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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Fix Charcoal UnderdrawingsApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2019-08-11 18:26:07 ... Most recent comment 2019-08-11 22:23:41
    Oil Paint Drawing Materials


    I’m working with compressed charcoal #2B, #4B and #6B underdrawing on linen canvas and Williamsburg Lead Oil Ground. I would like to control where the charcoal mixes with the lead linseed oil underpainting.

    I’ve read two articles on Just Paint hoping I might find a solution but in both cases they don’t recommend using MSA or a retouching varnish.

    1) Why Oil Painting Over MSA or Archival Varnish Is Not Recommended

    2) Oiling Out and the Cause of Dead Spots in Oil Paintings

    I’m considering two options: 

    1) Use Williamsburg Alkyd Resin, cut with Turpentine or Gamsol 1:1 or 1:2 and spray a thin layer over the charcoal drawing before applying the lead oil paint.

    2) I’ve tested this formula: linseed oil, damar resin (5-pound cut)  and turpentine (1:1:3), and after waiting 1-3 hours, I applied the lead oil paint. This test did not to work very well since the thin retouching varnish layer disolved when I applied the lead oil paint.

    I would appreciate any feedback about the two options mentioned and an alternaitive approach.

    Thanks so much,


Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Hi Paul.

    This or similar subjects have been brought up many times here on MITRA. Please search to find the salient threads. Truth be told, I am not an advocate of sealing in or fixing underdrawing materials beneath oil paint layers unless there are specific effects that the artist intends on having visible in the final image. Layers like these invariable add an incongruous and unsympathetic layer, which will react differently to movements and changes in environment than the oil layers beneath and above it.

    If this effect is necessary for the aesthetic vision, I suggest a minuscule thin application of an alkyd/insoluble stable material layer above the drawing. This is one of your mentioned options but even this is not without problems. The resulting coating will be both glossier and more gummy/flexible than the ground beneath it but will likely be fatter or more flexible than the layers applied upon it.

    One of the reason that I usually balk at this general concept is that if you are worried that superimposing oil paint will smear the underdrawing, why do you think that the application of an “intermediate” layer will not? If oil paint will smear the underdrawings, so will a brush applied fixative/isolating coating. The only way to avoid this completely, or almost completely, is to apply the isolating material with a spray gun. If you do this, please follow all safety precautions and wear the appropriate equipment when spraying.

    As to your proposed test of applying fixative 1-3 hours after oil painting, I am assuming that there are some omissions or typos here. One should allow oil paint to dry at least to the point where is can withstand the pressure of a fingernail before overpainting or applying any additional layers, no matter what these layers are. Three days is short, three hours is insignificant.

    Brian Baade
    2019-08-11 22:23:41

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