Skip to Main Content
Sign In
Toggle Navigation

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

  • Instagram
  • Facebook

MITRA Forum Question Details

Image Picker for Section 0


  • resuming work on older oil paintingsApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2020-03-11 01:57:35 ... Most recent comment 2020-03-17 20:16:10
    Oil Paint

    ​Dear MITRA,

    I have searched the MITRA forum and resources, and while I have read similar questions to mine, I am not locating an answer to my exact inquiry.

    I am about to resume work on a large format oil on linen diptych after I had to set them aside for a few years. I recently received funding to complete the full project for an upcoming solo exhibition, so I look forward to completing these initial works. I want to use the soundest methods possible to finish these canvases, and would like to know if my approach sounds like the best route to take.

    I am using oil paints made with walnut oil, and initially used a solvent-based alkyd medium cut 50/50 with OMS for my underpainting, then a walnut/alkyd medium with increasingly less OMS for subsequent fatter layers. I never adulterate more than 20% as I alter the fat-to-lean ratio. On large parts of each canvas, the underpainting and canvas tooth are still visible, while other areas are comprised of a second or third layer as I had developed them to near completion.

    Here is my suggested approach to complete the works, along with my questions about each potential step:

    1. Cleaning – I plan to give both of the canvases a gentle rub with OMS to get rid of any potential dirt or fingerprints, etc, before resuming painting.

    2. Sanding? –

    (a) do I need to gently abrade the areas where I got as far as a second or third layer to break the seal of the paint and insure best adhesion? Or only sand where any fatter third layers look glossy? I presume that I wouldn't need to sand the underpainting areas that still feature good canvas tooth.

    (b) If sanding is recommended, since I don't want to alter my composition (so pentimenti isn't a concern), would I only need to break/scuff the surface, rather than sanding down to the underpainting? Would wet sanding with a little OMS or distilled water be advised for safety? (I know to wear an appropriate mask and dispose of the pigment dust responsibly, etc.)

    (c) I also wondered if I'd only need to sand where the final highlight and darkest shadow layers are going, but that sounds potentially more complicated or confusing and would limit my method of execution.

    3. Limiting layers – for best adhesion, in this case should I limit myself to a certain number of paint layers wherever possible? I typically use an indirect painting method to create a fairly naturalistic end result by employing glazes on top of a wet-in-wet or wet-on-dry base. As I recall, limiting yourself to three layers including the underpainting when possible is a good practice for longevity anyway…? The number of layers I would need to employ would also be affected by how much (if any) sanding you would recommend, because I will essentially have to redo anything I sand.

    I welcome your input on the best way to proceed. While I know that resuming work on canvases whose layers are this closed off isn't necessarily the best case scenario, starting over does not appeal to me from the standpoints of both time and expense. I frequently see Old Master examples wherein the artist spent years completing the works or resumed painting after a few years, so I suppose there are worse studio practices. 

    Thank you so much for your time and expertise!

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Do you use lead white or other toxic oil paints? If so, I would not advise sanding at all. If not, I would just give the whole surface a very slight scuffing using a 320 grit sandpaper. This is just to ensure adhesion and to remove any skin of oil that may be on the surface. You may not even need to do this if the paint is lean and the texture provides substantial mechanical tooth

    You should still make sure to wear gloves, a dust mask, and used wet/dry sandpaper dampened with odorless mineral spirits and do this operation out of doors.

    There is no rule as to the number of layers, however, the more layers, the chance for problems. This should not cause you to change your aesthetic vision, try to achieve what you intend with the fewest number of layers necessary FOR THAT EFFECT. This will be different for each painter.

    Brian Baade
    2020-03-11 15:14:27
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you Brian. I don't use lead white, but I'll have to check my studio notes as to whether there is any cadmium yellow or red in the extant layers. In that event, would there be another way to insure best adhesion? I'd prefer not to sand if I don't have to for several reasons.  

    Much appreciation for your advice.

    2020-03-11 17:05:48
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​PS -- I also have stand oil on hand if adding a bit to the final layer along with the walnut oil/alkyd medium would be helpful. 

    2020-03-11 17:12:11
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Dear Brian,

    I hope everyone with MITRA are staying healthy. In case you are still moderating during this time, I just wanted to follow up regarding my question. 

    I do have cadmium yellow, cadmium red, and cobalt blue in my initial layer, so as per your earlier reply, sanding would not be recommended. However, my layers were fairly thin (application-wise, not with too much medium), so the cross-hatched surface texture of the acrylic dispersion primer is still quite visible to varying degrees. Do you agree that this would provide sufficient mechanical tooth? My extant layers range in fatness from initial lean pigments adulterated 20% with a 50/50 alkyd medium/OMS mixture up to smaller areas with admixtures in the somewhat fatter range (not the fattest), adulterated 20% with 70/30 medium. 

    Please advise if there is anything I could or should do to insure the best possible adhesion beyond using a walnut/alkyd oil medium and gently cleaning the canvases with OMS before I resume my work. 

    Thanks again!

    2020-03-17 20:16:10

Page Settings and MetaData:
(Not Shown on the Page)
Page Settings
MetaData for Search Engine Optimization
MITRA Forum Question Details
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