Working with Pastels
Pastels last longer than oils before you need to refinish them, if they need it. Because of the oil binders that are used to make oil paints, things will happen to any oil painting over time. Paintings will most likely darken with age. Along with that, if you use the wrong procedure in order to apply oils to a surface, there definitely will be problems in the future in the form of cracking. With pastels you do not have that problem because there is a minimal mixing of a binder, which is usually gum arabic or gum tragacanth. The binder will be mixed with colored pigment to form a paste, which is then rolled into sticks of pastel. Also, as with oils, there is no mixing of colors – the mixing is on the surface by applying a layer of pastel over another.
As I said previously, because of the way pastels are made, they are the most permanent of all the media used to paint works of art. Because there is a lack of oil binders, there will be nothing to degrade the quality of the work itself. Of course, all this depends on the surface used and if you have the pastel painting framed correctly. The best way to achieve this is to use glass on top of the painting separated by small spacers so the pastel does not touch the glass. You should also tape the line where the patel painting meets the frame on the back. By doing both of these things, no dust or humidity will get on the surface. The best glass to purchase would be museum or anti-reflective glass to block out the glare. You should also keep any pastel painting out of direct sunlight. This in turn will effect the bright colors and make them fade.
I know what you are thinking – why not just use spray fixative when each pastel painting is completed? The reason not to use this with pastels is this. Fixative will darken all the color which is produced by the application of colorful pastels. What many artists do, including myself, is to spray generously between the first few foundation layers of pastel on any surface. This will hold all the first layers in place. After that, you can apply the final layers of pastels and leave them unfixed. Then, proceed to cover you pastel paintings with glass. That way, all the pastel will be permanently fixed to the surface and the final painting will still be bright and look as you intended it to appear. Of course, if you spray very lightly in a back and forth motion, it won’t effect the color so much, however, there still might be some particles of pigment that will fall down onto the mat. Degas was even known to have applied fixative, which he created himself, to the back of certain pastel paintings.
There you have it! Pastels are very permanent! They will not fade in tone or color over the years. With that in mind, the next time you contemplate purchasing a painting for your home or office, you can definitely consider buying a pastel painting instead of an oil. Most of the pastels I’ve seen over the last few years painted by artists who know what they are doing, look so much better quality wise than many of the oils that painters have for sale. Pastels are unique and have a very special appearance to them, which no other medium can give you. Just think about what I have said and get out there and start buying all those pastel paintings you’ve always wanted to own and add to your collection.