Teresa McCue goes big

Teresa McCue goes big

When Teresa McCue wanted to work on a larger scale, she started by researching new materials and different substrates.

What she found was an acrylic medium for pastel to prime her surfaces, leaving a very toothy surface behind when it dries.

“The question then was 'what do I prime this on? What do I use as a substrate?' I wrote to the technical expert and he suggested Sintra, because it doesn't warp.” Teresa says Sintra is a high density plastic, with no acidic component. It doesn't warp the way a wood panel might, or separate like a mat board would.

After cleaning the Sintra, she coats it with three coats of gesso on both sides, and then coats one side with the acrylic ground. “It's a process,” she says, “but then it's this big surface I can go to town on.”

Pastels are often limited to the size of paper that's available. The largest Wallace (the paper Teresa uses) is 24x36. With Sintra, Teresa's only size restriction is framing.

“When I wanted to do this, first I talked to my framer and asked what the biggest piece was he can frame. Standard glass is 40x60, although you can get a bigger piece custom made. Pastels don't do well with plexiglass because of the static component, so it has to be glass.”

The surface of Sintra, once she's treated it, is similar to the Wallace paper she prefers. The goal is to have enough of a tooth to apply many layers of pastel.

“The traditional way was working on a paper that's not as toothy,” she said. “You put the pastel down and spray a workable fixative that would establish another tooth. More pastel, more fixative.”  She says with Wallace or her Sintra surface you start out with a grittier surface that holds multiple layers, with no fixative needed.

But the real draw is the size.

“I'd like to do bigger and bigger. I would do a bigger project if someone wants to do the framing,” she said. “There's something about being surrounded by color.”

(Click here to see current work by Teresa McCue)

Susan Blood