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JudyBee
06-10-2006, 02:38 PM
An art dealer told me yesterday, "Pastels aren't worth anything unless they are sprayed." While I know each artist has a preference about whether to use spray fixative or not to use the spray, what about the art buying/dealing world? Is this a common sentiment or is it just this one dealer who doesn't particularly like pastels?

Bringer
06-10-2006, 03:11 PM
Hi,

Let me answer with another question.
How many art dealers now about painting techniques ?
Or even about Art History ?
Maybe a thin layer of fixative (not enough to change the appearence), will add an extra protection. But it won't save the pastel from getting smudge.
And if that dealer is soooo worried, ask him/her if he uses museum quality glass on the works on display. I could bet he/she doesn't.
Am I being mean ? Yes I am :-)

Regards,

José

Donna A
06-11-2006, 02:25 PM
An art dealer told me yesterday, "Pastels aren't worth anything unless they are sprayed." While I know each artist has a preference about whether to use spray fixative or not to use the spray, what about the art buying/dealing world? Is this a common sentiment or is it just this one dealer who doesn't particularly like pastels?

Hi, Judy! Well, "not worth anything" seems like an ever so silly comment! Nothing I can endow with all that much seriousness---or respect.

The comments about fixing pastel paintings which I CAN respect tremendously are those by Ross Merrill, Head Curator of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, USA. And his comments are based on RESEARCH----IN DEPTH! Here is the link to considerable information plus illustrations from the Writings section of my web site.

http://www.aldridgestudios.com/610-Fixative.html

I understand that Ross Merrill spoke at an International Assoc. of Pastel Societies two years earlier----and did not include some of the information he did at this later presentation there, which I attended.

Ross Merrill made me a confirmed believer in fixing my pastel paintings. Most of the complaints from artists is that the spray darkens their paintings. duh. Yeah----if ya don't apply it correctly! There are illustrations and proceedures suggested at the Fixative url which might be of use.

One of the gallery owners who has handled a lot of my pastel paintings has called me every year or so to ask again, "Now tell me again, Donna, what it is you do that keeps your pastels from clouding the glass or ruining the mat or liner? I have to talk to one of the pastels artists we are working with now who...." She, like soooo many other galleries just do not like taking a chance with pastels. Denyse had to have so many pastel paintings reframed----or just give up and send all the pieces back to the artist, often out of town.

Saying a pastel is "worthless w/o fixing..." ho hum. But it is true that many galleries have had some repeated negative experiences with pastels, that they do not have with oils, acrylics or watercolors.

OF COURSE fixing does not keep the surface from smudging if something rubs against it. more duh. Therefore the glass. BUT the fixative, applied correctly and sufficiently, will hold the pigment in place quite respectfully when the piece is being moved around---and sometimes jostled unavoidably.

Now, one very marvelous artist, who has written two very fine books, one on Pastel Painting and the other on Oil Painting----Bill Creevy----has also experimented extensively with a manner of working with pastels on firm board surfaces, interspursing with sprays of very thin pva solutions----which, yes, darken the pastel, but also turn the pigment surface into a hard, durable surface which does not require glass in the framing. I do have a reference to his work on the Fixative page on my site---in the url above.

I build many, many, many layers of pastel, in most areas of my paintings, and I have shipped my works all over this country and beyond, without any film of pigment on the glass's interior----or on the linen liners I use (rather than paper mats.) Some of these works have been carted about and shipped about a number of times. They are fine. That's what I want and what the gallery, exhibition and the buyer want.

Give it a chance. Just read about it and consider a bit. I've just seen tooo many pastel paintings in exhibitions with a mussed mat or liner and/or a bit of film on the glass interior.

I also do not bother with the little trough many leave for pastel to fall behind the liner. Fine if it goes from the framing directly on to a wall. But if the painting gets handled much, particularly in shipping well out of town to an exhibit or new owner, there is just no roadsign for the pastel dusty bits to follow to go only behind the mat. I could definately see the trough working for those situations where the pastel painting is hanging on a wall in earth-quake vulnerable areas, where tremors often shake the walls, et al, frequently enough. There----at least gravity would encourage some tendency for the particals to fall straight-ish down.

Do whatever seems to work for you. It's absolutely your choice!!! Know that many gallery owners will feel more comfortable to know that you do respect and follow the reseach findings of the National Gallery, etc. There just ARE real reasons why a lot of galleries are a little to a lot squeamish about handling pastel paintings. Very best wishes to everyone! Donna ;-}

JudyBee
06-12-2006, 01:45 PM
Donna,
Thanks for your comments. I think this particular dealer was one of those who think that, unless its oil on canvas, it isn't worth that much. This includes watercolor, acrylic and any works on paper!

The Ross Merrill talk was very informative. I have been spraying lightly several times during the painting process and at the end. I will expreiment with heavier coatings.

That the spray darkens the pastel is, to me just another factor/attribute of the medim. I also sculpt in water-based clay and have to factor in shrinkage plus the physical and chemical changes that happen during firing! Instead of a negative, I view it as an element in the creative process!

Donna A
06-12-2006, 03:01 PM
Donna,
Thanks for your comments. I think this particular dealer was one of those who think that, unless its oil on canvas, it isn't worth that much. This includes watercolor, acrylic and any works on paper!

The Ross Merrill talk was very informative. I have been spraying lightly several times during the painting process and at the end. I will expreiment with heavier coatings.

That the spray darkens the pastel is, to me just another factor/attribute of the medim. I also sculpt in water-based clay and have to factor in shrinkage plus the physical and chemical changes that happen during firing! Instead of a negative, I view it as an element in the creative process!

Hi, again,Judy! Yes---some dealers are just THAT way----and we might as not "bother them" with our non-oils! :-) NOR bother ourselves!!! :-)

Glad the Merrill comments were useful! Now----rather than spray heavier coatings----at one time----just DO make sure you use lighter (actually single/once-over) coatings or layers of fixative with each spraying. But use 8 to 12----or so----very thin layers. You have to get the pastel wet to get it to darken. Spraying a fair amount on at once will let the pastel get dark. Once lightly will not. Fast. I may be misunderstanding what you are meaning by heavier coatings----but just want to be sure----especially for others also reading this!

I do use fixative to sometimes darken a particular area of a painting where the strokes and related colors work really well---except a bit or a bit more on the too-light side! I'll spray carefully and fairly heavily in a particular area to adjust values a bit darker. We've had several paintings in my classes where we just spray a bit in some corner or across a side, top or bottom of one of the artist's paintings and just make it SUDDENLY WORK!!! Pretty cool and useful!

And it's smart to give a bit of fix as we build a pastel----even when working on wonderfully toothy surfaces!

Fixative 'just darkening a pastel" is not something we have to just "take." It's only an attribute of the medium when the fix is used contrary to the artists' intentions of the look of the painting's finish.

Don't think we have to be a "victim" of fixative while letting it help preserve our pastel paintings! We DON'T!!! Fixative can be simply a great help to us and nothing that lets us end up with something less satisfying! Very best wishes! Donna ;-}

PeggyB
06-12-2006, 03:36 PM
Well written Donna - I have nothing to add, but my "thank you". I too use light spraying on almost all of my work. Sometimes even heavier spraying for the exact reasons you have given.
Peggy

CindyW
06-12-2006, 09:18 PM
Ok, Peggy and Donna. I'm interested in giving this a try. I used fixative only a couple of times in college and left it behind me because of the huge toxicity factor of the spray in the air going into my lungs. But....with this info now, I will look into fixative and give it a try....I also read and admired how Bill Creevy uses it to great and gorgeous advantage in his book "The Pastel Book". I have been so against it but I have alot to learn about pastel techniques in order to use it to my own advantage.
Thanks for this thread, JudyBee.
Cindy

Donna A
06-12-2006, 10:58 PM
Hi, Cindy! Yes, the vapors are awful!!! Like our hairspray vapors!

I hold my breath, spray fast. Leave.

I either spray in the classroom studio when there is no class going on----and I can close the door and leave for a little while----or, in the classes, we step just outside and spray. And there are times in my private studio when I turn on both of the HEPA filters I have in there stacked on top of each other----and spray right next to the filters. They pull in the vapors immediately. No vapors in the room----but I leave, anyway for a few minutes.

And when I spray my hair in my bathroom, I hold my breath, spray and then leave immediately! It's not just pastels! :-) I won't give up my hairspray and I won't give up my fixtaive! I just learned how to live WITH them!!! :-) LOL! Very best wishes! Donna ;-}

Donna A
06-12-2006, 11:08 PM
Well written Donna - I have nothing to add, but my "thank you". I too use light spraying on almost all of my work. Sometimes even heavier spraying for the exact reasons you have given.
Peggy

Thank you, Peggy. I just want the very best for our beloved medium!!! I really do think we need to take as much responsibility as we can for making this a wonderfully-regarded medium, which it deserves!!!

I know that you have done so very much in many ways to accomplish this, as well!

I know others on this forum have also been very active in building the respect, love and growth of Pastel Painting! Yea! We've seen such a wonderful and remarkable shift in the last couple of decades! It's very gratifying and exciting! Hooray. Best wishes to everyone! Donna ;-}

lwood
06-13-2006, 08:12 AM
I would never hand artwork over to an art dealer who said such a thing. He doesn't want the responsibility for the fragility of art pieces. I've never seen a pastel behind glass that was damaged by normal handling. If it is not behind glass, it is probably not respected enough to worry about, in which case, doesn't matter if it is sprayed or not. My opinion is, if the artist doesn't think the spraying hurts the art, then it can be sprayed.

Eclectic_Asylum
06-13-2006, 02:59 PM
I use a lot of fixative in my pastel works to make them completely smudgeproof and even varnishable. Even when that is not my intention I use many light coats of fixative for some protection and that doesn't cause a color shift. Years ago when I studied at the Sorbonne for a summer I saw the fragile nature of pastel first hand. Work by Cassat and Degas that had the dust settling at the bottom of the work. Come to find out these older pastel works are unframed every couple of years to be maintained and restored.


Yes the vapors from fixatuve are very harsh. Since I fix and work in layers to keep up with the color shift I have found two different fixatives very handy. First Blair low odor workable fixative is a good cheaper option and of decent quality. The best is the misting hand pumped fixatives made by Sennelier, none of the harsh aerosols to get in the air.

As to that gallery owner there might have been some truth to what he said if he meanth "worth less". Because of their fragile nature pastel is a riskier investment than an oil. Plus a work in pastel generally takes less of the artists time than a similar oil.

Jason

Donna A
06-14-2006, 01:40 AM
Someone commented several years ago that one thing about low-odor fixative---or low-odor Chlorox, etc----was that the odor was part of the protection element. We can be lulled into a false sense of safety sometimes with low-odor or odorless materials. Because the odor is lowered does NOT mean the toxic qualities are lowered.

Just something to think about.


I don't know that there is any appreicable time difference in doing my pastel from my oils. And I've always framed them the same (except for adding glass to the pastel) and always have priced them the same. And then some paintings, no matter the medium, just flow! And some can become a bit of a wrestling match. And then thankfully there are all those in between! :-) Take good care! Donna ;-}

bluefish
06-14-2006, 08:07 AM
Donna is completely right about the so called 'low odor' products - you will develop health problems breathing in the vapors of a no-odor or lesser odor product a lot quicker because your brain is not aware that your body is being attacked. I fix, during and after completion, but do it in my garage area where the doors and windows can be opened, if required. Do it outside in the open air where or when you can and use the 'smelliest' product that works for you!

'bluefish'

CindyW
06-14-2006, 09:45 AM
I use a lot of fixative in my pastel works to make them completely smudgeproof and even varnishable.
Jason, I definitely am going to give this a try. Does anyone know anything about the longevity of fixative? Does it ever flake off? Does anyone have any works 10-20+ years old that show some age with fixative? I've gotta go check out my pastel I did fixed in college 15 years ago and see what's up with it....stuck in a portfolio in the closet, I think.

As to that gallery owner there might have been some truth to what he said if he meanth "worth less". Because of their fragile nature pastel is a riskier investment than an oil. Plus a work in pastel generally takes less of the artists time than a similar oil.

Jason
Hi Jason, this point is off topic in this thread :wink2: but I wanted to say that any! artwork is risky if the gallery owner doesn't take the same care and handling for all. Whether it's under glass or it's a canvas, each piece can still be damaged by someone who might think they can take less care in handling just because it might appear to be indestructible.
And time has nothing at all to do with the value of any artwork. There are wonderful oils over in the oil forum that were done in an afternoon and there are wonderful pastels here that took 40-80 hours to paint. And that 8x10 oil that only took 2 hours to paint might sell for $500 and that pastel of over 2 weeks worth of work might sell for $50 because the artist isn't as well known as the oil painter...or that pastel might sell for $6,000.00 and that oil might sell for $50 because the pastel artist is well known vs the oil painter who isn't. Too many variables to generalize.
Cindy

Donna A
06-16-2006, 05:34 PM
Something that some of you might want to check out is Bill Creevy's book on Pastel Painting----where he seals the pastel layers in ways that he does not need glass. I'm not sure the fixative is enough of a final protective coating without the glass layer over it. Bill has found very archival methods for final protective layers for sealing pastel paintings to use without glass. Do check them out.

Bill Creevy has been a wonderful experimenter, finding so many excellent options----and freely shares them in his books, both on Pastel Painting and Oils. And such a wonderful painter! Do take a look! His books are very well worth the investment! Best wishes! Donna ;-}

MChesleyJohnson
06-22-2006, 04:47 PM
I use fixative when appropriate.

By this, I mean if the painting requires it. A painting requires fixative in a few situations. These are:

1. If the painting is to be shipped
2. If the painting is not on an aggressive surface (e.g. Wallis) but on a surface that doesn't hold the pastel as well (e.g. Canson)
3. If so much pastel has been applied that succeeding layers don't stick

In most cases, a good shake or tap on the back will dislodge any loose pastel, and a proper framing job (e.g. with a reverse-bevel mat and/or spacer) will prevent pastel dust from falling on the mat. Typically, a fixative is not required here.

However, if you frame with very little space between glass and painting; or if you put many layers on a less-aggressive paper (Canson); or if you are going to ship a piece, you will want to put a light coat of fixative on AFTER tapping or shaking the painting to dislodge loose dust. You will want to apply the coat lightly enough so as to not dampen the pastel so much that the pastel liquifies.

Also, if you use a technique I use, which is to apply an alcohol or turp wash to my underpainting, fixative is not necessary. The wash on the underpainting turns the pastel into something like paint, and this layer of pastel then adheres to the surface the way paint would. Succeeding layers I apply lightly with very soft pastels, and these pastels are so soft that the pastel sticks to the paper (Wallis) like butter.

Framers and art dealers are by nature cautious. They would rather have you darken the pastel and take all the light out of it rather than have a client come back to them and, pointing to the dust on the mat, say a piece was improperly framed. (And in any case, a mat can be easily cleaned of the dust.)

Donna A
06-24-2006, 02:04 PM
I tend to treat the "finish" on my pastel paintings the same----in that never knowing what type of "life" they may have after I finish then frame them, I want them prepared for any/everything. I've had pieces at an exhibit right here in town be purchased by someone in from out of town and shipped out right after the show----so----for me, personally, it works best to fix them all.

Thankfully, it is never necessary to darken a pastel painting when fixing. Just takes the right technique.

And I still have a great deal of faith in the reports of the considerable research done on pastels and fixing by Ross Merrill, Head Curator, and others on the team at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Below is an excerpt from the page on Fixative at:
http://www.aldridgestudios.com/610-Fixative.html
For those of you who want to consider additional thoughts on fixing our pastels, there are some illustrations and other info.

• The National Gallery Conservation Dept. did a number of high-impact tests with pastel paintings. They found that after a 50-G impact on an unfixed pastel where a great deal of pastel would be knocked off, still more pastel could be dislodged as the result of a 10-G impact. They concluded after many tests that it is very important for the longevity of a pastel painting that it be carefully fixed both during and at the end of a painting.—RM

And for those who do not want to spray---we must each do what seems to work best for us and our own works. I DO build up a LOT of layers, usually, even over the alcohol washes I sometimes lay down first. No point in saying what is right or wrong. I just think it's great to experiment with some objectivity. And I, personally believe that the National Gallery has better research resources than I do. Whatever! :-)

As far as some of the galleries----such as the one here I commented on----Denyse was just "gun shy" of pastel paintings because she ended up with sooo many that ran into trouble with the pastel getting on to the mat or glass. That is what started her "caution." And she hated to have to take the time, energy and money to reframe a work!!! Or to just have to send it back or contact the artist to come in and get it. A lot of trouble for someone who is not just sitting around twiddling thumbs. And again----we do not need to darken our paintings when fixing them.

Again---we just need to do what works for us! Very best wishes! Donna ;-}

MChesleyJohnson
06-24-2006, 02:29 PM
Indeed, whatever works! :)

CindyW
06-25-2006, 07:14 PM
What would a 10G and a 50G impact be? Would falling off and down the wall be first a 50G impact and then falling face forward onto the floor be a 10G impact? Wondering if anyone knows just for the curiosity factor.

Also, Michael, do you work into the "wet" of the turp layer exclusively or just here and there when you feel the need? I use turpenoid for an underpainting on Wallis paper but I wait til it dries. I wasn't sure if using pastels with turps would cause the turps to spread into the stick and stay like oil would, I imagine. Probably the turps would dry and evaporate and not harm the integrity/makeup of the pastel chalk, you think? I definitely want to try these experiments with all these materials. Best to try all kinds of things to know what the materials are capable of. Also, that impact thing....if I can get a mock work together all framed up I'm going to let it fall down and onto the floor, but so many variables once again...is it a wood floor? Is it carpet? Is the painting just created? or 10 years old? Does age have anything to do with fixative's strengths of bonding and adherance? A little bit of scientific understanding is good to have about one's materials....so I'll let you all know what comes of my experiments but would love to know these details if anyone has 'em.
Cindy

MChesleyJohnson
06-26-2006, 08:54 AM
Cindy - If I'm using Turpenoid, I typically use it everywhere. The nice thing about Turpenoid is that it takes longer than alcohol to dry, so you have a certain amount of time to "play" with the brushstrokes. It really is painting! Once the underpainting dries, it leaves me with some lovely effects that I like to leave exposed. I dont go over the entire underpainting with thick applications of pastel but leave some of the underpainting exposed.

If I have an area that I want to stay quite light, such as a bright sky, I may choose to not do a wash. I may not even put any pastel in that area in the underpainting but wait until I apply final layers of clean color.

I'd say I use the wet technique about 50% of the time. The rest of the time, I just dive right in. If I have a bright, New Mexican-type day with lots of sparkle, I choose white Wallis paper and let some of the white show through at the end. (Underpainting with a wash will kill this.) If I have a day where the sparkle isn't obvious, I'll choose the Belgian mist Wallis paper and let the mid-tone value stand for one of the four values I break the landscape into. Inevitably, some of this gray shows through, and to great benefit of the final painting.

You may want to set up a rocket sled test area for your g-force test of paintings. Wear a crash helmet and a safety belt. ;)