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View Full Version : Can I burnish oil paint to bring out colour?


red81king
01-26-2015, 01:29 AM
Hi, I am wanting to burnish an oil painting to reduce surface roughness to increase the contrast in my art.

I am wondering if this will harm the film and weaken the paint structurally or will it smooth only the top layer with no effect on structurally effecting the lower layers?

I cant find any info on other artist who burnish oil paint.

Crystal1
01-26-2015, 10:03 AM
WFMartin has a method he uses to flatten out the paint, but I haven't heard of burnishing on oil paint. Of course, just because I haven't heard of it, doesn't mean it hasn't been done. Good luck to you.

thomasK4
01-26-2015, 11:16 AM
I haven't heard about burnishing an oil painting, too. I wonder how and what do you use to burnish your painting?

Gigalot
01-26-2015, 12:54 PM
I use piece of fine pumice. You can control abrade process by more or less pressure on it. You probably use other smooth stone with fine abrasive surface, but pumice works perfectly. In iconography they use fine agate polisher to burnish tempera.

sidbledsoe
01-26-2015, 03:32 PM
I am not saying that this is the only solution or the best solution for you to pursue but I will offer it to you as my particular opinion and advice.
I would not try to burnish or beat down your paint to accomplish this.
I would adjust things with the manner in which you mix and apply your paint.
Overworking brushstrokes and too much blending dulls and kills the color and contrast for me. When I paint strokes that are untampered with, I see a big difference in the clarity and contrast. Have a look at this video and you will see what I am talking about as Brandon also discovered this in his efforts. He rambles about several topics, skip the plein air, his car, etc. if you want and just skip to 11:00 minutes into the video, you will see the comparison I am talking about. He has a few some tips that you may help you in what you are trying to achieve. Basically for me it is fresh clean color, laid down in a nice thick manner, and brushstokes laid down and left alone.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACa3V8LYxFE
I could have made the same video because I have been there and done that too.

red81king
01-26-2015, 09:35 PM
Ya His second discovery painting is so much better. Its funny how those big improvements can just click sometimes.

I noticed that the use of focus was also used with figure foreground that really improved his composition. That increase of contrast and focus instantly drawed the attentional system and reduced attention strain on subject matter. The crop to was so much better too. Great vid, really expressed the point.

red81king
01-26-2015, 09:50 PM
Gigalot, you are wealth of information. Thanks again. I would of never thought to use fine pumice.

The original plan was to use agate polisher or a round stone, but I will use the pumice.

WFMartin
01-27-2015, 01:49 AM
Hi, I am wanting to burnish an oil painting to reduce surface roughness to increase the contrast in my art.

I am wondering if this will harm the film and weaken the paint structurally or will it smooth only the top layer with no effect on structurally effecting the lower layers?

I cant find any info on other artist who burnish oil paint.

Well, burnishing oil paint is not a standard procedure, as far as I am aware.

However, since your object seems to be "reducing surface roughness", and "increasing contrast" in your art, I may be able to offer a couple of suggestions.

Surface roughness is, indeed, the cause of the lack of depth, and contrast in any painted medium because of the light-scattering effect of the rough surface.

However, a much better way to create a smoother surface begins with the surface preparation, rather than trying to invent some way to smooth the painted surface after it has dried. This means applying acrylic primer and sanding, until the weave of the canvas has been nearly eliminated, and the surface is smooth. This is one reason the old masters painted on boards, and panels, instead of canvas.

Surface roughness is also caused by brush strokes. Nothing wrong with placing a brushful of paint on your canvas and leaving it, but don't expect that to leave anything but a rough surface.

Now, while "blending" may not be popular with some, there is a method that the old masters of portrait painting often used, called "flogging". Flogging is nothing more complicated than giving the surface of the freshly-applied paint a good "beating", at the end [or near the end] of your painting session. They actually sell "flogging brushes" for such an operation, but using one is really not necessary to perform the operation successfully.

This flogging operation achieved 3 important functions: It totally smoothed the visible brush strokes. It totally eliminated the impasto (globby/rough) brush strokes. It created soft edges of the subject against its background, rather "settling" the image into its background.

So.....at the end, or near the end of my painting session [just as my paint is beginning to set up], I use a clean, soft, dry, flat, 1-inch, Taklon brush and using criss-cross strokes, in random directions, I gently "whisk" the brush across the surface of my freshly-applied paint.

This eliminates the troublesome, and unwanted brush strokes, both visible, and dimensional, as it softens the edges of my subject on the canvas.

Painting, and glazing over a smoothly-applied, dried painted surface is quite desirable, at least for my operation, and is much easier than painting over a dried, impasto surface, for which each brush load of paint was applied and allowed to remain as applied.

If I decide that I want some painterly brush strokes to be apparent in the final work, I save them for the final layer or layers.

Leonardo did not leave brush strokes in his Mona Lisa, and he spent a great deal of time using a soft brush, blending the corners of her mouth, creating an effect known as sfumato--a soft, hazy, blended appearance. His brush strokes did not appear as carved granite, so highly prized by more modern portrait painters, and, in fact, his brush strokes were nearly imperceptible.

Anyway, that method I described of "flogging", or "beating", is actually a very simple, blending process that I've found to be quite a desirable operation to perform, at least early on in the application of paint.

No "burnishing" is necessary, at all, to create a smooth surface. For even more depth of color, just apply a coat of varnish after the painting is finished. This is especially useful for bringing out detail and depth in the dark areas.

sidbledsoe
01-27-2015, 12:44 PM
Another couple of things that will bring out the color and make it pop is to use a knife selectively, no smoother surface can be attained than with a knife.
Oiling out with medium and then a gloss varnish will also increase the luster and depth of color.

J Miller
01-27-2015, 01:00 PM
I use piece of fine pumice. You can control abrade process by more or less pressure on it. You probably use other smooth stone with fine abrasive surface, but pumice works perfectly. In iconography they use fine agate polisher to burnish tempera.

I was just reading last night that Maxfield Parrish used pumice between every glaze layer. http://www.artcafe.net/ah/parrish/

red81king
01-27-2015, 11:15 PM
Great read J Miller!

Thanks WFMartin, reducing surface roughness in the pigment is exactly what I am going for. This was inspired by the low molecular weight varnishes that reduce surface roughness. I was hoping to layer burnished layers without varnish (amber) added into the paint. Right now I am experimenting with adding amber and paint and then polishing layers but at times I want to avoid certain looks that the amber imparts to the paint. I am still in the experimental phase.

It is interesting to me that Maxfield Parrish did something similar and shows what I hoped to accomplish with the burnish.

I already prime my gesso with traditional gesso on wood panel. I do sand it, but I should pay more attention to surface roughness. For some reason it did not occur to me the importance of a absolute smooth surface and the effects of brush strokes on the effects of light scattering.

I read more about flogging from your other posts. I am really wanting to try this technique as I do not have good sfumato technique. I do believe this is because of my skill level though.

Gigalot
01-28-2015, 04:05 AM
Pumice needs not to eliminate brush stroke, but to make it flat and easy to paint over it, while blending will eliminate any visible strokes completely.

I was just reading last night that Maxfield Parrish used pumice between every glaze layer. http://www.artcafe.net/ah/parrish/
Thank you, J.Miller, it is very interesting article!

sidbledsoe
01-28-2015, 01:07 PM
I am wondering if this will harm the film and weaken the paint structurally or will it smooth only the top layer with no effect on structurally effecting the lower layers?

I cant find any info on other artist who burnish oil paint.
Maxfield Parrish paintings are the poster children examples of deterioration and cracking problems.

J Miller
01-28-2015, 03:33 PM
Maxfield Parrish paintings are the poster children examples of deterioration and cracking problems.

From what I can tell, that's because of the excess use of varnish between every layer. I'm not sure what varnish he used though and I'm not really sure what the layer of varnish adds. Just letting the oil dry should keep the layers from mixing I would think. I'd never heard of an artist using glazing for the entire painting until I read about Parrish doing it. I wish there were more of them in museums, I'd like to see one in real life.

Gigalot
01-28-2015, 03:44 PM
His "large oranges" painting cracked significantly. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f4/Maxfield_Parrish_The_Lantern_Bearers_1908.jpg
I can see a lot of cracks on it...on wikipedia. He did something, extremely worst in his painting technique. :crying:

red81king
01-28-2015, 09:26 PM
Wow what a beautiful painting and wow that is cracks!

I would really like to see one in real life too.

Gigalot
01-29-2015, 05:01 AM
Wow what a beautiful painting and wow that is cracks!

I would really like to see one in real life too.

For that purpose, Gamblin recommends to apply "oiling out" over each paint layer and for final layer using their Galkyd/Gamsol solution (which is, actually, Alkyd resin solution into mineral spirit). I think, this is quite reasonable recommendation.

wdaniels
01-29-2015, 04:32 PM
Parrish was an illustrator and painted for reproduction, so he probably didn't worry much about the long term consequences of his technique. I've seen many of his originals at a retrospective years ago. From what I remember, not all his of his paintings were in that bad of a condition. Really, most oil paintings crack after many decades, that's what they do. For me, the cracking really doesn't detract from the painting, unless the paint is literally falling off.

J Miller
01-29-2015, 04:45 PM
Parrish was an illustrator and painted for reproduction, so he probably didn't worry much about the long term consequences of his technique. I've seen many of his originals at a retrospective years ago. From what I remember, not all his of his paintings were in that bad of a condition. Really, most oil paintings crack after many decades, that's what they do. For me, the cracking really doesn't detract from the painting, unless the paint is literally falling off.

That's really good to know, thanks! Cracking doesn't really bother me either, most paintings I've seen in museums have at least some. Even impasto cracks. Now paint falling off, colors turning black, green or completely disappearing, and even sagging paint like Ryder's do detract.

sketch1946
11-10-2017, 08:15 AM
If someone is interested in surface texture and deep colour effects, they could investigate encaustic painting...

"...Although technically difficult to master, attractions of this medium for contemporary artists are its dimensional quality and luminous color..."

http://emptyeasel.com/2014/08/04/a-beginners-guide-to-encaustic-art-and-painting-with-wax/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encaustic_painting