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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • OK to use a retouch varnish as a temporary varnish on a touch dry painting? ApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2017-09-05 11:13:55 ... Most recent comment 2017-09-06 13:28:23

    ​Daer MITRA 

    I have a painting that I finished recently which I wish to photograph for online entry to a competition. I had a fair bit of sinking in which I've tried to correct with oiling out, with reasonable results but there is still a certain dullness I would like to correct. I am planning to apply a good quality retouch varnish as a temporary varnish to my touch-dry painting as I feel it will bring out the colours etc. I couldn't find much information about using retouch varnish in this way (i.e. as a temporary varnish) in the resources section of MITRA. Apart from careful application technique etc, which I can read about here or in my Gottsegan book, is there anything I need to know or any reason to avoid retouch varnish? 

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    I am going to assume that when you write handled by oiling out that you did this while painting and not as a surface remedy. If the latter is the case, please read our section on oiling out in our resources section.

    First, I discourage the use of the term “retouch varnish” for this purpose, as it is misleading. Retouch implies that additional painting will occur over this layer. We do not recommend the use of varnish for this purpose. Please see our resources section for our reasoning.  

    There is a history of using thinned out version of the varnish that will be used a final coating as a “temporary” remedy for sinking in soon after the painting is dry to the touch. I put the temporary in quotes because, is it really temporary? Would you intend on removing it after 6 or 12 months when you are going to put on a more permanent varnish. Likely, the varnish is temporarily fixing the sinking in but will remain on the painting. In fact, we do not recommend attempting to remove such a varnish after the waiting period as you could really do damage to the youngish paint film. As always, varnish removal should be left to conservators whenever possible.

    There are brings up a number of issues to think about. Varnish applied very early will become somewhat incorporated into the paint film as it dries making the surface have sort of a combination of binders (oil and varnish). This means that this varnish could be more difficult to completely remove down the road if it yellows. Additionally the surface of the painting may be slightly more soluble in solvents than it would have been if not varnish were applied to the new film. This does mean that one should choose a stable and relatively non-yellowing varnish for this purpose. We do have to keep this in perspective, though. The surface is likely to oxidize more quickly than interior layers and this may not be a huge issue. Very thin applications of such a varnish should not cause a major problem.

    Finally, no matter what version/method of retouch varnish you are using, please record the constituents and layering on the back of your painting for future conservators.

    Others may have additional thoughts.

    Brian Baade
    2017-09-05 12:15:40
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thanks Brian. Unfortunately I did use the oiling out as a surface treatment, due to following advice from another source I considered reliable. I should have checked MiTRA first! I only used a very thin layer of linseed oil which I then wiped off after a very short time (about a minute). I had read that if your painting is significantly uneven in terms of glossiness, you need to oil out before applying retouch varnish. I can't paint over the oiling out at this point as the painting is finished. I have learnt my lesson though and certainly won't do that again--based on the information here, not on the immediate results as far as the painting looks-- as it currently looks OK. I realise it may yellow as a result of my mistake. It is on panel however so presumably it's not at risk of the paint film wrinkling as a result of  the oiling out. Im not sure what other bad consequences may ensue. 

    I'm hoping I can still apply a suitable retouch varnish? 

    2017-09-05 19:59:55
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​There are mixed opinions about oiling out before varnishing but our opinion here is that it is not suggested. Certainly wiping away all excess oil will minimize possible problems. You can certainly apply an appropriate thin varnish to even out the sheen in the short term.

    Brian Baade
    2017-09-06 13:28:23

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