How to frame powdery artworks
Artwork done with any powdery medium such as charcoal, pastel or chalk are valued for their luminosity and velvety quality. Charcoal was used in cave paintings, but it was mixed with animal fat to form a paste which has lasted to this day. Pastels have been used for centuries, starting around the 17 hundreds. The main challenge of using and preserving them has always been to keep this powdery medium on the paper, especially when it has been overworked.
Artists discovered that by using a fixative, they could stop the pastel from flaking off or smudging. Edgar Degas was known to use milk, which when it dried helped hold the pastel to the paper .The milk was applied with a simple mouth atomizer. Nowadays canned spray fixative can be used, it is very effective, but it has to be used carefully because it may splatter or change subtleties in the work. Fixative works to a degree, but other measures must be taken while framing. This type of work, as all works on paper must have glass or acrylic, plus one or two mats to keep the glazing away from the medium.
Unfortunately there are other issues. Any of these mediums, if applied thickly and even if they are fixed, will continue to detach from the paper if jarred or knocked. The powdered pigment from the pastel, chalk or the charcoal will fall and collect on the mat. To avoid this, at Lavinia’s we use spacers, either a whole mat or strips of Matboard placed behind the mats to allow any powder that may detach to fall in the space created and NOT on the mat. This applies for all of these mediums.
One more thing; If the piece is large, will be traveling or in a child’s room where broken glass can be an issue, you may want to use acrylic. Unfortunately acrylic creates static and when wiped and will pull the powder medium from the art, to the surface of the acrylic. The option here is static free acrylic which we carry at Lavinia’s. If you have any questions about how to frame any kind of work or object, please call or stop by.