A: Undoubtedly, I could not make my work without UART sandpaper since my entire pastel technique evolved around it. I use 400 0r 500 grit. My favorite thing about it is its ‘tooth’ (i.e. texture or roughness).
Over the many months I spend creating a pastel painting, I build layer upon layer of soft pastel. Because the paper I use is relatively “toothy,” it accepts all of the pastel the painting needs. And as many people know, I own and use thousands of soft pastels!
Many layers of soft pastel and several months of studio time go into creating each painting. My self-invented technique is analogous to the glazing techniques used by the Old Masters, who slowly built up layers of thin oil paint to achieve a high degree of finish. Colors were not only mixed physically, but optically.
Similarly, I gradually build up layers of soft pastel, as many as thirty, to create a pastel painting. After applying a color, I blend it with my fingers and push it into the sandpaper’s tooth. It mixes with the color beneath to create a new color, continually adding richness, saturation, and intensity to the piece. By the time a pastel painting is finished, the colors are bold, vibrant, and exciting.
From the beginning in the 1980s I used photographs as reference material and my late husband, Bryan, would shoot 4” x 5” negatives of my elaborate setups with his Toyo-Omega view camera. In those days I rarely picked up a camera except when we were traveling. After Bryan was killed on 9/11, I inherited his extensive camera collection – old Nikons, Leicas, Graphlex cameras, etc. – and I wanted to learn how to use them. In 2002 I enrolled in a series of photography courses (about 10 over 4 years) at the International Center of Photography in New York. I learned how to use all of Bryan’s cameras and how to make my own big color prints in the darkroom.
Along the way I discovered that the sense of composition, form, and color I developed over many years as a painter translated well into photography. The camera was just another medium with which to express my ideas. Astonishingly, in 2009 I had my first solo photography exhibition in New York.
It’s wonderful to be both a painter and a photographer. Pastel painting will always be my first love, but photography lets me explore ideas much faster than I ever could as a painter. Paintings take months of work. To me, photographs – from the initial impulse to hanging a framed print on the wall – are instant gratification.
For several years I have been using my iPad Pro to capture thousands of travel photographs. Most recently, I visited Gujarat and Rajasthan in India. I have never been inclined to use a sketchbook so composing photos on my iPad keeps my eye sharp while I’m halfway around the world, far from my studio practice.
My blog, “Barbara Rachko’s Colored Dust,” continues to be a crucial part of my overall art practice. Blogging twice a week forces me to think deeply about my work and to explain it clearly to others. The process has helped me develop a better understanding about why I make art and, I like to think, has helped me to become a better writer.
Comments are welcome!
Tags: "Arts Illustrated", "Barbara Rachko's Colored Dust", 9/11, Accepts, achieve, adding, analogous, applying, approach, around, art practice, astonishingly, beginning, beneath, better, blogging, built up, camera, capture, clearly, collection, color prints, composing, composition, continually, continues, courses, creating, crucial, darkroom, deeply, degree, developed, discovered, elaborate, entire, evolved, except, exciting, exhibition, explain, explore, express, extensive, faster, favorite, fingers, finish, forces, framed, glazing, gradually, Graphlex, Gujarat, halfway, hanging, husband, impulse, inclined, India, inherited, initial, instant gratification, intensity, International Center of Photography, iPad Pro, layers, learned, Leicas, make art, material, medium, months, negatives, New York, Nikons, oil paint, Old Masters, optically, others, overall, painter, pastel painting, photographer, photographs, photography, physically, process, Rajasthan, rarely, recently, reference, relatively, richness, roughness, sandpaper, saturation, self-invented, series, setups, several, similarly, sketchbook, soft pastel, studio practice, studio time, subject, technique, texture, thousands, toothy, Toyo-Omega, translated, travel, traveling, UArt, understanding, undoubtedly, vibrant, view camera, visited, wanted, wonderful, writer
Q: What is your favorite thing about creating on sandpaper? (Cassandra Alvarado Oliphant via Instagram)
A: Undoubtedly, I could not make my work without UART sandpaper since my entire pastel technique evolved around it. I use 400 and 500 grit. My favorite thing about it is its ‘tooth’ (i.e. texture or roughness).
Over the many months I spend creating a painting, I build layer upon layer of soft pastel. Because this paper is relatively “toothy,” it accepts all of the pastel the painting needs. And as many people know, I own and use thousands of soft pastels!
Comments are welcome!
Tags: Accepts, adding, analogous, applying, beneath, build up, Cassandra Alvarado Oliphant, continually, create, degree, exciting, favorite, fingers, finish, glazing, gradually, Instagram, intensity, layers, oil paint, Old Masters, optically, painting, pastel technique, physically, relatively, richness, roughness, sandpaper, saturation, self-invented, soft pastel, texture, thousands, tooth, UART sandpaper, vibrant
A: This results from the several months of studio time and many layers of soft pastel that go into creating each painting. In a sense my technique is analogous to glazing done by the Old Masters. They slowly built up layers of thin paint to achieve a high degree of finish. Colors were not mixed physically, but optically. I gradually build up layers of soft pastel, as many as 30, to create a pastel painting. After a color is applied, I blend it with my fingers and push it into the sandpaper’s tooth. It mixes with the color beneath to create a new color, continually adding richness, saturation, and intensity to the overall painting.
Comments are welcome!
Tags: "Motley", achieve, adding, analogous, applied, beneath, built, color, continually, creating, degree, fingers, finish, glazing, gradually, intensity, layers, mixed, months, Old Masters, optically, overall, paint, paintings, pastel-on-sandpaper, physically, push, results, richness, sandpaper, saturation, sense, several, soft pastel, Studio, technique, thin, time, tooth