Thursday, December 26, 2013

From the Mailbag: Pinning Pastel Paper to a Board

Pastel on paper showing the white margin left after removing artist's tape.
I used an alcohol wash to "fix" the block-in.

A reader writes:   I am fairly new to pastels, having painted with them for a little over a year.  Sometimes I do not use tape to hold my paper to the easel, but use push pins to pin them to cork board.  At my stage, this seems to work, and I'd like your opinion about the flaws of this method.  Also, since some of the paper edges become "dirty" with pastel dust, yesterday I used a black permanent magic marker to create a uniform border around each piece of sanded paper. I believe the look is preferred and very clean. Can using this type of marker do any damage to the picture? Eventually this border would be covered by a mat or frame.

First, permanent Magic Marker or Sharpie isn't permanent.  It's permanent only in the sense that it won't wash off with water; it will, however, fade quickly over time.  (The Sharpie website says 3-4 months if exposed outdoors; a few years if kept indoors.)  You say you will be covering the border with a mat or frame, so it sounds like this isn't an issue for you.  However, the chemicals found in the dye-based ink may not be acid-free and could cause damage to the mat or pastel paper over time.

Rather than using a Magic Marker to darken the messy border, I would suggest using an archival material.  Pastel makes the most sense, since you can blend it in with the edge of the painting more readily than any other material.  You could use another matte medium, such as gouache.  But if the border will be covered by a mat or frame, who cares?  It's only an issue if you "float" the painting.

Likewise with the holes created by pushpins.  The pins should be located within the 1/4" border that will be covered by the mat or frame.  The only issue I've had with pushpins is when I do a water-based wash such as with acrylic, watercolor or diluted alcohol which will make the paper buckle.  The pushpins create stress points that emphasize the buckling.

To solve the problem, I recommend using artist's tape to tape a border all the way around the paper and to fasten it to a backboard.  When you're done, just carefully peel off the tape - and, presto!  A beautifully clean border.  This even works if you do a wash for your block-in.  If you firmly seal the tape at the edges, the liquid won't leak under the tape, or not much.

A little leak at the corner.  If I'd pressed the tape down more firmly,
it wouldn't have leaked.  But, the mat covers it - so who cares?

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