Pastel Q&A | How To Dry-Mount Pastels

Q. Will you explain “dry mounting?”

A. Dry mounting is a method of adhering a paper to a support board. Your framer can do this for you; it requires an expensive piece of equipment that few artists would have in the studio. The pastel surface is positioned on the support board, with a sheet of dry-mount adhesive between the two, and then placed in the dry-mounting machine, where heat by itself or pressure, with or without heat, is applied. The result is a tight bonding of the paper and the support.

The disadvantages of dry mounting include the cost of having it done, and the fact that once a painting has been dry mounted, you can’t easily change your mind about the size of the finished work. Most of us have had the experience of looking at a finished piece and deciding it would be better if cropped. With dry-mounted paper, you must carefully cut the support board instead of just trimming the paper.

Pastel papers and watercolor papers used for pastel do need a support board in order to frame the finished piece, but dry-mounting is not the only way to accomplish this. You can, instead, tape your working surface to a backing board—using masking tape or artist’s tape to keep it steady while you’re working.

Then, if you’re framing the piece with a mat, the finished painting can be hinged to the matboard or it can be fastened to a backing board with corner and/or side mounts. Your framer can do this for you.

If you like the feel of working on a paper mounted to a support board, or if you underpaint with a wet medium, there are other options. You yourself can glue the paper to the support board, but be sure to use an acid-free glue and be careful to spread it evenly across the surface. I’ve used a bookbinder’s neutral pH liquid adhesive with good results, and I know artists who have used acrylic matte medium, or a glue called Miracle Muck, to attach canvas to a backing board. I’ve also heard of some artists using spray adhesive for this purpose, though when I tried it and then underpainted with a wet medium, the paper buckled.

The most important consideration when choosing a glue or adhesive is that it have a neutral pH and that it can be spread evenly so as not to leave lumps. To ensure a fi rm bond, it’s a good idea to cover the surface with a piece of paper and set weights on it for a few hours while the glue dries.


Q. I wonder how other artists keep track of their paintings. I’ve tried titles only but have found that I forget which painting had which title. Is there a numbering system that’s simpler? I have a digital camera and thought that would solve my problems, but it didn’t.

A. There’s a software program available called WorkingArtist® that’s designed to keep track of your paintings. It runs on a PC and there isn’t a Mac version, so I haven’t personally used it, but many artists have.

I also have a digital camera, and I keep a copy of each painting I’ve done in a folder on my computer. I name the image file with the name of the painting. Then, in a spreadsheet I keep track of details such as how big it is, when and where it may have been entered into shows, when it was sent to a gallery and when it was sold. If I look at the spreadsheet and the title of the painting doesn’t ring a bell, I can go to my image file and quickly take a look at the image of the painting to refresh my memory.


Q. How do you photograph odd-sized paintings? I’ve been told to tape off the slide image, and to mount the painting on a background board and shoot that whole image. Is this an acceptable and another idea?

A. The goal in preparing a slide for entry in a juried show is to show only the painting—no background, no mats, no board that it’s taped to. The first method you describe is commonly acceptable.

Shoot the slide to include the entire painting. When you get the slide back from the film processor, open the mount. Wearing clean cotton gloves to prevent fingerprints and working on a light table, mask off everything but the painting image using silver Mylar tape. (You can usually purchase this tape at the same place your slide film is processed or at a good camera store.) You’ll need an X-Acto knife to cut the tape, and you may need a loupe or other magnifier to see the edges of your painting.

Once the image is masked, take it back to the film processor and have it mounted in a new mount. This is very important! I recently judged a show where half a dozen slides had been properly taped, but then just slid back into the previously-opened mount. The slides slipped around in the mounts when they moved into the viewing position on the carousel, and one fell out completely. Many judges will simply eliminate such problem slides.

The second method you describe is a bit more difficult. You don’t want a backing board to show in the slide image, so the only way to make this work is to tape your painting to the backing board, then cut a neutral color matboard with an opening exactly the size of the image. The matboard will have to be big enough to cover the backing board totally. It’s really difficult to get it positioned properly without casting a shadow onto the painting, so I don’t recommend this method.



For more information on this subject, see “Five Tips for Getting Into Juried Shows” by clicking here.

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