Final Varnish on an EncausticApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
Question asked 2016-11-10 19:00:28 ...
Most recent comment 2020-03-09 13:33:15
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
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.
Thanks for the update.
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