Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Should I Get My Oil Painting Restored?

Acquiring an old oil painting or antique fine art may show signs of damage due to wear, tear and time. The temptation to do a DIY art restoration job may not be wise if the painting is valuable and could cause irreversible damage. What is the best course for getting the oil painting restored?

How to Care for Oil Paintings

Varnishing an Oil Painting
Rachel Shirley
Like most things, time will age an object, and oil paintings are no exception. Lack of care, damp, heat and pollution can all contribute to damage. Prevention is better than cure, but the following practices may have caused an oil painting to age rather prematurely:
  • Hanging the oil painting over a heat source such as a gas fire or radiator. The constant temperature changes and the drying effect could cause the paint layer to expand and contract, creating stresses. The result could be cracking.
  • Placing the oil painting near a window under an intense light source could cause some of the pigments to fade or discolour.
  • Storing the oil painting in a damp location could cause a fogging of the varnish layer due to condensation getting trapped between the painting and the varnish. Damp stains on the canvas may permeate onto the paint layer, causing tide marks or worse, the weave of the canvas to rot.
Varnishing an Oil Painting

A less serious problem, an old oil painting may dull over time due to the accumulation of dirt, dust and smoke in the atmosphere on the varnish. One need not worry, for this is the purpose of the varnish. After ten or twenty years or so, the varnish is supposed to be removed with a special varnish remover along with all the pollutants, and a fresh coat of varnish applied. It is only when the painting has been restored in this way that the colours jump out once again, as though freshly painted.

The temptation to over-clean should be resisted as this could damage the painting. Similarly, never try removing the varnish with an industrial varnish remover, spirits or abrasive agent. Special varnish removers for fine art are worth the investment.

Fine Art Restoration Services

The type of restoration required depends upon the nature of the damage. A particularly old painting, of prior 19th century may well benefit from the restoration by experts. Contacting an art restorer who is a member of the British Association of Conservator Restorers (BAPCR) is a safer bet. The following common restoration services are available:
Winsor & Newton Dammar Varnish for Oil Paintings 500 ml Jar (16.9 oz.)
Oil Painting Varnish
click to buy from Amazon
Oil Painting Cleaning: The most common and simplest of art restoration. The old oil painting varnish is removed by careful means and a fresh coat of varnish applied. An unvarnished oil painting may need cleaning via a different technique.

Canvas Repair: if there are holes, tears or scratches on the paint layer. In which case, the painting surface may need to be professionally patched.

Inpainting: a technique where damage to the paint layer due to peeling or cracking is restored. This entails building up the paint layer to its original state with carefully matched pigments and brushmarks. This is not repainting or over-painting, but replacing what is missing. Only specialist restorers should be commissioned to do such work, as matching pigments and the brushmarks of the original artist are painstaking.

Oil Painting Conservators

The best art restorers use minimum intervention to the oil painting, some using specialist in-house techniques such as micro-friction cleaning or composition lining. Micro friction is used for the removal of hard varnishes, where a controlled jet of small particles is propelled at the varnish to break it up for removal. All techniques used by a reputable art restorer should be reversible, meaning that the work can easily be removed by future restorers if required.

Information on Oil Painting Repair and Restoring


Ameya Pathare said...

Hi! I have painted oil on canvas by using traditional method means fat over lean but after 7 months i have tried to clean with damp cloth my color came out. It was not varnished .
second painting which i have painted with using liquin only .In this painting too the color came out.
In both cases
my canvas was primed one. and after each layer i waited for a touch dry stage.
please guide.

Rachel said...

Hi Ameya

How frustrating for you. Did you use good quality oil paints? What agent did you use to clean the painting? Was it proper oil painting cleaner or spirits? Some agents are too harsh to use for cleaning paintings and only a delicate touch is needed.

If the oil paint was impasto, it can take months, even years to dry properly. Adding a lot of oils to the paint can also make it dry more slowly than normal. Painting on canvas can create the situation where pockets of paint might not have dried as quickly as those that are more exposed to the air.

You say you used Liquin, which is supposed to speed up the paint's drying time. Hopefully, not too much paint has come out.

I weave the painting to dry a little longer, you could try touching up where necessary and then giving it a light coat of varnish. Perhaps a review of the art materials used is needed. Inferior art materials should be avoided.

Hope these suggestions help!

Ameya Pathare said...

Thanks for your prompt reply.I appreciate. i used soft cloth and sprinkled few drops of pure water on that and then tried to clean the painting with a soft touch .
I stay at Mumbai in India and weather is not cold but humidity is more and last 4 months were of rainy season.
I used Lefranc colors and liquin from 2nd layer onwards (1st base layer turpentine +oil color)
My canvas is also of good artist quality.
can you please tell me what mistake I have made?
secondly if i want to use liquin throughout my painting then is there any problem?
third question is that if i want to prolong my drying time then can i use liquin +turp+oil? if yes then is there any proportion? or will it give adverse effect ?
How oils can come out by water ? how Oil paint (not water soluble) dissolves in water?
Its really a big question to me..
I like your way of explanation on website.. I really appreciate once again..hoping for the solution :)

Rachel said...

Hello Ameya

I have never used Lefranc oils, so cannot say if they are the problem. I did some searching and there doesn’t seem to be any complaints with Lefranc oil paints. From this, I think we can assume the problem does not lie with the oil paints but how they were used. Again, I don’t think the canvas is the problem so long as it has been properly sealed with gesso. Now, let’s look at the mediums you used with the paint.

You say you used turps for the oil painting. Industrial turps is not the same as artist’s spirits designed for oil paints. Turps is harsh and could cause the oil paint to break down. Heavy use of turps with oil paints could cause the structure of the oil paint to weaken. For this reason turps should never be used with artist’s oil paints. I would get proper artist’s spirits such as Turpenoid or Sansador. In fact, any artist spirits would be OK. I have the feeling the problem lies with the turps.

Liquin is quite good to use with oil paints, and would recommend it. However, Liquin is an alkyd-based medium and is designed to speed up the drying rate of the oil paint. Oil medium has the opposite effect and will slow it down. Liquin and oil medium should never be used on the same painting – only one or the other. You last point about using turps, oil and Liquin in the same painting is not a good idea for the reasons given. I would keep it simple. Use only one medium (oil or Liquin) and use special artist’s spirits (not turps) for cleaning the brushes. Try not to thin the oil paint too much or it could lose adherence.

Your last point about how oil paint can come out in water is very unusual. It could be due to using harsh turps and over-thinning the paint. I hope this offers some enlightenment for now. I will look further into this in due course.

Best wishes

Ameya Pathare said...

Thanks! I used pure turpentine which is an artist quality solvent.
In that painting ...
first layer was color + turpentine
second was color+turpentine+liquin
third was color +liquin

The other painting which I painted in USA was with liquin+ winsor and newton colors from second layer ..I have tested that by water its not coming out...
If i want to use glaze technique then also liquin in all layers is useful? or I have to try traditional method?
I think the problem may be because of mixing color,mediums and solvents proportion.

can you please guide me how to use oil colors by traditional method using oils, turpentine and also using liquin, in normal painting and impasto paintings. Some times I enjoy to paint with palette knife. I am troubling you so much..but you are the only one which i can ask so many things...
Sorry for the same ..

Rachel said...

Hi Ameya

The traditional method of using oils is to simply use a small amount of artist spirits with the paint to the required consistency (if glazing is the aim) or to use the paint its own. Introduce a little linseed oil to the upper layers of the oil painting to keep the layers supple as each dries. Don’t thin the paint too much and don’t use too many different types of mediums in one painting.

I agree, Winsor & Newton are good and I have used them extensively for years without a problem. Perhaps the solution is to stick to this brand and to use only one art medium with it (either oil or Liquin – not both).

If you wish to explore Liquin, use exclusively for that painting. It is fine for glazing techniques and for thinning the paint. Add just a little to the oil paint before applying. Allow each layer to dry before applying the next layer. As Liquin is good for thinning the paint the use of artist spirits will become superfluous to requirement. Use artist spirits only for cleaning the brushes. It sounds to me that you have used too many agents with conflicting properties in one painting.

If you want to explore impasto, a tube of impasto medium (also called oleopasto) is good. Don’t use oils or other mediums with impasto medium. Squeeze a little impasto medium onto the palette and introduce about 1 part impasto medium to 4 parts oil paint to retain the oil paint’s tinting strength. Impasto medium will thicken the paint and will also cause the painting to dry more quickly. Don’t use with oil mediums.

Again, only use one art medium per painting and keep it simple.

Hope this helps!

Ameya Pathare said...

Thanks a lot !
I will follow your instructions.
thanks once again!