Friday, May 22, 2015

I Hate to Clean

Back in August I suggested that I might experiment with cleaning pastels with sand.  Well, I finally got around to doing it.

I have to admit that I hate to clean my pastels.  I never have the time to clean them, especially when I have just finished painting outdoors or taught a class.  I usually toss them into a bag to be sorted and cleaned later.  Often times though, later doesn't come until MUCH later.  By the time I finally do get around to doing it, colors have transfer to other sticks, making a tedious job even more tedious.

I am always looking for ways to simplify my life and I hate waste.  I hated the idea of buying rice, cornmeal... just to throw it away because it had become too polluted with pastel dust to be an effective cleaner.  I think that using sand as a cleaning medium is going to do the trick!  The following images showed what happened when I used beach sand to clean my pastels.

This is the dish of dirty pastels and the dish of beach sand.  All of the pastel colors have transferred to all of the other pastels I had in the same bag.  Grungy looking and impossible to tell what colors they really are.  I live near Lake Ontario and sand is readily available any time I go there.  There is about 1/4 cup of sand in the bowl.

The first 3 pastels to be cleaned go into the sand.

After swirling them around in the dish about 20 times this is how they looked.  Pretty good, huh?  I was inspired to continue cleaning them all!

Afterward, here is the entire dish of pastels after I had cleaned them.  Very different than they were in the first picture.  Mission accomp-lished!  I cleaned 4-5 of them at a time.  They cleaned up very quickly and I used the same sand throughout.  I did not discard or change it.

On to cleaning the sand.  I took the dirty sand and poured it onto 2 paper towels laid on top of a piece of a flannel rag.  I pulled all 4 corners of the rag up and twisted them together, poured some warm water into a bowl and began to dunk and swish it around.

I changed the water probably 20 times as it became dirty from the pastel dust, and as it rinsed out of the sand.  Eventually, it became cleaner and cleaner.  This picture shows the water at the final rinsing.

I opened the rag and found that the paper towel had pretty much   disintegrated, but the sand was still there and had not managed       to pass through the flannel.  I think the next time I do this, I will use a tighter woven fabric.  I will let the sand dry out over-night and we'll see how it looks in the morning.

Well, it took a couple of days for the sand to dry out enough to allow me to pour it through a strainer.  (The reason for straining it was all of the bits of paper towel that had disintegrated during this process and which had to be removed once the sand/paper towels mixture had dried.)  But the sand cleaned up great!  It now has a slight greenish tint, but if you didn't pour a bit of it on top of the original sand (like I just did) you would never know it.  None or very little sand was lost in the process.

In summary, cleaning pastels with sand was a HUGE success in my opinion.  It did not seem to damage the pastels, was very fast, there was no waste, plus it's free.

In fact I liked the outcome so much that I now have a small cup of sand next to my studio set-up so that I can clean the sticks as I'm working.  And I may even use this system when I am working en plein air - especially when I am at the beach!

No comments: