While I work in almost all mediums, I must admit soft pastels are my favorite. I started using them mainly for practical reasons. When my children were younger I often got pulled away from my painting time and unlike oils or acrylics, pastels don't dry up! They just lie there patiently until you can come back to them. In time, I learned to love this medium and it's ability to create brilliant color.
Some people are curious as to why pastel paintings are called "paintings" when pastels are actually a dry medium. I believe the reason for this is that the application of color is applied to the majority of the surface unlike a drawing. Pastel pigments are actually the purest and longest lasting of any medium.
I prefer to use the softest pastels on specially sanded papers or boards. This allows for pure color to be applied in many layers without the color becoming muddied.
Unlike oils applied on canvas, pastel paintings are somewhat more fragile. It is typical for an artist to "fix" the painting with a spray fixative to avoid the colors being rubbed off. It is never recommended that anyone but the artist "fix" the painting as colors may darken or change with improper application.
Pastel Paintings are typically matted and framed. The matting acts as a barrier to the glass actually touching the painting. Proper matting and framing ensure that a pastel painting will last as long if not longer than any other medium.
Framing Tips and Suggestions:
There are very specific ways to mount and frame Pastel works of art that better ensure their archival status and longevity.
Artists who work in pastel and charcoal may spray the art with a fixative. Many artists choose not to do so because the spray darkens the pastel colors and disturbs the texture of the pastel strokes as the droplets splatter the pastel. DO NOT spray the art without direct permission from the artist.
Pastel is chalk “dust” and unlike paint does not dry and form a hard surface. The surface of a pastel painting cannot stand physical contact which would brush the dust off the paper. It can smudge and is not moisture proof.
If your original pastel has been shipped to you, it is recommended that you leave it in this packaging while transporting to the framer. Pastels are occasionally sprayed with a fixative but it will not prevent damage to the surface. Anything touching the surface can damage the painting. Pastel artwork should also be protected from jarring and never be laid or carried in a face-down position because both of these actions can cause some pastel dust to dislodge from the surface.
A professional framer will be familiar with proper framing of pastels. Pastel artwork must be protected under glass. Do not use Plexiglas or acrylic because it will build up a static charge when cleaned that will draw some of the particles of pastel off the paper and create a fine mist of dust inside the frame. In order to keep the protective glass from touching the pastel surface the glass needs to be offset with spacers between the pastel painting and the glass sheet. Usually this is done by placing strip type spacers made of foam core or other material around the artwork under the mat which surrounds the image space. When you frame your pastel piece, you should choose a frame that is deep enough to contain and restrain the painting with its board backing, the mat, the foam core offsets and the glass sheet. If you choose to frame without a mat, then framers will use "spacers" to keep the glass from touching the pastel painting.
NEVER hang any original art piece in a location where it will receive strong light or direct sunlight.