Watercolour is a beautiful, expressive medium. I did a watercolour up
north in the autumn some years ago to capture the early morning sun on
Lake Couchiching, the moisture still hanging in the air. I felt good
about the finished work and left it for a long while. Then one day, I
came upon it while cleaning up my studio files and decided to use dry
pastel to express the same mood.
Work in Progress
The original work was on 190lb cold press Arches watercolour paper. The paper had enough
tooth to hold pastel as long as no more than three layers were used.
To see the difference between the two mediums, I marked off only part of the area for the
application of pastel. To gain depth of colour, I applied the very darkest colours first and went
over the area with mineral spirits. In other areas, I allowed the watercolour paint to
remain as the ground so the original colour would show through the next layers of pastel as
I continued to work.
The finished work in pastel still had the mood I was after but radiated more atmosphere and
packed a colour punch. The beautiful reflective quality of pastel was not absorbed into the
paper as in the case of watercolour. The rich glowing colours sang clear and strong yet
retained the subtle mood of the early morning scene.190 or 300 lb watercolour
paper are a beautiful support for pastel, providing a wonderful and interesting texture. Just
remember, the tooth does not hold as much dry pigment as sanded papers. It can take
liquid applications as well, but taping the paper is recommended to avoid rippling.