Here's a short "Five for Friday", but a great theme. Paper!
Is there any doubt that the support that holds your pastels exerts more influence over the outcome of your work than the brand of sticks that you use? I certainly think so.
First, go have a look at Katherine Tyrrell's Squidoo Lens on Paper and Supports. It is the most thorough primer you can read on the subject of art paper.
I had some fun researching the making of paper, and the net has several good sites that illustrate (interactively) the making of paper. Here's one. These are run-of-the-mill papers, not art papers, but it's fun to see the basics. BTW, I grew up with a family working in the woods, including the end of my father's work life when he worked as a janitor at a paper mill. My artist's life was greatly influenced by his bringing home half reams of surplus paper by the trunk load.
Brought from China to the Middle East around the start of the second millennium, paper is one of the pillars of the advancement of civilization. We are concerned here with the advancement of our art, so without further adieu, my input on pastel paper tricks:
- Use as many types of paper as you can afford to buy. Beg, borrow or trade for more. Experiment is the key.
- Approach new papers with a mind for fresh knowledge, rather than for your next masterpiece.
- Allow the paper to reveal its contributions to the picture making process. Does it lend itself to fine detail, or only generalization? Is this a paper that allows water, or some other chemical, or a paint medium? Does it reveal a "machined" look, with grid lines?
- Use up the tooth completely until it will hold no more pastel, even with the application of heroics such as brushing off color, erasing or using fixative. Abuse is the word. Find the paper's limits, and perhaps you'll find some interesting and new techniques or qualities.
- Try to research what paper your favorite pastelists use. Wolf Kahn is famous for not liking everyone else's favorite sanded grounds. He uses (as near as I can tell) high quality rag, mould made papers. Susan Ogilvie favors Sennelier La Carte, but recently has been making her own surfaces of the pumice & gesso-on-museum-board type. And she loves those thick brush strokes to create surface interest!
Extra Link: Helen South at About.com on topic.