When the Pastel Doesn't Stick

In street painting one of the most important aspects is the surface of your painting space. It is crucial that the area you are working on takes the pastel well.

  • Asphalt works the best for many reasons. It is textured enough to grab onto the pastel and it is that rich dark gray that really makes the colors pop.
  • Concrete can be a decent surface to work on but not prefered. It can be too slick, especially if it has a concrete sealer on it.
  • Brick and stone can actually turn out to be a really interesting surface to work on. As long as it, like the concrete, doesn't have a sealer on it. It will give you a wonderful pattern or crackle effect to your work.
Recently I was commissioned to paint on an indoor cement floor. I had purchased black tempura paint in case it had a thin coat of sealer on it. Sometimes, if the sealer hasn't made the cement too slick, you can paint a watered down layer of tempura paint in your painting area. This will allow the pastel to adhere to the surface much better.

In my case, however, the cement was too slick, almost like a marble surface - really smooth and shiny. The pastel would not stick at all. I tested a small area with the tempura paint and let it dry. I then tried painting on top of that with a few pastels. It wasn't working. Instead of painting on the tempura, the pastel was actually scratching it off. Not good.

Fortunately, I had enough time to solve the problem in a hurry. I decided I needed to purchase canvas and black gesso. My painting size was 12 x 12 feet. Unfortunately I could not find 12 foot canvas so I had to buy two 24 feet of 6 foot canvas to piece together.

I thinned the gesso with about 1/3 water to 2/3 gesso in a paint tray and rolled the black color on the canvas. This was not easy in a hotel room with only 4 foot walkways :). I laid it out to dry the best I could and made sure each piece was 12 feet long.

The next morning I piled it all into the taxi and headed to the location with duct tape in hand. I laid out the two panels, gesso side down, and lined them up to make a 12 x 12 square. I used the marvelous duct tape to tape the seem of the two panels together and carefully turned it all over.
I then, carefully and evenly duct taped the edges down to the cement surface. Brava!! I had a wonderful 12 x 12 foot painting surface that tricked many a folk into thinking it was the cement itself.

Once the painting was finished it was sprayed with pastel fixative and carefully rolled up on a 12 foot tube and taken away to be hung in an office building.

Here is the final result.

San Rafael Street Painting

This is a painting called The Prayer by Adolphe William Bouguereau. It took me a few hours to draw and two days to paint. I am really happy with how it turned out. The street was just recoated so it was smoother than normal.

I ended up using a lot more blue and lavender in the skin tones to give her skin that translucent glow. I'd love to hear comments.