Pastel Pointers Blog | A Matter of Size, Part 2

Example of a small and large frame with bubble wrap for shipping and a fragile sticker for the box.

In last week’s blog post, I discussed the fundamental differences of working in a smaller or larger scale when painting. Besides the basic design and detail nuances discussed last week, artists working in pastel have a few other considerations that are relevant to size:

  • Surface: Unless you make your own pastel surface, you will be limited to the manufacturer’s surface size offerings. Many popular pastel surfaces are not available larger than 24×36 inches. If you would like to work in a more monumental size, alternative surfaces need to be considered. If you are adept at working with a specific surface, be sure to use the same surface when attempting to work in a different size. This will allow for a degree of technique continuity. Thinner surfaces are more prone to warping and buckling when large and often need extra care. It may be advisable to have them professionally mounted to rigid backings in advance of painting to add stability. Most custom framing facilities or professional art supply stores can provide this service or offer technical advice.
  • Weight: Larger paintings undoubtedly weigh more, sometimes substantially more. Surface substrates, protective backing boards, frames, and the addition of the necessary protective glass, all add to the final weight of a large-scale pastel painting, making handling cumbersome. If you are physically unable to handle these larger, heavier paintings, you may need to consider working smaller or enlisting the help of others. Size and weight also increase shipping charges and should be taken into consideration before entering exhibitions. While larger pieces may demand more attention, a well-executed, moderately sized painting may draw equal attention and be much lighter on the pocketbook. When it is necessary to ship larger paintings, additional care should be given to the packaging to ensure the frame and glass remain intact.
  • Pastel stick size: Most pastelists have a pastel mark making size preference and break their purchased pastel sticks into sizes that accommodate those marks. These marks can be akin to the brushstrokes utilized by wet painters. While smaller paintings may require fewer marks (brushstrokes) to cover a given area compared to a larger painting, it is advisable to attempt to retain approximately the same amount of marks (brushstrokes) depending on the size of the painting until you are comfortable working in different size formats. To facilitate this stroke size disparity, it is often necessary to adjust the pastel stick size to the painting size; smaller sticks for smaller paintings and visa versa.

It should be noted, people that collect art often purchase many paintings throughout their lifetime. Initially, larger paintings may be of interest to fill large open spaces but over time this leads to a shortage of wall space. By having a diversity of sizes available, you facilitate their ability to continue collecting your work.

There is a lot to be pondered before deciding whether to work small or large. Until you experience the differences, it is hard to know which will be better. I guess that even when it comes to painting, sometimes size really does matter.


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2 thoughts on “Pastel Pointers Blog | A Matter of Size, Part 2

  1. i_kree8

    It’s very frustrating to work large in pastel for all the reasons you mentioned… Using plexi-glass is not a great solution for the weight problem, as the static creates problems, but is a ‘must’ if a very large piece.. ( I work in oil as well as pastel, and save the large paintings for oil. (alas)) However, you can purchase the sanded papers in rolls if you want to go large, so paper surface is not a problem. I mount my papers on gator board… lightweight and durable… It’s only the glass that is the big weight problem… however, if you don’t use a mat, and choose a wide moulding frame , the glass size is much smaller than if you use a 4″ mat, adding 8″ of glass in each direction. Since my oils and pastels look alike, when both are framed the same (without a mat) they get equal billing and hang well together. (Note: After completing a pastel on my homemade gatorboard/paper panel, I then cut it to image size, and use clear, solid plastic spacers between the panel and the glass; then tape it all together and drop the ‘package’ in a frame. Using museum AR glass has increased my sales as it cut down on reflections.)
    Love the blog, Richard
    Betsy Kellum, PSA, PSWC-DP

  2. troylet

    Please let me be one of the first to say thank you. I opened my email today to find that your blog (and your blog alone) had found it’s way back to my mail box. What an awesome step in the right direction. I was quick to voice my displeasure and I wish to be equally quick to offer praise. I understand that, at times, changes must be made in order to keep a good thing going, and I can appreciate that. I sincerely hope these changes give you more time to do what you do best; create and teach. And that is not a left handed compliment; I really mean exactly that. Your blog may look different now, but time eventually does that to all and to everything. If there were only a way to link your blog to my homepage; how happy I would be to welcome your (albeit slightly different) blog home. Thanks again Richard