An Unplanned Science Experiment


I make it a point to annually clean up my studio. And by clean I mean purge all of the junk that has accumulated, including supplies that turn out to be not as useful as I anticipated. This year I finally decided to face the dilemma of what to do with my old paintings. I finally decided that I could toss several because, for whatever reason, they didn’t sell and I felt that they no longer represented my style. So I removed them from their frames and threw them outside. My husband couldn’t stand the idea of someone getting one of my paintings for free from the garbage. I didn’t exactly take them right out to the road with a “free” sign on them. I just sat them out back by the garbage can and expected nature to take care of the rest – destroy the paintings!

What started out as simply tossing some old paintings turned into a bit of a science experiment. I thought that somehow, even though I know pastel isn’t as fragile as we are lead to believe, that the pastel would… blow away in the wind. It didn’t. I didn’t toss them into the recycle bin on recycle day. Instead I left them out knowing that rain was coming our way. Surely the rain would wash away all of the lovely pastel, or at least make the pigments merge into a muddy mess. Either scenario would eliminate the possibility of anyone ravaging through our garbage for future paintings.

After spending the entire night in the rain, the pastel remained intact. I couldn’t believe it! Maybe, because they were somewhat under an awning, they were too protected. I moved one directly into the rain, believing that once again, nature would destroy the paintings. I checked on them again the next day. I was still surprised. It appeared that none of the pastel had washed away!

rain-soaked pastel painting pastel still intact

rain-soaked pastel painting
pastel still intact

These paintings were done on illustration board. I do believe that I was using a fixative at the time I painted these. The top layer of the illustration board eventually separated from the bottom layers. And although wrinkled, the pastel was still intact! I was impressed. If I had know that it was going to work out like this I would have taken more scientific notes on the process. It actually makes me feel good knowing that I am working with such an awesome medium. I knew that pastel was supposed to be one of the most permanent of all media, but rain-resistant?

Illustration Board minus the top layer and my painting

Illustration Board minus the top layer
and my painting

From the Pastel Society of America’s website: “When protected by fixative and glass, pastel is the most permanent of all media because it never cracks, darkens, or yellows.” It is tempting to add, “and it won’t wash away in the rain.” But I won’t say that officially. I have worked on surfaces that didn’t hold the pastel at all. I won’t name names, unless you come to one of my classes. And then there have been other surfaces that have surprised me with their ability to hold pastel. I will name names – PastelMat. Anyway, over this two and a half-week period of time, I have become even more confident in my medium of choice. And I think I will take another look at fixatives.

Pastel still in tack, but detached from support

Pastel still in tack, but detached from support


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