Sunday, March 25, 2018

Cleaning Pastels with Cornmeal

I have to confess I'm not much of a cleaner.  Oh, I'm incredibly organized and neat.  I can easily find that scrap of paper with a note from five years ago, and you won't find a tool out of place in my studio.  But please, don't look at my pastel box!

As I paint, I try to wipe off pastels as I put them back into the box.  But in the heat of the moment, that doesn't always happen.  And over time, pastels just seem to get dirty on their own, even without my help.  They are dust magnets.

So, once a year, I clean the pastels.  I make some coffee and queue up the playlist.  For this year's event, I played just about everything Stevie Wonder ever recorded.  Or at least it seemed like it.

By the way, I used polenta to clean my pastels.  This is simply a coarser version of cornmeal.  Rice also works.  Don't use rice flour—it's too fine and doesn't work as well.

Tools are simple - two plastic containers with lids, metal sieve.

Put a handful of pastels in the cornmeal, close with lid.  Roll gently.
It doesn't take much effort or long to clean the pastels.
By the way, I start with the light values first.  This keeps the cornmeal cleaner longer.

Pour the cornmeal/pastel mix into the sieve.  Use a second plastic
container to catch the cornmeal.

Tap sieve gently to filter out cornmeal.  This provides additional cleaning.

Cleaned pastels, free of cornmeal.

Dump out the pastels on newspaper.  Since I start with the light values first,
I make as many piles as I have color categories. 
(I have six:  red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.)

The piles of light values.  The mid-values and dark values will be added as I progress.

Cleaned pastels.  On my Heilman box, I flipped over the little foam inserts so a clean side was face up.
The inserts can be washed if you are very particular.

Cleaning my pastels also gave me the opportunity to restock the box.
While cleaning, you become very clear on what pastels are lacking.

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