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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pastel Q & A ...Do You Use Fixative?

'The Coming Storm'           11 x 14      pastel          ©Karen Margulis
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To Fix or not to Fix....that is today's Pastel Question.  I get this question from both artists and collectors. Do I use fixative on my pastel paintings.  The answer is Yes and No.  I use fixative to create special effects or to restore tooth to an overworked painting.  I never use any fixative on a finished painting.

What do you do to a finished painting?
  • I have always found that fixative darkened and dulled my colors so I preferred not to use them. I realize that there are some fixatives such as Spectrafix that claim not to change the colors, I have tried Spectrafix and have been pleased with the results. But I am so used to not spraying that I'd rather not take a chance with them. ( I once had a spray bottle squirt our blobs of fixative and ruin a painting so I don't want to take the chance of the happening again)
  • I build up my paintings in thin layers on sanded surfaces so I have very little dust build-up. I find that a good whack on the back of a finished painting is enough to dislodge whatever loose pastel is on the paper. I store paintings in between layers of glassine paper until framed. If I sell an unframed painting I cover with glassine and give instruction for proper care. See my post here on shipping pastels.
close up of the texture achieved with fixative
Spectrafix and Blair workable Fixative...my fixatives of choice

When do you use fixative and what kind do you prefer?
  • I love using workable fixative to create special effects. I take advantage of the fixative's darkening effect when I want to darken a passage in the painting.
  •  Fixative will restore tooth to overworked areas but the pastel layers on top of the fixative will be rougher. I happen to love this effect and exploit it.
  • I find that working over a layer of dried fixative creates an interesting textural effect. The pastel skips over the 'fixed' layer allowing the darkened layer to  peek through. (see photo)
  • To get even more interest you can let the fixative drip or dribble on your painting. The little dark spots can be exciting in the right place.
  • I have worked pastel into wet fixative for an almost sculptural effect.
Do you have a pastel related question for me?  I am making a list of questions to use in this weekly blog topic so comment below of send me an email with your question.


Casey Klahn said...

I am in complete agreement with what you say. I did find out, by accident, that using Lascaux final fixative may actually be worked over for some cool effects.

I think that users of fixative will experience a learning curve, and then see it for the great tool that it is.

Karen said...

Thanks Casey. I really do enjoy experimenting with fixative. I will have to try the Lascaux. I am always interested in trying something different! Thanks for commenting!

Hélène said...

I do use fixative. Some Pebeo and even cheap hair spray sometimes and I am glad about both. Thank's for your advices.