I love the spontaneity of certain paintings, but some times an error occurs and you have to go back and fix something. A lot of times my paintings come easily for me and I don't sweat them too much, but once in a while I have to put my proverbial blood, sweat and tears into a work.
I recently painted a painting of my dad sitting outside and I loved the overall light and feeling I was able to capture. The painting took a little over an hour and I photographed it and called it finished. A lot of the painting is impressionistic and even my dad's face looks unfinished, but the thing is that that was on purpose and not in error. But I later realized that I forgot to put in the upper portion of the chair behind my dad on the left side of the painting (as indicated in the image below with the red arrow). I want my paintings to be intentional and in control even if they appear less finished.
I'm a purest when it comes to painting alla prima and I believe in capturing the transient moment and then called it finished in order to leave the spontaneity and not overwork it. The problem was that I was losing sleep about that missing chair part. My style is fairly impressionistic so a lot of people probably wouldn't notice, but I noticed and it was bothering me. I knew it was an error.
So what I did was I set up the chair back outside under roughly the same lighting conditions and I fixed it. It only took a few minutes and now I finally feel the sense of relief that I get when I do something right. It's a hard thing to judge, but I knew I had to fix it in my gut and I always trust what my gut tells me.
The more I paint, the more I always return to simple methods. I'm going back to using a simple oil painting medium of 1/2 refined linseed oil (Winsor & Newton) and 1/2 Odorless Mineral Spirits (Gamsol). This was a medium that I used during my beginning years and as I studied at the Pennsylvania Academy. I really like straightforward techniques and keeping things simple.
Time to go paint..
As with many artists, I'm obsessed with the surface quality of my paintings and discovering new products. I've recently conducted some varnish experiments as I continually search for materials that work for me. Before discusses each varnish, I first want to say that each of these products (and any products I talk about) may work for you, BUT you have to test them out to see.
So here's a breakdown of each varnish that I tested:
Dammar varnish - Very traditional varnish with suspected conditional issues such as yellowing with age. Conservators suggest you wait 6-12 months before you varnish with dammar, but I rarely wait that long before using dammar. That could come back to hurt my paintings, but maybe in 100 years or so...
Dammar is very sticky to apply and starts to tack up very quickly. I've heard you can warm up the dammar in a double boiler before you apply it to make it more spreadable, but I've personally never done that so I'm not sure if it works.
I used two coats of dammar (waiting 24 hours in between for the first layer to dry) and the painting was beautifully shiny. Like I said though, the longevity of the varnish scares me a little. Keep in mind also that dammar is mixed with turpentine so the smell might irritate some people (I personally like the smell).
Gamvar - Gamvar is a pretty amazing product and I've discussed it in past posts. The main thing I like about Gamvar is the fact that you don't have to wait to apply it. Gamblin suggests that you only need to wait until the painting is "...dry to the touch and firm in the thickest areas...that may be two weeks, for others, 2 months." That's a pretty amazing thing.
The downside to Gamvar that I've noticed is the fact that it took me 3 coats to reach a level of gloss that I liked. For some works, I would apply the first coat and it would look great, and then it would sink in. This didn't happen to all the paintings and one of my paintings looked great after the first application. Applying more than one coat is never too much of a headache though.
With all the varnishes, I prefer to apply several thin coats instead of 1 thick coat. I've always heard this is the best. The other thing I love about Gamvar is that it's super easy to apply and doesn't tack up right away.
CPC UVS Finishing Varnish - The final varnish I want to discuss is Conservator's Products Company's UVS Finishing Varnish. This is the varnish that I have the least experience with, but I want to discuss what I know about it.
The first thing about this varnish is that it has to be specially ordered from CPC's website. You give them your address and which product you want and then they email you to confirm, then they ship it to you and then you mail them a check within 30 days of receiving the products (old school). This has a certain charm to it, which I like, but not everyone may like the extra steps involved.
They're located in NJ and so am I so I received the product the very next day. The varnish comes with instructions and you get two separate containers, one of them is a quart sized metal container and the second is a little bottle with a dropper top. The varnish needs to be mixed in small amounts before you apply it with a certain ratio. I like the way the varnish looks, but it isn't glossy enough for me and it doesn't say if you can do multiple coats (which I'm guessing you can) so I would have to ask the company.
Overall, it's a good varnish and gives a surface kind of similar to the Gamvar.
So, what's my final opinion-- I like the Gamvar a lot because I can use it once the painting is semi-dry, it's easy to apply and I like the surface quality that it gives, but I may change my opinion as I continue on my journey..
I was sketching a small portrait of my brother two days ago and I had some realizations. I first realized that I never have to pretend to do my art in a certain way. I used to have this feeling like the work I was making wasn't my own and that I was trying really hard, but not in a good way. I still have my artistic inspirations whom I look to (Sargent, Sorolla, Bouguereau, etc.) but I feel much more myself lately.
I keep thinking about a friend of mine who I used to play ping pong with in college. He was a really good player and I'd ask him about if he put any spin on the ball or any special techniques. He said that he just tries to return each shot and didn't think about anything else. That hit me profoundly. I feel that way about my paintings now; I have one goal: I just want to make a good painting. There's obviously a lot more to it than that beneath the surface, but as I get more advanced, then the more simple it becomes. Everything returns to simplicity. I just feel like I keep letting go of things that I deem unnecessary. I want to shed everything away.
I've also been pushing really hard recently while setting up my atelier. I'm even in the deep stages of purchasing small business insurance because I'm about to choose a space. It's very surreal and it's a dream that I've had for a while now. I feel very at peace.