While walking around the city a few weeks ago, I noticed that the art supply shop had a billboard out the front proclaiming there was a sale on, so I wandered in to see if I could find a bargain. As it turned out, not much of what I wanted was discounted, but I did find something I hadn’t seen before. Ampersand’s Aquabord and Pastelbord. I’ll review the Aquabord in another post.
These boards come in a number of sizes (from 5 X 7 inches to 16 X 20 inches) and colours, though the only colours Senior Art had when I was in there were white and grey. There doesn’t seem to be much choice in the shape/layout as all the Ampersand boards I saw in store were the standard rectangle shape.
Pastelbord is a hardboard panel coated with a mixture of clay, gesso and marble dust to provide a rough, gritty surface. This gritty surface means pastel clings to it much more easily without the need to use as much (if any) fixative as you would when working on pastel paper. I noticed that it was slightly harder (but not impossible) to finger-blend colours on this surface. If you’ve used Colourfix pastel paper or Sennelier’s pastel paper, for example, you’ll be used to some grit on your pastel surface, but even those are noticeably smoother than the Pastelbord. I think I prefer those papers over Pastelbord, but I did like Pastelbord much more than I liked Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper.
The marketing material for Pastelbord says you can also use it with coloured pencil, ink, watercolours and acrylics, but I would probably just use it for soft pastels or oil pastels, as I prefer a smoother surface when working with those other mediums. It does at least allow you to use wet techniques with your pastels (either as a watercolour underpainting or simply by diluting your underlayers of pastel), so you do have some flexibility; some pastel boards or papers can fall to bits as soon as you put water on them.
The smaller boards aren’t too expensive at around $7, but the bigger ones can be up to $37, so a lot of people might prefer to get something like Art Spectrum’s Colourfix primer and prepare their own surface.
Whether you enjoy working on Pastelbord will mostly come down to personal preference, but if you like having a gritty surface to work on, these are a high quality artists’ board with a lot of flexibility and will allow you to build up a lot of pastel layers. I’d recommend at least buying one or two small ones to try to see if you like them.
Here’s my sample drawing on Ampersand Pastelbord, using Jack Richeson’s soft pastel sampler box.