Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ask Stape, retouching with Liquin?

Dear Stape

I was wondering if it is good to use Liquin instead of linseed oil for oiling out and if you see any problems with this? If you don't see any problems with this, do you think it's OK if I oil out a painting with Liquin where I've used only linseed oil as medium? I have read somewhere that Liquin yellows less than linseed plus I like how much faster it dries (than linseed), but I was worried about cracking and other bad effects it might have in the long run. I would like to give my paintings an even finish without the matte parts. I have tried brushing on retouching varnish, but it was very inconsistent in that some paintings became sticky.
I really love your blog as I find it extremely informative. Thank you so much for generously sharing your knowledge with us!
Sheena Leavin


Oiling out means to restore the gloss to the surface of a painting that has "sunk in". When a painting sinks in, areas have gone matte during drying. Some colors and dark passages are prone to this. I think the first choice would be to spray it with retouch varnish from a can or with a mouth atomizer. I think it better to spray a fine coat of retouch rather than to paint it on, as you will get a thinner coat.

Assuming the painting is very dry, I believe you could put a little Liquin on a paper towel and rub it onto the surface of the painting to restore its even gloss. I have no idea how much linseed oil you are using when you say it is your medium. I would suggest you go very easy on that if you intend to add more layers of paint. It is advisable to have fatter layers on top of leaner layers. But you knew that.

I have used Liquin to oil out a painting many times without a problem, but I have not done it over linseed oil, but I think you will be OK. Perhaps you might use Liquin as your medium, I like it very well. If you want more gloss, try Gamblins alkyd medium, Galkyd. That would eliminate the problem of using two different sorts of mediums. I think alkyd is less likely to crack than other mediums, it has a flexible rubberyness to it that I believe will reduce cracking. I don't feel straight linseed oil is a particularly good medium. If you want to use a natural, traditional medium , I would suggest 1 part stand oil, 1 part damar varnish and 4 to 7 parts turpentine, it must be turps, not mineral spirits though. Get the real stuff, the hardware store turps has dropped in quality and now smells like death. On the next painting I think you might want to rethink your medium-retouch varnish system and avoid making a habit of using the Liquin over linseed oil, it seems a little too complex to me, simple is usually better, and the fewer varieties of mediums in a painting the better.

I have never had a painting crack, and I have been very careless about the fat over lean dictum on some occasions. I am not dismissing that advice, just saying I have never had a problem, and I have paintings going back nearly forty years. I have seen paintings crack that I believe was the result of using the the old copal mediums ( now unavailable), and I have seen paintings crack that were painted extremely thickly. Those paintings were probably worked on in such a way as to add a new layer of paint day after day after day. They might have been as thick as a nickel in places. I am suspicious of "academic" methods that are super thin and made more from oil or medium in glazes, than from paint .Overly diluted paint, particularly if cut with thinner, is more likely to be a problem.

There are people who are really fixated on making paintings that they believe will last forever. Sometimes they make paintings that will last for centuries that never should have been made in the first place. As I am a working professional painter, I try to be sensible, but I am not grinding my own whiting or making rabbit skin glue on a hotplate. I try not to paint too thickly and I often paint on panels which don't loosen and tighten under the paint like a canvas. I think rigid supports are always better if you want to avoid cracking or other problems like being dented or torn , but they get too heavy when larger than about 20 by 24.


Philip Koch said...

I've been scratching my head about proper mediums and varnishes for years.

I've wondered just how much does linseed oil darken over time. I've used the turpentine/damar varnish/ linseed oil medium for many years. I like how it handles. How much darkening should I expect to see in my older paintings? (I'm planning on living to 200, so I'll have to witness the damage as it unfolds).

I've used Liquin as a painting medium and like it too. It dries very quickly and often that's just what I want.
But sometimes I want a big area of paint to stay wet longer so I can keep going back into it wet-into-wet. The Liquin just doesn't give me enough time to do everything I want in large wet-into-wet areas.

Just yesterday I was reading on Gamblin Paints website that Rembrandt is now thought to have painted using only straight linseed oil and turpentine-

Gamblin says you can add a little linseed oil to his version of LIquin ( which he calls Galkyd) to slow dow the drying time. So there might be at least some linseed oil darkening problem over time, but perhaps not that much.
Robert Gamblin then goes on to say it was Joshua Reynolds (funny given Stape's recent discussion of Reynolds' book) who popularized adding damar varnish to the linseed oil and turpentine painting medium.

Gamblin cautions against resin varnishes like damar varnish being used in a painting medium as he says it darkens, becomes brown and slightly opaque.

If that's true (and I don't really know) then I'm thinking damar varnish either sprayed or brushed over a painting as either a retouch varnish or as a final varnish may not be such a good idea.

I recently tried Gamblin's new Gamvar Varnish (which I learned about on this blog) and liked it, It's not supposed to yellow and darken over time. And as it doesn't contain a strong solvent in it, it's less likely to dissolve any of the paint layers in your painting. So you're supposed to not have to wait months to let the painting dry before putting it on.BUT it is frightfully expensive.

Gamblin of course sells his own modern alternative painting mediums so he's naturally going to argue they're superior to damar.

2willowsart said...

Hi Stape,

I recently watched a video on the Winsor Newton site concerning oiling out. The situation there was oiling out prior to varnishing. They use their oil painting medium to oil out with.

Steven said...

I have switched to Gam Var, now having used it for about three years. Considering the cost of my time, I find the cost of materials that do the job and prevent me from doing things over to be a great savings. I have a friend who is always fussing with problems in the final varnish.

I have been told by several conservators that most paint problems arise from inconsistent mediums. I rarely use a medium but I have dropped Liquin for Grahm's Walnut alkyd. It's a beautiful medium with a fast but not to fast drying time. No ordor, smooth, and easy to mix into the paint and flows for me on the rare occasions I use a brush.

I did have a painting craze on me (I do paint thickly). it was early on and it happened before I sold it so that I was able to correct it. I painted a fast drying color over a slow drying color and so when the under layer finally dried it crackled the already dry top color. I paint on panel, so I took the painting , out side and sanded the crazed area off and repainted. Crazing does not effect longevity. It's a surface problem. However, cracks which can occur because of bad adhesions and expose the canvas are very problematic as the paint can fall off the canvas.

If I need to, I use Windsor Newton retouch varnish if I am painting over a really dry painting.


Simone said...

Your answer to this question lends credibility to the way I answered the same question from a student yesterday. Uncanny how similar the question. And what a relief that I gave a similar answer. I wonder if Sheena Leavin is someone I know.

Mary Byrom said...

"Academic methods" - beware- you are so right. I did a large painting on canvas with a multitude of thin layers and building up colors with layers of glazing. Maybe it was 10 years old when I noticed veins of fine cracks in one area. It looks like someone bumped it with their knee while carrying it. Totally possible. I haven't used that technique since. I now paint on canvas or linen on panel or plain panels. Only problem with panels is if someone breaks one, don't think it can be easily repaired. Have you ever had to repair a panel?

Bob Carter said...

Gruppe used a medium made from one part stand oil to 4-5 parts turpentine. Because it contains no damar, the turpentine can be replaced with odorless mineral spirits (OMS), which is the recipe I use. Following Gruppe’s practice, I routinely mix a small amount of this into my white to make it more fluid. I also use this medium as a thinner for my warm under-painting. The extra fatness in the underpainting and in the white seems to prevent sinking in and gives the finished painting a nice gloss without varnish. The fat-over-lean thing is not an issue here, because (again like Gruppe) I tend to work alla prima, adding only small touches and corrections later. The oil equilibrates throughout the layer as it cures. I’ve not seen cracking in Gruppe’s paintings and certainly not in mine, which are much more recent. Any unevenness in the overall gloss can be corrected with retouch varnish.

Deborah Paris said...

I use Liquin as a medium and for oiling out. I also use a thin coat of Liquin over the entire piece at the end, let dry, then varnish with Gamvar. The last coat over the whole thing evens it out and prevents the varnish from sinking into dry spots, so you get an even final surface quality. I do underpaintings, followed by glazes, scumbles, opaque passages, more glazes,...never had one crack.

Stanka Kordic said...

M. Graham Walnut oil. I use both versions for different uses. When I want to glaze, I just add a touch of the alkyd to the regular oil. No solvents. This is of course the fat top layers.

I used to use liquin but the headaches were killing me.

Overthinking all these archival issues sure can make it a drag. I have a painting I did in college on a window shade. Looks great.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I don't think a little yellowing is a big deal. My paintings look better after they have settled for a few years. I pulls them together. The paintings in the museum look OK don't they. Darkened varnish is a different thing though. THAT is not so good.

Stapleton Kearns said...

That works too,

Stapleton Kearns said...

Marian; the walnut oil can has a warning on the side that it is subject to spontaneous combustion. Everything has a warning on it today, and I don't know what to disregard. I love the way that stuff holds a sheen though.

Stapleton Kearns said...

It must be a coincidence. Either way, I don't kiss and tell. I can't reveal her real name.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have never had to repair a panel. but if I had to I guess I would figure out a way.

Stapleton Kearns said...

That sounds like it is working for you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have seen very few paintings crack.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Liquin does seem to irritate some people.I guess Galkyd does that less.