Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Before applying varnish

I have been a rather haphazard varnisher; some paintings I remember to varnish and others get forgotten. I used to use Crystal Clear spray varnish, but with mixed results. For one thing, we live in a perpetually windy and dusty area, so using spray varnish outside could be a nightmare. I also found it challenging to get an even coat. After reading about Mitchell Albala's experience with Gamvar varnish, I decided to try some myself. In my mind, there are two main advantages to this varnish: you apply it with a brush, which makes it much easier to control that spray varnish, and you can apply it as soon as the thickest part of your painting is dry to the touch. For oil painters, this is a huge time savings.

After applying varnish

So I decided to document my first experiment with Gamvar*. In his aforementioned blog post on the subject, Mitchell Albala stressed how important it was to use as little varnish as possible and apply it with a soft brush in a scrubbing motion (have a special brush for this purpose - don't use one of your good painting brushes!). I closely followed his instructions and found the varnish quite easy to apply. I didn't have any problem with streaks, either. 

One thing I did note is that in the past when I've applies varnishes, the varnish tended to bring out the darks and liven up the painting in general. However, I didn't see much of a difference in the appearance of my painting after applying this varnish.

Detail - can you see any difference in appearance?

But regardless of whether the varnish heightens darks and brightens colors (sounds like a laundry detergent...) in your paintings or not, varnishing also plays an important role in protecting your artwork. Over time dirt can build up on the surface of a painting and cleaning it can harm the painting. If you have a layer of varnish, the dirt attaches to the varnish and the old varnish can be removed and a new clean layer of varnish applied with no harm to the painting underneath. Here's a discussion about varnishing from Scott Gellatly when he was a guest blogger on Lori Putnam's blog. And if you're a painter and you don't know about Lori Putnam's blog, you best go check it out right now! 

Meanwhile, I think I'll become a more regular varnisher, since using the Gamvar was very easy.

*This is not a commercial for Gamvar and I did not receive any compensation from Gamblin.

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