View Full Version : Intro & Q: Alcohol as fixative ?

02-13-2006, 05:33 PM
Hi all. I'm new to Wetcanvas! and new to art in general, so I'm trying it all. When I started getting more serious about art over a year ago, Mom started cleaning out her closets and passing on a bunch of 35+ year old art supplies, including a beautiful box of 48 pastels, her old oil paints and canvases, masonite, and drawing & watercolor paper. I couldn't believe the goldmine she had in her closets and the prices she paid for them. Can you believe 90 cents for a 4 oz. tube of Grambacher oil paints? 29 cents for canvas board?

Since I started playing with the soft pastels, I've always had a point of frustration with the art fixative darkening my colors and not really "fixing." I saw in my brief WC! search that I'm not the only one who went to acrylics because of this. But like I said, I'm trying it all. I was pushed to the edge before Christmas when my "fixed" pastel poinsettias fell on me when I was moving the easel and covered me in red and green dust. After reading all the other posts, I will go back to pastels and try again because I really do love working with the medium, even if I end up just taking a picture and throwing the original in a pizza box under the bed without fixative.

To my question: I read somewhere that one of the masters...don't remember the name...used to mix his pastel work with alcohol. Brushed or sprayed, I think both. So I tried a fine mist of rubbing alcohol on a test in my sketchbook. It brightened the colors alot and it was permanent. Cool. I tried it on a painting I did on straight masonite, no gesso, smooth side. Fixative was totally wiping out my work, even after the masonite dried and returned to its original color. With alcohol, everything turned dark, but came back to a certain point when it had dried off. I still had to leave the top layer unfixed.

Has anyone else tried spraying or brushing alcohol on their pastels? What kind of results did you get?

How big of a picture can I post here?

Original is 18x24.

Always the student, criticism and critique is appreciated.

Julie >:3

02-13-2006, 10:37 PM
Julie your poinsettas are beautiful. I understand your frustration though. There can be several alternatives that you might try before turning to fixative. What type of paper are you working on? If it is some of your Mother's old papers it probably isn't a sanded surface, although it could be Ersta sanded paper as that's been around a long time. (I'm guessing it isn't though) You might try Wallis or Art Spectrum Colourfix papers. Wallis comes in white and Belgium mist (gray), and Art Spectrum comes in many colors including white and black. Masonite will work if prepared properly, but it is a rather heavy support when it comes time to frame the work. You may not be thinking of framing at this point, but down the road you will. Either of the sanded papers I've mentioned will hold the pastel very well without fixative. You can underpaint with acrylic or watercolor on either of the too. As you work, ocassionally remove the paper from your easel and give the back some very smart, solid whacks to remove excess pastel. When finished do the same thing.

If you still want to use fixative, there are a couple brands that are considered "workable" fixatives that hold well, but don't change the color very much. LasCaux and Rowney are those brands. If you want to fix it permanently, the color might change a little, but you might try Grumbacher B57. All of these fixatives are considered archival. The Grumbacher is used by the National Art Museum on all pastels in their inventory even if they weren't fixed prior to arrival at the museum - or so Ross Merrill, chief conservator, told an audience at the second International Assoc of Pastel Societies convention in 1997.

Good luck and I look forward to seeing more of your work.


02-14-2006, 10:50 AM
Thanks for your help, Peggy. I bought Strathmore ridge greenbrier drawing paper for this project. I'm never getting that again. The pattern is like square pillows and the horizontal ridges are deeper than the vertical. I hate the horizontal ridges, which really didn't show through until after I sprayed fixative.

02-14-2006, 11:07 AM
I use isopropenhol (rubbing alcohol) sometimes as a working fixitive when back from the field
then the sennieler fixitive if more fixing is needed
both with an atomizer