Monday, October 27, 2014

Varnish -- The Final Part of the Painting Process

Brushing the isolation coat on two paintings.
Isolation coat of Golden Gel Gloss Medium
plus water.
Finishing an acrylic painting via final isolation coat and then varnish is one of my least favorite parts of the painting process. Even though I don't like this final stage, it is one of the most important parts of the process.

When I say I don't like this phase, what I mean is that it is a nerve-wracking part of the process. It is the final stage. What happens if the varnish streaks, runs, and looks uneven? Extreme care needs to be taken to insure the final surface creates the quality and look that I desire for the painting whether is matt, satin, or glossy.

Purpose of Varnish

Varnishing a painting serves a couple of purposes. First, it protects the painting surface from the elements, dust, and UV rays. Second, it unifies the surface in terms of sheen creating a better-looking painting and a feeling of quality craftsmanship.

Isolation coat.
The final varnish should be archival and removable. After about 50 years of hanging out in the open, unless it has been placed under glass, dust and other environmental contaminants have built up on the painting surface. If the painting has not been varnished, these elements embed themselves in the paint. So, it is better that these elements have embedded themselves into a final varnish layer instead. Because once removed, all the dust and other contaminants get removed with it. Then, a fresh new layer of varnish goes on to protect it for the next 50 or so years.

Apparently, I'm not the only artist out there that fears this part of the process. I found an article which made me feel much better about my angst. This article, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Varnish, talks about the final varnish coat and gives us artists tips on varnishing.

I would bet that the final varnish coat is personal to the artist and their medium like Edward Hopper in the quote below.
I use a retouching varnish which is made in France, Libert, and that's all the varnish I use. -- Edward Hopper

I want to hear from you!

Please leave a comment below.

If you are an artist

Do you fear this part of the process? Do you have any tips on varnishing or tips on releasing the angst of this stage in the process?

If you are an art collector

What is your feeling about purchasing a painting with or without varnish?

Mary Rush Gravelle

Until Next Week

Sir Kitty
• Create art
• Appreciate art
• Buy art

About the author: Mary Rush Gravelle is an artist who resides in Sedona, Arizona with her beloved cat, Sir Kitty.

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