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Old 07-22-2008, 12:12 PM
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Villie Villie is offline
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Questions about Damar and archival qualities

I have been painting for about 8 years on and off, and sadly I have to admit I haven't done a whole lot of research on my medium of choice and I am just now really starting to learn the mechanics of my medium. I started out working through my grandfathers set of paints and have slowly built up my own collection of methods and preferences.

Occasionally I will use Damar and Cold pressed Linseed oil in about a 2/3 to 1/3 ratio to thin as well as add layers between coats or progressions in my more complicated work as it gives such definition as well as shine and a very interesting surface to work on in a short period of time. Recently though I have had three almost run ins with the staff at a few local shops about my usage of Damar as a medium. And aside from the strong feelings that it seems to bring up, I need to find out how well it will hold up.

I work with layering techniques whenever I can, I have been known to varnish certain sections and then change my mind and work on top of the varnished layer with more paint. I have several paintings that are now coming up to being near 5 years old that I have used this technique on and there hasn't been any yellowing or brittleness that is noticeable yet, in fact the canvases are quite flexible, and I have better results in that court than I do with Liquin or related products.

So am I risking the life of my paintings using this mixture?
I have read through many of the threads on similar topics and I see that similar combinations are used by some of you.
Do I need to add a drying agent into the mixture?
What are thing main problems I should look out for, if this combination is ok to use keeping the longevity of the work in mind?

Thanks!
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Old 07-22-2008, 03:27 PM
Danny van Ryswyk Danny van Ryswyk is offline
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Re: Questions about Damar and archival qualities

How well things will hold up in the future depends on many factors. You know, working with a medium is a very personal thing. I understand you're afraid of yellowing and cracking. You say you paint on varnish layers when you change your mind.. I think this will be your main problem in the future, if your apply a final Damar varnish as well.. You see, it will be difficult to remove this final varnish layer in the future when it turns yellow, as the solvent (turp) does not see the difference anymore between and old varnish layer and your delicate paint film...painted on another varnish layer.

If you would like to have the freedom to return to a painting, I would advice you to take a look at the 'hard' resins like Copal and Amber. These resins allow to be worked over, and best of all, they are very solvent resistant (Amber melts only at high temperatures, Damar melts in turpentine.) A downside is, that they are not rapid driers like Damar, but they catalyze in UV light..and thus they can dry fast if needed.
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Old 07-22-2008, 04:57 PM
Danny van Ryswyk Danny van Ryswyk is offline
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Re: Questions about Damar and archival qualities

double post.
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Old 07-23-2008, 08:48 AM
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Einion Einion is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Villie
I have been painting for about 8 years on and off, and sadly I have to admit I haven't done a whole lot of research on my medium of choice and I am just now really starting to learn the mechanics of my medium. I started out working through my grandfathers set of paints and have slowly built up my own collection of methods and preferences.
Nothing wrong with doing this; you're painting, which is the main thing.

Now, if you want to become more professional about your materials and method you can start to look into things in more detail - as you're doing - and make any adjustments you personally feel are necessary.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Villie
I work with layering techniques whenever I can, I have been known to varnish certain sections and then change my mind and work on top of the varnished layer with more paint.
This is a very bad idea (with any varnish, not just with dammar) and not something you should stick with if you care about the long-term condition of your work. If you're largely or completely working for yourself though this doesn't have to be an overriding concern - some people ignore it entirely.

Whether using dammar is acceptable as a painting medium is a judgement call; lots of people today use it as a painting medium (not that that is a recommendation in itself of course - lots of people eat too much too ). However a great many knowledgeable painters who have done research on historical painting methods, archival issues, conservation etc. are totally against the practice and some are against the use of any natural resins in painting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Villie
Recently though I have had three almost run ins with the staff at a few local shops about my usage of Damar as a medium. And aside from the strong feelings that it seems to bring up, I need to find out how well it will hold up.
Perhaps the thing to bear in mind is this: dammar is a relatively recent introduction to oil painting (only in use since the 19th century) and paintings older than this are generally in the best condition of all old oil paintings; better than some half their age, and younger, in many cases. Modern research has found again and again that older work tends to contain little in the way of additives, if any can be detected at all.

If one wants to paint with a dammar resin in your medium then it's a very good idea to rely on modern synthetic-resin varnishes for the final picture varnish.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Danny van Ryswyk
You say you paint on varnish layers when you change your mind.. I think this will be your main problem in the future, if your apply a final Damar varnish as well.. You see, it will be difficult to remove this final varnish layer in the future when it turns yellow, as the solvent (turp) does not see the difference anymore between and old varnish layer and your delicate paint film...painted on another varnish layer.
Good basic point but turpentine is no longer capable of removing dammar varnish after it has aged (it can become difficult to solve in turps in a relatively short time, much less than the normal timeframe - decades - between varnish removal and renewal). So the problem is actually even worse than this, as restorers or conservators then have to rely on very strong solvents that are more than capable of damaging paint films that don't contain any soft-resin medium.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Danny van Ryswyk
(Amber melts only at high temperatures, Damar melts in turpentine.)
Melting and dissolving in solvents are not the same thing.

Einion
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Old 07-23-2008, 11:25 AM
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Villie Villie is offline
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Re: Questions about Damar and archival qualities

Thanks for your detailed responses!

The main issue I have had in getting information is the fact that mediums are viewed as being very personal and I have gotten very limited responses as well as scorn just from asking the questions so I really am grateful.

But as my goal is to become more professional about my process, not only for the professionalism itself but for the depth that understanding the mechanics brings to me as I work.........I have another question.

I sketch onto canvas with an 8B pencil and then work loose paint into the lines and shade with the mixed graphite and paint as my underpainting. Is this something I should also be concerned with?
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Old 07-23-2008, 12:17 PM
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Einion Einion is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Villie
I sketch onto canvas with an 8B pencil and then work loose paint into the lines and shade with the mixed graphite and paint as my underpainting. Is this something I should also be concerned with?
I don't think so but it might be a good idea to switch to using charcoal for this purpose if poss.

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