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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Preservation of canvasApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2017-06-09 16:12:21 ... Most recent comment 2017-06-15 20:32:09
    Sizes and Adhesives Paint Mediums Oil Paint Drying Oils

    I’m hoping someone can help me with two issues I’m having with painting:

    1. I am using oil sticks to paint on muslin fabric or even a polyester for my canvas, and I'm trying to see if there is a way to avoid the fabric from breaking down over time because of the oil based paint. Because of the type of painting I am doing, I wet the canvas first with a spray bottle and therefore I can’t seize the canvas prior to applying the paint to the canvas using traditional methods such as jesso. 
    2. Because I am applying the oil sticks to a damp fabric, the drying time is extended significantly.  

    Any advicde would be greatly appreciated. Than you.

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Are you finding that you are getting oil stains around areas of paint? Or can you not tell because you are covering the entire canvas with oil paint?

    Kristin deGhetaldi
    2017-06-09 16:17:26
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Without applying something to isolate the fabric from the paint, I don't think cotton muslin is a good choice for this approach, if durable results are the goal. Since polyester artist's canvas is not susceptible to the destructive effects of direct contact with drying oil, and since you mention you are already using both poly and muslin, synthetic seems the better choice. I would recommend using a bona fide artist's canvas rather than something from the fabric store, which may have surface treatments, unstable colorants and optical brighteners. 

    I would also be interested to know the planned display/installation method. Will the fabric be stretched, mounted to panel or suspended freely? That will be important as well.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2017-06-09 17:08:44
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    Hi. Durable, long lasting (without deteriorating because of oil), and faster drying time is absolutely the goal. The reason I am not using a typical artist’s canvas is they tend to be too thick for what I am doing which is painting on one side of the canvas using oil sticks and pushing the paint through to the other side, creating a two sided piece. I have not heard of a polyester artist's canvas. It sounds promising, I just need it to be thin enough, or pours enough to allow paint to go from one side to the other. 

    Thank you. 

    2017-06-10 00:16:47
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Thanks for the additional detail. It sounds like you are selecting a light, po​rous fabric to deliberately induce strike-through of the paint. I would expect cotton muslin to become saturated with the oil paint vehicle, which can have a destructive effect on the fabric. There is a precedent for painting on thin muslin, in historical stage scenery backdrops, but obviously those would not have been expected to have survived into antique age (and I believe casein was often the medium used, for fast rate of drying and matte finish).

    Another issue with the application of oil paint (even in stick form) to an unprotected, absorbent support is that enough of the paint binder can be taken up by the support material to leave the paint layer under-bound. 

    In my opinion, the most significant challenge with the approach you describe is the vulnerability of the aging paint film on a support material that may not resist deformation from gravity and other forces that will cause the paint to move and flex. Canvas that is considered heavy enough for use as a painting support would not normally be thin and porous, because it needs to provide a flat plane with minimal movement. Based on these factors, I think this project would be better suited to acrylic paint, a medium that will maintain strength and flexibility for a long time. 

    I would be interested to hear from the Moderators who are qualified to speak to conservation issues- I would expect a thin, porous painting with color on the verso would present unique conservation challenges.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2017-06-10 08:56:32
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    Thank you. Do you feel that furhter exploration of asynthetic fabric is worth pursuing as a potential solve for this issue? 

    Also I think acrylic would be a very viable solution, but I've never seen acrylic paint sticks. The idea behind the paint stick vs. a brush is that it enable the paint to really be pushed through with pressure. Do they exist to your knowledge? I've not found anything to date. 

    2017-06-10 21:58:10
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Sorry for the belated response. I was away for a couple of days. I will reach out to one of our moderators more experience with oil sticks to weigh in on this.

    As to my thoughts, I need to sort of separate my role as a conservator from that of a moderator here. As a conservator, I need to approach all paintings as the artist intended and honor their choice of materials as a component of their aesthetic and process. This is different from the goal here, which is to offer as much information about the options available to arm the artist with the knowledge to make informed decisions on their materials choice and methods beforehand.

     So with that stated, I have to agree with Matthew on all of the points that he raises. Supports generally perform best when they either possess inherent rigidity that is greater than that of all layers that will be added (you do need to take into account the aging properties of the added layers…will they become more brittle with time?) OR supports that are made rigid through the application(s) of size and/or ground layers.

    Your process sort of sidesteps these criteria. The open weave and extremely insubstantial nature of muslin is unlikely to adequately support the oil stick application as it ages. Your lack of ground means that the fabric is not made more rigid that in its untreated form.

    The above also ignores the issue of oil absorption into the cellulose fabric. We have written about this on MITRA in the past. There is some danger of this rotting the fabric overtime. The lack of oil staining may mitigate this potential problem but it does not mitigate the issues above.

    So, taking Matthews comments and these into account, it would probably be best to either use a artist polyester fabric if you continue to use oil sticks or to switch to acrylic dispersion paints if you want to continue to use muslin. Unfortunately, due to the way in which acrylic dispersion paint dries, they are unlikely to be made into a stick form.  

    To come back to my first point, we at MITRA hope that our users will take the current info about materials and processes into account to make your work as permanent as possible, but also understand that artists will sometimes deviate from best practices in pursuit of their vision. With this in mind, we also hope that we can offer alternate methods which may allow you to create the same effects but with more archival materials.

    Brian Baade
    2017-06-12 12:17:02
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    Your willingness to explore options that will hopefully result in less traditional viable solutions is really appreciated. Thank you.

    So what I am understanding so far is that oil sticks on artist polyester fabric may be the best bet for longevity since the fabric is not being treated prior to painting. Is there anything that could be done to the fabric once the piece is complete to help with preservation? In other words, could the fabric be sprayed and/or coated with some kind of fixer to aid in longevity, or is that not necessary because it’s synthetic? 

    The only other issues is drying time. Someone mentioned to me today that certain brands of oil sticks such as R&F (, have fewer additives which may accelerate drying? 

    What’s more, the way this technique works is the fabric must be coated with a solution to allow the paint to be “pushed through” to the other side resuliting in the two sided piece. Experimentation thus far has led to spraying the fabric with a blend of poppyseed oil and terpenoid. This also seems to slow the drying time and to be honest, I have no idea if that is even a blend that makes much sense. It does however allow for the paint to bleed from one side to the other. 

    2017-06-12 22:01:49
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​I have sent a note to R & F about this thread and hope to hear a response about some of the issues mentioned here. I have other comments about your latest post but will wait until we have heard from perople with expertise in oil sticks.

    Brian Baade
    2017-06-12 23:09:25
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​I agree with the answers already given by Kristin, Matt, & Brian and have nothing new to add regarding oil paint on on unsized fabric. But I do have one suggestion, which is to try painting on a lightweight metal screen and let the paint go through that. You do mention needing to wet the support to extend drying time. But keep in mind that the various brands of oil stick have different consistencies and different drying rates, so you may want to research that.

    2017-06-14 15:21:18
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​​I agree with the answers already given by Kristin, Matt, & Brian and have nothing new to add regarding oil paint on on unsized fabric. But I do have one suggestion, which is to try painting on a lightweight metal screen and let the paint go through that. You do mention needing to wet the support to extend drying time. But keep in mind that the various brands of oil stick have different consistencies and different drying rates, so you may want to research that.

    Richard Frumess

    R&F Handmade Paints

    2017-06-14 16:55:06
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    The silkscreen industry designs and uses a variety of Polyester materials according to the needed images to be screen printed or by the (Mesh) required for the printing. You might look into silkscreen polyester as a source as it is designed to last under extreme solvents; e.g. Xylene, Acetone, Mineral Spirits, etc. Just a thought

    Martin Kotler 

    2017-06-15 12:51:39
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    This has all been very helpful and I appreciate everyones insights here. Thank you again. 

    It seems then the best solution is to either go with artist polyester fabric or silkscreen polyester. A few questions: 

    1. Do you think one would be better than the other (pros/cons)? 

    2. Would artist polyester also handle extreme solvents?

    3. Would oil work vs. ink on silkscreen?

    4. Silksreen would be difficult to staple onto a stretcher correct? 

    2017-06-15 16:43:12
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    1. Do you think one would be better than the other (pros/cons)? Honestly it sounds like you should go for working with silkscreen as you are after a bleed-through effect anyhow. I cannot see how one would be "better" than the other in terms of longevity, they are simply different but others may weigh in on this with additional info.

    2. Would artist polyester also handle extreme solvents?
    What do you mean by extreme? I cannot see why you would need something else other than mineral spirits. So yes you should be fine with that.

    3. Would oil work vs. ink on silkscreen?
    I do not see why not? As we have never tried this personally we would encourage you to experiment and please report back on your experience :)

    4. Silksreen would be difficult to staple onto a stretcher correct? No. In fact this is how it is often prepared when used in the traditional sense.

    Kristin deGhetaldi
    2017-06-15 17:47:23
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    One additional suggestion: If oil paint sticks are the final choice of medium, replace the poppy oil used for wetting with a low-viscosity alkyd medium. Poppy oil is known to yield a less flexible film than linseed, and I think flexibility and tensile strength of the dry film will be important here.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2017-06-15 20:30:43
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Also, I really like Martin's suggestion to explore screen printing mesh.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2017-06-15 20:32:09

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