Q: The handmade frames on your large pastel-on-sandpaper paintings are quite elaborate. Can you speak more about them?

"Quartet" (left) and "Epiphany," soft pastel on sandpaper

“Quartet” (left) and “Epiphany,” soft pastel on sandpaper

A:  I have been working in soft pastel since 1986, I believe, and within six years the sizes of my paintings increased from 11″ x 14″ to 58″ x 38.”  (I’d like to work even bigger, but the limiting factors continue to be first, the size of mat board that is available and second, the size of my pick-up truck).  My earliest work is framed with pre-cut mats, do-it-yourself Nielsen frames, and glass that was cut-to-order at the local hardware store.  With larger-sized paintings DIY framing became impractical.  In 1989 an artist told me about Underground Industries, a custom framing business in Fairfax, Virginia, run by Rob Plati, his mother, Del, and until last year, Rob’s late brother, Skip.  So Rob and Del have been my framers for 24 years.  When I finish a painting in my New York studio, I drive it to Virginia to be framed.

Pastel paintings have unique problems – for example, a smudge from a finger, a stray drop of water, or a sneeze will ruin months of hard work.  Once a New York pigeon even pooped on a finished painting!  Framing my work is an ongoing learning experience.  Currently, my frames are deep, with five layers of acid-free foam core inserted between the painting and the mat to separate them.  Plexiglas has a static charge so it needs to be kept as far away from the pastel as possible, especially since I do not spray finished pastel paintings with fixative.

Once they are framed, my paintings cannot be laid face down.  There’s a danger that stray pastel could flake off.  If that happens, the whole frame needs to be taken apart and the pastel dust removed.  It’s a time-consuming, labor-intensive process and an inconvenience, since Rob and Del, the only people I trust with my work, are five hours away from New York by truck. 

Comments are welcome!

About barbararachkoscoloreddust

New York Artist Barbara Rachko www.barbararachko.com shares her perspective on pastel painting, photography, and the creative inspiration she finds in pre-Columbian civilizations, mythology, and travel to remote places, like her new favorite destinations, Peru and Bolivia.

Posted on April 27, 2013, in An Artist's Life, Black Paintings, New York, NY, Pastel Painting, Quotes, Studio, Working methods and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Barbara, this is one of your best posts yet. FIVE LAYERS of foamcore, wow! I never realized how complex even in the physical foundations, your work is. What a challenge, having a static material covering such a delicate medium! It just makes your work that much more amazing to me, gravity-defying, even.
    I must admit, though, standing in your studio that day was breathtaking. I can only compare it to the time I handled an actual Warhol! The magnitude of your pieces can only be experienced first hand, in person.
    Thanks for bringing us all into your studio through these posts!

    • Vicki, thank you very much! Working in pastel on the scale that I do is complicated. Most people have no idea of the physical challenges involved. Besides documenting my creative process, I am using my blog to educate people in this regard. I agree that my work needs to be seen in person, but getting collectors, critics, etc. to visit the studio is an ongoing problem. I am hoping that the exposure I will get in the June issue of ARTnews might help. Ann Landi interviewed me (and many other artists) for an article on studio visits. Her piece will include a photo or two of my studio.
      I hope things are going well with you and with the new gallery!

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