I love the fact that pastels are more permanent than other paint mediums. Paintings made with pastels belong in any collection of art where longevity is especially valued. Unlike other paint mediums, the pigments of pastels are not saturated with a binder, which means pastels will not yellow, darken, or craze with age like other paint media. Once properly framed with archival materials under UV-resistant glass, a pastel painting will last for centuries with minimal care. Pastel paintings in museums from the 18th century, for instance, are as bright and fresh today as when they were painted.
Ars longa, vita brevis means that art will last longer than life. That's true only if proven, quality materials are used to make art. In past centuries, artists took care to ensure that buyers who purchased their work had an heirloom that could be passed on through generations. That kind of workmanship seems less valued today. One of the prevailing post-60s attitudes, which still influences artists and galleries, is that the creative process of making art matters more than its permanence. Process Art, a 60s movement emphasizing the creative act over the end-product, showcased the transience and impermanence of non-traditional materials such as cardboard, felt, and tar. The ephemeral nature and insubstantiality of many non-traditional materials was thought to reflect the impermanence of our life and times. Unfortunately for the collector, art which uses impermanent materials poses a risk to their investment.
Writing about the famous German artist Anselm Kiefer, art critic Robert Hughes in his acclaimed book, Nothing if Not Critical, mentions Kiefer’s use of diverse materials to express his vision:
Kiefer’s work is made of tar, paper, staples, canvas, a rough foil formed by throwing a bucket of molten lead on the canvas and letting it cool there, sand epoxy, gold leaf, copper wire, wood cuts and lumps of busted ceramic. It is highly unlikely that more than a few of these paintings will survive for another fifty, or even twenty-five years - Kiefer carries a disregard for the permanence of his materials to such an extreme that the lead will not stay in place and the straw on some canvases is rotting already, although this does not seem to discourage buyers.
Does longevity of a work of art matter? Many artists say no; it’s the creative and expressive process that matters. Longevity and permanence matter to me. Sure, I value my creative process, but I also want the people who collect my work to have paintings that endure. From my perspective, permanence - to the extent possible - is part of the value of art.
In addition to the permanence of pastels, I love the versatility, immediacy, purity and brilliancy of pastels. Whether sketching outdoors - en plein air - or painting in the studio, effects are immediate. Pastels register every gesture of the artist’s arm and fingers without having to pause to allow water or oil to dry. With pastels the work goes quickly; however, there is a difference between a sketch and a painting. My complicated larger pastels may take weeks of steady work to finish.
Painting with professional pastels is as close as an artist can get to painting with pure pigment. Some artists, recalling their early school experience with cheap pastels and limited instruction in their use, shy away from the medium. They remember dust, fragility, and frustration. Other than name “pastel”, the school product and the professional product have little in common. All objections to pastel are removed with a little instruction and the use of professional materials.
To preserve the purity of the pastels, I don’t “fix” my pastel paintings with sprays to hold the pigment in place. Instead the ground I paint upon, PastelMat, serves that purpose. Sprays are toxic. Research shows they affect the longevity of pastels.
Finished pastel paintings have an airiness and surface light unduplicated by other painting media because the tiny particles of pigment reflect from many facets like rough-cut gems.
Although initially a pastel painting is fragile, properly framed with Museum Glass® or Conservation Glass® and archival mat and mounting board, an original pastel painting is an heirloom that can be passed on through many generations.
No art using pigments should be hung in direct sunlight because all pigments fade with the passage of decades. Although the reproductions offered by Birdseye Art Studio won't last as long as an original painting, they have excellent longevity because they are produced with the best and latest technology, PLUS they are sprayed with a special varnish that resists the fading effects of ultraviolet rays. If you can't buy an original pastel painting, a high quality giclée from the Birdseye Art Studio is next best.