Artists: How to Re-Surface Old Paintings, both oil and acrylic

A Response to Last Month’s Post: How to Re-Prime Used Canvases

 

This blog post is inspired by a blog post from last month, entitled: Artists: What Should You Do with Unfinished Artwork? dated August 12, 2018. In this post, I wrote about the artwork that had been abandoned for various reasons. I also added a list of various highlights from an article entitled, “50 Ways to Use Your Unfinished Art.” Several suggestions for completing your artwork were listed in the aforementioned article including taking pictures of your artwork to manipulate it, cutting up the artwork and re-assembling it, throwing the painting away, etc. However, one technique that I didn’t mention for completing art work is to start over from scratch. For example, this could mean re-surfacing an old canvas by using sandpaper or even a power sander, depending on how thick the paint has been applied to the canvas. The processes for re-finishing canvases are different, depending on whether acrylic or oil paint was used, which is a fact that I learned after reading two articles on The Painters Keys website- Re-priming Old Canvases, and How to Resurface an Old Painting by Ericka Lancaster. I really wish I had known this sooner, as I am not sure how my old paintings, which have been re-surfaced with sandpaper and acrylic gesso, will hold out over time.

Consequently, I plan to do more research in the future, before I am embarking on a similar project with older canvases. I want to be certain that I can create quality paintings which will pass the test of time. Ok, so now to what I learned from reading these articles. For example, in the Painter’s Key’s website, the author responded to a query from a reader about how to restore an old canvas, so that it could be re-painted. (Source: http://thepainterskeys.com/reprime, Robert Genn, date of access 08/24/18). In response, the author stated that to re-surface an old oil painting can create some concrete and creative challenges because if the re-surfacing process is not done correctly, it can cause the paint to flake off from the surface.  (Source: ibid) Therefore, because of this possibility, many artists choose instead to use new materials, i.e. new canvases or substrates.  (Source: ibid)

Here are some tips for re-purposing oil paintings from the article, Re-priming Used Canvases:

  • Sand the surface of your oil painting until it is completely dull in appearance. (Source: Ibid)
  • I used a power sander with 150-grade coarse sandpaper, because it is easier to use than individual strips of sandpaper, and it gets the job done much faster.
  • After you sand the painting, use a microfiber cloth to get rid of any excess paint chips. For heavily encrusted paint, you can give the canvas or paper another pass with the power sander.
  • When the canvas is completely clean and you can see the tooth of it, use an “oil or alkyd-based gesso or oil primer.” (Source: ibid) You can use a scumbled technique and a rag, to cover the offending areas you don’t like about your painting, and leave other areas, untouched that you like. Using this technique is a compromise between using the old surface and the paint which remains, and painting a new layer of paint. (Source: ibid)

 

  • As an alternative, you can use a mixture of titanium white oil paint and linseed oil. You may add additional colors to the mixture if you would like to add an underpainting; such as burnt sienna or yellow ochre. (Source: ibid) This step will provide you with a middle value, with which to compare your other values and help to create color harmony in your painting.

 

On the other hand, re-priming or painting over acrylic paintings is a  completely different scenario and process. For instance, “acrylic molecules remain sticky forever,” and you need to ensure that there is “no final varnish remaining.” Instead, acrylic paintings should be “cleaned outdoors with household ammonia and well flushed with water before applying a water-based gesso, thick or thin.” And unlike oil based surfaces, paintings with an acrylic paint can be re-surfaced with gesso as a priming agent. (Source: ibid)

Here are some steps you can follow to re-surface an old acrylic painting, according to the artist, Erica Lancaster:

  • Clean the old acrylic painting with a soft microfiber cloth until it is free of dust or grime.
  • Use sandpaper to remove the old acrylic paint with a light touch, while you concentrate on “heavily textured” sections of the canvas. If you can’t get rid of all the texture from the acrylic paint, don’t worry about it.
  • Go over your sanded acrylic painting with a clean cloth to remove any additional paint particles.
  • Paint your canvas with Gesso and use even coats. Remember to let each coat dry at a time before applying a new layer of gesso. This can take up to 24 hours to “cure.” If you want to thin out your gesso, you can add water to the mixture. Test your canvas and check to see that it is completely dry, before applying any acrylic paint. As a general rule, you want to have at least two dry coats of gesso on your painting before you begin adding acrylic paint.
  • Go over your canvas with sandpaper again. As to how many times you choose to sand the canvas that is completely up to you. Deciding on what amount of texture to give your paintings is a personal creative choice, and it depends on what type of “look” you want your painting to have, such as photorealism or abstraction. If you want a realistic look, you would want less texture and thin smooth layers of paint.
  • The final step before you begin painting is to wipe your canvas again with a clean microfiber cloth. Now your canvas is ready to begin painting upon. (Source: http://www.erikalancaster.com/art-blog/how-to-resurface-old-canvas-paintings-to-crete-new-artwork.com, “How to Resurface Old Canvas Paintings to Create New Artwork,” Erika Lancaster, date of access, 8/24/18.

So there you have it. Two different approaches to re-surfacing old paintings, depending on whether you have an acrylic or oil painting on your canvas.  This week’s artwork

water lily three value sketch_edited-1, flat
Three Value Sketch, water lily, graphite on paper, 5 x 7 inches, Jodie Schmidt, 2018.
Water Liliy redux, final
Adobe Photoshop Photo Collage, digital image, Adobe Photoshop Elements, 5 x 7 inches, Jodie Schmidt, 2018.
water lily watercolor, color study_edited, flat
Color Study for Water Lily, Mixed media, 6 x 7 inches, Jodie Schmidt, 2018.

features the creative process of my latest painting in progress, a water lily.  My next step is to combine all these sources I created to make a completed oil painting, which I hope to finish in the near future! Happy painting and thanks for stopping by!

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