View Full Version : Standard Specification of Artists Pastels

Katherine T
09-15-2013, 07:16 AM
I first started enquiring as to progress being made on the Standard Specification of Artists Pastels quite some time ago. The conclusion I reached at the time was that they had been working on it since 2003.

It now appears as if the last standard relating to the major artist pigment based "paints" (ie standards relating to oils, acrylics, watercolour, gouache and coloured pencils have all been published) will now be published sometime in 2014 - assuming they can resolve current issues under discussion.

I found this out while having a long email conversation with Michael Sikalka who is the Technical Representative on the ASTM International Subcommittee D01.57 on Artist Paints and Related Materials. He was enormously informative and helpful with respect to the particular issues thrown up by pastels in relation to testing.

For example - it's difficult to test pastels on paper if the paper starts to deteriorate from excessive light levels before the pastel does! It tends to throw out the test results!

The conversation was so long I won't even try and reproduce it all here. I've organised it so it makes more sense in a post on my blog - see UPDATE! Standard Specification for Artists Pastels (http://makingamark.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/Standard-Specification-Artists-Pastels.html).

I hope people find this interesting.

Some highlights are as follows:
the standard will be aimed at
providing information for manufacturers to make artist grade pastels ie intended to be archival and hence use better grade lightfast pigments
the standard will relate to pigments not branded pastels
labelling of branded pastels - of pastels or associated information - will provide the information of interest to pastel artists and address issues relating to how a pastel brand can claim compliance with the ASTM standard or not
it's currently hoped that the standard will be published next year - if they can resolve current issues at the January meeting of the sub-committee and move on to testing

One of the bits I found most interesting was the fact that when they do some initial testing to get a baseline, they feedback the results to the manufacturers who all then tend to pay attention and upgrade the pigments they use in their pastels so they achieve better lightfastness. Which has got to be counted as good news!

09-16-2013, 02:52 AM
Some brands like Sennelier uses pigments what i dont want see in modern art stuff...

Katherine T
09-16-2013, 07:26 AM
Are you talking about a situation in the past or what they use today? I'd love to know what information you have and its source - can you be more specific?

In my experience a lot of manufacturers have replaced the pigments they have used in the past with contemporary alternatives which work as well if not better in terms of longevity and lightfastness. Primarily because of matters like the standard on health and safety labelling of artist materials which the ASTM brought in some time ago.

Here's what Sennelier has to say about the pigments it uses http://www.sennelier-colors.com/en/Colors/Pigments_17.html

09-16-2013, 04:13 PM
Katherine, Thanks for your efforts. I know many folks have been waiting for years for some sort of standards for pastels, including lightfast ratings. Let's see if things actually happen soon!


09-21-2013, 01:01 PM
Oh, this is going to be great! Thanks for the news!

I can see the difficulty with testing if the paper deteriorates and skews the results. Surfaces that don't deteriorate at all are rare.

I wonder what happens to white marble or limestone that's got a rough toothy finish rather than a smooth polish? A matte surface stone slab might be a wonderful pastel surface, depending on the stone and its ability to withstand light. Keeps coming to mind because in New Orleans, there were painters working on roof slates as a surface for all sorts of mediums. Most were doing swamp scenes in wet media but the slates had a nice toothy surface that'd probably hold pastels.