I’ve been wanting to do a comparison of different papers for quite a while. For this test, I chose a reference photo off the internet of somewhere in the Highlands of Scotland (one of my favourite places). I set myself the target of making sure that the sketch only took a maximum of 15 minutes each time – however I did these sketches on different days, as I was waiting for some of the papers to arrive. In all cases I used a mixture of soft pastels (mainly Sennelier), Caran D’Ache soft pastel pencils and Koh-I-Noor soft pastel pencils. I didn’t really have enough time to do much pencil work in the time I allocated for these tests, but used the pencils to roughly sketch out where the main shapes were and worked up from that. In all cases, the papers were pre-tinted, not all the same background colours but I chose darker colours for all of the studies.
First I tried the scene out using Caran D’Ache pastel paper – I was really looking forward to using this paper but to my dismay, discovered that it is ‘Ingres’ paper and I battle to get anything resembling what I want using a pre-textured surface (which is what you get with Ingres). The colour lays down pretty flat and the paper is smooth to work on but you have that waffle imprint going on, which just gets on my nerves. I also found that trying to do any kind of pastel pencil work on top was pretty useless.
Next, I had a go using Sennelier’s Pastel card. I have to say that I am starting to enjoy this paper, although it is quite harsh on the fingertips (very sand paper texture). I think because of this harsh texture, I tend to just go for it and be more loose in the application of colour and marks. The good thing is your pastels really get into the crevices on the paper and you can do a lot of layering. That said it works out expensive because you go through a lot of pastels due to the heavy sandpaper surface. I quite liked the result.
In my mind, I left the best ‘til last – I used a new pad of Pastelmat – working on the dark grey pre-tinted paper. Instantly, I could feel a difference in the way I approach the work and the development of it. It just all comes together (for me) so much faster and easier using Pastelmat. It’s still my favourite paper.