There are many different mediums artist use to create their artwork. One of the most misunderstood is the Pastel. Pastel paintings can be striking. No other medium can create effects the same way as a pastel. With that said, we are going to demystify "The Pastel Painting"
Pastel paintings are created using a pastel stick. They are usually created upon a substrate of course paper or other rough textured material. Pastel sticks are made with pure pigment and just the slightest amount of binder. Pigments are what makes up the color, usually found in nature. The binder is what makes up the mediums consistency. The pigments in a pastel stick are held together with gum arabic, gum tragacanth, or methyl cellulose. Pastels are made with the same pigments that oil paints and watercolors are made from. Minimal binder means the artist is applying virtually solid pigment to the paper.
The dense amount of pigment is what makes a pastel painting so unique. Light reflects off the shards of pigment at all different angles. Because of the density and the random patterns in natural pigments light comes of the finished artwork at many different angles. So orange is not simply orange it is many shades of orange ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Often this refraction can make the pastel appear to be lit up. No other artist medium has the same effect.
Pastel's don't fade like liquid forms of paint. They also don't crack. They do however require proper handling and framing to stand up to the test of time. First and foremost, the face of a pastel should never be touched. Since pastels are almost straight pigment, it's a very delicate medium that come off with a touch. Secondly pastel artwork needs to be framed in a special way because pastels shed. Pastels need to be framed under glass, but should never come in contact with the glass. A typical frame, mat and glass will work, however the pastel dust will often fall between the glass and the mat causing an unsightly smudged look. The proper framing technique is to use spacers in between the mat and the artwork. This will create a holding area for the dust when it falls that will keep most of it out of sight. Spacers also keep the work farther away from the glass and that extra distance helps reduce static.
There are fixative sprays that will hold the pastel pigments in place. The problem with fixatives is that they reduce the reflective qualities of the medium. Spraying a fixative can distort the color and integrity of the piece. It's typically advised to use lightly.
Pastels paintings are great creations. Nothing else can produce the brilliance of a pastel. Like most beautiful things they need to be handled properly. When you fall in love with a pastel take it to a framer that will use the proper techniques to make your artwork not only look good but last forever.
Now, go buy art. Every piece of art purchased makes the world a better place.