Technically, Pastel is powdered pigment, rolled into round or square sticks and contained by methyicellulose, a non-greasy binder. It can either be blended with finger and stump, or left with visible strokes and lines. Generally, the ground is toned paper, but sanded boards and canvas are also popular. If the ground is covered completely with Pastel, the work is considered a Pastel Painting; a Pastel Sketch shows much of the ground. When protected by fixative and glass, Pastel is the most permanent of all media, for it never cracks, darkens or yellows.
Historically, its origin can be traced back to the Sixteenth Century, when Guido Reni, Jacopo Bassano, and Federigo Barocci were notable practitioners. Rosalba Carriera, 1675-1750, a Venetian lady artist, was the first to make consistent use of Pastel. Chardin, 1699-1779, did portraits with a hatching stroke, while Quentin de la Tour, 1704-1788, preferred the blended, velvety finish. Thereafter, a galaxy of artists, Mengs, Nattier, Copley, Delacroix, Millet, Manet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Redon, Vuillard, Bonnard, Glackens, Whistler and Hassam, just to list the more familiar names, used Pastel as finished work, rather than for preliminary sketches.
Degas was the most prolific user of Pastel, and its champion, for he raised it to the full brilliance of oil. His protege, Mary Cassatt, introduced the Impressionists and Pastel to her wealthy friends in Philadelphia and Washington, and thus to the United States. Today, many of our most renowned living artitsts, have distinguished themselves in Pastels, and have enriched the world with this glorious medium.
Also spelled WATERCOLOUR, pigment ground in gum, usually gum arabic, and applied with brush and water to a painting surface, usually paper; the term also denotes a work of art executed in this medium. The pigment is ordinarily transparent but can be made opaque by mixing with a whiting and in this form is known as body colour, or gouache; it can also be mixed with casein, a phosphor protein of milk.
Watercolor compares in range and variety with any other painting method. Transparent watercolor allows for a freshness and luminosity in its washes and for a deft calligraphic brushwork that makes it a most alluring medium. There is one basic difference between transparent watercolour and all other heavy painting mediums--its transparency. The oil painter can paint one opaque colour over another until he has achieved his desired result. The whites are created with opaque white. The water colourist's approach is the opposite. In essence, instead of building up he leaves out. The white paper creates the whites. The darkest accents may be placed on the paper with the pigment as it comes out of the tube or with very little water mixed with it. Otherwise the colours are diluted with water. The more water in the wash, the more the paper affects the colours; for example, vermilion, a warm red, will gradually turn into a cool pink as it is thinned with more water.
The dry-brush technique--the use of the brush containing pigment but little water, dragged over the rough surface of the paper--creates various granular effects similar to those of crayon drawing. Whole compositions can be made in this way. This technique also may be used over dull washes to enliven them.
Excerpted from the Encyclopedia Britannica Online
The History of Watercolor
America's contribution to the international watercolor tradition is second to none. Although the British dominated that tradition in the past, American artists have produced a substantial and varied body of work in watercolor that is unmatched elsewhere in the world since the late eighteenth century.
An unpredictable medium, the character of watercolor is uniquely challenging. The accomplished watercolorist learns to take advantage of the unexpected results of the medium. As practiced by most of its greatest masters, spontaneity is everything. The artist learns to improvise, which can be done effectively only with experience. The intimacy of the medium springs from the way it encourages improvisation and seems to record the artist's fleeting thought on paper.
Watercolor, also known in French as aquarelle, is generally described as painting with water-soluble pigments on paper. Most commonly the pigments are suspended in a vehicle or binder of gum arabic. The classic painting technique was perfected in England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The pigment was applied in a series of transparent washes that allowed light to be reflected from the surface of the paper through layers of color. This technique gives watercolor its unique glow. Washes are layered to increase density and transform color already laid down. With this method, the colors are mixed by the viewer's eye and create a unique visual characteristic.
Watercolor is a tradition that spans the chronicles of history. Primitive man used pigments mixed with water to create cave paintings by applying the paint with fingers, sticks and bones. Ancient Egyptians used water-based paints to decorate the walls of temples and tombs and created some of the first works on paper, made of papyrus. But it was in the Far and Middle East that the first watercolor schools or predominant styles emerged in the modern sense.
Paper has also played an important role in the development of watercolor. China has been manufacturing paper since ancient times. The Arabs learned their secrets during the eighth century. Paper was imported to Europe until the first papermaking mills were finally established in Italy in 1276. A few other mills developed later in other parts of Europe, while England developed its first mills by 1495. However, high-quality paper was not produced in Britain until much later during the eighteenth century.
With the production of higher quality papers in the late eighteenth century, the first national school of watercolorists emerged in Britain. This watercolor tradition began with topographical drawings that proliferated in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries as Britain began to grow as a world power. These map-like renderings encompassed visual identity of ports of sea, as well as the surrounding landscape. In 1768, influential topographers founded the Royal Academy which encouraged watercolorists to carry the medium beyond their own technical achievements. The most talented watercolorist from this period was Joseph M.W. Turner (English, 1775-1851) who went on to become one of the greatest painters of the nineteenth century. His contemplative landscapes were tremendously influential on dozens of artists during later decades.
The technology of watercolor developments corresponded with the evolution and advancement of the British school of watercolorists. In the 1780's, a British company began producing paper made especially for watercolorists which was treated with sizing, or glazing, to prevent washes from sinking into the fibers of the paper. Early watercolorists ground their own pigments, but by the late eighteenth century the Englishman, William Reeves, was selling them in portable cakes. In 1846, Winsor & Newton introduced colors packaged in metal tubes. This growing technology encouraged many European artists to experiment with watercolors until eventually the tradition spread to America.
Although Americans inherited a technique developed by the British, they were more interested in experimenting with watercolor in their own way. American artists, therefore, created works which were uniquely individual in comparison. They were free of rigid English traditions and the slow evolution of the British school. In this way the American school was able to explode with an abundance of important figures between the 1870's and the revolutionary Armory Show in New York in 1913 which included John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), John Marin (1870-1953) and Maurice Prendergast (1859-1924). Each artist represented an individual and unique approach to the medium. Since there was no particular American school or style of watercolor, the entire group represented "individualism" as a key factor in American art.
Graphite came into widespread use following the discovery of a large graphite deposit in Borrowdale, England in 1564. Graphite left a darker mark than lead, but was so soft and brittle that it required a holder. At first, sticks of graphite were wrapped in string. Later, the graphite was inserted into wooden sticks that had been hollowed-out by hand! The wood-cased pencil was born.
The first mass-produced pencils were made in Nuremberg, Germany in 1662. Until the war with England cut off imports, pencils used in America came from overseas. (William Monroe, a cabinetmaker in Concord, Massachusetts, made the first American wood pencils in 1812.) Benjamin Franklin advertised pencils for sale in his Pennsylvania Gazette in 1729. George Washington used a three-inch pencil when he surveyed the Ohio Territory in 1762.
The first mass-produced pencils were unpainted, to show off their high-quality wood casings. However, by the 1890s, many manufacturers were painting their pencils and giving them brand names. There's an interesting story behind the familiar yellow color of the common pencil. Click this link to find out why pencils are yellow.
Early American pencils were made from Eastern Red Cedar, a strong, splinter-resistant wood that grew in Tennessee and other parts of the southeastern United States. By the 1900s, pencil manufacturers needed additional sources of wood, and turned to California's Sierra Nevada mountains. There they found Incense-cedar, a species that grew in abundance and made superior pencils. California Incense-cedar soon became the wood of choice for domestic and international pencil makers.
Early man used the first pigments to make cave paintings. His materials consisted of natural minerals and clays, and the colors produced included yellow ochre, raw umber, black and raw sienna. Most of these colors were created by the presence of iron or manganese in local clay. Later, natural plant materials such as indigo and madder were used.
By the 15th century, oil paints, using vegetable oils as the medium, replaced egg tempera as the most common paint. The oil does not dry but rather is cross-linked where there are carbon-carbon bonds in the oil. This process is made possible by oxidation created by oxygen in the air or by metal oxides. Early oil paints were extremely slow "drying" because natural oxidation is a very slow process. Artists who had previously used egg tempera were actually glad to have a slower drying material, so this was originally considered a good point. The retarded drying made corrections and alterations possible, whereas tempera was far less "adjustable." However, with the discovery of adding metal oxides like zinc or manganese, the process of hardening was speeded up.
Artists' materials have not changed a great deal since the second half of the 19th century. At that time artists mixed their own paints in a laborious technique involving the hand working of dry pigment powders with a variety of different oils, which were then ground with a mortar and pestle to a smooth consistency. As you might imagine, storage of this compound presented challenges, as did duplication of color and viscosity. Additionally, there appeared at this time specialists who would call themselves "colourmen." Their specialty was the mixing, duplicating and marketing of ready-made oil paints. They offered premixed colors or the artist could select a custom blend of colors made to order. Packaging was very interesting. After the paints were mixed, they were wrapped in pieces of pig's bladder and tied with thread. These "containers" were portable but were not practical for painting out-of-doors.
By the middle of the 19th century, materials began to change and to more resemble what we have today. In the 1870's and 1880's, a significant development was made--the introduction of the mechanical grinder and paint mills, which allowed for mass production of artists' colors. Also, there was an influx of manufactured pigments available from the chemical industry. These chemicals allowed the creation of bright colors; and along with the advent of the collapsible metal paint tube as a container, paints became easier to store, dispense and carry. Without portability, the Impressionism movement would never have come to be, since it was necessary to be in the field ready to capture that perfect light at a given moment and portability was, therefore, vital.
Ironically, all paint mediums--whether oils, acrylics, watercolors or pastels--use the same pigments. It is the binding medium that makes the pigment adhere to the painting surface. For oils the pigment is usually ground with linseed or poppy oil. Linseed oil is pressed from the seeds of the flax plant (the same plant from which linen canvas is created) and poppy oil from the seeds of the flower. Watercolors and gouache are mixed with gum arabic, which is a natural product derived from tropical trees. Casein paints use a binder processed from the curd of sour milk. Acrylics are a truly modern invention that uses a synthetic polymer as a binder.
All paint, regardless of the binder, consists of three components. First is the pigment, which is the actual natural material or a manufactured compound. It is what gives the depth and tone to the paint. Second is the medium (binder), which suspends the pigment particles and fixes them to the surface being painted (paper, wood, canvas, etc.). As stated, the binder can be either a natural oil, gum, synthetic or even milk. Third is the addition of certain substances that allow the manipulation of the consistency of the paint. These include turpentine, water, alcohol and other fluids that assist in altering and extending the pigment.
Unlike photography, hand-painted artworks can be enjoyed for centuries by many generations because of the differences in the pigments and other materials employed in painting. In addition to their long life, the pigments of oil and pastel painting are much richer and varied. This is one of the many reasons why a hand-painted artwork can be so much more "alive" than a photo. Oils have been treasured for centuries as the leading way to record and glorify people, places and events. Acrylics are the newest "kid on the block" and offer many advantages such as fast drying time, water cleanup and a nearly indestructible surface. (They can even withstand exterior display.) But no paint gives the luminosity and brilliance equal to oils. The translucency that is possible, along with the richness of tone and depth of color, is not to be duplicated with any other material.
The basics of papermaking as a process are neither expensive nor complicated. Extractions of slurry are gathered atop a screen or mold, and the sheets are gently removed from the mold and allowed to dry to form a sheet of soft, textured paper. Almost any organic plant material can be made into paper with a wide range of colors, textures and usability.
For at-home ease, blenders are perfect for grinding small bits of leaf matter, twigs, bark, grass, pine straw, wheat chaff, cotton and almost anything you can imagine. Each of these materials requires a bit of preparation and care in blending. Use small pieces and process the materials in small batches with lots of water in the blender container.
One favorite start-up papermaking material is recycled newspaper. There are no special tools/equipment required except some way to collect the slurry liquid and create a sheet. While newspaper will never yield a natural, light colored sheet of paper because of the printing inks, it nearly melts into useable slurry simply by soaking in water. Coloring agents can be added to easily create colored tones, and one of the easiest to use is Kool-Aid (unsweetened). The coloring agents are very strong and result in rich tones. For darker tones, use multiple packs; for lighter, pastel tones, use less powder. This is an inexpensive, unusual and fun art technique.
For artisans who want to accelerate past "fun" and get into the "art" of paper, there are several inexpensive and creative ways to jump right in. Using the same kitchen blender as mentioned above will allow you to use more sophisticated materials in your paper. One method of creating a base slurry into which found materials can be incorporated is to start with what are called "linters." These are sheets of pre-processed slurry that are made into sheets for easy transport, allowing the artist to re-hydrate them into fluid easily screened into a variety of new shapes and textures.
Chips of color can be added to this slurry in the form of natural materials (leaves, straw, bark, etc.) or by using scraps of artist's papers. Tear or cut them into small pieces and process them in the blender. Add this mixture in small amounts to the slurry for speckles of color or add lots for overall pastel tones. Starting with linters means that a higher quality paper will be possible and will yield results that can be easily duplicated. Often when natural materials are used, they are "one of-a-kind" mixes; and even though the results are exciting, they may not be easily replicated.
For really bizarre and unique papers, the use of copious amounts of naturals is ideal. Consider the quality of paper possible by including a lot of long thin blades of reed or dried grass or perhaps the inclusion of chopped pine straw. Short lengths of ribbon and metallic threads offer festive looks, and large chunky glitter or iridescent confetti create paper ideal for party invitations or special collage elements. There is no limit to the ways in which a basic slurry of cotton paper fiber can be altered and augmented to create papers unique to your needs and applications.
Molds can be purchased in a large range of sizes, and there are even molds to create the shapes needed to make handmade envelopes to match the paper. Simple shapes that, when dry, convert with a few folds into envelopes open another entire world to papermakers. Imagine the gifts, salable items and personal stationery one could create when both the paper and envelopes are designed and created by the artist!
To create molds of unusual dimensions, you might also use screening pulled tightly and stapled to wooden stretcher strips (as used with canvas painting). For quickie molds, many papermakers use shapes cut from plastic canvas. This material is easily cut with ordinary scissors into any shape. It can also be used without the need for a frame. Small plastic canvas shapes pulled through colored slurry and then laid over a larger sheet of freshly pulled slurry can add colored (and dimensional) shapes to the surface. This is ideal for collage artists who might wish to add texture in specific areas within their work or for craftsmen creating unique stationery items.
Laying a freshly pulled sheet of heavy paper over a dimensional object can create paper casts. Two Tips: For items you wish to "cast," you might want to coat them with cooking spray or a thin layer of petroleum jelly. This makes removal much easier when the paper is dry. Also, for intricate designs, lifting the paper away from the item while the paper is slightly damp will preserve more detail. Be sure to allow the item to dry completely before using.
Binders to hold the fibers together include commercially manufactured "gels" that will create a smooth, sturdy paper. Other items used by papermakers are household laundry starch, tapioca flour and potato starch. Remember that insect infestation is a problem with organics, so it might be wise to explore the commercial products available at your local art supply retailer. (See www.arttalk.com/retailers/index.htm.)
Bussing trays make perfect vats. Or for really large molds, contractor's cement mixing trays or wheelbarrow liners work very well. Children's plastic wading pools have also been used.
As you can see, papermaking can be fun, is inexpensive and can start an entirely new direction of creativity for the artist or craftsman. So dive in!
Acrylic paint has contributed more to the art and craft community than any medium of the last century. Its ease of use and versatility opened the doors to those intimidated by oils and watercolors. Acrylic, the plastic paint, came into popular use in the 1960's. Acrylic is an accepted paint for the serious artist and weekend crafter as well.
The foundation for all paint is the pigment. The same pigments are used for all paints, and the concentration and quality of pigments is what determines the price of paint. The substance that holds the pigment is what differentiates paints and defines a medium. Watercolor paint is made from a mixture of gum arabic and pigment. Gum arabic is water soluble either wet or dry, which is why watercolors are available in either tube form or tablets (also known as cakes), and is the only medium where dried color can be reworked. Oil paint is derived from safflower or linseed oil. Oil painters can achieve incredible depth and color, but the drying time of days or weeks between applications is acceptable to only the serious devotee. The substance that binds the pigment in acrylic paint is polymer, and a little water. Out of the tube, acrylic paint imparts an oil-like consistency, where thick layers can be manipulated with a brush or painting knife. By adding more water, acrylics can get as thin as ink and be used like traditional watercolors. The paint dries as the water evaporates, leaving a transparent film that reflects light from the pigment inside and gives acrylic color its brilliance.
The quick drying time (usually within an hour), non-toxic properties (most colors) and easy clean up with soap and water have made acrylic paint the fastest growing medium. Acrylics don't require a primed or sized surface and can be applied to almost anything, they remain very flexible when dry and are weather resistant.