Pastels for the Dishwasher - A Mixed Media Approach
I attended an exhibition which featured large works using soft pastel on canvas. Although the artist had used fixative to protect the work, she displayed them without protective covering, and they were therefore very vulnerable. (To see the series called "River Music" click here)
On the one hand, being large and on canvas, it would have been prohibitive to frame the pieces under glass: on the other hand, they were very easy to damage.
I wondered how to create pastels that would not require glass or other external means to protect the work. At the same time, I am very interested in exploring the use of pastels beyond the traditional paintings and/or drawings, especially in the context of mixed media works. Combining these two goals, I began experiments to create “pastels for the dishwasher.”
The following steps can be used to create your own works.
- Begin with wood panels, which are now easily available at art supply stores, and seal the surface of the wood with two coats of acrylic matte medium. Wood is easy to work on and is sturdy enough to support the final coat of resin.
- Apply a background colour to the panel. (In my series, “River Music” I used very wet acrylic, and spattered rubbing alcohol on the wet paint to create interesting surface effects.)
- At this point it is possible to work the surface of the panel with paint, drawing, texture or collage elements. (In River Music, I outlined the forms with pencil, and applied collage elements including sheet music and a variety of materials, coating with acrylic medium to seal. I used thin coats of transparent acrylic paint to add colour, providing both value and colour contrast, and added small highlights of silver leaf to the surface.
- Once you have finished the underpainting, seal the dry surface with a coat of acrylic pouring medium, followed by a coat or two of clear gesso. The gesso provides a good “tooth” for the pastel.
- At this point, paint the sides of the panel (I prefer black or white).
- Complete your painting with soft pastel, spraying occasionally with fixative. (I use a variety of fixatives, finishing with a clear acrylic spray.)
- Seal the pastel using acrylic pouring medium. To minimize degradation of the pastel, apply a small amount of the medium to the top left corner of the panel, and spread it thinly using an old business or credit card. Repeat, moving to the bottom right corner, until the entire surface was covered with the medium.
- In some areas, it is possible that the pastel will become somewhat degraded (either darken or even disappear). In that case apply another coat of clear gesso, and add more pastel, re-sealing with pouring medium. (These steps can be repeated until you are happy with the sealed pastel painting.)
- Brush on a final generous coat of pouring medium, ensuring the entire surface is covered, and no bare areas remain on the panel. (This is important to ensure the quality of the final resin surface.)
- Take the finished pieces to a professional framer to apply the resin coating. Prices may vary (my framer, Elgin Picture and Frame in Toronto, charges $0.15 per square inch, which is about $25.00 per square foot). Although this might seem somewhat costly, it is still less expensive than framing the piece under glass. If you are experienced at handling pouring resin, you may wish to do this yourself, however, I recommend professional application - it is easier and safer and gives a fabulous result.
I have had very positive reaction from the public, who like to see the various layers of the work, and the depth it can create. Many have commented on the “jewel-like” appearance of the pieces.