As a pastel artist, I sometimes think about other mediums like oils and acrylics and I see the excitement of hanging a HUGE canvas on a wall and wonder, hey, I got the art technique down, why don't I switch from pastel to these other mediums and make BIG ART?
Truth is, there is a certain boldness and purity in color of pastel. And in every home, there is a wall that does not back a twelve-foot long sofa or an expansive, cavernous living room. I do admit however that I have done large pastels (21x27) that are about 32x40 framed, but they are the exception rather than the rule! Smaller rooms, narrow entrance-way walls, a lonely wall at the end of a long hallway, all can benefit from a smaller piece of art. A pastel painting can play a very special role in providing that comforting, decorative view.
So here are what I believe to be the pro's and con's of a pastel painting. Full disclosure: being a paste medium enthusiast, I will graciously debunk the supposed "con's," otherwise my pastel artist friends and collectors will be angry with me.
Pastel colors have a certain brilliance and purity that can exude boldness, often beyond the impact of mixed paints. One of my favorite pastel books is "Pure Color, the Best of Pastel," edited by Jim Markel and Maureen Bloomfield. Pastel manufacturers have come up with a surprising breadth of color (even pastels with sparkles and neon effects) that have expanded the range of possibilities in art. See my painting "Winter's Breath," an award-winner at the Great Lakes Pastel Society Small Works Show in 2021. Bold colors prevail!
Exquisite detail in a manageable size. The pastel medium is considered "drawing" as opposed to "painting." Detail can be achieved just as the oil painter can achieve exquisite detail with a tiny paintbrush. Bold strokes and various scumbling techniques are often used to convey motion and atmospheric impacts. "Under painting" techniques can enhance the contrast of colors and provide more pizzazz. See my painting below, "Recovering from Winter," featured in the 2021 Enduring Brilliance Exhibit hosted by the Butler Institute of American Art for the Pastel Society of America. Note the hints of red watercolor paint showing beneath the blue pastel.
Protected from the elements. A pastel painting is framed is glass and protected from dust and damage. This is an advantage over oils or acrylics, which need to be cleaned over time.
Pastels last a long time! There's a common misconception that pastels will fade over time. Not true, unless you leave your pastel hanging in direct sunlight, which, by the way, will fade any medium! Similarly, don't hang ANY painting in a moist environment. Common sense will preserve any art medium for years to come.
One might consider that the protective housing of a pastel painting can be considered a disadvantage since the pastel sits behind glass. Although protected from the elements, light reflections can distract from an unobstructed view of the pastel. This issue is easily resolved by using non-glare glass or simply placing the pastel in an area away from distracting light sources. And as noted above, you won't need to clean the piece of original art.
Falling pastel dust was once considered an issue, especially in the past before gritty sanded pastel paper became popular. Today, sanded papers such as Uart grab and hold onto the pastel. In case any particles do shake loose, raised frame mats or spacers keep the dust off the mat and glass.
Given their packaging, pastel paintings are more fragile than handling other mediums. I can stack oils or acrylics on top of each other if I want (not really recommended), but I will take greater care handling pastels. Storing pastels in a flat file, each covered with a sheet of glassine, is all you need to protect them in storage.
There are many online galleries and artist websites offering original pastels. Ordering an unframed pastel online would appear on the surface a bit problematic, but in reality, it is no big deal. Original pastels are protected with glassine and packaged tightly, arriving safely to be framed. I offer a bunch of unframed pastel paintings on Daily Paintworks. Once sold, I wrap the pastel in glassine, wedge it between two pieces of foam core, slip in into a mailer and off it goes.
Often, an online gallery will sell the painting already framed. If unframed, a pastel can be brought to to a fame shop for professional framing, or the consumer can frame the painting. I will follow-up with a future blog on my efficient and cost-effective way to frame an original pastel.
In the meantime, check out my blog on "Framing a Pastel Against Glass," and go purchase a pastel.