Transferring The Pattern
February 23, 2011
In my last post, I described how I make patterns for some of my pictures using willow charcoal on newsprint. There are a number of good ways to transfer the pattern to a support; my personal favorite is as follows:
Let's say I want to transfer my pattern to a sheet of Wallis sanded paper for a color pastel portrait. I start by coating a separate piece of newsprint with pastel. This sheet can be any convenient size, but it needs to be at least as big as the support. This will be my “carbon”, and that is how I will refer to it in this post for convenience. Nupastel works well for this, but almost any pastel will do, it just needs to be a color that will easily blend in with the colors of the picture.
I prepare my support by taping it to my drawing board, and tape the carbon on top of that; pastel-side down, of course.
If my carbon is larger than my support, I will need to locate the corners of the support at this point, and mark them on the back of the carbon. It's pretty easy to do this by feeling for the edges of the support through the newsprint, (especially with thick stock like the Wallis), and marking the corners as I come to them.
Next, I tape my pattern to the back of the carbon, aligning the corners with the marks I made; (presuming the pattern I've prepared has already been cut to the same dimensions as my support).
However, it is entirely possible that I have decided I want to change the orientation of the subject in the final painting. In this case I've decided that the subject needs to be about a half inch lower. I simply adjust the pattern until the upper corners are about 1/2" below the two upper corner marks on the back of the carbon, and then tape it down. I'm using masking tape to make it fairly easy to remove the newsprint sheets without damaging anything.
Now for the trickiest part; the actual transfer itself. I use a colored pencil for my stylus, so I can tell where I've already been. The important thing to keep in mind is that the newsprint layers will try to "pile up" in front of your stylus, throwing off the accuracy of your lines, so I make sure to keep pressing down around the immediate area where I'm working to keep things as flat as possible. Making "pull", as opposed to "push" stokes of the pencil will also help deal with this problem. I also have to be sure not to let the tape fail, which would allow the pattern/carbon to slip, and I might have to start over. Ideally, when I'm finished I should have a close approximation of my pattern on the support. I save the pattern to refer to later, and the carbon to be reused for other transfers.
I can now decide which of the transferred lines need to be reinforced, erased, or adjusted. For this painting I will use a pastel pencil for connecting and strengthening my lines, as this picture is to be a pastel. If this were a colored pencil rendition, I would coat my transfer paper with something compatible with that medium, like maybe a wax pressed-crayon, or graphite, a favorite transfer medium of at least one artist I'm aware of.
And so here it is transferred to the sandpaper, with part of the initial block-in already done. Might have been better to photograph the basic linework stage first, but at least most of the initial reddish transfer-lines are still visible. There are smudges around the transfer, but these won't be difficult to clean up.
The beauty of all effective pattern transfer techniques, is that they enable the artist to treat line and color separately, these being two of the most important and fundamental aspects of two dimensional art.