EXPERIMENTING WITH MAKING MY PAINTING LIFE FULLY ARCHIVAL, YET SOLVENT-FREE

HOW TO MAKE YOUR PAINTING LIFE SOLVENT-FREE, YET EXCEPTIONALLY ARCHIVAL, JUST LIKE REMBRANDT, VELASQUEZ, RUBENS, AND OTHER OLD MASTERS DID

Last week, I experimented with making my own stand oil (Stage 1) by cleaning the mucilage out of it first, from the directions given in Louis Velasquez’s book. My goal is to put it in the sun (Stage 2) per his instructions to make a faster-drying oil than can be purchased at art supply stores. The kind you buy is overheated and, as a result, becomes slow-drying.

Here is a drastic consolidation of a most information-packed and well-researched book by Louis Velasquez, an esteemed artist and materials researcher.  He is a treasure—unselfish, helpful, and dedicated to authenticity and truth with little regard for how much money he pockets.  The book is dense with information, so I have made its most salient points more accessible in this greatly abbreviated synopsis.  He provides copius amounts of free information on his website, and you can order the very reasonably priced book from Louis Velasquez’s website at http://www.calcitesunoil.com to begin your solvent-free, OM archival-quality painting life.

VelasquezBookCover

Isolating the Support, Primers

The Old Masters isolated the absorbent wood with a glue size before they applied the gesso, because wood is porous and absorbs water like a sponge.  And you can’t apply gesso directly on unsized wood because it is made with PVA which just soaks into the wood.  Experiments show that acrylic gesso is very absorbent and needs to be sealed before we paint on it.

There are three types of sizes that will isolate and seal the acrylic gesso so that it won’t suck the oil out of the paint.  They are: skim milk, PVA, and acrylic varnish.  But only one of them will ALSO isolate and seal the wood so that it won’t absorb water, and that is the acrylic varnish.  All this time many of us have been lead to believe that we should use a coat of PVA glue to isolate the wood first, before we apply the gesso.  But research shows that it DOES NOT WORK!   The wood remains absorbent in spite of the PVA, so it sucks the water out of the gesso, and our unsealed gesso sucks the oil out of our paint (aka, the “suede effect”)!

So, the bottom line to protect the layers and keep the paint from sinking in is this:
1) Paint the wood with one coat of acrylic varnish (I bought matte–this is not the same as acrylic matte medium). After it dries,
2) apply the gesso (1-3-coats), then after the gesso dries thoroughly,
3) quickly apply a thin coat of PVA.  It dries fast, so you can’t fuss with it–just get it on as quickly as possible.

How to Make Superior Linseed/Stand/Sun Oil

Cleanse the Oil

Buy unadulterated, unrefined cold-pressed flaxseed oil in the health food store cold case.   Solgar Earth Source Organic Flaxseed Oil is a very pure brand, but always check the ingredients on whatever brand you buy to make sure nothing has been added, such as vitamin E, etc.

The Old Masters knew it was important to remove mucilage and particulates from the unrefined oil before making Stand/Sun Oil.  Here is a way to combine the process:

Step 1:  Place water and oil in the sun—do not shake together

For this step, you will need:

1. A white opaque glass container—Pyrex works well

2. A clear glass lid if you are expecting rain (Pyrex baking dishes often come with a lid)

3. Rigid screening enough to cover your dish

4. Ant powder (depending on your location–I couldn’t believe how much ants like to eat oil!)

  1.  Place oil 1” deep in white opaque glass container, with clear glass lid with spacers for air circulation.  The lid is only necessary if there is danger of moisture.
  2. SLOWLY add 2 times the amount of distilled water to the oil.  Water is polar and pulls certain substances like a magnet, creating a “water sediment trap” which will drop below the oil.  DO NOT SHAKE or agitate.
  3. Lay a piece of rigid screening over the top to keep out larger flies, bees, gnats, ants, and particles.  Ants are a big problem in my area, so I sprinkle a solid line of ant powder around the base of my dish, a couple of inches away (no need to ask how I learned this).
  4. Sit oil and water in direct summer sun and air for at least 3-6 days and nights.  DO NOT STIR the oil and water AT ALL.  Within 2 days, you will see the mucilage drop from the oil and rest on the water below.  Do not repeat any of the above steps or the mucilage will not separate.

Step 2:  Decant the clean oil with a ladle and dry filter it

Don’t become impatient with this step–it takes time for the oil to drip through filters.

For this step, you will need:

1. Psyllium

2. A broom straw or toothpick

3. 3 jars

4. A wide spoon

5. collander

6. bowl

a.  After 3-6 days outdoors, it is normal to see detritus in the oil and it will be a noticeably lighter color.

b.  Sprinkle a thin layer of dry psyllium onto the oil (Don’t use too much! I did, as you can see how much this fine powder expands).  It will float.  Use a toothpick, weed or straw from a broom and by light gentle surface agitation of the floating husk, it will sink and lock the mucilage as the psyllium expands.  This holds mucilage firm for the removal of clean oil. If you have sprinkled the psyllium somewhat evenly, surface agitation probably won’t even be necessary.

c.  Do 2 separate decantings:

      1st)  Use a wide spoon to skim off clear oil, NO WATER. Keep this oil separate from the next decanting.

      2nd)  In a separate jar, do the same thing as before, only this time you will probably get some of the water mixed in. Add psyllium again to remove the water.

d.  Both decantings need to be filtered a final time with a funnel using a coffee or cotton ball filter.  The cotton seems to work better and faster–the coffee filter is too fine.  It takes a couple of hours to completely drain and it should be clear with no water; if not, do it again. Also, drain the psyllium separately in a colander over a bowl for a couple of days—you’ll recover lots of good oil.

Here are some photos to give you an idea of what to expect:

StandOilFiltering

Still Filtering, Flaxseed Oil, Psyllium Powder, Freshly Cleaned Linseed Oil

StandOilFilteringScreenPsyllium

Screening Used in Early Filtering of Bugs, Psyllium, etc.

StandOilDrainingLeftoverPsyllium

Draining Remaining Oil from Leftover Psyllium

StandOilPsylliumTexture

Closer Look at Psyllium Texture

Stage 2, coming soon, will encompass how to make the stand oil per Louis Velasquez’ instructions.

The Arizona Renaissance Art Guild does one-week workshop intensives three times per year, and in addition, we get together to paint all day on the third Saturday of every month.  If you are in the Phoenix Metro area and are interested in finding out more or possibly joining our colony, please let me know through this blog.  ~Marsha

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FROM THE WORKSHOP OF THE ARIZONA RENAISSANCE ART GUILD

The Taos Society of Artists had about six to ten members, the Hudson River School up to twenty-five.  Our Arizona Renaissance Art Guild is small, with eight to twelve members, so if we’re talking about numbers, the Guild is in good company.  Who knows what history’s retrospective look at us will be….

Anyway, I’m back from the workshop, having had the most grueling week of fun ever!  We literally painted from morning until night, sometimes as late as midnight, only to begin again the next morning around eight a.m.  If we had had some bunk beds and a shower, I think we might have just stayed at the museum. The Gilbert Museum is a wonderful place for us to work and they have been so very gracious to us over the last eight or ten years, especially the museum’s director, who always goes out of her way to make sure the facility is top notch.

Some of us copied the Old Masters, and some did original works.  And speaking of retrospectives, I will be providing individual pictorial ones on some of our artists at a later date, but I just want to give you a photographic overview of the work we did this past week, and the environment we work in.  Some of the unusual colors you may see are underpaintings designed for specific effects later on.  Also, keep in mind these photos are just snapshots.  We all know what a picture is worth, so here it goes:

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In related news, I got a new easel. I used a French easel until I wore it out, so I bought a new, more robust travel easel.  After much research, I settled on the “Belmont” by Jack Richeson.  It can support the larger size boards I often work on, can tilt forward for pastels, and lay flat for oil glazing or watercolor. Yes, other easels can do all this as well, but this one is special in important respects: it is made of renewable lyptus wood AND it’s on wheels so I can use it for a sort of hand truck when loading my supplies after a workshop (Of course, never put heavier things on it–it’s not really a hand truck, after all :-)).  I got it from Madison Art Supply who had the best price at the time.  They provided quick delivery, too.

What sold me on this particular easel is that another of our members had one, and one day, he showed me how easy and FAST it was to set up and take down.  I was amazed and “sold” at the same time.  The fact that it was from Richeson was a plus, because their company is at the top when it comes to customer service.  They will make sure you are happy with your purchase, especially if you have a problem.  And in this case, I did have a problem: the bottom tray didn’t grip well enough and wanted to drift downward (over the course of hours of painting) and I had to readjust it periodically.  It wasn’t an urgent problem, but I called them about it anyway.  They sent me another tray and made sure it got to me by the second day of the workshop!  These people are incredible so consider Jack Richeson brand the next time you need art supplies.

The Arizona Renaissance Art Guild does one-week workshop intensives three times per year, and in addition, we get together to paint all day on the third Saturday of every month.  If you are in the Phoenix Metro area and are interested in finding out more or possibly joining our colony, please let me know through this blog.  ~Marsha