Friday, March 5, 2010
Fixing a punctured canvas
Here's another picture from the Charleston show, that opens tomorrow night on Broad street at the Ella Walton Richardson gallery. Behind me is Fort Moultrie, site of a revolutionary war battle. And to my left is Fort Sumter, whose bombardment began the civil war, or the war between the states as they prefer to call it here.
I received an e-mail from a reader explaining that he had accidentally shoved a brush through a painting and wondered how he could fix the hole. There are several ways to do it. One is to reline the canvas. I will go into that another time. You can do it yourself, but it is difficult and takes more skill. I will cover the quick and dirty way to do it.
I am assuming that the hole is smaller than a penny, if it is bigger, this method begins to become more difficult. This method will also work on a three corner tear. First smooth out the canvas in the area and clean up any ravelings that are hanging about the hole. Then cut a piece of canvas, hopefully of a lighter weight than the one you are repairing. If you haven't got something lighter use a piece of the same canvas, you may have to take it from that which I hope you are in the habit of leaving turned over on the back. Cut an attractive patch from that, I cut a rectangular patch and then clip of the corners at a 45 degree angle so it looks a little slicker. If you have a pinking shears use those, that gives a nice look too. This is important to do neatly, if someone sees the repair, they will accept it only if it looks neat and professional.
Glue the patch behind the hole. I have used a number of kinds of glue. I have used fabric cement and an industrial glue in a tube. Carpenters glue should work too. Let that that dry completely before continuing with the next step.
Now fill the hole from the front. I like to use a mixture of flake lead and liquin but you can use titanium white or even spackling compound or wood filler, this IS the down and dirty method. When that is completely dry, sand it lightly with a fine paper. If you are sanding the lead filler, wet the sandpaper with mineral spirits so you don't breathe the dust. You may want to don a mask for this.
Don't do this around your kids, don 't do it you are pregnant, don't do it if you are a wellness dweeb or living all natural. In fact, oil painting involves lots of toxic chemicals and you need to be aware of that and exercise caution. Sanding paint can generate aeresol dust and that is never good, So be careful about that. I wet sand for that reason, and I wouldn't sand down a whole canvas, only the ocasional small area. When I do, I breathe through my ears.
Feather the edges well so that the filled hole is level with the painting around it. This must be done very carefully so it doesn't show. You may have to fill and sand twice, try using a palette knife to fill the hole, that works well. When that is done and dried out paint it with liquin ,let that dry and then varnish it, It needs to be completely sealed. Varnish it several times, it absolutely has to be sealed! Then retouch varnish the whole painting to bring your color up so it looks like wet paint, that will help you match the area.
Now inpaint the patched area, If you were a restorer you would carefully match the colors and only inpaint the patched area, but since this is your own painting you will probably find it easier to repaint the entire passage. If you are an impressionist with brushwork, painting opaquely this is not a big deal. If you are painting enameled surfaces in glazes, you are going to have a much harder job.
I have done this successfully many times. If you work with care and precision you should be able to get a nearly invisible repair that will last the life of the painting. Now listen up! What I am about to say next is important. This is to repair your own work or possibly the work of a friend only. Do not do this to an antique painting of value. A real restorer should be called in to work on anything that has age or value. Also you cannot inpaint on an antique painting the same way as you can on your new one, it will darken over time. To paraphrase Joshua Reynolds.........
DO NOT HELP TIME DESTROY EXCELLENCIES WHICH YOU YOURSELF WILL NEVER RIVAL.