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melissacarmon
01-06-2019, 05:41 PM
Hello!
I am hoping you can recommend some resources on this topic...

I was wondering if any of you would recommend books, articles, videos, or online classes that would aid a person in building a working knowledge of the chemistry of oil painting materials or the chemistry of paint making.

As a bit of context to my question... in reading threads about washing linseed oil or adding calcium carbonate into paint to affect its properties (two top of mind examples), I have so appreciated the perspective of those on the forum with a chemistry background.

There seems to be so much anecdotal advice--and conflicting advice--when it comes to using mediums especially (but of course, not limited to mediums). I am wondering if a knowledge of chemistry could help a person to parse the advice that is often offered (when it comes to things like different ways of processing oils in the sun, or mixing "putty," or on why or why not to oil out, or why or why not to use liquin... to mention just a few). Understanding the chemistry behind different materials seems to be a path though the metaphorical forest, though if there are other and better paths, I would like to hear your thoughts on those, too.

In the research I've done, books on materials tend to give a paragraph or two about a given additive/material (like gum turpentine to pick a random example). There is likely to be very little that would help one to reason out how the material interacts with other materials (or the chemistry that would explain why problems might arise when certain processes are pursued in conjunction with other processes).

As an aside, it is also curious to me that this kind of thing is not often part of an undergraduate art degree. (For context: while studying art at a state university and at RISD, my experience was that this kind of information was very hard to find)! I understand that many painters (and professors of art) may not find it quite so captivating, but it does seem relevant to developing ones practice. I have wondered since then if this area of study falls more within the realm of art conservation programs. Either way, I would really like to find resources that teach this body of knowledge for a working artist.

I am curious to hear what books (or classes, workshops, websites, videos or articles) on mediums, additives, or paint making you would recommend!

Thanks so much in advance :)

Harold Roth
01-06-2019, 09:46 PM
Not a chemistry book but I like Tad Spurgeon's book because he discusses all sorts of possibilities for mediums and gives recipes, plus there is lots of info about historical palettes and whatnot.
https://www.tadspurgeon.com/the_book.php?page=the+book

The other thing is check out the MITRA forum for conservators for some real paint-nerd rabbit holes. They do allow artists to ask questions there:
https://www.artcons.udel.edu/mitra

Humbaba
01-07-2019, 07:43 AM
The manufacture of paint & mediums, varnishes, including the chemistry of materials is in a certain way, Trade Secret. This is a profession quite complex and dangerous for the health, not friendly to the environment due the contamination and pollution that results.

You can learn a lot by consulting old books, mostly out of print materials. The soft knowledge can be obtained by going to Amazon.com:

https://www.amazon.com/Artists-Handbook-Materials-Techniques-Reference/dp/0670837016/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=Q9RWB95BFBENBKSWGZQ3

https://www.amazon.com/Materials-Artist-Their-Use-Painting/dp/015657716X

https://www.amazon.com/Formulas-Painters-Robert-Massey/dp/0823018776/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=Q9RWB95BFBENBKSWGZQ3

https://www.amazon.com/Restoration-Paintings-Knut-Nicolaus/dp/3895089222/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=K0RN0S1J5RRCB5QMHVSW

https://www.amazon.com/Cleaning-Painted-Surfaces-Aqueous-Methods/dp/1873132360/ref=pd_sbs_14_7?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=1873132360&pd_rd_r=435afd29-1279-11e9-8dc1-13b31eb086be&pd_rd_w=ZCUkS&pd_rd_wg=Yug94&pf_rd_p=7d5d9c3c-5e01-44ac-97fd-261afd40b865&pf_rd_r=TEPX0Q702Y20XV696S7Y&psc=1&refRID=TEPX0Q702Y20XV696S7Y

melissacarmon
01-07-2019, 03:47 PM
Hi, Harold, thanks for your reply!

Yes, I just started reading Living Craft by Tad Spurgeon. :) I haven't gotten very far yet... I am trying to read it cover to cover, and am still in the somewhat philosophical part.

And thank you for the link to MITRA! I had not heard of that before and it looks very interesting. I really appreciate it! :)

And, Humbaba, thanks so much for the links!
You are right about the trade secrets. Somehow I keep forgetting about that. But that is a pretty big piece of this puzzle.

What I am hoping for is to gain a deeper understanding of the basics of oils, alkyds, waxes, etc. It is a personal interest, but I would also really like to share this information with others in a way that they can digest. Somehow it seems that this is really reasonable knowledge for artists to have. It would also be very useful to be able to anticipate how certain things are likely react together when combined.

As an interesting anecdotal aside, while I was in school, a famous illustrator agreed to come talk to our class. He was generous enough to include in his presentation an account of his own experience of making less-than-archival work. He was innovative with his multimedia work and use of materials, but at the time he'd made a certain painting, he hadn't understood/anticipated the way his media would hold up when combined together. He showed us a painting he had made earlier in his career that had degraded significantly, and little pieces of it had begun to crumble onto the floor in the home of the people who had purchased it. (I don't think it was an oil painting, but a mixed media piece of art). As I recall, the collectors, who had loved the painting, asked him to replace it. By the time it had degraded, I don't think he was working in that style anymore. It sounded stressful. The artist created a new piece to replace the crumbling piece of art. The replica was in the same style but was slightly different, and as I recall, the collectors were happy with the new piece. He kindly encouraged us to consider our materials in advance in order to spare us a similar strain. It was a memorable cautionary tale!

In light of that, it seems like this body of knowledge would be an important subject to teach. Only one regularly occurring workshop comes to mind (George O'Hanlon's best practices). I haven't taken it yet, but I would like to, and also would like to hear of others experiences who have.

A few years ago, I had the good luck of taking a three day seminar from Michael Wilcox. Two of the days were a presentation of his research on glazing and archival materials, and that was extremely helpful. However, I don't know if that workshop is offered with frequency. His book on Glazing contains most of the information from the workshop.

The thing is, without a scientific understanding of materials, even when taking in-depth workshops on this topic, differences in opinion between experts are hard to parse out. I would love to glean the tools to think more critically about the things being taught, and to share those tools with other painters! This forum is an excellent resource for this kind of thing.

Maybe it's off to my local university for a chemistry degree. :) But I am hoping there are some more tailored resources out there!

Thanks again, Harold and Humbaba for the links :)

Pinguino
01-07-2019, 05:44 PM
Melissa, before you get that Chemistry degree: I have an advanced degree in a science (not chemistry). I do believe that everything I've ever published has, in the intervening decades, been shown to be incorrect. And, each company I've worked for in private industry has either gone out of business, or been gutted by subsequent corporate purchase.

The current crop of big-money corporations produce products that have nothing to do with science, but with fantasy.

On the other hand, having taken up oil painting in retirement, I am secure in the knowledge that even if I use fugitive pigments ground in unstable mediums, they are likely to have longer useful liftimes than those scientific things.

That's not even counting students I've taught, most of whom have long forgotten whatever it was I said at the time.

To put this another way: If you are really interested in the chemical aspects of things, then I suggest you learn the terminology of wine, and earn a good living by selling mediocre wine at premium prices. Seems to work that way around here.

melissacarmon
01-09-2019, 12:07 PM
To put this another way: If you are really interested in the chemical aspects of things, then I suggest you learn the terminology of wine, and earn a good living by selling mediocre wine at premium prices. Seems to work that way around here.

Oh this made me laugh! :lol:

So, I donít think any of these really give the chemistry background I am looking for, but in case it would be useful to others, I thought I'd share the resources on understanding materials that I have found so far:


The obvious ones for pigments: Art is Creation (http://www.artiscreation.com/), Handprint (https://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/waterfs.html).

The Painterís Handbook (https://www.amazon.com/Painters-Handbook-Mark-David-Gottsegen/dp/0823034968) by Mark David Gottsegen
Probably a happy medium for people who arenít looking for an extremely deep dive into materials. Gives some background and also some technical specs (like toxicity and flashpoint) on things like solvents. Contains recipes for gesso and illustrates useful processes like stretching canvas, how to pack a crate, how to read the back of a paint tube, etc.

3M's technical line
This one is more safety related, but the point about solvents in the previous paragraph reminded me of this. From a safety standpoint, I have found it extremely useful to call 3Mís technical line (https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/company-us/help-center/) (the phone number is on the site) and chat with them about the MSDS sheets for my materials. So far their customer support has been super helpful, and they will give recommend specific part numbers for various respirators based on the chemicals one is working with. From there, I just go to amazon and type the part number in. The world of respirators is a zoo, and my experience working with 3M has been wonderful.

George O Hanlon of Natural Pigments
I would love to take his workshops. So, short of taking the workshop, these are the best resources Iíve found: Amanda Teicherís description of the workshop material in her blog accounts, which are linked from the workshop page:
"To make a painting last, give it a strong foundation" (http://www.amandateicher.com/blog/to-make-a-painting-to-last-give-it-a-strong-foundation)
"Artists Know Your Materials" (http://www.amandateicher.com/blog/artists-know-your-materials)
and a podcast where George O'Hanlon talks about archival painting materials.
I had a little trouble with the links, so you may need to try several: Original Link to Podcast (http://www.suggesteddonationpodcast.com/blog/2014/5/13/episode-5), itunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/podcast-suggested-donation/id823390462?mt=2)(episode 5), and a blog post about it from Grand Atelier (http://grandcentralatelier.blogspot.com/2014/05/new-suggested-donation-podcast-george.html).
I have also purchased the Natural Pigments oil paint making kit. It was great to experience making paint and tubing it. Here is a link to their tutorial on how to make oil paint (https://www.naturalpigments.com/artist-materials/tutorial-how-make-paint/).


R and F Pigments (http://rfpaints.com/resources/pigment-stick). On this site, there is a .pdf available for download on combining oil and wax. Of all of the resources, this little pdf is the closest info I have found yet on introducing someone to some of the technical information behind oil and wax blending.


Resources Iím interested in but have not delved into sufficiently to report on:

Kurt Wehlte: Materials and Techniques of Painting (https://www.amazon.com/dp/0442292538/?coliid=I3VPRRR55SPZRM&colid=1H4JU10JJ72WX&psc=0&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it)I noticed that this book was featured in a promotional picture to advertise Kremer Pigmentsí workshops. It's a good looking book ;) but its contents also look promising.

The recently released Kremer Pigments recipe book (https://shop.kremerpigments.com/en/new-products/books-und-color-charts/8031/kremer-pigmente-recipe-book)


In regards to the Kremer recipe book, I have not tried it myself, but it looks oh-so-interesting!

Curious to hear what others think of these and what they have found useful.:)

Pinguino
01-09-2019, 12:44 PM
Several of the above-listed resources are like holy scripture around here.

Although it doesn't specifically relate to pigments and paints as such, another canonical work is The Dimensions of Color (http://www.huevaluechroma.com/) by David Briggs, who often visits WC. Understanding this material will help anyone understand what it is pigments really do, in terms of human perception of color.

Sure I can't interest you in a bottle of wine, for only US$20 ? According to the back label, it has hints of holly and toadstools, and goes great with Sloppy Joe sandwiches and Cheetos.

sarahsands
01-10-2019, 12:15 PM
While not a complete chemistry course and covering a wider range of materials then you might need, you might try these books which we have used here as part of our training and resource library:

Organic Chemistry of Museum Objects (https://www.amazon.com/dp/0750646934/ref=asc_df_07506469345737733?tag=shopz0d-20&ascsubtag=shopzilla_mp_1424-20&15471395818068137950110070302008005&creative=395261&creativeASIN=0750646934&linkCode=asn)

The Science For Conservators Series: Volume 1: An Introduction to Materials (https://www.amazon.com/Science-Conservators-Introduction-Materials-Care-Preservation-Management/dp/0415071674/ref=pd_sbs_14_2/143-6241799-0009628?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0415071674&pd_rd_r=9dba0695-14f8-11e9-85d0-fd4b9028493a&pd_rd_w=luUHw&pd_rd_wg=6PeoJ&pf_rd_p=7d5d9c3c-5e01-44ac-97fd-261afd40b865&pf_rd_r=01FA3ZJEFQMRY4RJF5BP&psc=1&refRID=01FA3ZJEFQMRY4RJF5BP)

As for a more advanced book on the chemistry of oil paint - or more specifically on the linseed oil component - you cannot really do better than this PhD Thesis:

Analytical chemical studies on traditional linseed oil paints (https://amolf.nl/publications/analytical-chemical-studies-on-traditional-linseed-oil-paints-molart-6)

If you scroll down you will see that you can download it. But fair warning - it's fairly advanced.....but its also free!

And for another free one, that might be a little dated but general chemistry in 1910 still works! Arthur H Church's

The Chemistry of Paints and Painting (http://www.vias.org/church_paintchem/index.html)

Hope that helps.

TomM1
01-10-2019, 01:05 PM
As mentioned above, the first book I came upon years (and years) ago was Ralph Mayer's Artist Handbook. I have not looked through the updated version.
https://www.amazon.com/Artists-Handbook-Materials-Techniques-Reference/dp/0670837016

melissacarmon
01-10-2019, 03:56 PM
Thanks, TomM! I have not checked out the most updated one. It looks like the most recently updated version is 1991? I have heard that mentioned a lot and have checked it out before, but I think I'll revisit it.

Pinguino- Oh good call! I *love* that site! (http://www.huevaluechroma.com/) The discussion of mixing curves is so very helpful for explaining the squirly things that paints do when mixed! Such a solid recommendation. Also, you have a very good point about wine and (as a wider discussion, the luxury market). P.S. for hints of toadstool, I think they should be charging at least $35. ;)

Sarahsands, Thanks a million! This is what I have been looking for! :clap: Can't wait to dig into these resources! Thanks again!

Pinguino
01-10-2019, 07:15 PM
@Sarah Sands: Those are useful links. The local university library has the John Mills/ Raymond White book. Although it doesn't seem to have The Science for Conservators Series books, a search did turn up some items that seem to be on-topic.

At this point in time, I get an internet flag when I try to obtain the dissertation. Problem seems to be at the web site back in Netherlands. Possibly a temporary thing, sich as a web security certificate that expired at the end of 2018.

sarahsands
01-10-2019, 07:23 PM
Try this link:

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8f8b/fdb5ae86c5aa8c5469f06c5d2a96c1d87c25.pdf

Truth be told, if you search for the title in quotes and PDF you can likely find it through various links. Since it is free via the Netherlands site I feel okay circumventing it.

sarahsands
01-10-2019, 07:26 PM
[QUOTE=Pinguino]@Sarah Sands: Those are useful links. The local university library has the John Mills/ Raymond White book. Although it doesn't seem to have The Science for Conservators Series books, a search did turn up some items that seem to be on-topic.

Sadly the Science for Conservators series is expensive and not all that thick at 120 pages.....I think one can do pretty good with the Mills and White book. Perhaps see if you can get the other one via interlibrary loan?

Pinguino
01-10-2019, 08:50 PM
@ Sarah Sands: The direct link to PDF worked. A quick look-through suggests that it is just the sort of thing the OP might like.

The Science for Conservators (Introduction to Materials) is indeed on the WorldCat interlibrary loan system. Not sure if just anybody can get it, though. OP can try. All worldwide resources on this university's list are either European or Australian, except for one Ingram Digital Ebook listing in the USA. Probably not accessible to most folks, even via interlibrary loan.

Pinguino
05-28-2019, 08:21 PM
... Sure I can't interest you in a bottle of wine, for only US$20 ? According to the back label, it has hints of holly and toadstools, and goes great with Sloppy Joe sandwiches and Cheetos.Life imitates art. Trader Joe's has bottles of a no-name French (!) wine, for something like $5.99, where the back label recommends that the wine be paired with hamburgers and Mexican food.

melissacarmon
05-29-2019, 12:34 AM
Haha! Re: the label. That is too good.

I have been meaning to update this thread for those interested. Wehlteís Materials and Techniques of Painting has been quite good so far. It has some useful basics and is nicely organized into sections. Recommended for any others interested in this topic!

Gigalot
05-29-2019, 03:03 PM
Try this link:

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8f8b/fdb5ae86c5aa8c5469f06c5d2a96c1d87c25.pdf

Truth be told, if you search for the title in quotes and PDF you can likely find it through various links. Since it is free via the Netherlands site I feel okay circumventing it.
Superb article! :thumbsup: Describes polymer stage of dried oil paint and lithification (ionomeric) stage of dried oil paint.

french.painter
05-29-2019, 06:12 PM
Mattiello, Protective and decorative coatings, John Wiley & Sons. 5 vols
An old book, but still very useful knowledges.

J. Bentley, G. P. A. Turner, Introduction to Paint Chemistry and principles of paint technology,
Chapman & Hall.