Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Few Recent Items

The middle painting is 14x18 inches
The other two are 9x13 inches

Varnishing an Oil Painting

Some Background Knowledge and Buyer’s Advice

I was a little confused about the types of varnishes out there and didn’t know which ones were bad to use. So I asked a friend of mine. I learned a lot more than I needed to know, but still here is what I was told:

Varnishes, made from resins, have been around for thousands of years. Until modern chemistry, resins came from plant and animal extracts. They often have pleasant smells and were used in religious ceremonies in days of yore. However many craftsmen started using resins because when they are dissolved in solvents and when applied to certain surfaces they can have a protective quality about them once the solvent has evaporated away. After the solvent has evaporated, there remains a layer of protective resin-like layer. However when used on oil paintings, this varnish will last only a limited amount of years before it yellows, cracks or even becomes foggy.

Experts say that varnishes need to be changed (that is removed and re-applied without disturbing the paint beneath) every 40-60 years. If left on the painting these varnishes can damage valuable art work. In fact, I usually do not varnish my paintings unless I want to achieve a specific sheen or antique look.
Damar and mastic resins are still used popularly today. They are derived from plants but even though they are popular they behave quite badly over time. Stay away from water-based “varnishes” if you are painting in oils of course. Although they are fine for some arts and crafts painted with water-based paints and acrylics, you cannot use them on oil paintings. Traditionally these water-based varnishes are used not only to protect acrylic paintings, but also used to give them a shine that is similar to oils.

With oil paintings, it is best to use an acrylic-resin varnish (a solvent based varnish). So you’ll have to read carefully when buying varnish. Instead of dissolving the acrylic-based resins in water, these varnishes use solvents to dissolve the resin. Many of these varnishes have been examined by
accelerated age tests and also with tests for light and energy exposure. Knowledge is power, so buyers beware. If you’re really investing money and time in an important piece of artwork, you might want to re-think varnishing completely. If you decide to go ahead and varnish make sure you stick to solvent based (acrylic-resin) varnishes. Buyers of some more high-end art with varnishes will need to know that their art will need maintenance in years to come.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Turning Turpentine Into Wine

How One Artist Survived this Economy by Taking a Risk and Using His Talent

A good friend of mine (we’ll just call him Calem for now) and art lover from Phoenix, AZ is a full-time, self-employed artist. He sells his art in various galleries around Phoenix and competes regularly in local and regional competitions. However these days he tells me that people are not buying art as much as he would like and he has taken his art career in a new and exciting direction in order to maintain his lifestyle. Not only does a self-employed artist need to be darn good at painting, but he also needs to be able to weather the ups and downs of the economy. Also as Calem has shown us, the long-term artist must be able to step out of the studio and use his knowledge of painting, art, colors and design in different ways.

When I first met Calem, it was back in 2001 when I was visiting some friends of mine in Phoenix. We were out shopping; I spotted a gallery and made a dash in that direction. Inside I found a collection of his work on display. I asked the gallery attendant about the artist and she said that I should meet him myself and politely pointed in the direction of this gentleman who was hunched over a desk in the corner. We became quick friends and have kept in touch ever since. The sad thing is, Calem has fallen on some hard times since 2001 but despite his hesitation to spend less time in the Gallery, he has come out on top by taking his art skills in another direction.

Now I can’t wait to talk to Calem on the weekends to hear about his recent work in art conservation and restoration. Galleries handling art and museums need paintings to be cleaned and restored. Some ceramics, glass objects, and paper objects need special attention as well. Frames also need retouching now and then. So this is what Calem does for various galleries and museums. First he approached a local museum and asked if he could shadow their art restorer. This turned into an apprenticeship and eventually a full-time job. Each time we talk he tells me about some interesting place or gallery he has visited and another exciting show that I “must see”. He’s recently been involved with projects dealing with artists such as O’Keefe and Carmen L. Garza.

This is an inspiring and important story to share. Calem took lemons and made lemonade. Artists need not think that they can use their talents only by making and selling art. Other ideas for artists to make extra income are: photographing art, framing, or designing for furniture and interior galleries. I know someone who took one of her paintings into a furniture dealer in Columbia just to see if they would possibly offer to hang one or two of them for sale. These people ended-up hiring her as a furniture salesman! So the underlying theme here is that artists are naturally creative and can use their gifts to get ahead if they are willing to step outside the box. Moreover, this is a real lesson for everyone, not just artists.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cold weather painting

Well hello again, it's been since August that I last blogged about art and I'm starting my winter vacation. I'm also preparing to do a little painting. So I went out to my storage room this morning and pulled out my painting box. I almost started to prepare my pallet but my paint tubes were like bricks because of the cold. So what does one do when one's paints are harder than bricks and cold?

Just move your supplies into a warm room, wait a couple hours and the paints will feel as soft as they were when you bought them. Watch out trying to speed-up the warming process. Remember most of the thinners and oil-based mediums that we use with oil paints are flammable. So no need to place them up against the heater or fireplace.

If you're working with a wooden or plastic pallet that's nice and cold, it's the perfect time to chisel-off some of the layers of old paint. Just take a stiff wire brush or even a screw driver and pluck those little mounds of paint right off.
Looking forward to a little winter painting!

Above: Painting with Rob Shaw from Havens Framemakers a few months back.