Caring for Paintings

Some considerations about your art…

Protection of your original art: varnishing
Original oil paintings are sometimes shipped unvarnished. I am happy to act as a consultant on varnishing, which should be done about six months after the completion of the work, and no sooner. Please ask about this important archiving step if you have any questions.

Procedure to varnish a painting
WN3221732-2TI recommend Winsor and Newton or Utrecht Professional Gloss Varnish for oil paintings or mixed media (oil over acrylic) works; it provides a very satisfying gloss finish. Get final picture varnish, not retouching varnish. Only one coat is needed to restore the painting to its original luster with rich darks and a bit higher contrast…the painting looks as fresh as the day it was created with a sheen that makes the oil colors look wet. I don’t use more than one coat because the gloss is too high.

For all acrylic painting I recommend Liquitex or Utrecht Acrylic Gloss Varnish. Again one thin coat is all that is ever needed.

chipbrushThese are only my preferences. Obviously you may use a matt varnish, or none at all. In centuries past the amount of indoor pollutants, such as coal or tobacco smoke was much higher, and the presence of mold and other grime made varnishing a painting a very good idea. Today your painting will survive nicely with the linseed oil or acrylic binders built into the paint. Indeed the Impressionist painters preferred a matte surface and their pictures remained unvarnished, until museum conservators did so at a later date.

To apply the varnish, follow safety rules carefully, and use an inexpensive soft sable style 2 inch “chip brush” available at local hardware stores. Follow the general direction of the painted brushstrokes and work fast. Be careful of stray brush hairs and remove them promptly from the wet varnish (do not hesitate to touch the surface of the painting). Otherwise use any large sable or soft brush. The varnish will take about an hour or so to dry to the touch, and the picture should be set aside in a well-ventilated room to dry thoroughly for about 24 hours. Again, observe safety precautions carefully.

When in doubt about whether your painting is acrylic or oil, use oil-based picture varnish. Note: this is a final varnish and will provide a nearly impregnable surface to your painting.