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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Removing water stains from oil on linen painting in progressApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2019-07-17 01:47:35 ... Most recent comment 2019-08-14 19:52:34
    Oil Paint Flexible Supports Solvents and Thinners Other

    ​Dear MITRA,

    I am about to resume work on a large format oil on linen diptych after it had to be placed on the back burner for a few years.  At my previous studio, I had some mysterious leaks or perhaps a humidity condensation issue that periodically dripped a pale, thin brown liquid from various areas of the ceiling. After moving to a different space, I discovered that some of this liquid had apparently hit the floor in front of one of these large oils, and then splashed back up onto the lower area of the painting. Luckily the drops were so small that the linen was not damaged, but a series of small water stains/rings were left behind. I tried to gently clean them off with a touch of distilled water, but that wasn't strong enough. OMS worked better, but once the OMS evaporated, you could still see a fainter trace of the whitish-looking rings. Should I try artists' rectified turpentine, then wipe away the turps residue with OMS? If any micro-pores were opened up in the paint as a result of using the stronger solvent, it might increase adhesion anyway since the paintings have been waiting for so long for me to complete them. Please let me know how you think I should best proceed.

    If it matters, I am using oils made with walnut oil, and initially used a solvent-based alkyd medium, then a walnut/alkyd. 

    Thanks very much!

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    That sounds fine although I am not positive that the results will be that much better, perhaps the greater solvency will prove beneficial. It could not hurt to test a small area to make sure that the turp does not bite into the paint before proceeding. I would not expect it to but it is best to test first.

    Brian Baade
    2019-07-17 11:57:57
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you, Brian. I will definitely test an area of paint on the side of the stretcher bar. However, since the affected areas are not the final layer of paint, two questions:

    1. If the turps were to "bite in", would that adversely affect the final outcome, or would it perhaps increase adhesion for the subsequent layer, since it's been a few years since I worked on the piece?

    2. If I can't get the water spots off, would they ever come back to haunt me if I cover them with a subsequent paint layer?

    Thanks again so much for your time and expertise!

    2019-08-01 15:18:40
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    The idea of “biting in” is a bit simplified and suggests a simple roughening of the surface. If you do begin “biting in” you are disrupting the binder and that can be a problem However, in this situation this is both unlikely and probably not a huge deal as you will be overpaining. As long as the stains are truly water stains and not some organic or oil-soluble material, you should be able to overpaint them without bleed-through. Water stains are often an accumulation of the impurities in the substrate that are brought through by the water in a chromatographic manner and are left at the edge tide line when the solvent (water in this case) evaporates.

    Brian Baade
    2019-08-01 19:35:03
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    Dear Brian, 

    I finally had a chance to test some paint on the edge of the stretcher bar with turps, and certain pigments came right up on the cotton swap, even though the piece has been dry for a few years! :oO I did attach some photographs of the remaining water stains for your reference -- they look like very small whitish rings. Since my old studio was on the bottom of two floors, there is no way to know what might have been in the initial dripping water. Other drips that landed on a paper work-in-progress seemed water soluble at the time. Since I didn't notice the water stains on this linen canvas when I initially looked for damage, and based on the current appearance of the spots, I imagine that they may have "migrated up" as you suggest. Any thoughts based on looking at the photos?

    Based on my swap test, I am hesitant to try turps on the front of the painting, though in my test, the greens similar to those in the affected areas didn't seem as vulnerable as another pigment. (I had painted the edges with black "gesso" prior to starting the painting since I will be using floater frames, so it was difficult to tell if a trace of the greens came up or if it was a bit of this black primer.) Since I'm going to overpaint with a final layer or two, would disrupting the binder make a difference in longevity? Should I consider gently sanding the spots off (with appropriate caution and pigment disposal) instead?

    These initial layers were painted in 2013-2015, so I was planning to give the entire canvas a gentle rub with OMS anyway to get rid of any potential dirt or fingerprints, etc, before resuming the painting. (FYI, the affected area is only one (or in a few areas, two) layers on top of an underpainting, and not adulterated more than 20% with an alkyd/oil medium mixed with OMS in varying percentages.) I thought I should gently abrade the entire surface to insure a better tooth to which the subsequent oil paint layers can best adhere, so I welcome your input on the best way to proceed. (Certain "non-waterspotted" areas of the painting are still only the developed underpainting, so they may not require more than a cleaning...?)

    Thank you so much as always!

    water stain splatter detail on oil painting_1_.jpgwater stain splatter detail on oil painting_2_.jpg

    2019-08-14 18:57:42
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​You may be better served by gently wiping the surface with a mildly damp sponge and after that has dried, follow that with the mineral spirits. Most non-oily (non-organic) components are going to be more water friendly, but this approach come at it from both angles. As you experienced better results with the organic solvent there is probably some fatty component in the stain. Again, as this is your painting and you plan on overpainting, I feel more comfortable with the proposal.

    Brian Baade

    2019-08-14 19:52:34

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