View Full Version : resins and balsams

Magenta Divine
07-13-2001, 10:41 AM
what are the different handling qualities between mastic and damar, canada balsam, venice turpentine and strasbourg turpentine? How should they be used in a painting medium and when would you choose one over the other?

Scott Methvin
07-13-2001, 11:59 AM
Magent divide,

Mastic and dammar are best used as a final picture varnish. They can be disolved and replaced without damage to the dried oil paint underneath.

Many painters do use both as ingredients in their oil medium. Good quality mastic is a key ingredient in the making of "Maroger medium", along with "black oil." When the two are combined, a chemical reaction makes a pleasant gel that holds brush strokes and dries overnight or faster. I have used it and it is great stuff (RHoward's brand)

The Canada balsam, venetian terpentine and strasburg terp are different in handling. The low end is the venetian. Made from the sap of the larch tree, it usually contains alot of impurities. Better to buy the pure larch (from http://www.sinopia.com) It is a straw colored sap that adds depth to oil colors. It also levels out the strokes. Sharp edges are a challenge to execute with any balsam.
Vermeer supposedly used balsam to make his fuzzy edges.

Strasburg terpentine is more expensive to the larch. It is from the white fir tree. I have not actually tried it. Hard to get, usually.

The canada balsam is made from the balsam fir. Smells like christmas trees. Very sweet smelling. The clear grades are used in the optical industry. I love this stuff, and it is an important part of my medium. It is the best and most expensive of the tree saps.
Dries quickly and very clear. Adds depth. Perhaps most importantly, it is a great adheisive for layering over dried passages. No beading, like with plain oil. The canada balsam is a mild solvent also. This is beneficial as well. I use it 1 to 6 with pure linseed oil. I have found nothing better as a medium.

Canada balsam can be found at sinopia and http://www.studioproducts.com

All these balsams level the stroke. Used pure, as a varnish (thinly) they can be a beautiful enhancement to an oil painting. By themselves balsams dry slintery and brittle. Used together with a proper binder, like linseed oil, they are very durable.

Try them all. Like most things, the learning is in the actual process. Test swatches on canvas and panel are invaluable.

07-13-2001, 12:17 PM
what, is this a test? assuming you are serious, and not being contentious about everyone's ability here, i will, in good faith answer your questions.

but after reading some of your posts, i doubt your intentions...

but let me proceed, as i wear rose colored glasses...

mastic blooms too much, is brittle and when mixed with linseed oil becomes a jelly that is gross and not paint worthy. although, if you're a freak who likes to ruin your paintings before you even start...give it a try. sure its buttery...just wait til it dries.

damars retain their clarity longer than most varnishes, as a good medium tool, and one of my favorites, so i personally will talk a damar varnish up. personal preference. don't mix it with alcohol, like mastics.

canada balsam, venice terp and olio d'abezzo (lets call it by its italian name, in my honor), some people would argue they are all the same! rob would tell you canada balsam is the best. i personally find olio d'abrezzo the best. personal preference.

all of these can be used as varnishes because they are non yellowing, you can mix 'em, match 'em...dance with them, sniff them...drink them.

i especially like the last on my list.

07-13-2001, 01:45 PM
THe previous posts have pretty much hit it all. I use Venice Turp as part of my medium which I really like. I am considering swapping out the Venice Turp in my medium for Canada Balsam, but haven't tried it yet.

I have also read many bad things about using Mastic in Meyer, etc. However, there seems to be a contingent here and over at Studio Products that uses it to some effect - I guess a hundred years will tell if they were right or not...

Scott Methvin
07-13-2001, 02:18 PM
Originally posted by lori
what, is this a test? assuming you are serious, and not being contentious about everyone's ability here, i will, in good faith answer your questions.

but after reading some of your posts, i doubt your intentions...

but let me proceed, as i wear rose colored glasses...

I've been away for awhile. This guy IS suspicious and the Tom of Finland gives me the creeps. Sorry I even responded. Thanks for the heads up.

07-13-2001, 03:29 PM
yeah scott...

he posted on the debates a rather condescending post, also on one of the threads here.

my thought is that he's got an agenda that pretty much says, he is REALLY KEWL...lol. (must use the WC form of the word)

hubris and well...you know how it goes...

thats why i half answered and half didn't.

we posted at the same time, when i saw your post i thought that maybe you hadn't seen some of his others...

anyway, good info for others anyway...


07-13-2001, 04:16 PM
Originally posted by Scott Methvin

...Sorry I even responded. ...

Nonsense! No thread is ever wasted as long as I learn something. Loved your summary, and everyone's thoughts. But its funny how its easy to tell some voices over a screen. :D

Heck, that "Guess the White Blindfolded Behind This Door" nonsense was interesting, even if it didn't go as the author intended. :angel: (but then what ever does...)

07-13-2001, 09:47 PM
Well my two cents worth ......

Dammar only, mastic never, Maroger wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole.

canada balsam, venice terp and olio d'abezzo ... have tried all. There is nothing wrong with using the latter two. Some would have you believe that CB is far superior, but really all we are talking about here is a matter of supply and demand. :rolleyes: Depending upon where you buy and quality control, of course you can end up with inferior products. Availability ... some are more easily obtainable in Europe, others in America. I will continue to use the venice terp and olio d'abezzo. Would I go out of my way to replace these with CB? No need to in my eyes. Send a couple of liters my way, sure I'll take it.

Take it for what it's worth. There is something to be said for keeping things simple. Nothing no one hasn't heard before.