This painting was done on UArt sanded paper, 800 grit, which is my favorite surface for pastels. UArt comes in a variety of sizes (this one is 21″ x 27″) and in 4 different grits. 800 is the finest grit. I love the way the tooth of this surface grabs the pastel. I use this paper when I want to do an underpainting. I’ll discuss this later, but I brush denatured alcohol into the underpainting to set the pastel into the tooth, and this surface takes it well. I have tried many other sanded pastel surfaces, but this is the one I have settled upon as my go-to choice. UArt does not offer a choice of colors, but I talked to their representative at the IAPS convention this year, and they are trying to determine what color they might offer in the future that would please the most pastelists.
Here’s one that was done on PastelMat, my other favorite surface. It is completely different from the sanded surfaces, but it also really grabs the pastel. PastelMat comes in a variety of sizes, (this one is 28″ x 20″) including pads with several colors. I particularly like the dark grey. I told the UArt guy that I think they should offer their paper in a mid-tone grey. The beauty of using a mid-tone surface is that both your darks and your lights show up so incredibly well on it. I don’t do underpaintings on PastelMat, and I actually get quite a different look in my paintings when I paint on PastelMat. The pads are great for travelling and plein aire painting, particularly because each sheet has its’ own glassine cover.
I buy glassine by the roll and cut off a piece long enough to cover my painting when it’s finished. I tape it onto the edge with a piece of the painter’s tape that I had used to tape the paper to my board. This protects the painting while in storage.
I use several different sizes of foam board for my backing surface while painting. I buy the one-inch thick board and then cover the surface with clear sticky plastic. That makes it easy to clean, and the tape can be easily removed.
I have also used Canson Mi-Tientes papers on the back side, but I just don’t like the “pattern” they create in the painting, and the colors just don’t seem as bright on that surface. I do like the Canson C’a grain boards, though. I don’t like the surface as well as the other papers, but I love having a board built in. UArt has a new board, too, but it’s SO expensive!