Is This Painting Sprayed? I get this question a lot.

The short answer is; “no”.

The explanation will take a bit longer.

In grade school we are introduced to pastels and the teacher usually has us spray them when we are done. And in most cases we are taught to use aerosol hair spray. Of course the art supply world has quality and pricier products that could be used for this application. But, we must proceed with caution! The only reason I would spray a pastel painting is if it will not be framed under glass. The grade school pastel we used as children was very low in pigment and quite high in chalk and was heading home to hang on the refrigerator. The pastels professional Artists use are high in pigment (arguably the highest color pigment medium in the art supply world) and very low in chalk and spraying has the potential to alter what has been painted.

I had a friend that had painted a series of three beautiful flowers where the background was simply her finger prints. Each time she worked on her paintings she would press her dirty fingers into the background. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! Her framer talked her into spraying them and said they would do the spraying for her. Imagine her surprise when she picked up her paintings and the finger prints were ALL gone! Yes, spraying can have that much of an effect.

Spraying also changes the texture of the pastels. I see this more so with the dark colors. And since one of the reasons an Artist uses Soft Pastels is for texture then it goes without saying that you don’t want to alter it.

And lastly; Soft Pastels set up over time. Once I had a painting fall of the wall and the glass broke forcing me to disassemble the frame. What I found was a small amount of pastel dust behind the mat, along with a lot of glass shards. The painting was safely intact and it was obvious the pastel had set up over the years.

Certainly, spraying makes the framers job easier because it allows them to flip the painting over when they want to assemble and shoot the brads into the back. But, it is easy enough to assemble all the layers, place the glass and frame on top and then slide the piece to the edge of the table and shoot the brads from below.

Other related articles: Framing a pastel painting.