Saturday, April 19, 2008

Save the Hairspray for your Hair - here's how to keep pencil drawings from smearing

Krylon #1306 Workable Matte Fixative

I was just on Nicole Hamilton's pencil portrait blog, and she mentioned that hairspray is for hair, not paper! I couldn't agree with her more.

Many artists and art students use hair spray as a fixative for their artwork. For the non-artsy reading this, a fixative keeps the graphite pencil so it will no longer smear. Once an artwork is sprayed with most fixatives, it cannot be erased.

There is a product made just for art: Krylon #1306 Workable Matte Fixative is a good product, and it's not expensive. One can will last a long time, and you won't have to pay more than $5 or so per can. It is "workable," meaning that it can be erased. I haven't found that it can ever be erased completely, so don't count completely on the workability. I have found that spraying art will darken the graphite. Sometimes this can be a side-benefit, but sometimes it's not good for the art to appear darker.

I only use it when I must...and I would like to caution all artists to really believe the warnings on the label and only spray outside or a well ventilated place. For a little while, I was lazy and would just spray in a room and leave for a little bit, but you can still inhale some of it. Now I tend to get bronchitis a lot. I know of several artists who have developed Lupus. I don't know if any studies have been done on this, but I strongly suspect that the pigments, solvents and sprays that artists use on a regular basis could be the cause.

So I avoid spraying artwork at all now. Besides the health risks, I don't really trust what the long term effects of Krylon are on paper either. Albrecht Durer's graphite drawings (this one from the year 1521) still survive...and clearly, he didn't have aerosol spray fixative in 1521. So your artwork can survive without fixative when properly cared for.

For me, the best way to keep pencil drawings from smearing is to work on the drawing from left to right if you are right-handed, and right to left if you are left handed. I am right handed, so I work left to right, and in a clockwise direction. I also use a clean sheet of typing paper to keep under my hand, forearm, or any part of my body that might touch the artwork. I also turn the paper to the best position while I'm working, so I don't have to reach across areas that are already done.


Anne said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and for the nice comments. I just looked at some of your work and it's lovely!

Kevtheartist said...

Good Day!
As an Artist myself, I HAD to check your Art out!
VERY NICE! Would you be so kind as to check out my Artwork too?

Thank you

Darla said...

Thanks Anne and Kev!

Nicole hamilton said...

Thanks visiting my blog, and for pointing out the need to be cautious when using the krylon spray. You are so right, it is vital to use it outside.

I have to admit, I don't spray every single drawing either, mostly just those with heavy layers of graphite.

I also had to tell you you did a great job on your "featured portrait", combining the two separate photographs. That is always a challenge when the lighting etc. is different. Your finished piece was lovely.


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