Monthly Archives: February 2014

portrait study using yarka sauce on Amerian Masters gray paper by christine mitzuk
Portrait study using Yarka Russian Sauce on American Masters grey paper, 11"x13".

I teach a portrait class Tuesday evenings so when I'm not helping students, I'm helping myself by working on this head study.

This was a great opportunity to experiment with Yarka Russian Sauce. What fun! I love the darks I'm getting. This all started with my interest in Valentin Serov's work. I was intrigued by the rich darks I was seeing in some of the reproductions of  Serov's portraits but wasn't sure (still not sure) if he used Sauce or charcoal.

Russian Sauce is a pastel of sorts but it feels smoother than other soft pastels I've used. Plus, it's water soluble (at least the black is; I haven't tried water with the colors).

An artist buddy of mine had taken Margaret Baumgaertner's portrait workshop dealing with Sauce so I picked up a few tips from her:
Create a little bag (or pounce pad) out of a portion of nylon stocking. Grind a bit of a stick of the black sauce in a mortar and pestle to a fine powder (which gets everywhere so watch out, and you might want to wear a dust mask).  Load up the powder in the bag. Seal it off with a rubber band. Then you can apply the powder to paper by dabbing or smearing.

I used the pounce pad on the background. My bag was pretty loose and I ended up with a streaky application that was difficult to smooth out. Next time I think I'll fill the bag so it bulges. Or perhaps apply the powder and then use a sponge, paper towel, or tortillion for a smoother overall tone.

For this portrait study, first I lightly drew the facial structure with pencil. Then I laid in values. I dabbed and mopped with my pounce pad, laying in rough value relationships. I used a kneaded eraser to refine the structure, refining the shapes and edges, erasing back to the paper where needed. Then I worked the darker values by drawing with a stick of the black. The really rich darks were then wet with clear water using a watercolor brush (my trusty Prang 7). Then I added a bit more dark, drawing into the damp area with the stick of black.

Odds and Ends
I store my homemade pounce pad in a little glass jar so the powder doesn't get all over the place.
Margaret Baumgaertner has a DVD on how to use Russian Sauce. I haven't watched it so can't speak on the content or quality of the DVD but her sales page has some interesting and useful information.
Next week I'll post about transferring my drawing to canvas for painting.

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gouache study of an apple
Gouache study of an apple done in my watercolor journal by hand*book journals. I bought it at Wet Paint in St. Paul, MN. I like the minimal tooth of the paper. It ripples a little from my heavy handed gouache application.

Monday night I tried something new. I went to a Visual Journal Collective meetup at MCBA (Minnesota Center for Book Arts). FYI, the next meetup is March 17. I went hoping to glean some insight on visual journaling. I got a LOT more. I was inspired.

Mary Jo Hoffman ( was the guest speaker. She shared quite a lot about her artistic journey thus far following the idea of

1 - do good work

2 - put it where people can see it

3 - earn a place at the table

(1&2 originally from Austin Kleon

Some insights in navigating the social media options. Plus books and resources that helped her on her way.

Most inspiring and my biggest takeaways are the following:
Making choices of making things that lend to simplification not complication of life.
I can use a visual journal as a place of INCUBATION.
I don't have to show it to anyone. There don't have to be perfect, finished pieces on every page. Heck, they could just be little doodles and scribbles.
Setting some restrictions on what goes in it could drive creativity instead of leaving it open-ended and getting stuck with the blank page. So I've thought up some themes based on things I like and aspects of my process I want to work on...

  • Pattern/Notan
  • Abstraction as foundation for image making
  • Rocks and other Natural objects
  • Landscape/Environment
  • Faces
  • Costumes
  • Gouache

Maybe I'll have multiple journals going at once. Maybe I'll just focus on one aspect at a time. The best thing about it is that I think this can be a place to ignore all but one rule/theme. I feel like that will take a lot of pressure of having to make something "good" and doing it "the right way". I'll get to make my own way and hopefully that will spill over into my more polished works.

Big thanks to Roz Stendal for telling me about this event. You might enjoy her blog . Lots of great information and insights! Plus she has written up a thorough review of the meetup. Check it out.