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Old 12-05-2002, 11:52 PM   #1
Clive Fullagar Clive Fullagar is offline
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That Old Sinkin' Feeling




Steven Sweeney pointed out to me that in some of the paintings that I have posted that certain pigments seem to be flat or matt (they don't shine), and tend to "sink in." This seems to occur with certain colors, particularly the raw and burnt ones (raw and burnt sienna and raw and burnt umber)as well as payne's gray - colors that are often used in the mixing of flesh tones. I suppose one solution would be to varnish, but I have heard arguments against varnishing oil paintings. Does anyone have any solutions to this? Also I would love to hear your opinions about retouch varnishing.
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Old 12-06-2002, 01:22 AM   #2
Michael Georges Michael Georges is offline
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Clive:

A couple of options.

You varnish a painting about 6-12 months after you finish painting it because the oils are still drying during that time and if you were to varnish early, then the varnish has a good chance to cross-link with the paint and become hard to remove without removing into the paint layer. In essence, the paint eats the varnish if you apply it too soon.

So, you have a couple of options depending on your timeframe and working style:

1. Remove paints that tend to sink in from your palette. I still cannot do this, I love Burnt Umber too much.

2. Oil into the sunk in areas by rubbing a small amount of linseed or walnut oil into the area. You may have to do this several times with several days of drying time inbetween.

3. Put a "non-isolating" varnish over the painting after it is done - with the expectation that it will cross link with the paint and could become difficult to remove in the future. This is the retouch varnish solution - damar is removable with solvent and would bring the sunk in areas back. If it were to yellow in the future, you run the risk that it might not be removable without also removing some of the paint.

4. Put an "isolating" varnish over the painting after it is done with the expectation that it will cross link with the paint and will not be removable in the future. This solution involves something like a retouch made from an alkyd resin - like Galkyd Lite mixed 50/50 with rectified turpentine. Brush it on thin and it will bring the sunk areas back and will be non removable in the future. Again, if it were to yellow in the future, then it would be darn difficult to remove, but the advantage is that there is little risk of overcleaning into your paint layers.

Now for my opinion. If you have the time for it to dry, then oiling in with linseed or walnut is probably the best option for posterity. For my paintings, I choose to put an isolating varnish over them and I use the Galkyd and turps solution I mentioned above. I do it in a very thin layer and if it were to yellow at all in the future, then I believe it would be very slight if it were noticable at all.

I still recommend varnishing with a good synthetic varnish like Gamvar or a stable non-synthetic like damar after 6 months to a year.

Others will likely have opinions too, so stay tuned.

Hope that helps.
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Old 12-06-2002, 01:56 AM   #3
Jeremiah White Jeremiah White is offline
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I had a painting do that before and I noticed it a few days before a submission to an exhibition. I didn't know about varnishing at the time so what I did was put an even coating of linseed oil over the entire surface of the painting.

It was risky at the time because things could stick to it during transport, like leaves and dust bunnies. Although, it ended up working because the lighting in there would have exposed the areas that dried quicker then others if I had not covered the surface.

A local artist here told me that he just varnishes his paintings soon after he completes them because he does not always have the time to let it dry and wait 6 months. The varnish would be hard to remove later on but I'm with him on it since I have made an agreement with myself to not modify the painting anymore after my signature goes on it. I now varnish as soon as they are dry to the touch.
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Old 12-13-2002, 02:32 PM   #4
Rochelle Brown Rochelle Brown is offline
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Hi Clive,

In the future, to prevent the sinking look, you might try adding a little alizarin crimson and linseed oil to your color mixture. Those two ingredients will bring some life to your surface.

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Old 12-20-2002, 06:58 AM   #5
Minh Thong Minh Thong is offline
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Varnishing immediately ...

Good information, thanks Michael, et al. I first read about varnishing immediately in David Leffel's painting text. And according to people who have worked with him, he prefers varnishing as soon as the paint is touch-dry, possibly even still tacky. He says the varnish dries along with the paint. This sounded logical to me as I have always assumed the issue was drying/cracking.

However, I now see there is still a trade-off. Isn't there always?

Thanks again!

Minh
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Old 12-20-2002, 11:22 AM   #6
Michael Georges Michael Georges is offline
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Minh:

Well, the issue with varnishing so soon is that the paint will "eat the varnish". The paint will cross-link with the varnish and the two will become almost inseperable. This means that there is a risk that the varnish layer will yellow and be very difficult to remove because the lower layers of the varnish will have fused with the top layers of the paint.
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Old 12-20-2002, 01:58 PM   #7
Minh Thong Minh Thong is offline
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Does Mastic cross-link mechanically with the paint in the same way that Damar does? And if it doesn't, is it possible that Mastic will yellow even worse so this wouldn't work either? What about a Copal varnish of Copal with Canada Balsam and turps (I read this recipe somewhere)?

I guess I'm trying to find a safe way to cover a newly-finished work, so that I can let it go immediately and then come back in six months for a coat of full-strength varnish. This is, of course, assuming that eventually someone might actually want one of my paintings one day .

Thanks again for your help, Michael. You have NO idea how much I've picked up from you in the past year .

Minh
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Old 12-26-2002, 06:52 PM   #8
Chris Saper Chris Saper is offline
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Hi Minh,

You can get an enormous amount of info on varnishing by searching messages, starting here: http://forum.portraitartist.com/sear...g&pagenumber=1

Look for the information William Whitaker has posted with respect to GamVar, which can be applied when the painting is dry to the touch, rather than having to wait many months.
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Old 02-05-2003, 09:04 PM   #9
Virgil Elliott Virgil Elliott is offline
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Any oil painting should be varnished if you care about how long it will last.

The dry spot phenomenon known as "sinking-in" is usually due to the use of burnt umber, more than anything else, and/or to the practice of thinning the paint with a solvent. When burnt umber is used in too high a concentration, it will defy varnish, as it is highly absorbent. The varnish will be drawn into it and disappear. I seldom use burnt umber any more, for that reason. Raw umber has this tendency, too, but to a lesser degree.

Using glossy mediums can also cause irregularities in surface gloss. I've found the best way to achieve a fairly uniform surface appearance is to not use burnt umber, not thin the paints with solvent or with medium, and instead add only enough linseed or walnut oil to the paint to make it brushable. I add the oil on the palette, using an eyedropper, and mix it in thoroughly with a palette knife. I also avoid the stiffer brands of paint, so I won't have to add so much oil. Try it and see how it works for you.

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Old 02-06-2003, 03:52 AM   #10
Enzie Shahmiri Enzie Shahmiri is offline
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Hi Virgil,

After having read that you prefer to use very little medium, I am curious to know what brand of paint you use.
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