Color Spree

Color Spree
My favorite color is "all of them." What's yours?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Henri Roche Metallic Pastels

Heavy Metal Pear 6" square
Henri Roche' pastels on Uart 400 sanded paper

Above is my latest grand experiment with Henri Roche' metallic pastels.I had the delight of getting six pieces of these from Isabelle at La Maison Du Pastel to test them out and write them up. They are lush. They are rich and beautiful. The metallic pastels are much softer than the other Roche' pastels, which have a pleasing firm texture but go on very smooth and lay down a lot of color. 

The solid color Roche' lay down a lot of dust and do like the technique Degas used of laying in a layer, spraying fixative and layering again. The fixative is important even on sanded paper and especially with the metallics. I laid in the darkest silver, nearly black, for the background and went over it with color in a way that worked gorgeous in life - the sparkle is still there and the color mixes with it beautifully. I did the background first and then my usual technique of getting rid of loose dust. I held it over the trash and snapped firmly with my finger. 

Oops. Half the color came off. It really needs the fixative for early layers to adhere well. So use a good fixative with these pastels. I used Krylon Fine Art Fixatif which is workable fixative that has some UV protection. Others may prefer Spectrafix, but the misting head on my Spectrafix bottles sometimes spatters and I didn't want to do that in a painting where I really needed fixative layers to hold it together.

Roche' has nine shades of gold, nine shades of silver from a white iridescent to a black iridescent and nine shades of copper. The two copper pieces I got, one was slightly lighter and more golden. I'd expect some of the coppers to run dark too, almost like bronze. You can get Roche' metalics anywhere Roche' pastels are sold. Online that would be, which also carries 3, 12 and 36 color half sticks sets and the amazing full range set of Henri Roche' pastels in two lovely rosewood seven drawer cabinets. Isabelle is recreating or creating a thousand colors and so the full range set costs a bit more every time I look, but you get more colors so it's about the same. It will be the largest pastels range in the world when she's done I think, and plans this for 2020 so that's not too far off! Very cool if I get a bestseller and win the Literary Lottery.

Till then, I love these pastels for their intense color and unique texture. The paper they liked best so far oddly enough is Bee Bogus Recycled Rough paper, which isn't archival so I'm still looking for their favorite paper. A finer grit sanded paper might be great, they did well on the Uart but generated a lot of dust from how gritty it is - it's one step short of Wallis for rough grit.

Holiday Ornaments
6" square on Stillman & Birn Beta rough watercolor paper

 Metallic Roche' performed well on my Stillman & Birn Beta pastel journal. I've been priming some pages with Art Spectrum Multimedia (Colourfix) primer but painted about half of them just on the rough white watercolor paper since it has a small texture element with deep tooth just like the Bogus paper. Wow! They did great on it. Background of green velvet was done in Rembrandt half sticks with a few touches of Unisons, the ornaments themselves entirely in Metallic Roche'. This was yesterday's daily painting.

Again, the dust piled up around the strokes. Metallic Roche' are very soft and will give thick impasto strokes. They are beautifully opaque, when creating edges I was able to easily go over darker colors or other colors to get a hard edge. They handle a lot like Sennelier instead of like the other Roche' - very soft and dusty, but rich and opaque. 

A few days before that, I'd tried them on Strathmore Artagain paper.

Silver Fish 8" x 10"
Henri Roche' pastels on Strathmore Artagain paper, pinkish gray

Strathmore Artagain paper does not have as much tooth as Canson Mi-Tientes. Its surface is almost smooth though its colors are beautiful with flecks of dark fibers in among the lighter ones for a tweedy effect. Roche' colors did not rub deep into the paper the way they did on the Bogus. They floated on top of it and made a thin film. The metallics behaved better, giving me thick impasto strokes and gorgeous opacity even on this annoying paper.

I really don't like the Artagain much and I now know the other Henri Roche' pastels hate it. Every pastel has its favorite surface and its hated surface. Henri Roche' metallic pastels are wonderful if you want a strong, shining metallic effect that is opaque enough to go right over dark or light layers in other pastels - even thick layers will be covered.

The pinkish cast to the silver on both the silver ornament and the silver area of the pear comes from the reflection of a bright orange t-shirt I wore to paint the ornaments and a bright red seat cover on my chair. Metal reflects everything around it so a pinkish cast to metallic accents is going to happen to my photography. Unfortunately the one on Artagain didn't photo well, the white iridescent highlight on the silver vanished because the camera happened to catch a lot of light on the silver itself. It's more distinct on the Heavy Metal Pear and in life both the silver fish and the silver ornament look more like that.

I recommend these metallic pastels for accents and special effects. One of their best features is that you can do values with them. The wide range of values means an artist could do machines or metal objects justice and still give a matte metallic shine to all the values in the painting. Flat areas of gold or silver or copper will gleam the way the real metals do, this is another good choice for haloes and ornamental goldwork, or metallic backgrounds to colorful subjects.

Many thanks to Isabelle for the samples! These pastels are high priced but worth the money if you love the effects. The metallics take a light hand and give wonderful impasto effects, the dust actually adheres well to itself which is some of why a hard snap knocked over large chunks of it. With fixative those big texture elements do adhere solidly. 

I haven't tried either metallic or color Roche' with a water or alcohol wash yet, but I rarely use my most expensive pastels for a flat underpainting. I'd recommend using an underpainting with Roche' and save their brilliant colors and intense effects for final layers where they can be seen. Polychromos hard pastels would be a good choice for underpainting, or that grand workhorse Rembrandt.

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