Notebook, 1993-

MATERIALS & METHODS - Painting - Sythetic Resin Paints

Acrylic Resins - Alkyd Resins - Cellulose Acetate - Cellulose Nitrate - Synthetics in Artists' Materials - Vinyl Resins

Prepared Artists' Materials - Polyvinyl Acetate Emulsion [PVA, Vinyl Polymer Tempera] - Acrylic Emulsion Paints [Acrylic Polymer Tempera] - Acrylic Solution Paints - Alkyd Resin Medium

[From: Kay, Reed. The Painters Guide to Studio Methods and Materials. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983.]

Synthetics in Artists'

Although a great variety of synthetic materials are employed by industrial manufacturers, a smaller number of the synthetic resins have been selected for use by artists and the makers of art materials. Those new products, utilizing synthetic resins that have gained acceptance during the last three decades, have established themselves as worthwhile alternatives to traditional materials such as linseed oils, lime fresco, gouache, or tempera. Initial efforts to incorporate modern industrial synthetics in art techniques were made before 1950 by experimenting painters such as David Siqueiros and JosÚ GutiÚrrez in Mexico, and by United States artists such as Karl Zerbe and Alfred Duca. Progressive manufacturers made possible the wide-scale production of artists' paints and mediums using synthetic resins. For most painters it is more productive to experiment with the synthetic materials as ready-made artists' paints or mediums rather than to undertake the selection of a product from the vast array of industrial plastics or resins. The nature of the raw materials is such that it is extremely difficult for the artist alone to attempt any sort of systematic investigation of them. Most synthetic-resin products are available only in large bulk lots. Within each large group of synthetic resins [acrylic, alkyd, polyvinyl, styrene] there exist literally dozens of specific resin products, each produced in many grades, each manufactured to have different viscosity, adhesive properties, color stability, toxicity, and acidity, among other variable characteristics. Then, for each resin, there are many auxiliary solvents, plasticizers, retarders, and other modifying agents, each of which is likely to affect the binder, the pigments, and the brushing and storaging quality of the paint. In many cases because the ingredients are poisonous or highly flammable, they require safety measures which are well known to industrial users but not to artists. Research in this field is often easier for the manufacturers of artists' materials and their staffs of chemists and technicians. They can select and develop new products and can test them to see if they have advantages over existing materials, either because paints made with them are more easily manipulated or because the paintings that they produce will be more durable. By confining experimentation to synthetic resin paints developed especially for artists' use, painters can be sure that they are evaluating the new binders as they behave with pigments that meet artist' standards and as they are compounded by a manufacturer who is aware of the special requirements of the artist. Other newly developed paints and adhesives, no matter how useful to the house painter or home owner, are best kept for those purposes for which they were designed.

Some artists' materials containing synthetic resins are listed later. A few points are worth keeping in mind concerning their application. First, although they may resemble older materials in some ways, these new products exhibit substantial differences from the traditional media. Painters should understand that they are working with a medium that is not essentially an imitation oil paint or imitation egg tempera, but has its own character. Especially at the beginning, they will do well not to restrict the handling possibilities of the new material by thinking of it in terms of another technique. [p. 190]

In respect to the durability of the final picture, the artist is cautioned against putting too great a faith in some miraculous ability of the new materials to stand careless use. The limits of safe practice, so well defined in the older techniques by centuries of traditional craft, must be determined for the new media by the experimenting artists. Because these new materials usually have some characteristic conspicuously different from the older materials, it is sometimes assumed that none of the customary considerations of technique apply to the new "miracle" paints. However, it will be found that even for the improved product, definite limits do exist [although they may be more liberal than those inherent in the conventional materials [in regard to compatibility with other products, storaging properties, resistance to conventional solvents and to the other forces that act on paintings.

The artist should not forget the normal precautions concerning cleanliness and ventilation, which are observed when even such conventional materials as turpentine or lime are used. Skin irritations and sensitivities, which sometimes result from the use of some of the older products, are not necessarily ruled out in the case of recently discovered synthetic materials.

Finally, in evaluating substitutes for the conventional binders, adhesives, and protective coatings, artists must examine them carefully to make sure that improved characteristics are not obtained at the sacrifice of some other desirable quality. For example, a paint binder that produced films free of the after-yellowing associated with the conventional linseed oils might seem a welcome substitute for them. However, if the films made with the new , nonyellowing material were less flexible or less adhesive to their grounds than those made with linseed oil, painters might lose more than they would gain. [pp. 190-191]

[Kay, Reed. The Painters Guide to Studio Methods and Materials. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983.]



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