Archive for January, 2012

New Materials: Spray Varnish

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

After completing a small-format painting for a friend, and that I was afraid might be exposed to a problematic atmosphere, I decided to seal the surface with varnish to protect it.

111201 Pam's Pair

The spray varnish (Krylon Gallery Series UV Archival varnish) I had used successfully on canvas did not work so well on paper, leaving white flecks where I had expected a clear, even finish.

Rechecking the canvas I had sprayed previously, to see if I had overlooked a similar problem with that, I found white filaments, about 1/32” long, scattered across the surface of the canvas. But were they from the spray or from some other source? They did not look like the flecks left on the paper, and I was able to brush them off with no difficulty, which I was not able to do with the flecks on the paper surface, so I judged that they were not from the spray. More likely they were some form of dust, though I couldn’t figure out what would have produced the regular, elongated shape of those flecks. It continues to baffle me. But that issue is beyond the realm of this blog.

Although I was fairly certain that the new painting (the one on paper) had been completely dry, I supposed that it was possible that it had not been and that, as the varnish hit it, some of the color lifted off. But I couldn’t be sure. Or perhaps I had applied my second coat too soon after the initial misting. Whatever the cause, the damage was done.

I allowed the varnish to dry completely on the paper before attempting to retouch that painting by applying a top coat. Would it adhere? Or would the varnish reject it? I could find out only by trying.

Once the varnish had dried, I was able to apply a top coat of paint. Despite my fears, it did adhere, and it did improve the appearance of the painting. I was also able to tweak a few areas that I had overlooked previously. However, I did not feel that it brought the image quality back to what it had been before it was sprayed (see below). And I did not attempt to reapply the protective varnish over the final layer of paint.

111201b Pam's Pair

In the future, I won’t be varnishing any more paintings on paper unless there’s an overriding reason to do so.

Canvassing the Possibilities, Part 1

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

My first experience using watercolor on canvas was an eye opener. The canvas had been primed for use with acrylics, which meant that it was not absorbent, as watercolor paper is. The paint didn’t behave quite the same; it moved much as I expected it to … until I tried to layer it (glazing one pigment over another layer of dried paint). Because it had not adhered to the painting surface as it would have to a paper base, the initial coat lifted when I brushed a second coat over it.

111008 Ecstacy

This discovery told me two things: first, that the painting was “erasable;” and second, that all colors to be applied had to be mixed either on the palette or while still wet on the painting surface. The entire work had to be more carefully planned than usual. Value contrasts would have to be optimal from the beginning, not relying on second coats to adjust color or value except to entirely lift all color out of an area.

I took advantage of the erasability by reworking the background, which had appeared streaky after the initial application. In fact, I reworked the background several times to test the effect of a variety of brushes on the surface and to evaluate several different background treatments. I also signed the painting in three different ways, erasing the dark-against-light versions and eventually lifting the lettering out of dark-pigmented area on my final version.

The erasability posed an additional problem—that of permanence. If the surface should become wet, the image could be ruined. This is true of any watercolor painting, which is one reason works on paper are usually displayed behind glass. One advantage of canvas, however, is that it does not normally need glass for protection, since it’s considerably sturdier than paper. In fact, canvas often does better without glass, since an enclosed framework can trap dampness in as well as keeping dust and moisture out, thereby promoting the growth of mildew.

So, in lieu of glass, when the painting was finished to my liking, I coated it with three layers of UV-protective, archival spray varnish to protect the surface from water and UV damage.

In the near future I expect to be experimenting with canvas primed specifically for watercolor use, and possibly watercolor-specific primers on standard canvas, to evaluate whether there might be better canvas alternatives more compatible with my painting approach.

I would welcome comments and suggestions from any of my readers who have already explored and found answers to these issues.