Sign In
  • UD Search
Toggle Navigation

Open the Navigation Management window, which can be used to view the full current branch of the menu tree, and edit it.

CONNECT
  • Facebook

MITRA Forum Question Details

Image Picker for Section 0

 ForumQuestion

  • Final Varnish on an EncausticApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2016-11-10 19:00:28 ... Most recent comment 2016-11-10 21:39:00
    Encaustic Varnishes
    Question
    What archivally sound permanent or removable protective finishes if any have been used/recommended for encaustic works that provide a more durable finish on top of the wax surface to help protect it from pollutants and contact damage? Under the recommendation of Golden products I have been using their removable acrylic varnish for about a year now with excellent results but would like to look at other options.
Answers and Comments
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentThanks for your detailed reply and for this outstanding site. The bottle is labeled Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS in gloss, satin and matte. Yes, it is intended as a sacrificial protective surface. I do include a detailed document with each piece explaining how the piece was made, the materials used and how to remove / replace the varnish for whatever reason. My encaustic medium is pure Damar resin powder and filtered beeswax, ranging from 6:1 to 8:1 ratios pigmented with Gamblin and Sennelier dry pigments. Though I do create some encaustics that are more traditional which I often do not seal with varnish, my current style and presentation is such that I cannot use glass and do not want to leave the wax unprotected at any time when on display, which is why I started using the Golden removable varnish as it seemed to be the ideal choice for an encaustic. All hydrocarbon removable varnishes that I tried would soften up the wax to some degree. Removing them with mineral spirits did even more damage. On most pieces I do buff the surface to a pretty high shine before I apply the varnish and put the gloss or a mix of gloss and satin that matches the way the bare wax looks as closely as I can. In most cases it is difficult to tell whether a piece has or has not been varnished so I keep good records of what was done. If I accidentally start to apply new wax to a piece that has been varnished, bad things happen. All the varnish must be removed for any changes to be made to the piece. I have some varnished works that are a bit over 1 year old now that look the same as the day I finished them. I have tested it extensively as far as applying and removing it. It comes off easily with a mild household ammonia cleaner per the instructions from Golden. Windex also works well. I spray the surface and let it soak for a few minutes, then wipe it off. It usually takes about 3 of those routines to remove every trace of the encastic. My panels are saturated with beeswax as a primer before I do any painting on them so the water based cleaner sitting on the surface is not a problem. No hard rubbing needed. Once removed the encaustic surface sheen and texture looks exactly like it did before I applied the varnish. I have not noticed any softening of the wax or even minute amounts of color coming off when applying the varnish or when removing it. The pieces that have been varnished do not become dull underneath the varnish after about 18 months at room temperature, which was something I thought might happen. I don't know if they will over an extended time frame, but if they do it is an easy job to remove the varnish, rebuff the wax and re-apply a new coat. In the care instruction sheet with each piece I do mention that if the owner wishes to leave the wax exposed with no varnish, they can do so, buffing the surface with a soft cloth as needed if bloom does occur. Thanks for the information on the PVA resin. I will do some testing with ethanol first to see how well my encaustic paints hold up to it and if they do, I will give the PVA resin a try on some test pieces.
    2016-11-10 22:59:07
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentIs there any way to insert paragraph breaks in the text? (No need to post this to the thread).

    All my paragraph breaks disappeared which makes the text hard to read.

    2016-11-10 23:00:37
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentHere is a re-post of the above post but with HTML paragraph breaks added where I wanted them. No need to post my comments in this post of the 3rd one about paragraph breaks. -------------------

    Thanks for your detailed reply and for all the work on this outstanding site.

    The bottle is labeled Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS in gloss, satin and matte. Yes, it is intended as a sacrificial protective surface. I do include a detailed document with each piece explaining how the piece was made, the materials used and how to remove / replace the varnish for whatever reason. My encaustic medium is pure Damar resin powder and filtered beeswax, ranging from 6:1 to 8:1 ratios pigmented with Gamblin and Sennelier dry pigments.

    Though I do create some encaustics that are more traditional which I often do not seal with varnish, my current style and presentation is such that I cannot use glass and do not want to leave the wax unprotected at any time when on display, which is why I started using the Golden removable varnish as it seemed to be the ideal choice for an encaustic. All hydrocarbon removable varnishes that I tried would soften up the wax to some degree. Removing them with mineral spirits did even more damage. On most pieces I do buff the surface to a pretty high shine before I apply the varnish and put the gloss or a mix of gloss and satin that matches the way the bare wax looks as closely as I can. In most cases it is difficult to tell whether a piece has or has not been varnished so I keep good records of what was done. If I accidentally start to apply new wax to a piece that has been varnished, bad things happen. All the varnish must be removed for any changes to be made to the piece.

    I have some varnished works that are a bit over 1 year old now that look the same as the day I finished them. I have tested it extensively as far as applying and removing it. It comes off easily with a mild household ammonia cleaner per the instructions from Golden. Windex also works well. I spray the surface and let it soak for a few minutes, then wipe it off. It usually takes about 3 of those routines to remove every trace of the encastic. My panels are saturated with beeswax as a primer before I do any painting on them so the water based cleaner sitting on the surface is not a problem. No hard rubbing needed. Once removed the encaustic surface sheen and texture looks exactly like it did before I applied the varnish. I have not noticed any softening of the wax or even minute amounts of color coming off when applying the varnish or when removing it.

    The pieces that have been varnished do not become dull underneath the varnish after about 18 months at room temperature, which was something I thought might happen. I don't know if they will over an extended time frame, but if they do it is an easy job to remove the varnish, rebuff the wax and re-apply a new coat. In the care instruction sheet with each piece I do mention that if the owner wishes to leave the wax exposed with no varnish, they can do so, buffing the surface with a soft cloth as needed if bloom does occur.

    Thanks for the information on the PVA resin. I will do some testing with ethanol first to see how well my encaustic paints hold up to it and if they do, I will give the PVA resin a try on some test pieces.

    2016-11-10 23:04:00
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer DeleteThis is a complicated question indeed. Honestly there are pros and cons involving three scenarios when it comes to varnishing encaustic works and I can list some below. 1) Do you truly need to varnish? It is of course very commendable that you are concerned about maintaining the surface and long-term preservation of you works and while I am not familiar with your technique, some artists who work in encaustic choose to forego varnishing and will instead buff the surface on occasion to restore the surface sheen. The surface of encaustic paints may be become cloudy/hazy for a number of reasons; efflorescence of chemical components in the paint (fatty acids) can slowly migrate to the surface (a natural phenomenon) and of course dust can stick to the surface as well. Some artists will simply recommend buffing their works on occasion and if your pieces are destined to live in a location that is subjected to high amounts of airborne particulates you may consider placing them behind non-reflective glazing (see our “Storage, Exhibition, and Transportation” Document for a list of various glazing materials). 2) You can certainly choosing to continue varnishing. It is unclear to me which of Golden’s varnishes you are using. Many are dissolved in a mixture of hydrocarbon solvents (think mineral spirits) which will not be reversible but do possess good aging properties. It sounds to me like you would like your varnish to serve as a sacrificial protective layer. By this I mean over time (many, many years) should the surface become dirty, etc. it should theoretically be possible to remove the now dirty varnish without compromising the encaustic beneath. You can certainly use Golden’s MSA varnish for example or even Gamvar (both have been tested by conservation laboratories) but realize that these varnishes and many others will require hydrocarbon solvents (mineral spirits, xylene, toluene, etc) to a certain degree to effectively remove them, solvents that would also risk biting into the encaustic beneath. Golden also offers a polymer varnish that is removable at higher pHs but this may cause the wax to saponify so it may be best to avoid this route unless you have the time and patience to perform some long-term testing on your own. 3) Perhaps another route is to use a varnish coating that may seem a bit unorthodox but would be both reversible and possess good long-term aging properties. You could opt to varnish the surface using a PVA resin (NOT a PVA dispersion adhesive…these often appear as milky solutions in most art stores). You can purchase the PVA resin directly from Kremer and dissolve the varnish in ethanol. Such a varnish could also be removable using polar solvents as well (ethanol, acetone), solvents that would not bite into your encaustic. HOWEVER, if you are adding things like dammar or other soft resins into your encaustic medium, there will be a risk that these solvents will bite into your paint. If you are only using encaustic then you should be good to go. No matter what you choose, we always recommend recording your materials and technique (to the degree possible) on the back of your painting. It can become difficult over time for example for a conservator to visually tell whether your encaustic does indeed possess a varnish layer. You will do your painting a huge favor by recording a) whether or not you have a varnish and b) what type of varnish you have used.
    Kristin deGhetaldi (CAS)
    2016-11-10 23:14:08
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentNot having any ethanol on hand, I tried some isopropyl alcohol which did dissolve my 6:1 beeswax:damar mix. Can I assume that ethanol would do the same?
    2016-11-11 10:32:44
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentHi -

    As the Senior Technical Specialist here at Golden just curious about your initial comment, where you say that "Under the recommendation of Golden products I have been using their removable acrylic varnish for about a year now...." Just wanted to see if someone here recommended the Polymer Varnish on top of encaustic as that would be a very untested recommendation, and we would want to make sure to stress that and that using it in this way would need to be seen as experimental. That said, if it has been working well, that is certainly something for us to look into and perhaps do testing on our end.

    I appreciate anything you can share - and thanks!

    2016-11-11 10:40:40
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentYes I suspect either ethanol or isopropanol may bite into your paint if it contains dammar. As to "how low can you go" regarding the amount of dammar you can add when keeping in mind your varnish.....this is really something that you would have to test on your own which it sounds like you are doing anyhow... Deghetaldi, Kristin
    2016-11-11 15:51:53
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentRE: Golden recommendation on using your Poymer Varnish - from memory I thought I had received an email from Golden but I searched back 3 years and do not see any direct communication from Golden about this. It has been a while so my recollection is not clear. It may have been based on something I read on an art supply or encaustic web site, but unfortunately I cannot find that source. After re-reading the page on the Golden site which I did read some years ago about this product I see clearly that you only recommend it for acrylic paints. Thanks for bringing my erroneous statement to light.

    In any case, it is working wonderfully on the encaustic surfaces. No hint of adhesion problems or interacting undesirably with the encaustics during application or over an 18 month period of time on the surface. In one test I took a cloth saturated in the varnish and rubbed very hard for about 90 seconds on a test strip of my Gamblin Cobalt Blue pigmented encaustic and there was no indication of lifting the encaustic medium or leaching any pigment from it even looking at the cloth and the encaustic surface under 10x magnification.

    I was extremely pleased at how easily it could be removed from the surface. That was a very important aspect for any protective varnish I was going to use. All of the solvent based removable varnishes I tried had problems with dissolving the encaustic medium on application as well as removal.

    2016-11-11 17:33:46
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentRE: Polymer Varnish Recommendation and Golden

    Hi -

    Thanks for following about the Polymer Varnish and where the idea might have come from. I asked simply because it is one of those things we just had never thought to test - but obviously you have been testing it in a very real-life way for awhile now and that might certainly inspire us to put it on the list of testing for the future. If nothing else, it is good to hear that you appear to be successful so far, so keep us in the loop at Golden - if you can - should anything arise. In the meantime, bust of luck with everything.

    Sarah Sands
    2016-11-13 08:28:57
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentI will follow up with any new experiences I have with this. Thanks for all your input .
    2016-11-20 11:28:18
Page Settings and MetaData:
(Not Shown on the Page)
Page Settings
question
No
MetaData for Search Engine Optimization
MITRA Forum Question Details
restricted
This page cannot be accessed until you accept the Terms of Use, which can be found here.
Please note that this Terms of Use system uses cookies. If you have cookies disabled you will not be able to accept the agreement. If you delete our cookies you will need to re-accept the Terms of Use.
  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489
  • art-conservation@udel.edu