Pastel Demonstration on Bark Paper – The Setup

I had mentioned in a previous post that my drawing class is experimenting with various paper surfaces. I have mostly had them stick with monochromatic drawings, but they’re a rebellious bunch… I love that about them… and some are wanting to try full color pastel. So, in an effort to stay one step ahead of them, I will post my own journey of creating a full color pastel on Mexican Bark Paper. Let me start with a quote I have stuck on one of my easels:

It’s so fine and yet so terrible to stand in front of a blank canvas.  – Paul Cezanne

I would have to add…especially terrible when you aren’t sure how the canvas, or in this case the paper, will respond. Let’s talk about this paper. It’s really beautiful, made by the Otomi Indians from fig and mulberry tree bark. The bark is washed in streams and boiled in lime water. While it is still damp the bark is laid on wood, beaten into sheets, and left in the sun to dry. You can see the pattern of the wood grain left on the side of the paper that was pressed into the wood, which I assume is considered the back side. I think this side would be wonderful for a drawing in which the swirling texture could be used to artistic advantage. If using pastel or charcoal, this texture would perhaps mimic brush strokes. The opposite side, let’s call it the front side, is much smoother and feels soft to the touch. The paper is thicker in some places than in others, and so takes a bit of care to tear to your preferred size. You can see in the photo the difference between the torn edge and the natural deckled edges which are uneven but smoother. Lastly, this paper is advertised to be acid free and can be found in a variety of colors. I will be using the front side of an ivory colored piece of bark paper for this demonstration.

My goal is to leave a large part of the paper visible in the finished piece. Why cover up such a pretty piece of paper? With this in mind, I have chosen a set of glass apothecary bottles in a wooden tray as my subject, and have draped the background in a cream colored cloth similar to the color of the paper. I will use the natural light coming in from the windows at the left. Now all that is left is to begin. Hmmm…. So fine and yet so…

Next post:  The Sketch.

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