As artists, we assume the most important part of our art is the color, the design, the brush strokes, the lines, the muse; the part everyone admires and sees in the end. However, for any art to last, the beginning layer and the end layer are far more important than what we put between them.
I am talking about how you prepare your surface before you paint and how you protect your art after it is complete. From the moment you put brush to surface, your painting is in grave danger of being eventually destroyed by the elements.
THE PAINTING GROUND-
First, a substrate has to be properly base coated to allow the mediums or paints to securely bond to the surface for lasting results that will stand the test of time. This means the base coat and the medium must be compatible. If you do not think of this first, your painting will more than likely crack and separate from its surface.
Not every type of paint will securely adhere to every surface. Every medium has an ideal ground in which you will want to work upon. This is not to say you cannot apply it to other surfaces, but that each has a surface that it is suitable for longevity.
Watercolor- 100% pure cotton rag watercolor paper
Oil- Oil primed linen or cotton canvas
Acrylic- Acrylic primed cotton canvas or wood surfaces
Encaustic- Encaustic gessoed wooden panels
Pastel- Sand coated paper or textured heavy weight paper
Colored Pencil/ Charcoal- Smooth or slightly toothy heavy weight paper
Marker- Coated marker paper
Alcohol Inks- Clean non porous surfaces including Yupo, tile, metal, glass
Egg Tempera- Rabbit glue gessoed wood surface
The list goes on and on. The point is, without a properly prepared substrate, your painting has nothing to hold on to.
ENTER GOLDEN ARTIST COLORS, INC.
Golden Artist Colors, Inc. , more familiarly known as “Golden”, has developed several great acrylic gessos and grounds to make sure your color is going to stay where you put it.
GOLDEN GESSOS AVAILABLE AT CHEAP JOE’S-
WHITE OR BLACK ACRYLIC GESSO- A ready to use acrylic liquid ground formulated with more dry solids than acrylic paint to give tooth and prepare a substrate for acrylic or oil application.
Note: Even though, oil paints will adhere to this ground, a more ideal base coat for oils is an oil painting ground or primer. Watercolors can also be applied to an acrylic ground with minimal water content, however, there are “watercolor gessos” that are formulated to keep watercolor washes from resisting the acrylic surface which can cause the paint to bead up and puddle on the surface.
HARD SANDABLE GESSO- A heavier consistency and a harder surface when dried, this gesso will give you the option of leaving elaborate textures on your painting surface.
ACRYLIC GROUND FOR PASTELS- This acrylic gesso has a fine grit which provides the necessary tooth to hold the fine pastel dust to the substrate.
THE PAINTING- READY, SET, GO FOR IT!
So, once you have a strong surface base coat that is ideal and compatible with your medium, the sky is the limit to what you can paint. Feel free to express your inner artist, your hopes and dreams, what you love and find beauty in, or anything you want to convey. This is your art! With no fear, go forth and create!
Golden has the largest complete line of professional quality paints, mediums, gels, and texture mediums in the business. It is what they are known for. It is what they do best.
Now, you have expressed yourself and are ready to show the world your masterpiece. But wait, you must first protect your art from the world and from the elements that will eventually destroy it with time. This final layer is the front line of defense.
THE FINAL PROTECTION-
The final varnish or top coat is a barrier to keep your artwork from the dust, grime, fingerprints, oils, sand, and the most damaging element, light. Light is the most important element to enjoying your artwork, without it your art would not be seen. However, the same light, will immediately begin to deteriorate your art; the colors will turn gray and dull the more it is exposed, the paint will turn brittle and crack and eventually separate from the substrate. It could take years for this to happen, but it is inevitable. That is why you must do everything you can to slow the process and protect your art for as long as possible.
Golden has a simple system for varnishing. They have developed exactly what you need, in a small army of products. So, it is easy to choose your final coat.
GOLDEN ACRYLIC VARNISHES AVAILABLE AT CHEAP JOE’S
GOLDEN ARCHIVAL SPRAY VARNISH (Mineral Spirit Acrylic Aerosol with UVLS)
GOLDEN Polymer Varnish with UVLS (Ultra Violet Light Stabilizers) is a water-based acrylic polymer varnish formulated to provide additional protection from ultraviolet radiation. This helps delay the inevitable fading that occurs in materials that may be fugitive in nature.
Polymer Varnish is designed as a topcoat for acrylic paints and offers a removable protective surface to the relatively soft acrylic paint layer. It has a harder film than most acrylic paints, which diminishes the susceptibility of the surface to dust and dirt, and provides increased protection from scratching, marring and moisture. It has adequate flexibility to withstand normal handling conditions, including loose rolling. For interior use only. The product is not recommended for use on furniture or other surfaces subject to physical contact during use.
Polymer Varnish remains soluble in alkaline solvents, such as ammonia. This means the varnish can be easily removed; taking with it any accumulated surface contamination without damaging the painting surface. The use of such a removable varnish provides a valuable tool to anyone trying to restore or clean a painting.
Polymer Varnish (Gloss) dries to a highly reflective finish. Polymer Varnish (Satin) offers moderate reflection, similar to most matte varnishes. The Matte is exceptionally flat. The different finishes can be intermixed, or used sequentially, to achieve the desired sheen. Note: Polymer Varnish (Satin) and (Matte) will lighten dark value colors, which is typical of non-gloss varnishes.
POLYMER VARNISHES MUST BE THINNED BEFORE USE. They have been formulated thicker than the traditional application viscosity to maintain an even suspension of matting agents in the Satin and Matte finishes, which ensures more consistency in surface reflectance as the varnish is used. It also allows the varnish to be applied with minimal foam generation. Foaming can be a major problem with most water-borne acrylics, but when properly thinned, the Polymer Varnish is able to release all foam before drying.
It is preferable to brush or spray apply Golden varnishes. Other methods, such as sponging or rolling, are not recommended, as they may result in problems such as: foaming, loss of film clarity, non-uniform coverage, excessive film build, sagging, or deposition of materials from the application tool.
GOLDEN ARCHIVAL SPRAY VARNISH (Mineral Spirit Acrylic Aerosol with UVLS)
The Do It All Varnish-
If you only buy one varnish, this is the one I have been recommending for years, and for almost everything. This spray varnish has little limitations and lots of uses. Most varnishes are medium specific, however, Golden has developed a product that literally does it all. So, once you make the initial investment, you can use it for virtually everything!
GOLDEN Archival Varnish is formulated with 100% solvent-based, reversible acrylic co-polymer resins. It is designed to produce a flexible, clear film to protect against environmental concerns such as ultraviolet light, dirt and moisture. The cured coating is resistant to yellowing.
GOLDEN Archival Varnish Mineral Spirit Acrylic Aerosol w/UVLS is made by reducing standard GOLDEN MSA Varnish (w/UVLS) with fast drying acetone and a propellant to create an easy to use spray product. Properly applied, it can create a durable, even film.
GOLDEN Archival Varnish should adhere well to most non-oily surfaces. It may exhibit poor adhesion to fresh oil paint films or if residual surfactants are present with water-based paint films. It has excellent wet and dry state clarity. Over time, the MSA film resists changes in appearance and remains flexible. The UV protection is achieved from a blend of Hindered Amine Light Stabilizer (HALS) and an ultraviolet absorber (substituted benzotrizole compound). The unique adjustable fan spray tip allows precise application with reduced overspray. Coverage is approximately 30-35 sq. ft. per can.
VARIOUS MEDIA APPLICATION METHODS
Different paints and substrates have unique circumstances. GOLDEN Archival Varnish w/UVLS should be used in accordance with these individual requirements. ALWAYS TEST ON SCRAP PIECES OR INCONSPICUOUS AREAS BEFORE USE ON FINAL ARTWORK. Absorbent substrates require several gloss layers to seal the surface. Listed below are general application guidelines for common substrates. For more thorough information regarding specific media concerns, review artist handbooks and other information sources.
Acrylic Paints – Isolation coat(s) should be applied as per MSA Varnish directions located in the main GOLDEN Varnish document. Allow 24 hours for the final isolation coat layer to cure and then build layers of Archival Aerosol Varnish w/UVLS as needed.
Only intended for acrylic paintings, do not use on oil paintings.
For future conservation and varnish removal purposes we recommend the use of an isolation coat prior to varnishing. An isolation coat is a permanent, non-removable coating that serves to physically separate the paint surface from the removable varnish. This will help protect the surface if the varnish is ever removed and make future cleaning and conservation easier to avoid working directly on top of the pigmented part of the work. Therefore, even if painted with delicate washes or large areas of colors that could potentially bleed, a clear barrier would safely cover the painted surface. It will also seal absorbent areas, which will result in a more even application of the varnish. In the event that no varnish gets applied, the isolation coat serves to decrease the water sensitivity of the paint surface, affording protection during routine cleaning/dusting.
For brush application, the appropriate isolating medium can be made by diluting Golden Soft Gel Gloss with water (2 parts by volume Soft Gel Gloss to 1 part water). If a spray application is desired, a 2:1 mixture of Golden GAC-500 to Transparent Airbrush Extender can be applied with an airbrush, touch-up spray unit or commercial spray equipment. The absorbency of the surface will dictate the number of isolation layers required. For relatively non-absorbent surfaces, as is the case with a uniform paint layer, one coat brush applied or two coats spray applied are recommended. For more absorbent surfaces, which tend to be very matte, it is recommended to apply sufficient isolation coats to achieve a satin sheen on the surface. This may require two or more brush applied coats or three or more spray applications.
Oil/ Water Soluble Oils/ or Alkyd Paints – allow minimum curing time of 6-12 months (or recommended) when used as a final picture varnish and allow the painting to become touch-dry before use as a temporary varnish on fresh oil paint films. Heavy layers on fresh oil paint films impede the oxidation process, which may result in failure. Build layers of Archival Varnish w/UVLS as needed.
Graphite/Pastels/Colored Pencil/Marker/Watercolor/Gouache – due to the varying effects and changes that can occur when using the Archival Spray Varnish over Pastel, various drawing media, Watercolor and Gouache, it is recommended that you do NOT use it for fixing, top coating, or varnishing these mediums, unless first testing and experimenting thoroughly.
The effects and changes noted above are primarily a darkening of the work due to changes in the nature of the surface and consequently, the refractive index. While there may be ways to fine tune the process by using a combination of satin or matte varnish over an initial gloss coat, or very light coats of varnish, we feel that the significant darkening observed in many cases, may constitute unacceptable changes for many artists.
If deciding to continue with this varnish application, both the media and the substrate should be taken into consideration. Test all brands and colors to avoid bleeding or darkening of colorants. Begin by applying very light coats of gloss varnish as a fixative. Once enough light layers create a dried glossy film, begin layers of desired sheen in subsequent coats.
Ink Jet Prints – generally, GOLDEN Archival Varnish w/UVLS may be applied directly to prints; however consider substrate absorbency (see above notes) and intended level of protection (refer to UV protection section below). Several thin coats are sufficient for moisture resistance, but testing should be conducted if water-based gels are going to be applied over the varnish for brush-stroke texture.
OTHER SPECIAL USES:
Watercolor finish- Most artists would never consider spraying a varnish on their finished watercolor. However, the investment in framing can be quite considerable. Therefore, many of today’s artists seem to be willing to live with the changes that occur when you seal a watercolor painting. When you choose to apply a final varnish on your art, it is initially a permanent decision. The colors will be intensified and brighter. It is advised to test the application before you commit to sealing a large work of watercolor art.
Spray your artwork with the Golden Archival Gloss Spray Varnish with three light coats, drying in between coats. This will seal and protect your artwork. Depending on the desired light reflection, two additional coats can be applied in Satin, or Matte. Spraying with any varnish will re wet and intensify watercolor pigments permanently. Test this application before applying to finished artwork.
Alcohol Ink finish- It is not completely necessary to varnish alcohol ink art. The inks are very durable when dried. However, if it will remain unframed, a spray varnish is recommended to seal it. If extra protection is needed, a brush on coat after the spray coat will do.
Dry completed project overnight. Spray with gloss 1-2 coats to protect, then with satin, or matte to adjust the sheen with 1-2 light even coats.
NOTE: Satin and Matte finishes have a solids matting agent to reduce the sheen. This is especially important when applying to dark saturated colors such as alcohol inks. Heavy coats will result in a dull, milky, or cloudy finish.
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
SHAKE IT UP- Golden recommends shaking your archival spray varnish can for two minutes. They stress this as the most important thing to remember. So much, in fact, they produced a video showing various ways to shake the can. It really doesn’t matter how you shake it, but that you shake it a complete two minutes every time you use it.
APPLY IT CORRECTLY- This video shows you the proper way to apply the spray for the best results. You should apply only after shaking it up for the required two minutes as shown above!
Golden Artist Colors, Inc. has spent years and years perfecting their products. They are the most well known name in acrylic materials. Golden has a really great website with loads of information about their products. They also have several videos that show you exactly how to use their materials, as well. If you have questions, they have a great group artists and employees there waiting to help! Just visit the Golden website or their Facebook Page for more information on what’s going on at Golden!
The longevity of a work of art is very important, especially if the work is being sold and collected. An art collector invests with the intention that the work will last, grow in value, and retain its original beauty and provide years of enjoyment. It is always in your best interest to do all you can to ensure the longevity of your art!
So when the muse hits, and you consider what to paint, also consider how you will prepare your surface and how you will finish your artwork. So many times, we are just in too much of a hurry to think about these things. However, in the end, these are the things that will preserve our art for as long as possible. Don’t forget to visit us on the Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff Facebook page to find the best deals and great information about Art Stuff!
With a great beginning and end you can enjoy the middle for years to come!
Happy Beginnings and Great Endings Day!
And Don’t Forget to Shake it up, Baby!