Friday, April 16, 2010

10th Street Spring

The trees on our street are looking so amazing...all the little leaves coming unfurled. Everything's so colorful and miraculous after the tough winter we had. Yes, I know, it happens every year, Spring...yet it really does feel like a miracle.

This mini (4" x 4") painting reflects some of that color: the acid greeney-yellows of willows, and the dark peach of new maples.


Stunned by the sun.

Okay, now a question for you watercolorists (and others) out there. I've been trying to figure out how to remove (almost) all the pastel from PastelMat when I want to get rid of a painting. PastelMat, like most specialty pastel papers, is very expensive, so it's desirable not to have to actually toss it in the trash when abandoning a painting effort.

If I use a paint brush, I can get most of the pastel off, but not enough to really start over.

So...I tried washing it all off with water. This seems pretty effective, but the PastelMat dries buckled. I tried damp PastelMat under heavy boxes...still somewhat buckled.

So...I decided to think like a watercolorist, and try some of this gummy-tape stuff I had sitting around meant for watercolor paper, and which I had never had occasion to try to use before (I have some watercolor supplies but virtually never use any of them). You get the gummed-paper-tape damp and then (messily) tape down your wet paper so it will dry flat overnight.

Voila, it seems to have dried quite flat. But...I can't figure out how to get it off! It is stuck to and holding on to that watercolor board like grim death. Without taking an X-acto knife to the whole thing and destroying the stretching board in the process, I'm stumped.


More art on my website:


Karen Bruson said...

Love your painting. Sorry, I have no watercolor expertise.

loriann said...

like the colors in this one.. it sings SPRING!
but i too am not really a watercolorist..alas no answers.

Nancy B. Hartley said...

Jala, Besides, painting I also do printimaking. This involves soaking, "Rives BFK", a beaufiful heavy rag paper, similar to watercolor paper. I have no experience with pastel paper, so not sure if it would work, but think that it might. So, here goes, after putting the wet paper through the press, it is still wet. The next step is laying it between 2 sheets of heavy blotting paper, which you can buy at an art store. Then weighing it down, with heavy objects, such as large heavy art books. This is done after making sure that there is plenty of clean, dry, newsprint, between the books and blotting paper, so the books don't pick up any dampness. If the paper is dry, just spray it with plain water to make it damp, and follow the same procedure. Hope this makes sense, and hope it helps!

Double "D" said...


I don't use this kind of tap on watercolors. Too messy for me, however you might try taking a damp sponge and gradually re-wetting the tape which should soften up the glue. Once you have a corner up, drop in some water and work it down into the tape and continue to peal. Good luck. It should work.

I'm not sure about getting pastel off the paper. You might try gently rolling some tape over it which should pick up some of it. If it's burnished into the paper ... not sure. You might also try a neaded eraser.
Really flatten the eraser into like a pancake. Then lay it in a spot you want to remove. Put as much steady pressure on it without moving it. Then gently peal it off. Again, it will take some of it off but not all of it. Beyond that I have no clue.
If I come up with any bright ideas I'll get back to you. Ummm, if you have an air compressor you might try blasting it with some highly pressurized air. Maybe start with 50 psi and work up from there. No guarantees.
Good luck!

Double "D" said...

More info. When working with watercolor paper I like clean straight edges that can be part of the matting process. Anyway, I use white artist tape from any art supply store. Once that's done, I spray the dry paper with a misting bottle until the surface is shiny. Then I work wet into wet to get the base colors in. Being not a patient painter, I wait until the shine is about gone and then I attack it with a hair dryer. Don't get to close or things get to hot. As it dries using the hair dryer, the buckles really go away. Try it, who knows.

Kaylyn said...

Use a brand new xacto blade and a light hand to cut through only the paper, not into the board. put your straightedge on the paper and cut on the tape side so if you slip you don't cut into your paper.

you can also dampen a corner of the tape and slowly lift off while dampening the exposed back side of the tape with a clean sponge.

Does that cat ever leave the sofa? Mine pretty much stayed on the couch for the winter. Now he's outside rolling in the dirt and bringing it back to the sofa!

The Artist Within Us said...

Dear Jala,

I wish I could provide a solution for you and I have to admit that I would have to think this over further. I do feel Double 'D' suggestion of moistening the tape came to mind as well, at least it might be a good start.

I cannot believe how small the painting is, only four inches square. I do not know if I could work this small and produce something so fine as you have.

Also a big congratulations for having reached the one-hundred mark and beyond with your followers.

Wishing you a wonderful weekened,

Don Gray said...

Jala, I used to stretch quite a bit of watercolor paper. I always just cut the paper away right at the inner tape edge. If you use a sharp blade and a delicate touch, you should be able to get the "feel" of how much pressure to use to just go through the paper without doing much damage to the board beneath.

I eventually stopped using the tape in favor of a staplegun and 1/4" staples. Then I could lift up the staples with a screwdriver and not have that pesky tape to remove.

SamArtDog said...

You received some good ideas here. I like DD's about gently using tape to remove pastel. I would suggest maybe trying tack cloth (used to clean dust off surfaces before painting) to remove most of the pastel and then lightly washing off the rest. Nancy's blotting paper seems like a good next step.

Then there's always settling. Settle for a little color left behind. Call it "toned" paper. Some people (Lorianne, the queen of underpainting) would call it underpainting.

Anonymous said...

Love the oranges and acid greens in your painting.

And I'm sorry to report I have no suggestions for you to unstick your tape from your paper. :(

Jala Pfaff said...

Hi guys, thanks all so much for your comments and suggestions already. I will definitely try these.

I don't know what blotting paper is (other than finding it a charmingly old-fashioned-sounding term) but I suppose online art stores will show me.

Staples do sound easier, now that I think of it.

I guess the board gets ruined no matter what, then: either by staple holes or that sticky-tape stuff left behind stuck to the board (but I will try remoistening it. Could it be that simple??)...

There's too much pastel left behind after the brushing-off to work unless you use the same color scheme. "Lightly" washing I think it would still buckle. But, onward to the experimenting now.

Rumi does occasionally (:D) leave the sofa, and it's usually to cause havoc in the rest of the house. His habit of running around knocking things off shelves on purpose has definitely gotten old. Hopefully he grows out of THAT habit!

Jala Pfaff said...

And Sam, what the heck is tack cloth? It sounds like something one would find in a stable.

Kelly M. said...

Jala -- Can't you just paint over the work with pumiced gesso? That way you save the paper and have a new layer of pumice to work on? Just a thought. Love the 4"x4" -- you've truly captured the lushness of spring! good luck!

Jala Pfaff said...

Kelly - That sounds interesting. I have zero experience with what you're talking about...but I anticipate that it would substantially change the texture of the PastelMat, since PastelMat is super-smooth and velvety... And wouldn't putting ANYTHING wet onto it still make it buckle?

Barbara M. said...

Hi Jala,

I'm mentioning this painting on my blog tonight. If it isn't published yet, it's because it's waiting for me to do some work to post.

The painting is just lovely. Quintessential spring. Super.

Take care,


Don Gray said...

Jala--a follow-up. The staples I suggested are also a pain, because it takes a surprising number of them to keep the paper from pulling away and wrinkling as it dries. I just never stretch anymore. Here's a method that works for me when I have a paper that needs flattening: turn it face down on a smooth, hard surface and spray the back with water in a pump sprayer. Take a wide soft brush and lightly drag across to be sure moisture is evenly distributed. Cover the whole thing with a piece of visquine plastic and let it sit for about five minutes until the paper is uniformly limp. Remove plastic and lay a smooth sheet of 3/4" plywood over it and weight with books or anything else heavy.
Leave to dry for 24 hours.

cohen labelle said...

Hi Jala
I just noticed your question or problem with removing pastel from paper and starting over. I think you can always wipe down and remove pastel from most papers by using isopropyl rubbing alcohol (70 %) which evaporates or dries so quickly the paper doesn’t have time to buckle. I do it all the time. Brush the alcohol on with a brush and wipe the pastel off and you're ready to start over . (You can also make your own fixative with rubbing alcohol and white shellac which I don’t do.)
Secondly an exacto knife won’t hurt your stretching board. The other thing you can do with small format papers is to glue them down to pieces of archival mat board or foam core. I’ve started doing that in order to experiment with different papers. That way they’re easier to mat and frame with a rigid backing and since they’re small they can be hand held while working.
Last but not least your work is wonderful!