Re: Second try was the charm
Not just the fixative was different, which was the same Spectrafix in both cases.
In the failed one I worked on Canson Mi Teintes paper, which was partly at fault because it doesn't tolerate dampening, and Spectrafix is a water based product. In the second I used Pastelmat, my prefered paper, as it works beautifully AND is resistant to warping with water or liquids.
In the first I sprayed the fixative directly from their spritz bottle and too close and too much, while the painting was vertical. Hence it ran like crazy!
In the second I used a mister (works really well!) on the horizontally placed painting at a distance and did not over-spray it.
I can see some slight darkening of some colors, but nothing you would notice if not nitpicking.
I used primarily Sennelier half sticks from their Landscape 80 set. Tried a bit of the full stick Dark set, but only liked it a bit and I found them harder, not crumbly. Just my experience so far.
Thanks for the compliments. BTW, these are not from life nor a reference photo; the scene is completely imagined from prior nature observation.