Presentation by Jack Borland, Art Spectrum Australia
Venue: Pastel Society of Victoria, Australia
The small turn up at the AGM for the society and presentation was no reflection on the quality of the evening. For one thing it was one of the more enjoyable AGMs I have been to anywhere with the president throwing in some great humour to lighten up the proceedings. We also had a very nice supper. So for those of you who were not there you missed out on a good start to the evening.
At the end of the AGM we had a break and were able to vote on the artworks presented on the night. Art Spectrum supplied us with prizes for the raffle and three lucky attendees won these.
Jack brought along a variety of products from Art Spectrum and what was great to see for me especially were the new items. Apart from being a major sponsor of the society, another reason for supporting Art Spectrum is the fact that they are an Australian company. They are passionate about art and supporting artists in this country and supplying us with high quality materials. They are also one of the rare businesses that listen to what we have to say and when possible will add to their product range in response to our needs.
So let’s get on with talking about some of the products. First we had a look at the new oil paints just released. I have a leaflet showing the new colours and Catherine happily spread some of these on to paper for us to get a close look at the quality of the paint. The colours are transparent or semi transparent. They are very suitable for Australian landscapes and also portraiture. With the addition of a little white all look like they will happily go opaque if you wish. I personally can’t wait to get my hands on a few of these! To remind everyone of the new colours they are: Titanium Yellow, Australian Yellow Green, Transparent Pink Oxide, Transparent Orange Oxide, Transparent Red Oxide, Transparent Brown Earth, Quinacridone Maroon, Flinders Blue Violet Dark.
We then had a look at the Colorfix pastel papers and boards. Jack spoke about the various sizes of sheets available and how and why they are cut to the sizes that we see on sale. When you have it explained how a large sheet is divided up to get the optimum amount of smaller sheets without wastage the sizes on the market make more sense. There are seven sizes so we should be able to find a size that suits our painting style. I was happy to hear about the quality of the paper that is used as a base for our pastel papers. Good quality 300gsm from Italy says to me that my artworks have a better chance of archiving.
An interesting new item on the market is the timber reinforced with aluminium canvas frames. The inclusion of silicon in the manufacturing means that the frames can flex over time without warping. There are various sizes and they can be purchased with or without linen. The linen on these frames is triple primed with acrylic primer. It is good quality Belgian linen and on the back of each frame is a registry number so you can log into a their web site and register your finished artwork for free. This is a great service for artists wanting to make sure that their artworks can be tracked and not forged.
Jack then went on to talk about the differences in priming with gesso, acrylic and oil based primers. I have been learning to do all of that for my visual arts course but his description made the reasoning behind using one method over another so much more clear. It seems that the adhesion between oil based paint and an acrylic surface is not strong over time as one just sits on top of the other, not fully bonding with it. Also oil paints can leech into linen or canvas and rot it so we need to be careful if we are painting for longevity. It seems that oil primer for canvasses is the better choice especially if we are going to the expense of using linen. The new oil primer from Art Spectrum can be touch dry in an hour and dries over night or the next day. Jack also mentioned that if we are going to use gesso, like any other product, if it is cheap it is most likely to be poor quality. That old saying is true. You get what you pay for.
On a topic of safety for artists I was very happy to hear that the cobalts and cadmiums in the paints from Art Spectrum are not toxic. They refine these to ensure that they are less toxic from ingestion and absorption through the skin. He still recommends that we keep a well ventilated studio as inhaling fumes or dust can still cause health problems. This is especially true of anything we may purchase from overseas. Other countries may not have the safety requirements we have in Australia and some are still using lead and other toxic materials. As Catherine said, if you see the skull and cross bones on your art materials take it very seriously! Read your labels on all your art products. OH&S is very important for artists considering all the materials we handle on a regular basis.
On to a lighter subject. We had a look at the Colorfix Suede paper and board. Some samples were handed out and they felt very nice to the touch. A little less tooth than normal pastel paper but they come in a new range of colours which gives us more choice. The rounded silica in this product is what makes it smoother and it still holds several layers of pastel.
Catherine gave us a demo of Art Spectrum suede paper using some of the beautiful vibrant inks that they supply (and they were gorgeous colours!). The paper holds inks, charcoal and I think would accept most mediums. It’s smoothness showed up when used wet in wet, allowing the colours to remain strong but drawn over very easily when dry. This 500gsm paper is very hardy and I was given the opportunity to try out the Eureka charcoal on it. All I can say is WOW! Both the charcoal and the paper surface worked just brilliantly. I am purchasing some of both for my studio as soon as they are available locally.
Last but not least of the products I found of great interest were that applicators for pastel (and possibly charcoal). Some look like brushes from a distance and a couple looked like tooth brushes! These variety of “knives” and covers, shapers and covers, applicators and art sponges are a big step ahead for creating professional pastels. They will give so much more versatility to your pastel paintings and will wear better than things like erasers which I have been using for the same job. They are also washable! Some more items for my shopping list! Pan pastels are something I have only started using recently and found that they give a result I could never have achieved without them. These little applicators are going to make using them even more fun and a lot easier!
A final bit of information gained during the evening and a very important one for us all. The use of fixative. Some artists shy away from it all together, some use it lightly, some get really carried away with the stuff. What I found of importance was learning that fixative, especially when heavily applied to the top of pastels, contracts and expands over time. This means it can form large areas on the surface and drop off taking the pastel under it away from the paper or board with it. It seems that if lightly used in the layers underneath it is not as bad, but this is something to really think about before you spray your pastel painting. How much and where should I be using it? Also as with all other products, make sure you are using quality if you want your painting to last.
As you can see from all the above information we had a valuable session from Jack. He gave his time freely which is most appreciated by the society. I had a very enjoyable time as well. I hope we can have some more evenings learning about new materials so we have a chance to broaden our horizons and have more fun with our art.
This editorial will also be published in the bi-monthly edition of the newsletter for the Pastel Society of Victoria, Australia and in the commentaries in my professional web site at www.janicemills.net.