About Pastels and My Paintings

Frequently Asked Questions:
About pastels Framing Hanging your pastel
Care of your pastel portrait What to tell your framer  

About Pastels
Pastel is pure powdered pigment mixed with a minimum of binder and molded into sticks. This is the same pigment that is put into oils or watercolor tubes, except without wetness. If an artist totally covers the plane she is working on, this is called a painting even though it is not wet. It is every bit, if not more, rich in pigment.

Pastels have a luminous glowing quality because each particle of pastel dust is faceted. In order to preserve that quality, I do not spray my paintings with fixative. In my opinion, fixative dulls the color and the brilliance.

I use only the best quality pastel brands and archival surfaces and supplies.

Special care should be used when handling pastel paintings. Do not ever touch or rub the painting surface, as it will cause smearing.

Paintings should always be vertical or face up. When transporting, rest the painting on its back. Handling gently will prevent any vibrations from loosening particles of pastel dust.

It is best to hang paintings out of direct sunlight. (Sun heat could cause humidity and moisture damage.)

Care of Your Pastel Portrait
Your new pastel portrait is a hand-painted work of fine art. I use the best archival materials for its creation. If properly cared for, your portrait will last for many lifetimes. Pastel is one of the most permanent art mediums in existence. Many pastels painted over 200 years ago are still as bright and fresh as the day they were created.

The artist’s pigments in my pastels are the same as those used in fine oil paints. The only difference is that with pastel the pigments are not mixed with a liquid binder which may degrade over time. The pure, bright hues will not change or yellow.

The 100% rag board or sanded paper support for my pastel paintings is made of the same natural fibers as artist’s canvas and will last as long or longer.

Your pastel portrait may shed a few particles of pigment when new. This is normal and will not damage the image. The surface will become more solid with time and shedding will stop. Please do not attempt to rub or brush away fallen particles, as you may mar the surface of your portrait. Lightly shake them off and store your unframed portrait flat in its case until you take it to your framer.

Framing
You will receive your painting temporarily shielded by Glassine and sandwiched between foamboard, with clips holding the sandwich in place. This case is fine for short-term storage, but to protect and preserve your portrait while it is on display, you should have it professionally framed behind glass.

Please choose your framer carefully. Discount framers may charge less, but they often save money and cut corners by using non-archival, non-acid-free framing materials. These materials may harm your painting. It’s worth choosing the best quality framing materials so that your family can enjoy your painting for many years to come.

What to tell your framer
You want acid-free, archival framing materials. The backing board and mats, if any, should be museum quality. 100% rag board and acid-free foam core board are best. Cheap mat board or brown cardboard backings will stain and yellow your portrait within a few years.

Do not spray any sort of fixative or coating on your portrait in the framing process or allow your framer to do so.  Further coating or fixing may change the colors in your portrait, damage the paper or dislodge the pastel particles from the surface. Careful handling is a must. Do not touch the painted surface. Putting fingers or other items on top of the portrait or allowing it to be rubbed or flexed will damage the surface. Keep it flat, supported from underneath and facing upwards to protect the pastel surface.

Choose a framer who is experienced in working with fine art pastels. A framer who works mostly with posters and printed reproductions or oil paintings may not realize that pastels take special handling. Do not risk the welfare of your portrait in the hands of an inexperienced framer.

Do not use Plexiglas™ or non-glare glass to frame your portrait. Plexiglas™ holds a static charge that may pull pastel particles from the paper and in time create a “ghost” image on the underside of the glass. This will probably not seriously harm your portrait, but it will obscure your view of it! Non-glare glass makes your portrait appear blurry and dull in color, and it is best avoided.

One good approach for framing your pastel is to use a reversed double mat, with the larger window underneath. This creates a gap behind the mat where any fallen particles will be invisible. Another is to use a spacer strip between the glass and the painting so that no mat is necessary.

Hanging your pastel
Choose a dry place indoors out of direct sunlight. Sunlight, even filtered through a window, is the enemy of all fine artwork. It degrades paper and canvas and may fade pigments. Dampness may damage paper and even allow mold to grow on paintings. Outside walls, basement walls and stone or concrete walls may transmit dampness, so avoid hanging art on them. An interior wall without nearby windows is ideal. Bedrooms, sitting rooms and hallways are often the best places for fine artworks. Bathrooms and kitchens may have very damp air, so please avoid hanging your fine artworks near showers, tubs and stoves.

 

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