Over the 45 years of painting mega numbers of paintings in soft pastels, I have learned a thing or two and want to share:
Pastel painting is the purest medium to paint with....almost pure pigment with a tiny bit of binder and they can last for centuries if treated correctly. I absolutly adore working with them and highly reccommend them to those that want to strengthen their color sense.
As for the "treated correctly" part.....
This became clear again when recently a dear friend showed me the pastel portraits I had painted of his 6 children approximately 12-15 years ago. Each one has developed varying amounts of mold on them. Yikes, crap, and all that !!
You can see little brown or white spots on the portrait of Kyrie I have attached here....no they are not freckles ...wish they were!
The reason for this is two-fold:
1. Dampness is pastels' greatest enemy, and the Eastern Shore area of Maryland where we both live is a humid area; therefore, avoid hanging the painting in rooms where ventilation is low and never store them in basements or on walls where mildew has been seen. Old horsehair plaster walls are another no-no.
2. Certain papers have been more prone to this problem too, such as Sennelier brand "la-carte" papers made with natural vegatable fibers for one. I have not used that paper for 10 years now because of this even though at the time it was a very fine, top of the line foundation for pastels. Live and learn.
FYI this mold problem can happen to any paper product especially under glass which is how you frame paper art. I have seen it on photos, maps, watercolors, drawings, the list goes on, even, in extreme cases on oil paintings. So what to do?
1. Do not hang painting where sun directly shines on it. Even if it has uv-protection glass, the heat of the sunlight will cause condensation to form under the glass, which of course is moisture.
2. Again, never store/hang in damp/dark areas, basements or on mildew prone walls.
3. Make sure your framer has attached small bumpers to the back of the frame on the bottom two corners that lifts the art work away from the walls and allows more airflow to occur.
4. Only use foundation products (papers) that you know to be safe...of course this can't always be determinded but do the best you can.
I do know how to remove and treat normal amounts of mold damage (this could be a topic for a future blog) but this amount is too much to remove and feel good about "getting it all" so as not to return, sooooo..... I will re-paint all six portraits !!
OMG!! you might say, but it is the best solution in this case and I want to keep my dear friends as my dear friends. :-)
Maybe as they are finished I will post the before "moldy oldie" and then the "new re-do". (gosh what a clever line)
So the wrap up:
Keep them away from too much dampness, use a good uv-protection glass and you will have a lifetime of enjoyment and the world will have pastel masterpieces for centuries.