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I'm having problems with underbound imprimatura since I upgraded to artist quality oils. I guess part of the "problem" is the higher pigmentation of my new oils. I can't seem to achieve a bound yet semi transparent layer of paint. I'm diluting burnt umber with mineral spirits. I've recently had the same problem with an opaque venetian red ground I layed out on another canvas. In that case I oiled out the entire canvas. I tried to do the same with the raw umber imprimatura, but in rubbing the oil I ended with a brown surface and my underlaying drawing completly lost.
Am I using to much solvent? How can I achieve a semi transparent imprimatura that is bound enough?
Thank you for your valuable advice!
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I have encountered this phenomenon as well. Despite opinions
to the contrary, there is a point where heavy dilution with a solvent will
create a film that is too friable even though the paint layer would have been
fine if applied neat. I would add a bit more linseed oil to the diluted paint
to counteract this. Do not overdo it or you will have an imprimatura that is too
fat for a preliminary layer.
Thank you Brian for your answer. I will try adding more oil to the mix. I still worry that the sizing/priming of the canvas I'm currently using is to absorbent. I use five layers of acrylic gesso and two of an alkyd based oil ground, both made by Zecchi (a manufacturer from Florence). The finish is extremly matte and feels I would say arid. Would you recomend rubbing a bit of oil into the last layer of oil ground, before the imprimatura, in order to make the surface less absorbent?
I would not suggest that procedure. If you are going to
apply the imprimatura immediately after oiling out, there is no reason to not just
simply add a bit of extra oil to your imprimatura before application. However,
if you intend on oiling out and letting it oxidize/dry before applying the
imprimatura, you are adding a gummy, fatty oil layer which will set beneath a
more rigid and more pigment rich layer. This is a recipe for cracking and
Ok yes that woudn't make sense, thank you. What is your opinion on my priming system? Is it possible for an acrylic gesso+alkyd ground to be to absorbent?
I would not think that your ground would be too absorbent
although I can’t say for sure. I have personally found alkyd-oil primers
manufactured for use for fine art painting tend to be less absorbent and
glossier than their straight oil counterparts, BUT, I have not tried them all.
In theory, your priming system should be fine.
Thank you Brian, adding a just a bit of linseed oil to the imprimatura worked really well. Just wanted to share for anyone who might be having the same problem.