What are Pastels?
‘Pastel is pure pigment, the same pigment used in making all fine art paints. It is the most permanent of all media, when applied to conservation ground and properly framed. Pastel has no liquid binder that may cause other media to darken, fade, yellow, crack or blister with time. Pastels from the 16th century exist today, as fresh as the day they were painted. No restoration needed, ever!
The name Pastel comes from the French word “pastische” because the pure, powdered pigment is ground into a paste, with a small amount of gum binder, and then rolled into sticks. The infinite variety of colours in the Pastel palette range from soft and subtle to bold and brilliant.
An artwork is created by stroking the sticks of dry pigment across an abrasive ground, embedding the colour in the “tooth” of the paper, sand board or canvas. If the ground is completely covered with Pastel, the work is considered a Pastel painting: leaving much of the ground exposed produces a pastel sketch.’
© Pastel Society of America
One of my pet portraits is used in this blog by @Jackson’s Art, discussing the medium. You can read it here. Charlie the whippet is one of my all time favourite pet portraits, sadly I don’t appear to have a copy of the original anymore, but you can see it on their blog.
What do I do with my unframed pastel painting?
Now you have removed the paper, cardboard and bubble wrap you can peel back the marked tabs/tape and view your pastel painting. Once you have viewed it please re-seal and keep it in this protective ‘sandwich’ until it is framed. Of course you can view it again and show others, but please ensure it is always re-sealed and stored in a dry, cool place.
- Please don’t brush or blow the surface to clean off dust!
- Please don’t touch the surface of the pastel painting, imagine it is like wet paint. It smudges very easily!
- Don’t spray fixative without consulting the artist!
Pastels can be framed with or without a mat, but in either case, a minimum of 1/4 inch should be maintained between the surface of the artwork and the glass cover. This can be done by using multiple mats, or by the use of spacers.
A sturdy Plexiglass/Perspex can be used instead of glass. Before installation, it should be treated for removal of static, and the space between it and the pastel surface should probably be somewhat deeper than it would be for glass.
Pastels may shed small dust-like particles of loose pigment. To maintain a clean appearance, provide a space that will hide these particles. One method is to use a reverse bevel, Another is to use a double mat with a spacer between. The spacer can be a plastic strip made for this purpose, foam board, or even pieces of matting cut smaller than the exposed mats.
How do I take care of my painting?
Please remove the masking tape from the glass. This is put here just in case the glass shatters during transit and prevent it falling on the surface of the painting and damaging it. If it leaves a slight residue please remove very gently with a very slightly damp cloth. Please ensure it is only slightly damp to prevent any moisture entering the frame.
When attaching the D-rings with the screws to hang you painting please do this very gently, screw them in by hand and don’t bang or knock the painting as it could cause some pastel particles to come loose.
I use the highest quality pastels and paper available for my pastel paintings, but as with any fine work of art or fine furniture, it is advised not to place a Pastel painting in direct sunlight. It is best to avoid direct sunlight and fluorescent lighting: both are rich in ultraviolet light and will provoke fading.
‘When under glass, the heat of the sun can create humidity, which could cause moisture damage to develop. Pastel paintings should always have a space between the glass and the painting to avoid pastel particles sticking to the glass. The use of ‘spacers’ or a mount is therefore recommended. Never touch pastel paintings direct as they are very sensitive to touch and smudge easily. Whenever transported or not in a hanging position, a Pastel painting should always be face up.’
© Pastel Society of America
I know the above makes pastel paintings sound very delicate but they are actually sturdier than it sounds, as long as they are treated with care your painting will outlive you!
I hope you enjoy your pastel painting for many years to come as much as I enjoyed creating it.