This is solid information for artiss new and, ah hem, not so new.
From Sue Buck
I was asked to talk about how I spray my pastel drawings and I am pleased to address that. This might be helpful to those who are artists, but it might be interesting to everyone who see the stages of my drawings. I have decided to make this spraying business a separate post from the stages of the drawing I am currently doing. This posting will be long and detailed. A warning…LOL.
First off, the pastels I use for these ape drawings are called soft pastels. They are soft and somewhat fragile in some ways at least. They allow you to smoosh things around easily and can get kind of mushy which you may or may not want at the time. With barely a touch and you have a mark. It is like what I imagine a sports car is like with a sensitive accelerator,
Before continuing I should say here that I am not considered a traditional pastel artist. They do not tend to spray their work and they keep the colors of their pastel sticks neatly and carefully separated. Some of you who have seen me work in person, you know I throw all of my pastels together. I will often not be able to find the color that I want and accidentally pick up the wrong one. I start to use it and then realize it is not what I thought it was. Sometimes I am bummed, but more often I am like okay let’s see what this one does. For me it is as if the drawing wants me to go that direction. It is fun like that. I am also quite fond of hearing the clinking and clanking sounds as I rummage through my pastels to find something. Gotta love the whole process.
Well, why am I talking about soft pastels so much when I was supposed to be talking about spraying? I do this because these pastels are so soft that they can smear and smoosh in ways that you like, but also in ways that you do not. For decades I would use commercial spray fixatives to seal layers and to seal a finished drawing. I used cheap fixatives and expensive fixatives and truthfully none of them really worked.
When I would touch the drawing ever so lightly, I could see that pastel still lifted off. One of the biggest problems I had with those fixatives is that they would change the color and value of the pastel. ugh. Another thing about those fixatives is that they smell bad and are very unhealthy to be around. Years I spent taking drawings outside to spray them. Then when I was working on large five feet by seven feet drawings, I would spray and run outside while the spray settled. This was a pain for sure and for many years.
In the mid nineties when I was going back out west and doing drawing workshops in Albuquerque, one of my students recommended using PVA Sizing as a fixative. I had not heard of such a thing. Well, that changed my life and I have never gone back to commercial fixative sprays. Now I can spray it while I am in the room and it actually seals. Heaven sent.
Once I learned about this new way of spraying, I started doing drawings with many layers and found that I could work in much the same way one can work with paint. Sometimes I just spray very lightly to kind of seal a layer. Sometimes on a layer I spray it several times to fully seal that layer before I add more pastels over top. I tend to play these layers off of each other, some transparent and some more opaque. I play the textures off of each other, too.
The detail photo of this drawing here shows that layering and texturing. It is different for each drawing. These are things that I see while I am working and you the viewer can only see if you see the real drawing or in detail photos like this. When a work is finished, I spray it many times and always allow each spraying to dry before adding another. By the time a drawing is completely finished, it probably has been sprayed thirty times.
A bit of a warning about the Preval Sprayer…..it can drive you nuts. Be sure to align the hole of the nozzle with the notch in the bottle lid. The sprayer’s label will tell you that. As with any spray bottle or spray can, it can sputter and not work sometimes. That is the reason you start the spraying away from your drawing and once it is spraying smoothly, move right over to your drawing. When working with these sprayers, I do a lot of cussing, a lot of pleading and even some sweet talking. Often I need to just set the sprayer down to allow both it and me to calm down. Once you get it working though, it is worth all of the hassle.
I just realized that I forgot to mention in this post that spraying creates a new texture for the pastels to stick to. Once there is so much material down, the surface can get so smooth that it will no longer take pastels.
As you can see, I am more than willing to answer any questions you would like to ask. When it comes to art making, nothing I do is secret.