Techniques and Tips

Fighting the Pastel Fragility Bias, Part 3: Transporting Framed Pastel Paintings

Fighting the Pastel Fragility Bias, Part 3: Transporting Framed Pastel Paintings

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To conclude the discussion on fighting the bias often shown by the general public towards the pastel medium, I want to share a few additional tips on transporting pastel works after they are framed. All artwork that requires framing under glass has to be handled with care; otherwise, considerable damage can be done. Pastel, by its very nature, has certain characteristics that make it even more vulnerable to harm. Foremost among these is the fact that it never dries. This leaves the painting surface susceptible to smearing and dusting if mishandled. By placing a little extra effort into proper surface preparation in advance of framing, and by utilizing sound shipping / transportation procedures, the beauty and brilliance of the medium will be better preserved, breaking the public’s fragility bias.

Preparing the Pastel Painting for Framing

Before attempting to frame the pastel painting under glass, remove it from the drawing board, or substrate it is adhered to, and give it a gentle spanking on its backside while holding it upright. The pressure exerted will be determined by the weight of the surface. This will dislodge any loose particles of pastel that would be prone to falling against the glass in transport. Thinner surfaces will require a lighter hand, and rigid surfaces can take considerably more force. Depending on the surface tooth, pastel stick makeup, and hand of the artist, a fine layer of pastel dust may accumulate on the outer layer of a finished pastel. There are two basic ways to deal with this before framing. First, take the painting outside and gently blow on the surface. If you do this, be sure to step back from the area so as not to inhale any of the airborne pigment. Second, again take the painting outside, or into a very well ventilated environment, and apply a very light layer of fixative. When choosing a fixative, experiment first to see what effect it will possibly have by testing it on a similar scrap surface with pastel applied. Lascaux, Sennelier Latour, Daler-Rowney Perfix, and Krylon Gallery Fine Art Fixatif are all considered very good with little, if any, surface shift.

Ship Smart

When storing framed pastel paintings, it is advisable to place them in a sturdy plastic bag to prevent moisture adsorption. They should be leaned in an upright position so as to protect the glass from undue pressure that could potentially cause breakage. To prevent frame damage and to add some shock absorption, foam pipe insulation strips (available from a hardware or home supply store) can be placed over the edges of the frame. This keeps the frames apart when stacked together and makes slippage, when transporting in an automobile, less likely. When shipment is required, using protective glass tape, such as Glas-Skin, and sturdy cardboard boxes, such as the StrongBox, which are both available from Airfloat Systems, is advisable. (Note: A future blog posting will review shipping methods as we enter the time of year when exhibition shipment is looming.)

Prejudices take time to overcome, but the efforts of those that love pastel are showing signs of success. It is our duty to continue the momentum by vigilantly fighting the pastel fragility bias by always presenting our work in the best of ways.

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