View Full Version : Problem framing a pastel painting

10-21-2015, 03:51 PM
Hello from Spain :wave:

I just heard back from a client that bought a portrait in pastels from me. He told me that the frame shop where he went didn't want to frame the pastel painting because it wasn't fixed, that pastels must all be fixed according to them (all of this after smudging part of the portait).

I told my client that if he sent the painting back to me I would try to fix whatever they did, but now I am very confused and dissapointed (the same as my client, he wanted the portrait as a birthday present that now will be late).

The thing is that I would understand if it was a new shop with little experience or something like that, but he told me that he went specially to a shop in the neighborhood of Salamanca (very posh, he is from Madrid) where they told him that after having to pay a lot in advance (as I said, very posh...) and he didn't even know if they would return the money.

Or maybe I'm completely wrong and everyone knows that you HAVE to fix pastel paintings...

I just can't shake the feeling that my client (and by extension, me) have been scammed or encountered the most unprofessional of framers. Not a pretty feeling.

I would appreciate comments about your experiences framing soft pastels, I have been selling pastels for less than a year, but this has been the first problem framing my artwork.

PS. This is my first post so I might have put it where it doesn't belong, please correct me if thats the case. Until now I have been just a reader of these forums which are amazing, I always find something interesting :)


water girl
10-21-2015, 04:40 PM
Welcome, Maria! It is always a treat to have new members join in the fun. Yes, you have posted to the correct forum. I never fix my pastels, and probably more pastel painters do not fix, than fix. There is a very wonderful portrait artist who had his work accepted into a well known show. Someone at the frame shop smudged his painting, which was very large. He had to repair it before it was framed properly and mailed off to the show. If the frame shop claimed they could handled pastels, they should know how to frame them. I frame my own because it saves money and because some framers will not work with pastels. Do not be discouraged.

10-21-2015, 08:05 PM
I never fix a pastel painting too. The first reason is that it darkens all the picture and make the tooth of the paper (especially if you work on very grit paper) come out.. So every time I sell a pastel painting I always say to my clients that the painting must be framed by me, so I tell them the final price with the framing. I never ever let someone touch my work done in pastels. :)

10-21-2015, 08:41 PM
From what I have heard, many frame shops won't frame pastels or don't know how to frame pastels. So I would continue to search for a frame shop that has experience with pastels and will frame unfixed pastels. No, you do not have to use fixative if you don't want to.

Personally, to avoid this sort of problem, I frame them myself. I buy all the parts (frame, glass or plexi, spacers, etc) from the frame store and then assemble them myself.


10-22-2015, 01:31 AM
Yeah, a lot of framers demand fixative be used. They don't know how to frame pastels and don't realize fixative does not do that much to prevent smudges. You still can't touch the painting surface and dust may still come off.

I use fixative on non sanded surfaces most often and not at all on sanded. OUCH that you only heard about this after pre-paying. That's ridiculous, you should get your money back! But shoulds like that are often unenforceable.

10-22-2015, 06:37 AM
Thank you so much for your comments and experiences. It's the same that I thought. The portrait was of a baby and losing that luminous quality of the skin tones just seemed like a sin to me. I work in Pastelmat and Sennelier La Carte papers only for my pastels (Pastelmat in this case) so the use of fixatives didn't even cross my mind. I thought that it would do more harm than good.

10-23-2015, 06:24 AM
I do not use fixative and my framer has no problem with that and does a beautiful job.
They never even questioned it when I took in my first one.

10-23-2015, 05:19 PM
Just wanted to say I had a look at your website and you do beautiful portraits! It's a shame this framer didn't understand how to work with pastel paintings. I hope you are able to get it framed properly by someone who knows how to do it.

10-24-2015, 02:40 PM
I am so sorry this happened :( and I hope you have no trouble restoring the piece where it was smudged.

Personally, I would not let the client pick the framer. As the artist, I feel it is my responsibility to speak personally with any framer to confirm 1) whether they have framed original artwork in the past, 2) whether that artwork includes unfixed pastel paintings, and 3) if so, exactly what their process is for doing so, including never, ever touching the surface of the painting. If they respond to my satisfaction, that is a framer I'll recommend to the client. If they were to express the slightest discomfort with the idea, I would move on to someone else.

Good framers are definitely out there, you just need to take some time to confirm which ones they are. If the client is taking it in directly (without you there), be sure s/he knows to RECONFIRM with the person at the shop that this is an unfixed, delicate work of art that cannot be touched under any circumstances. You can also include a note that the client is to deliver to the framer reiterating that same point, and also allowing the framer to contact you directly with any questions or concerns.

Best wishes to you!

10-24-2015, 04:39 PM
As both an experienced pastel painter of 30+ years and former framer, I can assure you that to fix or not to fix is your choice, and not the framers! However, having said that I know finding someone who knows what to do can be most frustrating. As others said, that's why we take the time to frame our own work or search out a framer with whom we can work satisfactorily.

It may help you to know that in this country the trend in framing is to not use mats. The resulting work looks more like an oil painting framing, and it costs less because both the frame and glass are smaller than that of a matted piece. Some people use a thin plastic device known as Frame Tec EconoSpacers between the glass and artwork, and some place the glass directly on the artwork. I use both methods. Paintings larger than 11x14 get the EconoSpacers, and smaller pieces the direct method. The only reason I don't use the direct method on larger pieces is I find it difficult to handle the taping of the edges on large pieces of artwork.

Before anyone gets their britches in a bunch regarding placement of glass directly on the artwork, please know that this is not a new method. In truth it is a very old method used in Europe with great success. To keep the glass from slipping across the painting's surface, it is necessary to seal the edges with framer's tape on all four sides. A complete explanation of how to do this may be found on Richard McKinley's blog.

10-25-2015, 07:45 AM
Thanks again to everyone for your opinions and support. You really set my mind at ease, for a second there that framer made me doubt myself.

SarahM thank you for your kind words, I'm just starting but I try to do the best I can :)

Some suggested that I frame the paintings myself, but even if now it's impossible for me (I'm just starting out), it's certainly something that I'm starting to consider seriously for the future.

I live in a small town with no framer in sight, and it's just impossible to check every framer in Spain (I sell through the internet) so what I think I'll do is include a detailed note for them to give to the framer they want to take the artwork to. So thank you Grinner for the idea.