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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Technique used for painting over old paintings ApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2016-12-02 15:48:08 ... Most recent comment 2016-12-07 11:03:00
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    I have several used linen canvases which, rather than throwing away, I would like to reuse. Is this possible? Thanks in advance
Answers and Comments
  • EditDeleteModerator AnswerI assume when you mean "used" you mean they have paint on them? If so it is not advisable to reuse them although this can depend on the materials and technique that you are using. There many examples of oil paintings that have been painted over by the original artist (Picasso is one such example) or by another hand and while some have survived fairly well others have not. Fresh paint needs to be applied over an absorbent ground or over paint layers that are somewhat lean (remember the "fat over lean" rule). When paint has had some time to cure and harden over a period of time (as in years) it no longer serves as a suitable surface to continue painting on (plus you risk dealing with flaking, cracking, and delamination of the top layers of paint later on). One can gently "rough up" the surface using a fine grade of sandpaper to restore some tooth HOWEVER you should take care to wear proper protection to avoid breathing in airborne particulates, particularly if you use pigments that are known to be fairly toxic. You can wipe down the surface of your painting using mineral spirits to remove any additional pigment or residue on the surface. If your paintings possess fairly thick grounds and/or paint layers you should probably just buy new canvas.
    Kristin deGhetaldi (CAS)
    2016-12-02 16:09:57
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentI understand the urge to re-purpose an abandoned work (by my own hand, not somebody else's work) on a particularly nice piece of linen. Those working on top of sanded oil paintings should be aware that some pentimenti will likely be visible, and some colors might assert themselves through subsequent work. It also bears mentioning that dry oil paint does not reliably accept acrylic dispersion painting ground (gesso), so simply priming on top with an acrylic ground is not advisable. If there's no sign that oil has penetrated through the original ground, I prefer to remove the fabric from the stretchers, flip it over and prime the reverse rather than sanding down old paint. I wouldn't use such a canvas for anything important but I think it's just fine for sketches.
    2016-12-02 16:55:53
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentSorry, did it again- forgot my signature! Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2016-12-02 16:57:06
  • EditDeleteModerator AnswerA couple of additional comments....just because someone may not have experienced problems painting over old paintings does not mean it will not occur in the future. Some examples that can be found in museums have withstood the test of time thanks to conservation efforts...sometimes problems will not arise until after an artist has left this earth. You can of course use such canvas for experimental purposes or as Matthew suggests paint on the reverse. Finally, those that feel their works only need to survive while they are alive are doing themselves a disservice as well as others (this was stated on another forum recently). This is especially true if you sell your works or even give them to friends and loved ones. If you paint for the love of it that is wonderful...but you can also do so while exercising best painting practices.
    Kristin deGhetaldi (CAS)
    2016-12-02 18:02:45
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentIf the canvas will be sanded, it should either be supported from behind with a rigid board and shims inserted between the fabric and stretchers, or removed from the stretcher chassis altogether. Otherwise, there's bound to be some stretching of the fabric and a ghost impression of the bars. One other thing to consider regarding reusing thrift store canvases (I know some who do this): if the painting isn't by your own hand, there's really no way to know the composition of the paint or whether the original ground will be adequate. Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2016-12-02 19:01:27
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentWhat if the painting you are thinking of painting over is on a rigid support i.e. hardboard panel and it is painted very thinly in oil? I'm talking about my own old painting. Does the fact it is on wood make it a little less problematic to paint over? Thinking of wiping it down with mineral spirits and sort of scrubbing the initial new layers in with a bristle brush to make sure they adhere? Somehow painting over old paintings can make a nice painting, not sure why. Thank you.
    2016-12-02 21:33:40
  • EditDeleteModerator AnswerIf your paint and ground layers are thin and lean it may be alright...again it is best to not do so but you can probably get away with it if your layers are truly thin and absorbent. Keep in mind you may have some interesting pentimenti form later on down the line but that may not be something that troubles you.
    Kristin deGhetaldi (CAS)
    2016-12-02 22:00:14
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentThankyou for all the advice which has been invaluable towards my making a decision to not reuse my canvas as the oil paint on it is thick and certainly not lean. It may be used for experimental rough sketches later on. Fiona McClean
    2016-12-03 12:54:47
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentThere may be times when a painting has dried enough to cause problems with overpainting, but one may want to finish or edit the painting rather than just re-using the canvas. Sanding canvas seems only partially effective to me as it will only sand the surface bumps of the weave and not the valleys. Is there a way to 'etch' the paint with solvents? For example, using turpentine or even acetone to create some tooth?
    2016-12-05 18:12:28
  • EditDeleteModerator AnswerSanding would likely be effective unless the paint is overly fat and vehicular. It may be better to use a scrapper like those used in the 19th century to reduce very fat layers before painting. You mention old dried paint films, turpentine should not effect a old and properly bound oil paint film. Deglossers, which is really what you are describing, are not suggested in fine art oil painting. The acetone,, if it is effective, would destroy a portion of the upper skin of the painting, it does not redissolve it (like it would with gouache or a resin paint like Magna). This could create an unstable interlayer in the painting. As far as paint so old that overpainting becomes difficult, I would suggest light sanding using all appropriate precautions and painting into a couch of oil (see the resources section on the safe use of the oiling out technique) rather than deglossing with highly polar solvents.
    Baade, Brian
    2016-12-05 23:24:22
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