Sunday, August 3, 2014

Don't Forget To Varnish Your Paintings!

If you've ever wondered how paintings in the galleries look so vibrant, it was because every painting is varnished. Usually with a glossy varnish that will dull down a bit when dried. It may sound simple and even silly to mention this but it IS an important part of painting. Every painting. I'm sure this process is one that has driven curators crazy for centuries. It helps seal in the color and brings out the shine of the original paint. Depending on the type, paint will begin to lose its luster the day it was painted if it was an acrylic or some of the faster drying oils. Varnishes from the past have dried and cracked over time and then have to be removed and re-varnished to protect that paint on the canvas. Think of it as a kind of Saran Wrap for paint and canvas. It is not a simple task and painters plus all conservators have been looking for centuries to find the magic varnish.

Varnished left, unvarnished right - what a difference!
Yesterday I noticed that one of my paintings hadn't been varnished so before taking it to the gallery I put on a layer of gloss varnish. Before my very eyes the colors deepened, got richer, more vibrant and I realized what a difference varnishes really and truly make. Later on I discovered an oil painting also had not been varnished and since the six months waiting period was up a year ago decided to use it for this column.

As you can see on the left, the entire tone of the painting has changed. Colors are either brighter or deeper but all richer and far more vibrant. This is the painting I saw when I painted it, not the dull and lifeless one of yesterday.

Streakless varnishing done in minutes
You might wonder what my brush of choice is and after trying a variety of bristle and Teklon brushes spotted one of those cheapie foam brushes that you use once and throw away. I have desolved bristles using the wrong cleaner, had to throw away brushes that had gotten so hard nothing would restore them and wasted much water trying to save a brush when from 10¢ to 15¢ you can use a foam brush once and throw it away! No water, no getting so hard it can never be used again.

If you have never used this brush give it a try. You can buy them singly or by the bag (the best deal in town) at Home Depot, Lowe's, Michaels, Aaron Brothers, Blick's and any other place that sells craft or paint supplies. I would imagine even Target and WalMart even since they have paint departments! They cover quickly, leave no brush streaks, making it very easy to spread on your canvas. Because it soaks some of the varnish you can press down a bit and get more held by the brush.

If you have never varnished, now is the time to start. Be SURE to get fine art painting varnish, one that is suitable for your paint. This is something that you will have to get at a fine art or craft store. Lowe's and Home Depot do NOT carry suitable varnishes. Blicks, Aaron Bros., Michaels and other artists speciality shops will carry what you need. If you don't know what you need ask! Nothing will ruin a painting faster than using the wrong varnish, one that might resolve your painting.

Grumbacher makes the best known "original picture varnish" brand and one or two versions can be used on oil or acrylic paintings. Purists like to use the varnish made for their paint type. It is up to you. If nothing else the varnish will protect your paintings from the environment...dust, smoke, humidity. If you have never done it, its not too late to start. However, be sure to clean the painting if necessary, before you varnish. The last thing you want is to seal in those years of dust and smoke particles into the paint! You AND your paintings will thank you for it!

Thank you for reading. Please visit KrugsStudio for a wonderful selection of craft items, birdhouses and photography and AlanKrugFineArt where my original oil and acrylic paintings are offered for sale.

No comments:

Post a Comment