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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Saving paintApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2017-03-26 13:56:10 ... Most recent comment 2017-03-28 14:18:00
    Oil Paint

     My usual practice is to start with fresh paint every day - squeezing out just enough of the colours I think i will use for the section of the painting I am working on.  However, there has been discussion recently on several FaceBook forums about saving paint on the palette overnight or even longer - sometimes weeks. The two most common methods seem to be either a) putting the palette in a freezer or b) putting it in a sealed contained each night with a few drops of clove oil on a cloth in that container.  The freezer method seems to be prone to introducing condensation if not handled properly. Both methods will lead to using progressively dried paint over several days or longer. Are these approaches to reducing paint "wastage"  potentially problematic?

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Honestly there are pros and cons to several "paint-saving" methods that have been circulating online. It is really a matter of considering the type and quality of oil paints you are using and what you can feasibly do within the confines of your studio/working space. Obviously if your paints already contain driers (as is the case with some brands and certainly with many alkyds), many of these "tricks" will not have a significant impact. But I will do my best to list some of the pros and cons one might  consider below:

    1. Freezing your palette – Ideally you do not want to store your paints in the same freezer as food! I realize this may sound obvious but there will always be some cases where folks do not have the luxury of having a freezer devoted solely to paint. If one is forced to use the same freezer for paint and food, your palette truly needs to be in a sealed container (e.g. tupperware) of some kind to avoid contaminating your palette (and contaminating your food!). As for condensation, I assume you are talking about the formation of the annoying water droplets on the surface of your paint/palette when you remove it from the freezer and it begins to reach room temperature. Unfortunately this is somewhat unavoidable but you can always place it in front of a fan while it slowly warms up to drive off the accumulation of moisture.

    2. Submerging your palette under water – Many people do this over night to avoid having their paints dry out. One benefit is that you eliminate the presence of air altogether, therefore slowing some of the oxidation processes that can contribute to the drying of oils. However, if your paints happen to contain certain additives (e.g. surfactants) or possess a high clay content (e.g. earth pigments like yellow ochre), prolonged contact with water might cause some issues. Certain additives might be drawn out of the paint, giving it a different consistency, appearance, or altering it in some other manner. When your paints contain a significant proportion of clay, the opposite effect can happen, with the paints tending to absorb water and behaving more like an emulsified mixture rather than simple oil paint (and perhaps leaving small, microscopic voids after drying).

    3. The clove oil strategy – We are actually somewhat skeptical as to whether placing a rag infused with any essential oil alongside your paint and then covering up the palette would actually have a significant impact at all. And honestly if it does this means that these oils are directly effecting the paint, likely in a manner that is not desirable if you are concerned about paint longevity and sensitivity. While the proportion of essential oil would likely be on the negligible side in this instance, additions of essential oils to oil paint can render a paint film more sensitive to solvents (should it need to be brush varnished again in the future or cleaned) and may even contribute to drying problems. We would suggest leaning more towards the other two strategies if you do opt to exercise some method of "paint-saving," taking into account the precautions we listed above.
    Kristin deGhetaldi
    2017-03-26 14:33:12
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​One more related  question. I assume that paint that is being "saved" by whatever method is drying a bit each time it is taken out and used for a day. It is possibly being mixed with other partially dried  paint on the palette, with new paint, and so on in various combinations of partially dried and fresh paint. Sometimes these mixtures would be placed over previous layer, sometimes they  would be used to start new paitnings.  Do you foresee any potential problems?

    2017-03-26 17:23:28
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​I understand the need for economy and the added benefit of keeping waste from landfills when saving paint for subsequent sessions, but it is also important to use relatively fresh paint. This is not like watercolor or encaustic where we can jusr resisolve the paint again and again. There are the issues that you mention including skins and dried bits getting into the paint. These is also the importance of having the paint go through its drying curve after it is aoplied to the surfeace rather than much of this occuring before it is ebven on the canvas. Ralph Mayer stated this well in his influential tome. We have moved on from some of his opinions but I think that his advise is best observed on this issue.

    Brian Baade
    2017-03-26 19:25:53
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you. I now feel absolved from feeing guilty about scraping off and discarding unused paint at the end of the day.

    2017-03-28 14:18:00

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