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I just had the horrible news that a painting I did 12 years ago has started to crack. This is what I can tell you about my process with this painting. I stretched unprimed linen then used some PVA size (tho maybe not enough because you can see white seeping though on the back) and oil primed it using oil ground. I then did an open grisaille using raw umber and burnt sienna and mineral spirits. I then glazed about 4 passes on the painting. I have always felt I obeyed the fat over lean rule, but sometimes in the heat of paintings one can skew up. Though I'm sure I didn't add mineral sprits after the grisaille and I'm sure I used medium, to some degree, each time . I don't know which medium I used. It could have been liquin or a linseed oil, stand oil, mineral spirits mix. I'm wondering if maybe the culprit could be the W/N Paynes Grey I used as it is so slow to dry. At that time I may have been using zinc , I'm not sure when I learned about the evils of zinc. Although from where the cracks are it doesn't seem like I would have used zinc white, I'm also not sure what I used for a varnish, tho I don't think that would be the cause. Any ideas? I'm have nightmares over my paintings now.IMG_2132.JPG
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Sorry to hear this. It is very difficult to determine exact
causes from a single photo. Additionally, there are so many variables beyond
adding medium and adhering to what was called “the fat over lean rule” in the
past including type of size, thickness or size, type and thickness of ground,
paint layering, pigment choice, environmental conditions, and handling. The
lower crack appears to be an impact crack. The upper crack may also be from
this but it may be a drying crack associated with technique or environment. I
will say that when I encountered cracking in my own paintings it was usually
when I had applied a too thick ground layer on fabric, even when using a lead
white primer. I did use animal glue as a sizing back then and that likely
played a role, but I have many works from that era painted on thinner grounds that
do not exhibit the same issue.
Can you tell if the crack continues through the ground to
the canvas or if it is only in the paint layers above the ground? This can give
us a good indication of which layer(s) are problematic.