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Old 12-17-2009, 06:08 PM   #1
Jennifer Bogartz Jennifer Bogartz is offline
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Is Titanium White acceptable to use as an underpainting white?




The paint I'm using is M. Graham Titanium White and it's vehicle is Alkali Refined Walnut Oil. I know that this white is a slower drying white than a lead white and would like to know if it is too fat to use as an underpainting white. I've been experimenting with working in thin layers and want to make sure I'm keeping it fat over lean. I would appreciate any feedback you may have.
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Old 12-17-2009, 06:43 PM   #2
Michael Georges Michael Georges is offline
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Hello Jennifer:

Are you using any sort of medium that contains a metal drying agent in it perchance?

If so, then the whole fat over lean concept is, to my mind, much less of an issue. Mind you, you will still want to pain fairly thin in your underpaint as you have stated you do.

Most metal dryers will blister over the paint and cure from the outside in, whereas lead will dry more evenly through the layer.

Regardless, keep your layers fairly thin and you should be just fine.
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Old 12-17-2009, 07:00 PM   #3
Jennifer Bogartz Jennifer Bogartz is offline
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Hi Michael, so far I have used a little OMS in my imprimatura and a touch of OMS and a few drops of walnut oil in my underpainting. I didn't add any medium to the white since it's pretty oily, but I did add some to the burnt umber because it was too dry.
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Old 12-17-2009, 07:12 PM   #4
Michael Georges Michael Georges is offline
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If you are not using any medium with driers - and I would advise you to use as little solvent as possible, then fat over lean applies.

This means that you would do better to keep your layers thin and give them plenty of time to dry in between.
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Old 12-17-2009, 07:14 PM   #5
Jennifer Bogartz Jennifer Bogartz is offline
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Thank you, Michael.
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Old 12-17-2009, 10:44 PM   #6
Richard Bingham Richard Bingham is offline
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Is titanium white too "fat" to use in underpainting layers? No.

While rutile titanium has an oil absorptive index up to three times that of lead carbonate, a lean, stiff tite white may be no "fatter" out of the tube than lead white. Tite white that's very loose and obviously "oily" out of the tube may have as much as three times the amount of oil as lead white, however.

There is a misconception that the dryness of initial layers before overpainting is related to the "fat over lean" principle. This is not so. "Fat" layers (referring to their oil and/or resin content) are either chubby, or anorexic, whether they are wet or dry, as the question is not whether the paint is dry, but how much oil does it contain?

In fact, as far as the dryness of underlayers is concerned, the best practice is to paint as near to wet-in-wet as possible, working over underpainted layers when they are "dry" enough not to lift or mar if that's indicated, or "cheesy", i.e. well set, but still able to be manipulated, but not bone dry. This way, solvent transfer allows the paint layers to meld into a homogenous mass that will not have stresses or tend toward delamination.

Because pure spirits of gum turpentine (distilled from resin tapped from living trees, not steam-cooked from forest waste) contain hydroxides that react with acids in drying oils to bind free oxygen, it is (and always has been) a solvent superior to petroleum distillates which do nothing to improve the chemistry of drying paint in positive ways.

In general, it is well to lean toward colors with low oil absorptive indices (almost all earth colors) for initial layers. This makes it easy to adhere to the "fat over lean" prinicple. Also, unless the tite white was underbound, and really "constipated" out of the tube (and I've never found Graham's colors to be so) it would also be well to avoid adding additional free oil to the paint in the underlayers.

If you find it necessary to reduce the paint, use a "medium" of oil and turps at a 1:2 ratio. Good turps smells like a pine forest . . . bad turps reeks of creosote.
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Old 12-18-2009, 02:18 PM   #7
Jennifer Bogartz Jennifer Bogartz is offline
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Thanks, Richard! Do you mean that the underpainted layers should be "tacky" to the touch before being overpainted? Should earth colors be avoided in the top layers? Is there a brand of turpentine that you would recommend? I appreciate your feedback.
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Old 12-18-2009, 03:38 PM   #8
Richard Bingham Richard Bingham is offline
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Underlayers can certainly be touch-dry, but it's best to move right along with a painting, and not let building layers dry thoroughly . . . that shouldn't be a problem, since most applications would take up to six months or more to be thoroughly dry under normal conditions.

There is no need to make "The Priniciple" a complicated regimen. The painting won't explode if you use a color with a high oil content in underlayers. It's just better to begin working a layered technique by avoiding a lot of "fat" colors in the initial layers.

Working according to "fat over lean" is actually logical and intuitive . . . the concept is simple enough, i.e., initial layers should be thin and lean, and subsequent layers may contain increasingly more oil and/or resins (i.e., "fat") as the painting progresses.

As for using lean colors, this indicates progressing from a grisaille, adding more color, texture, effects and impasto as the picture nears completion . . . the "old masters" method, and it pretty much just happens this way as you develop your finished painting.

You really have to work at "screwing up" to violate "The Principle" if you have good technique and understand the concept. A good basis is having painted almost anything with a utility coating by following correct procedures - such as the fence, a barn, a car, etc. First comes surface preparation, then primer coatings, finish coats, and final detailing. Same routine applies at the easel!

Turps? I hesitate to name brands, because what I found to be good not so long ago may have "gone south" meantime. If you find reasonably priced turps by the quart (in metal cans) in an art supply store, open the container and smell it. If it smells sweet, and "piney", it will be OK (the last I found this way was "Best" brand, but that's been a couple of years ago).

If it smells pungent, sour, or reeks of creosote, avoid it. I don't know if label info is any use anymore. The distinction used to be "pure gum spirits of turpentine" (good stuff) as opposed to "steam distilled" (junk containing free water).

Lately, I've been buying Winsor & Newton's triple distilled turpentine, which comes by the litre in a glass bottle ($$ higher than a cat's back $$, but worth it for the quality). If you find good turps in a can, put it in a glass bottle and store it away from sunlight.
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