View Full Version : Selling your work

02-02-2010, 07:56 PM
I want to put two of my paintings in the local gallery this weekend but I'm worried about the dust getting on the glass etc.

I have framed them with a matt and I did lightly seal the pastels before framing them but I didn't use spacers, what are they? am I being negligent if I don't have spacers? are they a must?

Most people who have seen my paintings have no clue as to what pastels are and I know that if they weren't told they would only worry about the glass breaking while transporting the painting, they would think nothing of putting it face down in the boot of the car. I am horrified at the thought of someone coming back and saying that half their painting is on now the glass:eek:

Am I over reacting ? I have read so much about sealing the paintings, banging off excess dust, don't use this, do use that, I am now worried to the point of feeling guilty about selling something that is not user friendly:(

Also once your work is out of your hands lets say in an art show where the people selling it sometimes know less than the buyers, how do you make sure that it will be handled properly without scaring off prospective buyers? I'm thinking of gluing an information sheet onto the back of the painting but then I worry that they have to turn it over to read it:eek: also they only get the information after they have decided to purchase the work is that fair?

Am I making sense? To simplify ...I'm worried about how much and what type of information to give, where to place the information and do I have to have spacers:confused:

Thanks for any information or tips, I have never owned a pastel painting so have no idea what to expect with the dust under the glass, I feel like I'm selling something without knowing what I'm selling. But I have to start somewhere and the beginning seems like as good a place as any:)

Thanks Deborah.

Deborah Secor
02-02-2010, 09:28 PM
I always used pastel as a selling point, not a negative. Pastel is the most permanent of all media. It never cracks, darkens or yellows.

You really owe it to the buying public to provide a stabilized painting for them, however, so if I were you I'd be sure to smack your work around and see what happens. It may be a bit late for your already-framed paintings, but what I do is BANG, and I mean really BANG my painting on the floor. I smartly smack the back of the board with the painting taped to it, then remove my paper and curl it slightly, and firmly tap all four edges on the cement, turning it so that it's facing upwards properly for the last go. Once it's fairly free of excess pastel, I put a piece of clean newsprint or copy paper (if the painting is smaller) over my finished painting, holding it firmly in place, and briskly burnish the pastel down into the paper using the flat of my palm. This assures that most, if not all of the pastel is in place and fairly secure before beginning to frame it.

Spacers help, but for years, using the above methods, I framed with double mats and no spacer at all. I often explained to my buyers that the mats might show a bit of dust over time, but the painting was not damaged in the slightest by this! Mats need to be replaced--they will show wear, whether the dust does it or not. Bugs, dirt, bits of this and that migrate in. (This is why you want to carefully seal the glass to the back mat with some artist's tape along the edge before you frame it. It helps...) But replacing mats is far less expensive than replacing artwork!

Yes, you should be concerned if your painting is thick with loose dust. Naturally occurring static may pull a ghost of the image off the paper and onto the back of the glass. You really must exercise caution but it's not hard to do. In a gallery setting, the salespeople should have knowledge to help sell the work and let people know of the advantages, and how to care properly for any kind of art. You may need to educate THEM.

I often advise customers to clean the painting by spraying cleaner on a soft cloth, NOT the glass, because a bit of window cleaner will easily migrate under the frame edge and swell a mat, leaving a stain.

Engage them in understanding that this painting is very, very permanent, but all paintings need to be refitted with new mats and frames from time to time. If you put any information on the back, couch it in positive language. It's not a warning to beware of danger, it's advice about art and should be applied to all art. "It's best never to hand any artwork in direct sunlight, though pastel fades much, much less than other pigments do." That kind of thing!

Hope that helps...

02-03-2010, 02:22 AM
I read a good tip in The Australian Artist magazine not long ago that I do if I've put a lot of layers on the support. After doing the Deborah banging bit, so thee's nothing loose left, place the painting on a nice flat, firm surface and put a sheet of tissue paper over it, and roll it firmly with a nice heavy rolling pin. You probably get a more even cover than using your hand, and the pastel is firmly pushed into the support. Seems to work well, doesn't affect the painting at all, and there's this nice mirror image of your painting on the tissue paper!

02-03-2010, 06:21 AM
Debora's advice is excellent, and her burnishing sounds very similar to Jean's rolling pin trick.

I give all my customers a little folder, with instructions for care, a word or to about the motive they chose to buy, and a few words about pastels. They're really happy with that folder. In a gallery setting, it can be attached with a piece of thin string to the back of the frame, that way you only have to pull it up and out from behind the painting in order to read it.

I say something like:
Caring for the painting

Pastel paintings are quite sturdy. A sharp bump may shake loose a few pigment particles, but that is no problem, there is plenty of pigment in the painting. If possible, transport it 'lying on its back' in order to prevent pastel dust from falling on the glass. Should you need to handle the painting when it is unprotected by the glass, simply avoid dragging something over the surface. It handles a vertical pressure very well, but don't let anything moist touch it.

As long as you keep moisture and direct sunlight from the painting (just as you already to with your oils, watercolours, or acrylics), you only need to dust off the frame and the glass lightly, and now and then you'll need to clean the outside of the glass. Never spray cleaner on the glass, to avoid the liquid 'sneaking in' under the glass -- just moisten the cloth, and clean the glass gently.
I also ask them to check if a framer's shop have experience in handling pastels, in case they want to re-frame it.

I also go on a bit about my using acid free materials, and how the pastel pigment contains no gum or oils that can change with time, yellow/crackle/get brittle, it is just pure pigments that will look as freshly painted in year 2510 as today. It is a heirloom.

This is really appreciated by the customers.

Oh, I also use the best and 'grabbiest' papers, like Deborah. The true sanded papers (grit on top of glue, not grit mixed into gesso) are superior. (LaCarte and PastelMat are nearly as good.)

One of my paintings was less than perfectly cared for at an exhibition. For example, when picking it up after the event, I found it standing on it's edge, leaning face forward into another painting... As I'd used sanded paper, and smacked it on its behind before framing (no fixative, no burnishing), there were only two tiny specks of dust that had fallen off. Amazing. Too little to bother with opening it and cleaning, before delivering to customer. (Though I had to clean off hand and fingerprints from the glass...)

Safely framed, a pastel is about as delicate as a watercolour, in other words, not much delicate at all.

Well, this is meant as something to spark your own inventiveness about what to say and do.


02-03-2010, 10:38 AM
. . . place the painting on a nice flat, firm surface and put a sheet of tissue paper over it, and roll it firmly with a nice heavy rolling pin. You probably get a more even cover than using your hand, and the pastel is firmly pushed into the support. Seems to work well, doesn't affect the painting at all, and there's this nice mirror image of your painting on the tissue paper!
Yikes. What about that "famous" quote about diamonds? --> "A particle of pastel pigment seen under a microscope resembles a diamond with many facets. Therefore, pastel paintings reflect light, like a prism. No other medium has the same power of color or stability. Properly framed, pastel paintings are one of the most permanent painting mediums." [more here (http://www.pastelinternational.com/tips/tips.html#whatispastel)]

I'm not sure I'd subject my precious 'diamonds' to a heavy rolling pin, but hey that's just me. :rolleyes:


02-03-2010, 04:42 PM
Thank you all for such extensive answers they help me a lot.

I did bang my paintings a lot while I was painting them as I had never heard of artist banging their work around so I wanted to see what would happen, I can't remember doing it quite as vigorously as described above:) but I also sealed them which I regretted as I could really see how much darker/duller they went. When I framed them they were front side down and I had to bang a few times to get the back in so I guess that was a bit of a test I feel comfortable with selling these now and next time I'll "smack them around" a bit more LOL.

The information, prompts and great link you guys have given me are just what I need to write up an information card amazing how just a few words from each of you have put me in a whole different mind set( much more positive), I like the idea of comparing pastel to oils and water colours.

When you bang the painting around what happens to that very last little touch of colour so softly placed that I read about so much, same for covering up the painting and flattening it .
Charlie mentions paper types I have been given a lot of Schminke Sansfix paper it would seem to be high quality paper but when I have searched on this forum no one really mentions it on here is it good? is there a reason it is not popular?

Thank you so much once again.

02-03-2010, 06:10 PM
Sorry don't know about the sansfix, but I've learnt from this thread too. Learnt that I'm not the only person who bangs their pastels into submission! Never tried the rolling pin trick yet though.
I wonder if the pastels will revolt. I imagine a Society for the Protection of Pastel Paintings from Abuse!! Still we're being cruel to be kind I think!

02-03-2010, 06:51 PM
Dust fell off Degas' paintings, too, so we're in good company. But...

That paper... ah... I see... very good you put fixative on it. It *is* a great paper for textured oil-paintings, and acrylics. And preparatory sketches, those that are nevermore to be seen by human eyes.

I've decided to not be nice, anymore. Here's the unvarnished (and un-fixated) truth:

One of my early pastels, on a full sheet, was getting dirt on the mat, so I took it down, stored it in a corner of my studio (still in the frame), and didn't touch it for a year or so. Then I needed to move the stuff from that corner, picked up the painting, and got a shock. I've dubbed it "The Avalanche".


I've only removed the frame in the above pic, you can actually see the lower edge of the glass still on it. I just had to take the pic.

And from the 'nice' sandy neutral pile, you can see that all colours have fallen off:


Sans ('without') fix -- indeed.... must mean, "you can't keep the pastel on the paper unless you drench it with epoxy"!!! :evil:

This is not what should be sold under a name that implies that no fixative is needed -- not to pastel artists, at all.

I won't tell you what to do, but I never ever let my sticks touch that paper, ever again, even if it was the last sheet of pastel paper on earth. Even Pans just fall from it, and they have really good stickability.

Yes, I'm a wee bit miffed at the producers of that so called pastel paper.

And for the record, I do totally love their pastel sticks, with their creamy fluffiness that go on top of anything, with clear brilliant colours.


02-03-2010, 07:39 PM
Hi Deborah -- You've already received a lot of good info here. You should be fine if you follow Deborah and Charlie's advice on preparing your framed pastels. I have to offer up, though, that you do need to make sure that the people handling your artwork know how to handle a pastel. Even the best prepared, framed pastel will suffer if it is abused. I had a large pastel painting shipped to an exhibit halfway across the country and it was returned to me completely destroyed. The entire pastel was shaken so badly that it was a complete mess and the frame was cracked in four places. The art shipper had placed the painting face down in an art carton without the padding I had provided and sent it by truck halfway across the country even though I had paid for two day Fedex. It was a big loss for me (and it was one of my favorite paintings!). So, just make sure the people who are handling your paintings are professionals or at least have been shown how to properly care for artwork.

02-04-2010, 01:25 AM
Ruthie I had similar thoughts when Deborah mentioned smacking her work around:lol:
Charlie and Eden that is awful :eek: It would seem between Charlie's paper and Edens painting story I am right to have some concerns:confused: I guess I will just be as informed as I can and try to make the right choices.

Charlie with the paper I have it is called sansfix and feels like sand paper I haven't put any fixative on it, I haven't used it yet my mother gave me a few packets of it that she had, is this the same product? thats sad as I was sooo excited to use it, but I would rather know than have all my hard work off:mad:

Thanks Deborah.

02-04-2010, 06:54 AM
Eden, what a horror! The frame broken in four places says it all... What did they do to it, one wonders --

Deborah, I'm sorry, I wasn't clear at all in my above post: Yes, it is Schmincke Sansfix on the pictures.

It looks like a sandpaper, but when you drag your fingers over it, the texture is also somewhat smooth, like the grain is made out of tiny rounded pebbles.

As you're Down Under, you have easy access to AS Colourfix, it is a much better paper, but it still needs a light coat of fixative. But even unfixed, there is no avalanche. The 'grabbiest' papers are, imho, Wallis, probably Uart (I've not seen it), Fisher, Clairefontaine PastelMat, and Sennelier's PastelCard. After 'smacking them about', very little dust will fall off, during normal hanging, handling, and transport. I've had two boxes packed with standing pastels in my car (either that or 30 trips to and fro), and barely a speck fell off. What Eden's painting suffered was in no way 'normal'.


02-04-2010, 07:22 AM
Hi guys -- I didn't mean to scare you away from anything Deborah :eek: As Charlie said, my case was extreme but it was the result of a very lazy and incompetent art handler. I should have told you that I've also sent out some pastels over and over again and they are still absolutely intact without a speck of dust on the glass. Use a good quality paper and do what Deborah and Charlie told you and your paintings will be fine. My only point in telling you that story -- not only because I still think of it so often :mad: - is to just make sure you know who is handling your stuff. I still always make sure to tell people to be gentle with the painting, don't put it face down, don't shake it, etc. more as a preventative measure than out of actual fear that they will wreck the painting.

02-04-2010, 08:56 AM
Totally invaluable reading....... thankyou for starting this thread and thank you for the comprehensive answers.....

... ... off to do a bit of hard banging and have already ordered some pastelmat !