Notebook, 1993-


Pastels - The Pastel Chalks - Manufacturing the Chalks - Table of chalks & Binders - Binders - Supports & Grounds - Paper for Pastels - Painting Procedure - Fixative - Care and Display

From: Kay, Reed. The Painter's Guide to Studio Methods and Materials. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983.

Pastels - Fixative

The fixative solution that is sprayed over the pastel binds the pigment rather weakly to the ground and makes it possible to move the picture without causing the pigment to powder away from the surface. It does not bind the colors so strongly that they may be carelessly rubbed or roughly handled. If an excessive amount of fixative is used, it makes the color darken immediately and lose its brilliance.

The commercial products on the market are usually very thin solutions of resins in a fast drying solvent, such as alcohol or benzine.

Mastic varnish, diluted to a 2 percent concentration in alcohol, is often recommended, as is

2 percent dammar in benzine.

Pure white shellac has been used, thinned in alcohol to a 2-percent solution.

More recently: Synthetic resins, principally acrylics or vinyls, diluted in petroleum solvents or alcohols have been sold as pastel fixatives by manufacturers of artistsÍ materials.

Casein solution (4 onces casein in 1 quart water), thinned with alcohol, can be used as a fixative and is made in the studio by thoroughly mixing the following ingredients:

If any residue is deposited at the bottom of the bottle, gently pour the rest of the liquid into another bottle and throw away the residue. If the liquid is very cloudy, it may be filtered.

Acrylic resin solution (5 onces by weight of Elvacite 2044 dissolved in 8 fluid ounces of turpentine or V.M. and P. naphtha) can be used to make a fixative if it is thinned with more solvent in the following proportions:

The toluene may be omitted, but its inclusion produces a fixative that dries somewhat more rapidly. The artist should observe the usual precautions in regard to fire hazards since these solvents are flammable.

In general, these fixatives are best whose solvents evaporate most rapidly. Fixatives made with water as a principal solvent evaporate relatively slowly, soaking the pastel and causing the color particles to become dull and dark.

The solution is sprayed evenly over the surface of the picture, usually by means of a fixative atomizer or a mouth-tube blower. The pastel should be laid face up on a horizontal surface, such as a table. The spray is directed from a distance of several feet away from the picture, so that it falls in a light arc and lands on the pastel in even bands. Begin the spray outside the edge of the picture and carry each band of spray beyond the picture's edge to prevent an uneven buildup of fixative along the sides of the picture. The less fixative used, the better, for even small amounts change the colors slightly.

If fixative is to be sprayed over a large area, a spray gun . . . . is a convenience. This type of inexpensive sprayer has a small removable reservoir jar into which the artist can put the fixative. A fine mist is produced, which, if carefully applied in very thin sprays, can cover a large area evenly without too much gloss.

Whenever any sprays are used in the studio, the artist should be aware that inhaling the solvents or resins used in many commercial products may be unhealthy. Manufacturers' warnings printed on containers should be taken seriously. Adequate ventilation should always be maintained. Artists using sprays for prolonged periods should protect themselves with respiratory masks. [pp.. 211-212]

[Kay, Reed. The Painter's Guide to Studio Methods and Materials. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983.]



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