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To fix pastel paintings or not

I paint with soft pastels on UART sanded pastel paper. According to the description of the paper, there should not be need for fixing. Yet, my framers complain that I should fix my paintings, and several times they have also smudged the painting even though I asked them to be very careful. Of course, that’s most depressing. For this reason, I have tried several fixatives (Winsor & Newton, for instance) and got disappointed every time. Even if I try to apply it very lightly, the paintings get darker or even spotted, and the nozzles get clogged. Some of my paintings have even ended up in trash because of my frustration at this stage.

How about sending unframed pastel paintings? Do you fix them for the customer and how do you protect them for shipping? If I don’t fix a painting done on sanded paper, how can I tell the buyer clearly enough to be very very careful with it and advise the framer to be careful, too?

I’ve never used UART sanded paper, so can’t speak from experience about that brand. I may often spray my work during its production, but the last layer or two I may leave unfixed. Lately I’ve been spraying with Spectrafix (Casein formula), rather than the usual fixatives that you get from W&N, Daler, etc; it seems to dry back fine and I haven’t noticed any negative effects. One thing to note with Spectrafix, though, it doesn’t spray huge clouds of fine “mist” like other dispensers (well, mine doesn’t, anyway!).
The only way I’ve managed to get a light touch with a fine spray is to put the work vertically inside a fairly big cardboard box and hold the can at least twelve to fifteen inches from the work’s surface.
I send unframed pastels from the U.K; they are lightly fixed. I protect the surface with glassine paper (which prevents static, this can lift pastel particles), before sandwiching the work between two pieces of rigid hardboard, firmly taped left-to-right and top-to-bottom, to prevent slippage and rubbing. This all then goes in a large padded mailbag. If your work isn’t fixed, you could attract your buyer’s attention to this fact in red-coloured type in your dispatch letter. And maybe create a large label or card with the same info, that the buyer can take with them to the framer’s. Plus, encourage them to retain the protective papers and board.
P.S I’ve found that almost all pastel papers and cards need a little fixative (have to be careful with Sennelier-card!). The closest to a zero-fix is PastelMat.
Sorry for the ramble…just love pastels and papers!

Thank you very much, this was really helpful! I already found a shop selling Spectrafix in Europe (ArtDiscount).

I seldom work in soft pastels because the dust from them bothers me. My favorite pastel artist, Leslie Harrison, (google her works) recommends NOT using any fixatve on pastels. Her works are gorgeous. I have tried a few myself but they did nothing but destroy the work. When I sell a pastel, I seal them in clear envelopes so they will not get touched or smudged. Framers should know better then to touch a pastel anywhere other then the edges.

Thanks, Patricia! It’s good to hear that there are others who have got frustrated with fixatives. But my fear of the framers smudging the paintings is as great as that of spoiling by fixing. So I’ll try Spectrafix when my order arrives. Leslie Harrison’s work are truly spectacular!

If your framer can’t deal with it he is not an experienced framer. I’ve been paining pastels and professionally framing them for over 45 years and never use fixative. I have not found a good fixative yet although hope springs eternal.

I think you’re quite right. I’ll have to make myself clear to the framer.

The Spectrafix can arrived some time ago, though, and I tried it on some of my old pastel paintings. It worked definitely the best of all the types I have had so far! I actually could not see much, if any, difference after the spraying. I noticed that the mist was most even when I laid the painting horizontally and sprayed in the air above the painting. I think I’ll keep on testing, maybe taking a photo of the image before and after spraying with Spectrafix (and letting it dry).

I use fixative (Spectrafix) between layers of pastel but I often do not fix the final layer. I am now doing my own framing on works for art shows, local sales, etc. and use spacers instead of matting and also use museum glass. I don’t have to worry about someone mishandling the work that way. However, when I put the works up for sale here, they are shipped without framing. I put the painting under glassine paper and tape it with masking tape to a piece of foam core that is a little bigger (perhaps an inch all around) than the painting. Another piece of foam core goes on top and these are taped together. Information about the painting and handling instructions are taped to the top side along with my business card. Then everything is wrapped in brown paper and shipping taped securely. Addressing information applied and off to the post office it goes.

That sound like it’s working very well, thank you for sharing! Can you tell me where you get that foam core and if it’s expensive? Do you use it for anything else?

Well, you can get it a Walmart, but I purchase in bulk from Dick Blick.

I have now had the opportunity to test Spectrafix. I think it’s by far the best fixative I’ve tried. The droplets seem big when sprayed but they really disappear! But I’ll keep on testing on secondary works before applying on any major ones. As to the choice of a competent framer - I live in a nook of Finland where the choices are very few, unfortunately.

If a framer doesn’t know how to frame a pastel or handle it. Get another framer because they don’t know what they are doing. It’s basic stuff. I’ve been framing for over 45 years and paint in pastel, oil, acrylic, etc. I don’t use fixatives. The sanded papers are wonderful.

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Always wanted to try pastels but it’s a whole other animal…

@dsrandall that sounds right, seems they should know how to handle if they are professional framers!

I’ve unfortunately have had those very same things happen to my paintings. That’s until I tried a Cassie and milk based formulation pump nozzle,no toxic fumes, when I sprayed lightly and farther away from the surface,it only darkened until it dried! Then my colour turns right back to normal and with no mottling or textural effects either!
The only downside of this fixitive is well that I encountered were… sometimes the nozzle would get a little clogged and a uneven spray with big droplets of the fixitive would make a uneven spottiness. Just always remember to shake it for a while longer and also pull up on the pump and the very top will come off then give it a good hard blow then submerge it in very hot water for 15-20 minutes and it should take care of that problem!
I swear by it. It’s called Spectra or Art Spectra cassien and milk based reworkable fixitif spray. I boasts that it’s the same formulation that Degas kept a secret for years! It’s uses the protein’s from the milk. To do what I don’t know but the stuff is awesome! I order it from DickBlick’s .com I think it’s around 14$ to 18$
Hope this information finds you well?! BTW…I too love using UART 500 Sanded paper!
I like to do juicy watercolor underpatings and even India Ink thinned out with water works great to!

This thread is quite old ( 2017 ) but I hope someone can give me some advice.
I am new to Pastels and have framed a few of them under “Anti Reflex Glass” they look OK but the glass seems to dull down the details and seems to subdue the colors somewhat.
After watching a recent Marla Baggetta demo where she highly recommends using Krylon " Fine Art Fixative" …
I’m not sure if she still mounts them under glass, or, just leaves them that way with the fixative as the final coat and for presentation.
What are you experienced pastelists doing?
Thanks, Eric