View Full Version : lseiler and Garret Copal

06-19-2001, 10:47 PM
Hey Larry - I have been seeing your comments about Garret Copal and in my quest to find the perfect medium, I ordered some. I had a nice conversation with Ron and it sounds like great stuff. I was about to order some Amber Varnish/Medium from Blockx, but found your comments and the info on Copal interesting in that it sounds quite similar - and perhaps even better so ordered the copal instead.

I ordered the concentration, not the medium, but he's sending me a sample of the medium too. I thought since I don't have very good ventilation, that the medium, containing turp, would be too strong.

So I was hoping I could get some hints from you on use and some information on the differences and effects that using copal makes on the process of painting and the final product.

So, some general questions:

Why do you like it so much?

If you painted a painting with copal and one without, could you look at them later and see the difference?

Do you varnish afterwards?

How does it effect the paint as you're painting?

How do you use it?


06-19-2001, 10:54 PM
Good post, Randy - moving this over to the Oil Painting forum - Larry's much more liable to see it over there ... :p

I'll leave a link to it here, though. You should see a "Moved:" in front of the thread title ...


06-25-2001, 10:23 AM
I guess Larry's busy framing and packing up all those paintings he's selling! :) Congrats on the sales, Larry.

So, about the copal medium....

06-25-2001, 01:22 PM
<b>So, some general questions: </b>

Sorry Randy....I have been busy...traveling, painting, framing work and delivering, etc;

<b>Why do you like it so much? </b>

For me Randy, its all about brushstrokes. In fact, I have made a request for Ron to put up an elaborate explanation as such on his site, because the traditional technique the masters developed its use for is with layers of transparent glazes. There is good reason to use it for us more impasto people, and he might market more product if he did put a detailed explanation there. As it is, I'm sure my excitement about it has perhaps done a lot to highlight its benefits.

In fact, it might be fun to try sometime on an in-studio piece, but its not the practical manner in which I use it as a plein air alla primist. I need the paint to work with me.

It's sorta like this, and Scott will relate being a guitar player. You can have your guitar picking technique down and play it flawlessly on a cheap guitar, and still it does not sound good. On the other hand, you can make mistakes on an expensive hand built instrument and even the mistakes sound lovely!

That's what my first attempt at using copal was like. Not just any cheaper resin imitation, but Ron's, which is made as it is supposed to be made.

I want my brushstroke to <b>stay right where I put it</b> and remain in the thick state and texture it was applied. I work very very hard to say the most with the least, such that the stroke alone is nearly an artist's signature style. The copal as I use it, about 2-3 drops per 1-1/2" ribbon of paint from the tube, and about a dozen drops on my white paint (about 3" ribbon from tube), routinely works in this manner.

My paint stroke glided on effortlessly, nearly as though it were painting itself. I've worked with many mediums, but none gave me the handling that this medium did in that regard!

When I'm fighting with minutes to capture the spirit of the scene before the sun changes the whole mood, I can't be fighting with the paint. I was in seventh heaven when I first discovered this stuff.

Next....I may have a client interested in the painting perhaps in only a couple days later. Perhaps a gallery standing in line for some work. I would not have the freedom to allow such a work go that needed varnishing 3-6 months later.

I do not like Japanese drier, nor cobalt drier (which is quite toxic and purple in color)...and the Liquin dries from the surface in which can be chemically unsettling. Also, from tests I've seen at Don Jusko's site, Liquin can get darn nasty dark yellow in short order.

Copal, made the painstakingly right way...is a <b><i>natural siccative</i></b> which means by its own nature, it is a drier. It dries in just the right way in that it does not do so from surface down, or gessoed surface out. It molecularly attaches itself to each paint pigment and dries uniformly. What you see when the painting is dry, is what you get. No worry now about cracking.

Also...the colors remain a decent and glorious glow or chroma.

Now....if you should have the painting 3-6 months later, you may opt to varnish with Damar, which will give a clearer glossier long lasting protective surface.

The advantages to this, is if a restorer 100 years from now wishes to clean and revarnish, he can remove the Damar easily without effecting the painting itself. Now, imagine if the solvent used to restore was one that broke down copal that might in their thinking have been used as the varnish in and of itself? Well, it would dissolve the very paint itself. For such reasons, it might be good on the back of the panel to leave a note that details copal used as a medium and siccative, with a Damar varnish for protection.

Now...on the other hand, copal is also a natural varnish. It acts as a medium....as a drier....and as a varnish. This means it will harden and protect the paint, and leave it with the finish you want. Used as I do, it dries with a somewhat soft sheen. Add more drops, and it dries shinier.

<b>If you painted a painting with copal and one without, could you look at them later and see the difference? </b>

well again, my greatest concern is-
* work with my brushstroke and need for immediacy
* dry relatively quick 3-5 days
* have a nice natural sheen

As such....you could always tell, with exception to when I final varnish with Damar, the oils I use copal with. If another artist uses it as I, yes....I could tell.

The other thing is....I can tell because of what I can't tell. I don't see a discoloration, colors remain bright and crisp as if painted yesterday.

<b>Do you varnish afterwards? </b>

<b>How does it effect the paint as you're painting? </b>

...answered as well. Works with me, not against me!

<b>How do you use it? </b>

again....2-3 drops per ribbon of color pigment out of the tube.
I add 12-15 drops to a large amount of white, and then want more because I will mix white so often into nearly every color, so it brings more unity.

I use a knife and mix it in quite well until the paint whips up and holds form from the passing thru of the knife. Very buttery.

I use more the regular solution, and less the concentrate, so you'll have to experiment with the concentrate. I use the concentrate for the most part with my white when I use, "lead" white. That was Ron's suggestion, and it works quite well!

the copal solution is a bit pricey, but considering what goes into making this pure product, and how long it lasts...I'd say it is well worth it! Especially as you get more serious about your painting!

Here is Garrett Copal Medium online for anyone interested in checking it out and learning more-

hope this helps!


06-25-2001, 04:20 PM
Larry -
I'm (almost) sold. I know I'll get around to trying copal one day. But... there is usually a downside. For example: I remember reading somewhere (possibly in Ralph Meyer's book) that copal medium tends to cause cracking. Maybe that's avoided when used as you do, because you are using what sounds like relatively small amounts.

What do you think?

(Thanks again for all your contributions to this site. You are WetCanvas's Ironman!!)


06-25-2001, 10:28 PM
<b>: I remember reading somewhere (possibly in Ralph Meyer's book) that copal medium tends to cause cracking. </b>

Hey Tom...don't know about "Iron" man...hee hee, but thanks for the kind comments.

Um...it may be that I don't use a great deal of it, but having talked with the man that makes it....even just this afternoon, again remember that the copal mediums you find in art stores such as Grumbacher use the same resin as is found in latex paint at the hardware store, no stand oil, just linseed, and a petroleum solvent. There is no cooking process involved. Basically, they are called "copal" medium but in reality have <b>NO</b> copal in it. Is that false advertisement, or what? :mad:

Could be that Meyer is referring to these readily available substitutes. I will talk with some of my knowledgeable sources and see what they know as well, and then get back to this thread.


06-26-2001, 11:56 AM
Like a good conspiracy??? Well...let's admit, people being human, filled with motives often hidden even to themselves...we often see the drama of such played out I spoke with Ron Garrett about the "cracking" which Meyer comments upon in his book.

He has given me permission to quote him on this interesting history of Meyer, but...understand while it may explain some issues, Ron admittedly does not know it to be actual substantiable fact. -Larry
- - - - -

<b>"I have heard from 3 people who knew both Mr. Taubes and Mr. Mayer and all three have told the same story. Both men were editors for American Artist Magazine and each hated the other. All three have said that their hatred for each other resulted from Mr. Taubes stealing Mr. Mayers mistress in the late 1930's. Mr. Mayers background is chemistry and he decided to write a book on art supplies and techniques most of which was plagairized according to some. It was the first comprhensive art book in some time and has been well recieved for many years and many take it as a holy manuscript. Mr. Taubes knew the value of copal to the artist and recommeded it, and Mr. Mayer after losing his mistress to Mr. Taubes decided to hurt where he could, and thus the battle began. Mr. Levison, the founder of Permanent Pigments, was a chemist and had many close ties to the painting world. His was the only company to reveal everything about the ingredients in his paint and the testing involved before taking to Market. He saw the value of the medium and recommended it. He was also the formulator for Liquitex and later sold his company to Benney and Smith, the makers of crayolas. His oil paint was later dropped and only the liquitex remains today. His oil paint was the standard of the industry."</b>

06-26-2001, 09:31 PM
Hi Larry,

Love the story that Ron told you about Meyer and Taubes. Have both of their books and I have the feeling that much of Meyer's findings and formulas are passe. At this point I have four of Taubes books and although they were written 50 years ago, I think they are great. I'll be interested in hearing what you find out about copal.

I am really enjoying using Ron's Copal. I have two other mediums to try yet before I settle into the one (or ones) I like the most. Asked this question elsewhere but you are really the right person to ask - what is the shelf life of the copal? If I open the other bottles, will it hold up for a while?

06-27-2001, 12:32 AM

Don't know the technical answer on that except, I've never had any of Ron's medium go bad on me. In fact, I've opened several bottles to keep a smaller more portable botle filled, which is more convenient for my plein air travels. No sign of problems. If I hear more from Ron, which is a definitive answer....I'll get back to you.


Ron Garrett
06-27-2001, 02:05 PM
My medium should remain in good shape indefinitely if the cap is kept on the bottle. I have several bottles over 10 years old and they are the same color and consistancy as they were when they were first bottled. If left uncapped the gum spirits will evaporate and it will become thicker but you can add gum spirits, turp, or mineral spirits to thin it to your personal preference. The copal concentrate, if exposed to the air, will gell over a period of time (several weeks) so the cap should be left on.


06-27-2001, 07:36 PM
HI RON! :)

How great to hear from you and thanks for your response. That's wonderful. Hope you will stay with us and contribute to our forum. I know you have much to offer.


06-28-2001, 11:56 AM
Privileged to have you here now among us Ron...having become a member of Wetcanvas. Thanks....! :clap:

I have a great deal of respect for Ron's integrity for his products, and very glad he is available for any possible questions.


06-28-2001, 04:20 PM
I too would like to welcome you Ron! A little while back I posed this question to this thread (specifically to Larry):

"... I remember reading somewhere (possibly in Ralph Meyer's book) that copal medium tends to cause cracking. Maybe that's avoided when used as you do, because you are using what sounds like relatively small amounts."

Understanding and accepting Larry's response, i.e. that your copal medium is not the same and of a higher quality than that which I might pick up at my art local supply store, I still wonder what you have to say about the cracking issue. Does your copal medium contribute to cracking in some way? Is there validity at all to such a claim?

Many thanks!!


Ron Garrett
06-29-2001, 02:49 AM
I will try to answer your question concerning cracking by quoting two sources, Henry Levison and Fredric Taubes.
First a little background about Mr. Levison. He attended the University of Cincinnatti and recieved his MA in Chemistry in 1928. He worked with pigments for over 50 years; for a short time in printing inks, then commercial coatings, and for 43 years in artists colors. His many contacts with artists led him to founding The Permanent Pigment Company in 1933 making only permanent colors and printing full information regarding the contents on the label. Mr. Levison was a member of the American Chemical Society for more than 47 years, of the Federation of Societies for Coating Technology for 40 years, was a member of the Inter Society Color Council, and a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemists. He was selected to the Art Material Hall of Fame by the Art Material Trade Association and made a member in perpituity. He also formulated a complete range of acrylic emulsion artists' paints and mediums known as Liquitex. In short, Henry was "Da Man" when it came to artists paints and mediums.
In his book,"Artist Pigments-Lightfastness Tests and Ratings", Mr. Levison says" Copal for one thing has been presumed to cause serious darkening of the paint film and perhaps also made it too hard and brittle. Insofar as film flexability is concerned, anyone experienced in varnish making knows enough to proportion the oil and resin to prevent that." he goes on to say, "The damar mixtures are questionable in paint films because the damar portion remains soluable in weak solvents. This could result in some redissolving of the paint film if later cleaned with solvent in restoring or revarnishing. Copal-oil cooks are not subject to such danger because in time the copal copolymerizes with the oil and become insoluable." Mr. Levison also says, "Copal darkens when being "run" but the resulting painting medium in the film are hardly different in color than the stand oil. This is an entirely different material than that depreciated by some autors in recent years." (Mayer)
Mr. Taubes lists some of the causes in cracking in his book "The Technique of Oil Painting"
1.Painting on a ground that has not dried sufficiently.
2.Superimposition of paints which may vary greatly in drying time.
3.Too much glue in size or gesso
4.A too thick gesso ground.
5.Wetting of gesso ground.
6.A canvas too thin in relation to the load of paint.
7.Exposing a painting to excessive heat
8.Painting on an oversmooth support.
9.Wedging stretchers apart forcibly.
10Excessive use of a siccative. Improper formulation of paint.
I am sure there are more reasons but these are the most notable.
Tom, any oil painting is capable of developing cracks if the artist is not aware of the materials that he or she is working with or the painting may be subjected to conditions outside the artists' control. I can think of no reason why my copal medium will contribute to cracking. By volume, in most cases, copal will make up probably no more than 1 or 2 percent of the paint structure when mixed with the pigment and oil of tube colors. It will isolate each color from the others with the use of copal concentrate and help to prevent any long term contamination problems that might occur chemically between pigments, especially when used in glazing. It will also allow the painting to shine from within and increase light refraction and luminosity. In addition it acts as a natural siccative and provides for a more uniform drying which helps to prevent cracking.
I hope this answers your question.


06-29-2001, 08:21 AM
Thank you very much, Ron. I couldn't ask for a more thorough and understandable reply!

06-29-2001, 09:33 AM
i have to confess i've been avoiding using copal due to the warning in the mayer book! thanks you very much for this elucidating thread! i'm totally going to try some now.

06-29-2001, 02:41 PM
Wow...folks! Remember when I spoke of Ron's integrity. Not just some guy out on some desert ridge cooking up some thick stuff! Toadzya...da man knows his stuff!

<b>It will also allow the painting to shine from within and increase light refraction and luminosity.</b>

I do want to add to this comment of Ron's. That is one of the things I so appreciate painting directly from nature out of doors.

There is something about natural light in a scene that is ever daunting. An enegy that try as he may, the artist just seems only able to get close to.

One of the things I have loved about using Ron's copal in my plein air impasto'ish alla prima landscapes, is that indeed it seems to replicated that intensity of color I see out doors. This copal seems to make my colors sing more!

Scott Burkett has asked me a number of times to educate some to my use of color, and has remarked on what he sees is a unique understanding of light, color and drama. Thanks Scott, but seriously folks...perhaps I'm addicted now to this product, but I don't think I would be satisfied as a painter to having captured the color I am seeing on location without this medium.

I know there are other good mediums out there, and have heard great things about maroger...but for me, there remains no longer any reason to experiment or try something else.

I also rest at ease knowing that its possible to paint an oil on location one day...and have it dry enough a week later to allow it to be sold and taken away.

So...again, thanks Ron, and to everyone else I give hearty endorsement. :clap:

What Ron? Have I been using this stuff now for 3-4 years? Longer? I always lose track of time.


Alan Craig
06-30-2001, 11:00 PM
Sorry to add a complaint about Garrett's copal to this otherwise positive thread. After Sieler's first mention of this product I bought a $40 sample. It arrived in a special US Postal Service HAZMET envelope of some kind and the box it was sent in looked exactly like nitroglycerine had soaked through. The problem was the cheap plastic bottle used as the container--it cracked due to changes in altitude pressure when sent by air mail--half was gone but I used it (and have saved the sample of concentrate). If you fill a new Italian made clip style container with brass screw top, the resin will migrate past the tightest screwed top and leak out, then dry so hard you can't open it without a pair of channel lock pliers (which I don't carry into the field). I agree it's a good medium for my plein air work, but you must use it quickly and during the same day--set it aside and it will try to escape!!

06-30-2001, 11:47 PM
Wow Alan, sorry to hear about your mishap. :(

I have received perhaps about six bottles and concentrates from Ron without incident. Interesting about the air pressure thing.

My fluid stays in the bottles, and I have a couple smaller ones that I transfer fluid to from the larger one for my halfbox carry. No problems with my plastic bottles.

I pour my medium for the day into the clip on metal tin for the palette.

I don't represent Ron here, so I don't know what Ron would do, but have you contacted him to let him know of your incident/problem? Might want to give it a try...I have a feeling he'd work something out for you.


Ron Garrett
07-01-2001, 01:20 AM
Had I known of the package arriving in a damaged state, I would have immediately sent you another bottle. I ship my product all over the world and have had only 3 occasions, including yours, where the container leaked. I apologize for any inconvenience or damage that may have occured. I will ship out a new bottle immediately.


07-01-2001, 12:15 PM
Well...as I surmized, there you go Craig....
take care,


09-28-2010, 10:46 AM

Here is another source for true copal medium. $25.00 for 80mil bottle of copal. I may have to save up and try a bottle to see how it compares to the imatation copal I've enjoyed using.


I wonder if this could be used for painting instead of casting spells????

09-28-2010, 02:20 PM
I wonder if this could be used for painting instead of casting spells????

:D :D :D


09-28-2010, 02:30 PM
I wonder if this could be used for painting instead of casting spells????

Not without having some idea what oil (and other ingredients - including what sort of copal) might be in it. I'd be surprised if its copal in linseed. Perhaps you might like to write to them and ask?

09-29-2010, 10:32 AM
Donald -- Yes, James Groves makes some wonderful genuine Copal and Amber products. Well worth the prices. You are correct that they are completely different animals compared to alkyd concoctions, erroneously labeled as "copal".