Pastel on Suede

What makes pastel paintings on suede so unique?

  • TEXTURE: The suede has a lush, velvety texture that holds and layers chalk well
  • COLOR: Fine pastels come in a huge variety of rich colors and are extremely colorfast
  • TECHNIQUE: Many layers of chalk blended together create realism and depth

I work on suede mat board, instead of the traditional heavyweight paper. The velour gives the paintings a distinctive smooth appearance and provides a stronger, more adherent surface for the chalk.

Blackfoot custom framing

Each artwork is custom-framed upon completion to protect the surface of the painting. This is important because I do not use chemical sealants or fixatives on any of my finished pieces. Non-reflective glass prevents glare from obscuring the image.

Because pastel pigments do not fade, a painting – when handled properly – may last for hundreds of years. And unlike printed mediums, pastel originals are one-of-a-kind and will never be mass-produced. This gives them a high long-term investment value.

Step-by-Step

The process I use involves several steps that make the paintings unique in texture and style.

The suede matboard is essentially a soft velvet pile on a sturdy paper backing. In most of my pictures, the background you see is the actual suede.

After making a preliminary drawing, I apply a chalk layer of deep color to the larger areas in a technique similar to base-coating in oil painting. This helps create an appearance of depth and texture and prevents the background from showing through.

Since most of the chalks I use are soft pastels, it must be worked into the pile to layer well. To do this I use my fingers (very messy!) and paper tortillions (also known as blending stumps).

Most paintings require several layers in different shades of color. Once they are applied, I blend the layers of chalk together and mold the areas of shadow and highlight with my hands for a smooth, even texture – almost like airbrush! I use this process up until add the the last fine details (usually with hard pastels or pastel pencil).

Each painting is framed immediately upon completion. Many people spray finished pastels with fixatives or protective sealants, but I have never used any chemical products on my paintings. Instead, I have found that placing the glass directly on the suede creates a static bond and prevents any loosening of the chalk. I use only non-glare (or non-reflective) glass to avoid the "mirror effect" of looking into a smooth surface. This also means the painting will show well under any lighting.

High-quality pastels keep their color extremely well, and the thorough layering process ensures that the image is much more durable than on paper; however I highly discourage removing the painting from its original custom-built frame.

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