Notebook, 1993-

MATERIALS & METHODS - Painting - Oil Painting

Characteristics - Painting Methods & Techniques - Materials and Equipment - Work Space & Storage - Manufacture of Pigments - Protection of the Picture

Oil Painting
Mat and Gloss Finishes in Oil Paintings

One of the striking features that appealed most strongly to the first generations of painters who used oily paint vehicles was the fact that full-toned glossy paintings could be painted more directly than was possible with the use of aqueous paints. For hundreds of years thereafter oil painting was supposed to be glossy; it was not until quite recent times that any attempts were made to imitate with it the lusterless finishes of fresco, watercolor, and gouache paints.

A normal oil painting is intended to have some degree of gloss; results of all the experience in technical work on industrial coatings show a very definite inferiority in the permanence of coatings when they are made lusterless. Gloss can be dulled in several ways, such as by decreasing the percentage of binder or by adding waxes or other ingredients, all of which weaken the paint film, make it more susceptible to the development of defects, and lower its resistance to wear.

Reliance on excessive use of turpentine or on the absorption of paint by an overabsorbent ground is not only likely to produce a weak and faulty coating, but the paint quality so produced will generally be unsuccessful.

The best flattener for oil paintings would probably be the use [p. 105] of a reliable mat varnish that would produce an overall, uniform dull finish and permit the retention of a full paint quality and a depth of color--but unfortunately the mat varnishes on the market at the present time leave much to be desired. They either contain materials which will turn yellow on short aging or have large percentages of wax [or waxy ingredients] which do not form a sufficiently durable coating to withstand normal wear; or else they will quickly polish to a glossy finish when rubbed. Waxes are among the most permanent and moisture-resistant of our materials and are useful ingredients of various painting materials, but they are not ideal additions to picture varnish. A wax paste--made by melting white refined beeswax, removing it from the stove, and thinning it to the consistency of floor wax by stirring in some turpentine or mineral spirits--makes a fine preservative and finish for paintings which have previously been varnished. Damar varnish is considered the best picture varnish when a right finish is desired, and clear acrylic [mathacrylate] varnish the best for a dull satiny gloss; both are described a little further on in this chapter. [p. 106]

[Mayer, Ralph. The Painter's Craft. An Introduction to Artist's Methods and Materials. Revised and updated by Steven Sheehan, Director of the Ralph Mayer Center, Yale University School of Art. New York: Penquin Group. 1948. 1991.]



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