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  • permanence of oil on commercial oil paperApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2017-12-13 11:04:29 ... Most recent comment 2017-12-16 18:32:52
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    ​I have been researching commercial, cotton, oil painting papers by D'Arches, Canson, etc, for detailed, preparatory studies that I may or may not mount and sell.  

    Do you forsee any problems with 100% cotton papers by these or other companies?

    The paper fibers are protected, according to their literature, but the OMS and oil can be drawn down below that surface somewhat, unlke the pH neutral PVA size layer tha I put on my papers before use.   Perhaps this affords more tooth for the paint layer to attach to.

    Any thoughts?

    Thank you.

    PS   I avoid priming papers as I will thereby lose the very texture that I like in the paper, and have been sizing only.   Also, the investment in time and material makes them so "precious" that I may not be as likely to experiment with them.   I have followed the directions sent by Robert Gamblin some 15 years ago.

Answers and Comments
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Hi there!  I'm curious, when you say "sizing" what process are you using?  Sizing can refer to a few different processes, and I want to make sure I understand how you are working. 

    Gillian Marcus
    2017-12-13 13:46:17
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Normally, I put two coats of size onto the working surface of my 140 lb, cotton, wc papers, allowing the coats to dry in between.   Each coat is 25% pH neutral PVA glue and 75% water, per Robert Gamblin.   This makes a perfect surface for me, oil proof, but no more, to allow as much tooth as possible for the paint layer to mechanically bond to.   I know that the oil does not come through because I would see it seep through on the back side, if it did, after I have painted on it.

    My interest is in trying some of the commercially made oil papers which, according to the literature, are sized internally.   Each fiber is protected from the ill effects of oil, but the entire paper structure must be otherwise porous to allow oil to enter the paper structure (not touching the individual fibers) and eventually form a strong, mechanical bond when dry.   

    My oil sizing was primarily on the surface of the paper, not so with the commercial oil papers.  While they are more "absorbent", I was wondering if they may provide a better mechanical bond with the paint layer than I can currently get by performing my own sizing, or if there was any problem with them that artists or conservators may have noticed or anticipated.     

    2017-12-13 14:05:40
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Paper is a wonderful substrate for art and watercolor paper has cotton and animal glue to protect the cotton fibers, but that glue is not enough to keep oil media from staining and oxidizing, over time. I first heard that Arches was making an oil paper, when I was teaching in Paris, but I have not been able to learn what is added to the paper to block the oil. Their literature stresses the idea that the paint will have some grip on the surface, avoiding the “crawl” one sees, when oils are applied so some slick surfaces, but the penetration of the oil must be limited. I have worked on Arches cold pressed, applying acrylic, in varying thicknesses, over which I then applied oil, and my experience showed me that a stain of acrylic did not prevent oil penetration and that a film of acrylic was needed to get to a point that oil did not show up on the verso. Acrylic medium can be applied to watercolor paper, to prepare it for oil and one can assess the thickness needed by looking for oil penetration. Acrylic should be more flexible and clearer than PVA, but with any aqueous dispersion, that product should be applied, allowed to dry, for two weeks, and then the dry film should be washed with water, to remove the surfactant that has leached to the surface. If tooth is desired, a matte acrylic and be used and the paper can be wetted, or a wetting agent (ox gall or alcohol) can be employed, but they would complicate the chemistry. 

    Hugh Phibbs

    2017-12-13 20:11:29
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Also I have been thinking about what would be the best replacement for hide glue and am becoming convinced that solvent acrylic is best, since it lacks evaporation holes and I use it, when I am working on paper with oil. Another question that comes to mind is what goes under the paper. Artists working in oil tend to not want to use mats, glazing, and/or mounting to Dibond and I often wonder why. Hard mounting, before the painting is done can be done with acrylic gloss medium, but how to do this, when the painting is done, should include some release layer and that is what I am working on these days. As I said, before, I think acrylic is more flexible and clear than either PVA or even EVA and I have found it to be a glue that will even bond to the surface of an oil painting. I am thinking of polyester felt or Volara as a release material and will let you know how my testing works out, but I see this as an issue that will continue to come up.

    Hugh Phibbs

    2017-12-13 21:24:20
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    The nice thing about using solvent borne acrylic as a size is that it does not cause unstretched paper to buckle like acrylic dispersion sizes can.

    Brian Baade
    2017-12-14 21:19:39
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Well, I suppose the logical thing to do with a cotton oil paper is to paint on some samples and see if the oil bleeds through.   Don't know how to evaluate the strength of the  mechanical bond of the paint layer to the paper or correctly appraise its strength in comparison to my current method.


    I gather that no one yet sees a definitive problem with commercial oil papers, the oil papers being so recent.   Correct?


    Oddly enough, I was reading A P Laurie's, The Painter's Methods and Materials, 1926, in which he describes Jan Van Eyke's method of painting in the early to mid 15th C.   It seems that he painted cool colors directly onto the gessoed panel in certain areas, sized it with distemper to make it non-absorbent, and them painted oils over the top.   The coolness of the underlying tempera counteracted the increased warmth and transparency of the oils over time, making the painting appear "fresh" longer.   

    The take away here is that the oils bonded to the  non-absorbent distemper for so many years.   An absorbent tempera surface would have soaked up the oil paint, creating a poor effect, according to Laurie.   Painting on a "sized" (distempered) surface was not lost on me and my efforts.

    2017-12-14 22:54:57
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Yes I think that is probably correct...at the moment there seems to be little known regarding a) the precise characterization and b) quantity of additive(s) being used in this particular brand of "oil paper" to render it suitable for oil painting. I will send an additional query to the scientific community to see if there is an off chance that someone has analyzed one of these papers but as they are fairly new to the market I am not hopeful on this matter. I can comment however on your musings re: Jan van Eyck. While A. P. Laurie's writings are indeed valuable and interesting to read, unfortunately I would not place a whole lot of faith in his conclusions regarding Old Master painting practices. We address this issue in our resources section in a document called "Myths, FAQs, and Common Misconceptions" (particularly in No. 8 and 9). Today we do know lots more about Jan van Eyck and Flemish painting technique and there is little evidence to suggest that there was a systematic use of distemper (glue-based) or tempera (egg-based) underpainting to prepared panels before applying oil (actually "gesso" would be an incorrect term here as that specifically refers to the use of calcium sulphate or gypsum....the Northern European painters at that time used chalk and glue for their grounds). But I do understand your point in including this specific reference as it relates somewhat to the topic of the thread. What appears to be a typical Flemish technique is to first apply an ink underdrawing over top of the chalk-glue ground (which MAY have had additional layers of glue applied on top of the ground to cut the absorbency). This was usually then folllowed by a pigmented oil-containing layer (which the Italians would later call an "imprimitura" layer). We do know of a few instances where a layer of unpigmented oil was applied either over the chalk ground before the underdrawing OR more commonly over the underdrawing. This was then usually followed by layers of oil paint. Researchers have reported a handful of cases where egg tempera was used as a full underpainting before oil colors were used to cover the entire surface. However, much of this research was done quite early on (even though it was performed WELL after Laurie's time) and even these results should probably be re-assessed. 

    Kristin deGhetaldi
    2017-12-15 21:14:51
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Returning to the topic of pH neutral PVA glue as a size for cotton paper, on which one wishes to oil paint,  my understanding is that canvas manufacturers have been using it in the production of linen and cotton canvases, a replacement for the more hygroscopic, rabbet skin glue.

    If pH neutral PVA size is an inadequate barrier to oil migration over the long term, as suggested earlier, then are modern linen and cotton canvases suspect in their permanence?

    I'm using the pH neutral PVA size because it has been the size of choice for the manufacture of linen canvas.   The clarity of it, in relation to arcylic dispersion mediums, (which I use for adhering paper or canvas to panel) would be immaterial as an oil paint layer would be painted on top.

    Am I missing something here?

    If the permanence of commercially produced oil papers are still an unknown, then I would like to know if what I am doing is particularly inapproriate for the use of studies that may eventually be sold.   

     I use mounted, linen canvas or acrylic primed panel for anything that I intend to sell, but want even my studies to be reasonably permanent as well, in the event that they should be mounted and sold.   Sized paper has come to be my preferred support, even more than linen, but priming it with acryllic primer may really kill the texture and absorbancy of it. 


    Thanks for your thoughts.

    2017-12-16 09:42:35
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    It is not that PVA size in inadequate, it is that one coat is not adequate. Multiple coats should work fine. Acrylic dispersion just seem to accomplish this with fewer coats.

    Brian Baade
    2017-12-16 18:32:52
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