1 My Book; The Beginning of My Book The Pastel Palette” is here on my blog.


The Pastel Palette Method
The method that I am speaking about is a technique in pastel painting that was born out of a need. I was classically trained at both the High School of Art and Design and the National Academy School of Design in oil painting with a concentration on the figure and the portrait. A few years into my studies, I discovered pastel as a stand-alone painting medium from my teacher Harvey Dinnerstein, and I was immediately hooked. I studied pastels under Harvey Dinnerstein, for several more years and learned how to use and cultivate a love for the medium.
When I left art school and started to paint in pastel in my own studio, I began to feel a limitation in the mixing and application methods of pastels. One the limitations are that you can not mix colors before you apply them to the surface. I loved the way I was able to mix colors on the palette in oil painting before the application of the paint on the surface. With pastels, I could only mix colors on the surface. This was frustrating. This is why most pastel painters have a collection of over a thousand different pastel colors. It was then I decided to explore mixing pastel pigment before I applied the pastel to the surface. It is then that I invented this technique or method, The Pastel Palette Method.

In this book, I will go over the evolution and philosophy of this method and the argument that this is the best way to use the medium. I will also venture to say that this is probably the way pastels should have been used from their earliest days. So, join me as I take you on my journey as a pastel painter and I will share my revolutionary discovery with you.