Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Art Spectrum Colourfix Suede Reviewed
Art Spectrum Colourfix Suede is a new pastel surface that came out in 2010 or 2011. I bought a pack of ten pieces with all 8 colors plus an extra sheet of black and an extra sheet of white. It's similar to ClaireFontaine PastelMat in that it's a coated surface but not sanded or gritty. It has a soft almost velvety fine-grained matte surface.
So fine grained that if I wanted to do pen details or mix media on it, I could do that. The advantage of both products is that they'll make very fine detail possible while holding many more layers of pastel than non-sanded pastel paper. The coating is applied to a heavy card and stands up well to wet underpaintings and wash treatments. I cut out a six inch square to do my section of a "Puzzle Painting" where the photo reference was divided on a grid and 36 different artists each do a piece of the whole painting, then marked it up for a 5" square piece.
I think the photo reference is of a candy dish with some jelly beans in it, my piece definitely looked like jelly beans but some other pieces looked like they had bits of chocolate. I liked how much detail I had so I could get down, layer, underpaint and see how well the surface stands up to water.
I sketched the outlines using Carb-Othello pastel pencils, filled them with flat color and then washed over them using a waterbrush. I'm not sure what would've happened if I'd used a lot of water, soaked it like I was going to do big watery washes with watercolor, but at least for washing a dry underpainting to turn it into a wet one, the Art Spectrum Colourfix Suede performed beautifully!
Pencil lines come through strong and clean on Art Spectrum Colourfix Suede. If you want to combine pencil and pastel or pen and watercolor and pastel, this stuff would be wonderful for various multi-media styles. Try different mediums on the surface along with soft or oil pastels. I don't think you'd get much layering with oil pastels but using hard or soft pastels it gives plenty of layering and removes easily with a kneaded eraser.
You can see that my brush strokes with the round water brush - equivalent of a size 7 Winsor & Newton round brush - are quite visible. Watercolor moves around on this surface. I don't think I'd have any trouble if I wanted to do wet into wet watercolor washes on it. The coating is absorbent and retains its texture after washing. This isn't true of all coated and sanded pastel surfaces.
Sennelier La Carte pastel card is made with a watersoluble glue holding the vegetable flakes to the card, so you don't dare sneeze at it. Little holes will appear where the coating washes off. So it's best with any coated or sanded pastel surface to test water on a small piece of it to find out what dissolves the coating. I haven't tested it with turpentine or odorless mineral spirits yet so I'll add to this review if I do - sometimes water won't dissolve a coating but other solvents do. Whatever solvents you use, always test them on a small bit outside the picture area to find out if it'll destroy the coating on any coated or sanded pastel paper.
I found that it could hold quite a few layers. The finished pastel puzzle piece is up at the top of this article. I used Color Conte hard pastels and gave it four or five layers to mix colors before I had to add anything else. This is about twice as much layering as I'd get using non-sanded paper like Canson mi-Tientes. It was still grabby and full of tooth when I switched to Mungyo Gallery Artist Soft Squares for the final two or three layers - again for color mixing, some areas got two or three more coats in more than one color to blend them.
It holds hard edges beautifully, almost too well. I had to deliberately soften some edges on this little square painting because working just up to the lines and changig colors gave harsh clean edges. Perfect if what you want is hard-edged details, for soft edges it's better to blend across them with a stick than try to blend with fingers or tools.
I tried blending the edges softer with Q-tips but discovered this pulled off color and went back to the underpainting rather than blurring it. Some other blenders like Colour Shapers might work better and it helps to have a lot of pastel on before trying to blend. Like PastelMat, Art Spectrum Colourfix Suede keeps your strokes exactly where you put them. This makes blending with sticks work beautifully. I choose a stick that's mid-way between the adjacent colors in value and a hue that works well with both of them - in some areas I used gray, in others I used a dark sanguine, it varied.
Because you can add so many layers, even a small set of pastels like my 24 Color Conte sticks will give a gorgeous range of combinations. Art Spectrum Colourfix Suede is perfect for detailed realism and hard or medium pastels. It's grabby but fine-grained, so filling the tooth with super soft pastels like Senneliers would probably limit how much more you can put on it unless they're rubbed in thoroughly.
Art Spectrum Colourfix Suede also erases completely clean with a kneaded eraser. I got a dark smudge in the middle of a bright spot when I was doing the original layers, a bit of the dark blue got misplaced. A kneaded eraser cleaned it right back to white without damaging the surface at all. I was gentle with it but very happy with how it erases.
Because it's in a category with Clairefontaine PastelMat, Art Spectrum Colourfix Suede is a wonderful surface for Pan Pastels painting. I haven't tried Pans on it yet but judging by how pastel pencils and hard pastels work on it, I expect the same wonderful results. It's like painting on the sticky side of glue. Erase if you want to make major changes, you can get it good and clean. If you want a thick, textured, painterly look with super-soft pastels, go back to the original Art Spectrum Colourfix or try Art Spectrum Colourfix Supertooth, which as almost as harsh and toothy as Kitty Wallis paper.
Enjoy! Art Spectrum Colourfix Suede comes in eight good colors including white, black, cool and dark colors and a brilliant blue-violet that would be fun for nocturnes. You can tell sheets apart from Art Spectrum Colourfix at a glance because unlike regular Colourfix, the coating goes right out to the edges of the sheet without a bare half inch around it to put under the mat.
PS - sorry about the two month hiatus. I had some serious health problems over December and January. I'd been overextending myself physically, routinely walking too far, going up and down too many stairs since the elevator broke and just doing too much. Eventually I hit the Big Crash and literally slept through Christmas, then had a two month backlog of things to catch up on.
I'll be working on getting back to regular weekly posts now, enjoy!