The Framing Process for Pastel and Charcoal Drawings

The Framing Process for Pastel/Charcoal Drawings

Pastel and charcoal paintings/drawings are some of the freshest and most interesting to be found.  There is something about their richness and the fact that the particles are barely attached to the surface that makes them seem nearly “alive.” Artists are sometimes hesitant to coat with sprays or other materials because it changes the look and the color to do so.  It is, however, this very quality that gives them a reputation for being difficult to mount, mat and frame for your wall. Quite frankly, the surface of both pastel and charcoal is very fragile.

  All it takes is a puff of wind from a fan, an accidental swipe of the hand or any one of a number of accidents to mar the looks of a lovely painting or drawing.  However, with a little care, some thought before handling and easy guidelines to use when mounting, matting and framing, you can create a lovely piece of art that is perfect for display.                                                                                                                                                            The nature of the medium is such that pressure applied to the pastel or stick of charcoal is all that holds it on the paper.  The tooth of the paper provides a friction that helps the powdery contents of  the media adhere.  But, if you have ever worked in pastel or charcoal, you know that it is minute particles of color that are barely held together so that you can draw with them.  Once you realize the fragility of the materials involved and keep that in mind, the steps toward display and framing are much more understandable.                                                                                                                                                                                                    Mounting the pastel/charcoal is the most challenging part of the process and should be done with one of three methods.  First, you can use a set of corner holding devices.  Special corners designed to fit over the edges of the artwork corners are available at all art material dealers.  They are triangle shaped with acid-free (A.F.) sticky backs.  Once the A.F. triangle is slipped over each corner of the art, it is then placed upon an A.F. backing.                                         Hinges are made of hand-torn rice paper and are attached with a special adhesive that is removable and A.F.  These are easy to make, easy to install and will provide completely archival quality holding power.  Lastly, you can hold the painting in place with A.F. corners and use an A.F. mat that barely covers the edges of the art to hold the drawing in place.  This holding around the entire parameter is needed for larger art pieces.  The hold-down mat will then be topped with the final mat, extending over the image at least one-half inch.  This method requires that about one inch of the image is covered all the way round.                                                                                                                                       Matting of a “crumbly,” powdery art material such as pastel or charcoal requires an added step.  Because the powder will release with the slightest movement, there is a professional “trick” that can keep the mat clean and your artwork viewable for many years.  By elevating the matting or, more correctly, dropping the art behind the mat and away from the glass, you have a space into which the particles will fall.  That way, the matting stays clean and perfect.  Elevate the mat with strips of A.F. foam board and use A.F. adhesive to attach the strips of foam board to the back of the mat around the outside edge.  These strips should be at least 1-½ inches wide to provide proper support. Once the mat is elevated and settled over the art, clean the glass and set it onto the top of the mat.  Then add the frame.  Close the back of the frame by pulling the art off the edge of your work surface and working from the back side.  If you turn the art over, face down, and do any jarring at all, the particles will fall and you will have to redo.                                                                                                                              This all may sound difficult, but it is not.  Just take it one step at a time, take your time and remember to work from the top as much as you can.  The less you disturb a pastel or charcoal work of art, the better.