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Old 02-26-2012, 02:12 PM
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Jennifer Miller Jennifer Miller is offline
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A question about Varnish- signing on top

Hello folks! I don't know where to put this question, but my paintings are originally acrylic so I figured this is the best place.

I use Interactive Acrylics, and once done and dry, I will spray my painting with a high end acrylic based finish as an isolation coat, and then apply a spray-on varnish (specifically Golden's Mineral Spirit Acrylic Aerosol w/UVLS
Gloss w/UVLS (Product #7731)). I adore this varnish.

Anyhow, I often enter my paintings into competitions where you absolutely may not mark or sign your work in any way or you are disqualified-- this is in an attempt to keep things fair and keep the judges from biasing their vote based on the artist's name. However, this creates a dilemma for me when the painting is returned to me-- I want to sign it! I know that signing on top of the varnish is a no-no, but compared to the risky, expensive and chemical-laden alternative of removing the varnish, signing, and then re-varnishing... I'd like to sign on top, and then sign the back of the painting as well. My trouble is that nothing will stick to the varnish. This is great-- the varnish is doing a great job of protecting my painting, but it makes signing it a real pain! I have tried acrylic paint, and various archival inks.

A simple solution is to send the painting for judging unvarnished, but this runs the risk of the paint surface being damaged (one came back with lipstick?? Or something similar, smeared all over it, once. I sure was glad for the varnish). And honestly, varnished paintings tend to score better as it creates a uniform surface to the painting. The judges are not always (or even often) 'understanding' artists....

Any suggestions?

Thank you most kindly for any help.
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Old 02-26-2012, 02:51 PM
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Re: A question about Varnish- signing on top

One thought would be just putting the isolation coat of acrylic varnish on and waiting to do the Golden spray after the show. Since the isolation coat is acrylic, there shouldn't be any problem of acrylic paint sticking to it when you sign the painting before applying the Golden spray.
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Old 02-26-2012, 03:18 PM
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Re: A question about Varnish- signing on top

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick G
One thought would be just putting the isolation coat of acrylic varnish on and waiting to do the Golden spray after the show. Since the isolation coat is acrylic, there shouldn't be any problem of acrylic paint sticking to it when you sign the painting before applying the Golden spray.
I was also going to suggest something like this.
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Old 02-26-2012, 04:56 PM
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Re: A question about Varnish- signing on top

I can't imagine any artist NOT signing their work on the front. Sorry but that is the oddest requirement I've ever heard of!

But on a technical note, I agree with Rick and Carol. Probably your best bet as long as you're happy with the sheen of the isolation layer.

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Old 02-26-2012, 08:37 PM
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Re: A question about Varnish- signing on top

Certainly an interesting thought to entertain. Having been on several exhibition committees and having juried several events, I haven't heard this one before. Wonder if it is a regional thing, is that a possibility.

Have to agree with others, put on the isolation layer, sign later and varnish
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Old 02-27-2012, 12:50 PM
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Re: A question about Varnish- signing on top

Thank you for your input. My isolation coats, though gloss, always seem to deaden my colors while the varnish really brings them to life. The one competition that I scored highly in, one judge actually wrote to me and said that my work stood out to them because of the varnish! So you can understand that I am really on the fence...

The competitions I enter are mostly for stamps.. such as the duck stamp, and there is arguably a strong bias toward 'big names' in these events, so they do not want any signatures that would give away the artist behind the work.

I have entered juried shows and they don't care if the art is signed or not. The competitions I am speaking of are judging pieces against each other for a single winner, and it's remarkably competitive.

Perhaps I will stick to signing these paintings on the back only! Hmm.
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Old 02-27-2012, 01:34 PM
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Re: A question about Varnish- signing on top

Or, how about hiding your mark or signature in the piece itself? I no longer sign my pieces; but, instead have a graphic mark a la Albrecht Durer. On occasion, I have incorporated it into the composition, in effect hiding it from the casual observer. Another artist whom I know, incorporates a red triangle in every work, hiding it somewhere in the piece.

http://www.chicagoartappraisers.com/invdurer1.html
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Old 02-28-2012, 04:27 PM
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Jennifer, given what you'd like to do here what I'd recommend is to remove the varnish from that corner of the painting, paint your signature, apply a thin layer of medium over the top of that, then revarnish that area. You're using a varnish with the useful property that it's soluble in a weak solvent (not especially toxic) so why not take advantage of this? Plus you're using the version in a spraycan, which makes feathering in fresh varnish much easier than it would be otherwise.

Other than just living with having your sig on the back only this seems the easiest route, the sole alternative I can think of would involve even more effort sadly!

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Old 02-28-2012, 06:14 PM
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Re: A question about Varnish- signing on top

Having used that varnish for many years - it's very difficult to remove and revarnish just one area. You'll get a sort of "halo" area where the edge of the varnish was partially dissolved and that just doesn't seem to go away. I always had to remove the varnish from the entire painting. And yes, even with the spray version I always had that problem.

It's starting more and more to sound like signing on the back is your best bet!
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Old 02-29-2012, 10:29 AM
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Re: A question about Varnish- signing on top

Quote:
Originally Posted by ArtWench
Or, how about hiding your mark or signature in the piece itself? I no longer sign my pieces; but, instead have a graphic mark a la Albrecht Durer. On occasion, I have incorporated it into the composition, in effect hiding it from the casual observer. Another artist whom I know, incorporates a red triangle in every work, hiding it somewhere in the piece.

http://www.chicagoartappraisers.com/invdurer1.html

This is clever, but the competitions I'm entering are for extreme realism in the paintings, of natural settings (ducks), and the rules state: "No scrollwork, lettering, bird band numbers, signatures, identifying marks, or initials may appear on the design."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Einion
Jennifer, given what you'd like to do here what I'd recommend is to remove the varnish from that corner of the painting, paint your signature, apply a thin layer of medium over the top of that, then revarnish that area. You're using a varnish with the useful property that it's soluble in a weak solvent (not especially toxic) so why not take advantage of this? Plus you're using the version in a spraycan, which makes feathering in fresh varnish much easier than it would be otherwise.

Other than just living with having your sig on the back only this seems the easiest route, the sole alternative I can think of would involve even more effort sadly!

Einion


Hi Einion! I have tried this before in the past with poor results, see below.

Quote:
Originally Posted by timelady
Having used that varnish for many years - it's very difficult to remove and revarnish just one area. You'll get a sort of "halo" area where the edge of the varnish was partially dissolved and that just doesn't seem to go away. I always had to remove the varnish from the entire painting. And yes, even with the spray version I always had that problem.

It's starting more and more to sound like signing on the back is your best bet!


Yes-- this has been my experience, too. Either you remove the varnish from the whole thing and re-do it (I have had scary experiences with this-- even with an isolation coat!!) or not at all. I have tried to remove varnish from a corner before and have been met with the haloing that you are describing each time. I figured it might have to do with humidity, so I tried in low humidity. I tried letting things re-cure for three months in between. I did a little dance to the varnish gods.. etc. I cannot seem to do it!

I think you are right-- singing the back is probably my best solution. Thank you everyone for your input!!
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Old 02-29-2012, 01:31 PM
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Re: A question about Varnish- signing on top

I'm curious as to what you're using for your isolation coat and why that deadens your colors. Have you tried using one of the acrylic-based varnishes made for canvas giclees? They always seem to me to make the colors pop.
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Old 03-01-2012, 07:02 AM
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Re: A question about Varnish- signing on top

An acrylic based varnish has quite a different finish actually. I have switched to an acrylic based from the MSA (due to health issues) and the matte finish with acrylic based is every so slightly satin, whereas the MSA matte is absolutely matte and gorgeous. So I'd assume even the gloss finish will differ slightly between the two. As they use different binders the light reflection/refraction is bound to be different.

And I must try a dance to the varnish gods! Maybe that's the answer but we just don't have the right dance yet?
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