Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Easy Way to Protect Children's Oil Pastel Paintings

I've loved oil pastels from the day my aunt sent me my first box! They are creamy and just glide across paper producing gorgeous, vibrant, shiny colors! They take coloring with crayons to a whole other level for kids. Besides being beautiful, kids can have all sorts of fun moving the colors by smearing them with their fingers or blending them with baby oil (check out this great post from The Artful Parent for more on this technique!).

Their downside? They do not dry, instead they harden as time passes... and that process can take a long time. This can make an oil pastel painting a bit of a mess to keep if you don't intend on framing it. The painting can stick to other papers if you put it in a pile, it will transfer pigment to things it comes into contact with, and it smears. There are spray fixatives available at art supply stores (like Sennelier D'Artigny Pastel Fixative, for example) but they can be pricey, are full of chemicals, and explicitly state that they are not to be used by children.

I didn't want to let our daughter's oil pastel paintings sit around for months to harden (at the rate she produces art I would run out of horizontal surfaces in a flash!) but I really wanted to keep them. So I started thinking about what I could use to seal them quickly without resorting to the expensive fixatives or varnishes. 

I found a really simple solution: glue! The best part about glue? It's cheap and, as an added bonus, kids can seal the paintings themselves! Now, I'm not sure what these paintings will look like 20 years from now, but as a kid I would use glue to seal all sorts of things and they look good to this day.

I decided to test Elmer's Glue Gel and the regular Elmer's White Glue on swatches of oil pastel. I had three swatches for each glue: the first swatch was just a thick layer of oil pastel applied to the paper, the second was smeared oil pastel, and the third was oil pastel blended with mineral oil (I was out of baby oil...).

I squeezed some glue onto a paper towel and used a foam brush to apply the glue over the oil pastel swatches. I didn't experience any smearing while doing this. However, a small amount of smearing may occur if there are oil pastel "crumbs" on the surface of the paper. "Crumbs" are created when a lot of pressure is applied to the oil pastel while coloring, basically the same thing that happens with crayons. The problem with the "crumbs" is that the foam brush my take them for a ride and end up streaking the painting. So it's a good idea to give the painting a shake to remove any crumbs from the surface of the paper before applying the glue.

So here are the swatches, still wet, after having applied the glues. You can see here already that the white glue is much cloudier than the glue gel.

When the glues dried, the swatches with the glue gel were shiny and vibrant, very similar to what they looked like before applying the glue. The white glue, on the other had, clouded the colors a bit. Now, if you are protecting a lot of oil pastel art, I would definitely go with the white glue (so much cheaper!). I would save the glue gel for special pieces.

As a final test, I rubbed the swatches with my fingers to test the surfaces. Neither glue peeled nor did any pigment get transferred to my fingers.

Now the ultimate test, I handed my daughter the glue and let her do it herself. She squeezed the glue directly onto the painting.

Then she spread the glue around with the foam brush. She did a great job and with just a little touching up on my part (she's very young and isn't able yet to apply the glue evenly ), the oil pastel painting was nicely protected!

A quick final observation: The paper does wrinkle a bit from the glue. Once the glue was dry, I just put the paper under a heavy book for a while and it flattened out without a problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment