View Full Version : smear proof pastels

Linda Ciallelo
08-24-2002, 12:07 PM
There is another way to use pastels that will ensure that there is no possibility of smearing. I experimented with this method a few years ago, and am working on it again now. A few years ago, actually seven years ago, I did some small pastels using conte' pencil and nu-pastels on Strathmore Artagain paper. I did the drawing, sprayed it with Grumbacher workable fixative(heavily), then painted a thin layer of damar varnish over that. When it was dry, I went back in and reworked the details, brought up the lights, and adjusted it until it looked good. Then I fixed it again and did another layer of damar. Then I redid the same procedure a third time. Leaving the damar as the last layer. The little drawings are still fine, but I am concerned about the permanence of the paper.
In the future I am going to use Strathmore Aquarius watercolor paper. I will tint the paper with watercolor and spatter it. Then when dry, do the pastel drawing using Derwent, Conte', and nu-pastels. Then fix, then paint or spray "diluted" damar. I will try "spraying " the 1/2 strength damar with a pre-val sprayer(Rob Howards). I will dilute the damar with 1 part turpentine.
This is the seven year old drawing that I did using layers of Damar Varnish.
The secret to making this work, is the use of the fixative. If you don't spray heavily with workable fixative, the damar will melt your pastel drawing.

Laura Brito
08-24-2002, 02:22 PM
Very Interesting! So would you call it a Pastel drawing/painting, or would you say it is mixed media for purposes of classification?


Linda Ciallelo
08-24-2002, 03:11 PM
I don't know what it would be called. I have thought about this a bit. Someone on another thread asked why I would want to do this. Actually it allows you to produce something that very much resembles a photograph. That's not necessarily good. It all depends on what you're trying to do.

Laura Brito
08-25-2002, 01:50 AM
I really thought you picture was lovely and no it doesn't look like a photograph, but I am sure you could make something that did look like one, but I think you should these...lovely! And thanks!


08-26-2002, 12:19 PM
Beautiful painting. I consider this a painting since with pastels you are layering color to render your subject, unlike drawing where lines define the subject.


08-26-2002, 12:58 PM

This sounds like a great idea. But want to know - did you then frame behind glass -- or like an oil?

Visited your web page -- your work is extremely nice!

I would definitely call these pastel paintings - not mixed media. And it does not look like a photograph - unless you are talking about the surface quality. And saying that, is it a smooth finish?

Looking forward to seeing more and what you did on the watercolor paper. I wonder if anyone has tried this technique on sanded paper?

Marsha Hamby Savage Art (http://www.marshasavage.com)

08-26-2002, 02:41 PM
The paper did it get warped not sure how you would word it but did it dry completely flat or did you have trouble with it after you put the coat of damar on it? Dee

Linda Ciallelo
08-26-2002, 09:52 PM
All of the other works on my web page were done in the traditional manner. No Damar varnish was used. The only peices done with varnish, are these two small drawings/ paintings.
The paper did not buckle at all. This has me stumped too. The Strathmore Artagain, made from recycled paper products, having a heather like color, did not buckle at all. Yet other papers that I tried, buckled tremendously.
The reason that I used this method for this peice, is that it is very small(7x10) , and I needed the detail to be very fine. Without the damar, the detail in the baby's face would not be possible. The paper cannot be too dark in color, because the varnish makes the pastel transparent. The layers are needed mostly to bring up the whites. A light colored paper is best for this. I think that you will just have to experiment and see what will work.
I am experimenting now with different materials for fixatives. Rob Howard suggested skim milk, shellac, and diluted damar varnish, used in a Pre-val sprayer , instead of the usual fixative.
Another possibility is to render your pastel in a "lighter" color than you want for the finished product, since the fixative will darken it.
It would be nice , after you finish a full size pastel, to be able to eliminate the worry that it will get smeared without it looking heavy and dark. I have more experimenting to do before this method is perfected. Many of the colors that you see in these small drawings were much lighter when applied, but I expected them to darken when I applied the varnish.
In fact, I can tell you exactly what colors I used for these. I used Conte' pencils number 31,48,47,56, a little49, and a little 54. I also used nu-pastel white number 211.

08-27-2002, 11:26 AM
This may seem like a stupid question but I was wondering what Damar varnish is usually used for and can you buy it in an art supply store.


Linda Ciallelo
08-27-2002, 03:57 PM
Damar varnish is ordinarily used to varnish finished oil paintings. It preserves them and makes them shiney.It is also used as part of medium recipes. Mediums being the stuff that artists add to their oil paints to allow better manipulation, like with turpentine and linseed oil. You can find Damar varnish in any professional quality art supply store. I believe that it also comes in spray cans, sometimes referred to as retouch varnish, or finishing varnish.
To Marsha, I have not framed these , they are just in my portfolio, but since they are on paper, I would frame them with glass. No special framing would be needed because they are absolutely smear proof, the final finsh being hard, dry, and shiney.

08-27-2002, 05:53 PM
Linda...I was tempted to get some Damar today...saw it in a SPRAY

usually don't like aerosles...but thought it might work for this pastel use...

have you tried the spray?


Linda Ciallelo
08-28-2002, 12:18 AM
I just received a sprayer in the mail two days ago. It's one of those that can hold anything you want. I am going to mix up some damar and turpentine tomorrow and try it. I already tried egg wash in it. You should get the damar and apply it with a brush. You would still need to use spray fixative before that however. Over at the "Studio Forum" Rob Howard sells Pre-val sprayers that are quite good for this sort of thing.
I'll try it and let you know how it goes.:)

08-28-2002, 09:46 AM
Thanks Linda. I use a spray matte varnish on my oils (dont like the shiny look) called Blair.
This seems like a neat idea for some pastel work.

09-04-2002, 02:09 AM
I spray mounted some Wallis on foam core, and did two works that were spray varnished at each layer, and finally painted on varnish. The next time I tried it, I used a varnish for oil bar, I think, and had poor results. Can't remember the products that I used on the first go around, but I'll try to post them when I do.
Anyway, the Wallis was fine for this technique...