How to care for pastel artwork
18 January 2021
If you are reading this, then you likely fall into two categories – someone thinking about buying a pastel artwork or you have already bought a pastel artwork. Either way, congratulations because pastels are amazing! But do you know how to care for pastel artwork? Keep reading I’ll tell you how!
So, what are pastels you may ask? Well, pastels come in many shapes and sizes. They can come in pencils, pastel sticks or even panned colours. They are made by mixing dry pigment and binder. The higher quality pastels (the only ones I use) contains less binder, meaning more vibrant, eye-popping colour that can’t be matched by any other medium.
Owning a piece of pastel art is more than a pretty picture to look at – it is an investment. And like all investments, it needs to be looked after. But how?
Don’t worry, this blog will help you understand how to get the most out of pastel artwork and to protect it for generations to come.
Pastel art needs to be protected by glass as it can be easily smudged. Just think of it like chalk on a blackboard! The best way to protect pastel art is by framing it. But it is not as simple as buying any frame and shoving it in.
The NUMBER 1 RULE to framing pastel is the artwork must not touch the glass! I cannot stress how important this is. If the art is directly touching the glass the dust particles from the pastels will lift off and get stuck to the glass, ruining sections of your artwork. Trust me, I learned this the hard way when whole parts of my art were rubbed off! The best way to ensure the piece is not touching the glass is by using double mat boards.
You may have heard of mat boards before but if not, it is a thin, flat piece of card like material inside a picture frame. It is used for decoration and practical purposes such as separating the artwork from the glass.
One mat board will be at the front of the artwork, usually in a colour that will complement the artwork. The other mat board will be cut smaller and attached using spacers, behind the original mat board, allowing any dust particles to fall between the mat boards. This also means your art is not touching the glass. Always ensure you use acid-free materials, especially if it will directly touch the artwork.
When it comes to framing, using a professional framer who specialises in framing pastel artworks is always recommended. For Brisbane clients I recommend:
61 Vulture St (Cnr of Cambridge St) West End, Brisbane, Queensland 4101 (07) 3846 1616
I’d also love to know your recommendations for other framers from around Australia. Leave a comment below!
To use fixative or not to use fixative?
This is a touchy subject for most artists. I do not use fixative on the end product as it changes the colouring and contrast of your artwork. All those stunning light highlights in your artwork will be lost and your artwork will be darkened once sprayed with a fixative.
Also, ensure your framer will not spray the piece before framing. Some framers have ruined pieces of art by spraying them! Imagine spending money on a piece of art and having it ruined before you can even hang it!
Day to day care:
- Do not hang your artwork where it will be in the direct sunlight. Sunlight will fade your artwork.
- Keep your artwork away from moisture. Do not hang in rooms such as a bathroom or laundry.
- Try to keep your artwork upright. You risk dust particles falling off if you lay it artwork side down.
- Try to not knock your artwork around as dust particles could be dislodged.
- To clean the frame do not spray it directly as some cleaner may leak behind the glass. Spray any cleaner onto a cloth first.
- Avoid touching the artwork directly, not only could it smudge but the oils from your hands and fingers could degrade the paper over time.
And that my friend is how you take care of pastel artwork. Pastels are extremely durable so don’t be afraid to own one. Just like any piece of artwork with good care you will have a piece of art that will last a long time.