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 To varnish or not to varnish?

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watermixableguy
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PostSubject: To varnish or not to varnish?   Fri Jan 07, 2011 3:57 pm

As I begin the new year, I'm looking forward to painting, and hopefully showing and maybe even selling a painting or two this year!
But this brings up a point, one that I havn't really reconciled before: if a painting should really cure for at least a year, can I show any new work in 2011?

In other words, how do I exhibit new work? Do I wait the required curing time, then varnish and frame each painting before showing it?
Or do I perhaps show unvarnished paintings, maybe in a temporary frame? Then, if the painting sells, do I ask the buyer to wait a year so I can varnish it and frame it?
Or maybe I stop varnishing my paintings? yikes.

hmmm. What do you guys do, or suggest I do?

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Kyle at Royal Talens



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PostSubject: Re: To varnish or not to varnish?   Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:01 pm

Although of course it's up to you, I know of many artists who will show and sell works prior to varnishing. You can work with the customer to let them know that in 1 year's time you will varnish the painting for them, once it has fully cured and it is the proper time for varnish to be applied.

From what I've known, this is a common practice. As far as framing, my personal preference would be to frame them in the finished frame, but that again is up to you and what you're willing to invest up front.

Hope this helps and good luck with selling your works!
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dbclemons



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PostSubject: Re: To varnish or not to varnish?   Fri Jan 07, 2011 6:14 pm

Retouch varnish.

http://www.dickblick.com/categories/varnishes/retouchingvarnishes/details/

W&N has a new water-soluble varnish that I have yet to try out. All others are made with either turpentine or mineral spirits. I assume you could create a retouch from this by mixing it with 50% water.

http://www.dickblick.com/products/winsor-and-newton-artisan-oil-painting-varnishes/

The minimum time that most manufacturers state to wait before a final varnish is six months. It depends on how thick your oil paint is. I've read some "experts" who say to not bother waiting past two months. If you use alkyds or fast drying mediums all the way through I'd say 2-3 is reasonable, but I add the final varnish in no less than 6.
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watermixableguy
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PostSubject: Re: To varnish or not to varnish?   Mon Jan 10, 2011 9:26 am

Thanks Kyle and David;

I guess ideally, my paintings would be cured, varnished and framed before being shown, but I've been in galleries where the unframed oil paintings weren't actually dripping wet, but from comments by the artist, some of them had been completed in the weeks before the show (!!)

Obviously those ones haven't been varnished, but it makes me wonder how to frame a painting to later remove the frame to varnish it. Maybe I need to do more research, and see if there is such a thing as a gallery frame, ie temporary frame that hides the edges of the work while it is hanging at a show. Or maybe have the framing shop just tack it together with no backing.

David, I have only worked with Artisan WM so far, (but will be trying Cobra and Holbein very soon) and have used their WM varnishes. My wife and I tried the Satin finish, but found the finish too flat. We now use the Gloss varnish, and are happy with the results. However, my wife found that with the last painting she varnished, even though it had cured at least 6 months, the varnish was picking up some colour from the painting. This was quite alarming, and made us more conservative regarding curing time. We will allow even more time for our paintings to cure before varnishing them. We're conservative about trying varnishes in general.

We tried the WM varnish remover, but found that it was not ideal. I had to scrub the surface, and ended up picking up some paint as I removed the varnish. Best to avoid that.

I have heard of the retouch varnish. Since it is formulated for regular oils, would it have the strong scent of the usual regular oil materials, and would it be compatible with my WMs? In other words, would I be able to remove it without scrubbing the canvas?

Ah, questions and more questions, but it's all good, as the say.
Anyway, we always have more to learn, don't we? Smile
Thanks again for the comments.

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dbclemons



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PostSubject: Re: To varnish or not to varnish?   Mon Jan 10, 2011 11:26 am

watermixableguy wrote:
...I have heard of the retouch varnish. Since it is formulated for regular oils, would it have the strong scent of the usual regular oil materials, and would it be compatible with my WMs? In other words, would I be able to remove it without scrubbing the canvas?...

All other varnishes are mixed with turpentine or mineral spirits, as I mentioned earlier, so yes they would have that odor and need of proper ventilation when being applied. They can be used over wmo paintings, and according to W&N their water-mixable varnish can be used on regular oil paintings.

Removing a varnish is not a simple matter, especially if you're trying to remove a retouch. If the oil surface isn't properly bound (still curing) it's not unreasonable that removing the varnish could remove paint as well. First I would ask myself why I would want to remove it and is it worth the risk.

The typical advice for applying a matte varnish, by the way, is to first apply a coat of gloss varnish, and then a matte varnish. This is because the matte varnish itself contains matting agents like waxes that can cloud the surface somewhat unless the surface below is glossy. When using a retouch, I make sure it's glossy, not satin or matte.

A generally recommended guideline as to when to apply a final varnish is a "fingernail test." This involved slightly pressing your fingernail gently into the thickest area of paint. If it still feels spongey or is easily indented then you should wait a few more months until it feels solid all the way through before a final varnish is applied. Personally, I rarely lay down that much paint. Still, I will typically use a retouch until at least six months have passed. If I've sold a painting before then, I will include a note informing the owner when they should have it varnished themselves, or offer to do that for them.
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watermixableguy
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PostSubject: Re: To varnish or not to varnish?   Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:46 am

Some painters are telling me that a retouch varnish can be sprayed on. Apply a light coat or two, a month or so after the painting is completed. I would need to do this outdoors on a breezy day to avoid the fumes. And then, the painting would smell like varnish for several days.
The main stumbling block is the presence of the chemicals.

Hmm, no easy solution to this one, I see.

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dbclemons



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PostSubject: Re: To varnish or not to varnish?   Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:30 am

Sprays are available, but I prefer using a liquid and applying with a brush. It offers better control. Spraying on a breezy day has the problem of controlling the spray. It's better to work in an enclosed area that has good ventilation without dust flying around. Hot dry days are also the ideal time, but not required. If using a brush, it's important to wait long enough after the slowest drying area has dried to the touch so you don't disturb the paint. The odor of turpentine usually won't linger beyond a day or two, depending on the ventilation.
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dbclemons



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PostSubject: Re: To varnish or not to varnish?   Sat Jan 29, 2011 5:35 pm

I noticed today that a local art store had some jars of W&N Mixable Varnish. I picked up one (gloss) and saw that inside was a small amount of some sort of white solid that had formed and settled to the bottom. I shook it and some of it broke up but just floated around inside without dissolving. I found this to be a little alarming so I regrettably decided not to buy any. I guess I'll stick with traditional varnishes for now.
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watermixableguy
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PostSubject: Re: To varnish or not to varnish?   Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:01 am

David, I've used the WN Water Mixable Gloss varnish. It seems to work fine. The store you visited probably had old stock. I wouldn't have bought that bottle from them either.

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dbclemons



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PostSubject: Re: To varnish or not to varnish?   Mon Jan 31, 2011 11:02 am

Old or not, a bottle of varnish shouldn't have anything floating around inside it. Even damar crystals won't reform in turpentine. If anyone buys this online I'd suggest examining your bottle carefully. It's conceivable that if what you use is clear, then it should stay that way on the painting. At least it is removeable if faults appear later on.
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Gknee



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PostSubject: Re: To varnish or not to varnish?   Sat Jul 28, 2012 4:54 pm

I've recently begun using Gamlin GamVar Picture Varnish and I swear I will use nothing else. When comparing this to other paintings varnished with other products this is 100% better imo. The way this varnish saturates the colors and unifies the surface is stunning. Also the beauty is it dries so fast. I paint in both oil and acrylic....over oils the finish is very glossy and rich which I love, over acrylic the finish is more satin. Very affordable, no scent at all and a little goes a long way. Highly recommended.
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PostSubject: Re: To varnish or not to varnish?   Sat Jul 28, 2012 5:44 pm

Thanks for the suggestion. I just wish it wasn't so glossy over oils. I like the satin finish bette, but that is only my preference.

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dbclemons



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PostSubject: Re: To varnish or not to varnish?   Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:22 am

judyfilarecki wrote:
Thanks for the suggestion. I just wish it wasn't so glossy over oils. I like the satin finish bette, but that is only my preference.

"Like damar, Gamvar has a high shine. To make Gamvar less shiny, dilute with up to 50% OMS. Also, painters can make a matting agent from 2 fl oz of Gamsol OMS and 1 teaspoon of Cold Wax Medium. Dissolve the wax completely in Gamsol. Add this in place of a percentage of OMS to make Gamvar more matte."

http://www.gamblincolors.com/oil.painting.techniques/varnishes.html
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PostSubject: Re: To varnish or not to varnish?   Tue Jul 31, 2012 4:36 pm

Thanks David.

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