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Frequently my paintings loose their lustre as they dry. What looks vibrant and fresh when first painted seem to flatten out and loose definition. Has anyone had this problem? Is it to do with using too much white spirit and not enough oil in the painting process? Any tips appreciated.

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  I think it probabIy is that you aren't using enough oil,  I have seen Paul Kane using Retouching, spray- on varnish, to keep the gloss on a painting, cos when your'e painting out doors you are inclined to use more white spirit or turps in order to dry it quicker and find some tooth for the paint to stick to , if ya get me.  

That's why many plein-air artists use marble dust or pumice dust mixed with gesso as a ground, on their painting panels, so the paint will have something to grip, to even though its quite oily.

Both Michael Richardson and Michael Mc Guire use this method,. In a studio painting you will probably not thin the paint out so much cos ya don't really care how long it takes to dry (unless your'e in a huge hurry).

Well that's my thoughts anyway  Frank useful or not , 

Hi Frank, I think that the ground that you use absorbes a lot of the medium you us to thin out your paint, helping to creat that dry flat look, I have found that by mixing a little Liquin into your paints helps to retaine some luster. I have found that one of the worst paint ofenders is any of the reds, I have had to paint over these two or three times to help them to stand out.  Liquin can creat a varnished effect if over used. If the painting is dry paint over the whole painting with a layer of Liquin, this helps to give an overall lift to your painting. Hope this is off some use.

Thanks Louise and Patrick,

I'll give those tips a try, I think you're correct about it being a 'ground' problem. I usually use shop bought canvas and think that they do need an extra coat of gesso plus the dust. Also plan to use more oil/liquin in future!

Louise Treacy said:

  I think it probabIy is that you aren't using enough oil,  I have seen Paul Kane using Retouching, spray- on varnish, to keep the gloss on a painting, cos when your'e painting out doors you are inclined to use more white spirit or turps in order to dry it quicker and find some tooth for the paint to stick to , if ya get me.  

That's why many plein-air artists use marble dust or pumice dust mixed with gesso as a ground, on their painting panels, so the paint will have something to grip, to even though its quite oily.

Both Michael Richardson and Michael Mc Guire use this method,. In a studio painting you will probably not thin the paint out so much cos ya don't really care how long it takes to dry (unless your'e in a huge hurry).

Well that's my thoughts anyway  Frank useful or not , 

Oh yes another thing I was just thinking about, is the FAT over LEAN rule!!! If you are painting with oils the thin paint must be applied first, and the full fat oily paint must go over that (last).

The reason for this is that the thin paint and the absorbent ground leach the oil from the paint, so the paint on top must be more oily than the base paint, sometimes , if this rule is not followed, the painting Will lose its lustre and eventually, over the years the top layer will crack as the under-layers and the absorbent ground, suck the oil out of the top layers.Its like painting a door at home , you use the undercoat first and this acts as a seal, then you use your gloss which sits on top of the dry undercoat, keeping its shine.

All the best Louise

Thanks again Louise, more food for thought!

Hi Frank. Gesso absorbs oil (the better stuff such as Liquitex a little less so, but still aborbs some). You can do a couple of things. The simplest is just to apply a little retouching varnish when the painting is dry to the touch. I've found that applying a thin coat of oil paint (any colour you wish), with a lot of turps, to the gessoed board/canvas before you start painting helps a lot. You can even do this on location if you forget to do it a couple of days in advance, because it's fairly easy to paint wet-in-wet when the undercoat has a lot of turps in it. Despite the turps, there is still enoiugh oil in the paint to provide a less absorbent surface than gesso.

 

It is indeed to do with using too much diluent to help fast drying particularly in the early stages. This sinking process also  happens more with earth colours, particularly umbers and siennas. Oiling out, rubbing in a coat of linseed, when the painting is dry will help. Re-touching varnish does seem to help although irritatingly the more sunken areas still refuse to respond sometimes so the only real solution is to refrain from selling (LOL) the work for six months and then varnish it properly!

Another way out of the problem is to use a different method of getting the paint to dry faster by using a fast drying medium. I use a mixture of one part damar varnish, one part stand oil and three to five parts turpentine, (the real stuff). This helps to keep the gloss in the paint but makes it handle in a quite different way so it needs a little practice. It is brilliant when it is raining as one can rub it all over the board to seal it and then paintwill stick perfectly to it, which it won't do to a wet gesso board! I hope this helps a little!

Thanks Michael, I will try those options, I have stopped using turps on its own as an early dilutent, mixing it instead with linseed oil right from the start. I'm also painting on a coat of this mixture with some colour, raw umber/yellowocre/ultramblue as a base coat and it seems to be helping. I don't necessalily want the work to dry quickly but not you dry out flat in the long run. Thanks again.

Hi Frank, I paint in Oils also, and if you use too much white spirit and also thin the paint too much in the beginning of a painting, this is the result.  You also have to get the balance right when mixing colours.  Too much White, particularly Zinc White will flatten a painting.  I also use Gesso to cover the canvas first.  Try this, and also I paint in 3 layers (even for Plein Eire Painting). First layer, put paint on very thinly , let dry, and the next 2 layers put on thicker paint each time. Not easy to achieve all this when painting plein eire! (speaking from experience). Hope this helps!

I just re-read your post, Frank, and it's just possible that what you're seeing as a drying issue may in fact be down to the difference betweeen viewing a painting indoors and outdoors. The problem is that on a sunny day with your canvas in the shade or indeed on a dull day, the light is much more intense than indoor daylight or artificial light. So what appears as a light tone on your canvas outdoors will appear much darker indoors. Something similar happens to chroma/intensity. Bottom line is that you have to compensate for this, or you will have to do some corrections on your painting the next morning. The more you paint plein air, the more you come to realise that you have to "punch" things up a bit to ensure that when you get the painting indoors it will still appear vibrant. After a while it almost becomes intuitive, but it's always easy to fall into that particular trap.

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