The moment of truth comes after the varnish is applied and one can check the quality of their work. The two main things to watch for are color matching as sometimes colors can shift after the varnish is applied and of course we want any retouching to look just like the painting, that is; be invisible. In addition one has to be mindful of the surface of the repair particularly if there was a tear or hole as any textural deviation will instantly reveal the conservation work even if the color matching is spot on. And the best way to check that is with brutally unforgiving raking light. But when you get the texture and color right you’ve hit the bullseye and it’s time for ice cream. 🍦
Friday means varnish day at the studio. This is the painting I was retouching yesterday. For those who will inevitably ask: I’m using a Princeton 4” gesso brush to apply a Regalrez 1094 resin based varnish and I make an initial lap around the painting to deposit the majority of the varnish and then go back and make overlapping passes to distribute it. Everybody has their own methods of varnishing and this method is a combination of how I learned and informed from my days printing lithographs and it works for me: it’s logical, I can see where I’ve covered (not always easy on some paintings) and there’s no wasted varnish. Hot tip: don’t pour varnish on your painting, if you pour too much out it makes a mess and you can’t get it back in the bottle. It’s easier to pour the varnish into a dish or tray and recharge your brush.
Back to our regular scheduled programming. Retouching is one of those things that when you’re in the zone is meditative and somewhat magical. Alternatively, if everything isn’t clicking it can feel torturous. Knowing when to lean into it and when to take a break is crucial. This portrait had a pretty nasty tear and a previous patch of questionable materials/execution/success. After the old work was removed an inlay was fitted to the hole and secured in place using a flexible adhesive and bridging. The missing areas were filed in with a workable medium and then the retouching was executed in conservation paints. Every once in a while you can see me wiping the area with some cotton balls: I’m using mineral spirits so I can see what the retouching will look like after varnish so I can adjust accordingly. As the solvent in the paints evaporates the colors go chalky or matte and the mineral spirits “wets” them as will the varnish. This is similar to the painting technique of “oiling out” yesterday’s work on an oil painting so the artist can get a more accurate picture of the colors. All told, this was about 30mins of retouching... next up varnish.
When you go to download some video footage and find a 40GB file 😮 and realize that you left the camera on and inadvertently revealed what it’s actually like in your studio. 🤷♂️ #DorkusMalorkus. The name of the song btw is “Do You Love Me” by the Contours. 😗👌
One of many upgrades I made when I built the new, larger hot table was to add some insulation to the underside. The old table used cement board as the base for the silicone heating pads and while it was plenty rigid it didn’t really do much by way of heat control. When the top of the table was 150F so was the bottom. Massive heat loss. The new table has 1 inch of polyisocyanurate insulation underneath the silicone heating pads. When the top is 150F (ok, 149.1F) the bottom is 76, just 4 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature. OK, so what. If the top is still reaching the desired temperature then who cares what the bottom temperature is, right? To some degree that’s true but it also means massive heat loss which results in more energy consumption and a higher cost to run the table, not to mention it puts more stress on the electronics and the heating pads and can result in a shorter lifespan.
In relation to my last post on the key-making jig and saving time. I found this awesome chart courtesy of xkcd that shows how much time you can spend making a routine task more efficient before the time savings are eclipsed over a 5-year span. So extrapolate that out to 25-30 years and I think I could spend a week maki g a jig and still save time 😜
It seems silly to build a jig to cut keys- I mean, they’re small, thin and can be cut with a sharp knife in 30 seconds for each. One year I kept a very loose tally of how many keys I cut and the total was just over 1600. 1600 x 30 / 60 / 60 = 13 hours. I spent almost two full working days cutting stupid keys one year. That jig, not so silly now.
It’s Thanksgiving week here in the US and that means spending a lot of time with family, which is awesome, until it’s not. If it gets a bit stressful and you need to zone out (or fall asleep 🤷♂️) I just posted an absurdly long ASMR video of just scraping. Seriously, 40mins of just scraping. You guys and gals asked for it so there it is.
Honestly, how am I supposed to get anything done. At least my lap is warm 😜 her name is Miko, she’s a wire fox terrier, and she’s either sleeping or getting into trouble.