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Thread: oil over acrylic matte medium on acrylic gesso

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    Default oil over acrylic matte medium on acrylic gesso

    I read in another thread that some people, including Nicholas Uribe, apply acrylic matte medium on top of acrylic gesso to obtain a surface that is much more friendly to work on, somewhat like an oil ground. I would like to try this.

    I have a couple of questions about it. Is painting oil over acrylics really a sound practice? I have seen many people recommend it, but there is a great deal of bad advice floating around out there. Also, if I do this, how long should I let the matte medium dry before I can safely paint on it with oils?

    Is there a reason not to use gloss mediums or gloss gels in the same way, to get an even slicker surface? I would guess that the glossy stuff might be less porous. Would the mechanical bond be insufficient?

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    I, too, would like to know more about this, and what effect it will have on the type, or quality of the surface after applying acrylic medium to a gessoed panel.

    I'm curious because, as mentioned here previously, a plain coat of acrylic gesso leaves a sandpaper-like surface which can and will wear out brushes very quickly.

    Also mentioned on this forum as a fix for the problem of "sandy surface" was covering the acrylic gesso with RSG, but when I did that, it left a glass like surface. My brush slipped around and the paint did not cover well without repainting.

    I tried diluting the RSG even more -- down from 1:11 to 1:15 or thereabouts, but the surface was still to slippery.

    Perhaps I should try an even more diluted RSG mix. In the meantime, I'm interested in what to expect from matte medium.

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    I can't think of a reason it would be un-sound. The matte medium is basically gloss medium with a high proportion of silica or other transparent, inert particulates. It ensures that the acrylic dries with a rough, matte surface, and also increases the porosity of the layer. The mechanical and chemical bonds between the acrylic gesso and the matte medium is strong, and the porosity of the matte medium ensures that any oils painted on it will adhere strongly. Now, as to whether they will remain as flexible as the acrylics over time ("fat over lean") odds are they won't over hundreds of years, but working on a panel rather than canvas will help that. Also not caring what happens to your work after hundreds of years.

    I'd let a few days in a dry, sunny corner elapse before painting oils over acrylics. The thing you want to avoid is trapping moisture under the oil layer, which can lead to "bloom", cracking, and lack of adhesion. It depends on the thickness of the acrylic layer and atmospheric moisture conditions, of course, but compare the paint to what you know to be really, really dry acrylics and if it's markedly softer or weaker, wait some more.

    As an illustrator, I've used this technique a lot. Also oils over gouache, oils over casein, oils over pencil (colored and graphite)etc. etc. Not that I was expecting much in the way of permanence, but all of the above have held up just fine over twenty years or more. Painting on masonite or watercolor board helped, I'm sure. Actually, of all my wacko material experiments, the one that has aged the worst was a pure acrylic technique where I used acrylic fixative or Kamar varnish as a quick way to even out the gloss on successive layers. The solvent-based acrylic trapped moisture underneath and led to some appalling cracking, particularly on the heavily-worked areas.
    You say \"sfu-MAY-to, I say \"sfu-MAH-to\", let\'s call the whole thing off.....

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    Hi all,
    if you want a non-absorbent ground have you tried painting on an alkyd ground. I've done it for a while now and have a couple of paintings nearly five years old that are still absolutely fine.
    You shouldn't encounter any moisture problems with this either. Of course there is no way of knowing if they will last a hundred years as the chemistry for alkyds hasn't been around long enough.
    FYI I use a cotton primed canvas and then knife on two layers of alkyd white (letting each layer dry in between applying). The technique is pretty old and originally used lead white. Each layer takes around two days to dry. After that i use alkyd ultramarine blue and burnt umber with lots of liquin to 'wash on' a neutral grey ground. I then leave it for a week before painitng on it.

    I use cotton canvas and alkyd white rather than linen and lead white purely from a cost point of view (cheaper)
    I know there a certain delamination issues said to exist but with alkyd/liquin, but I have only ever had a problem once and that was in a painting that I had used maroger as the mediium. It hadn't quite dried so I painted liquin over the top to accelerate the drying. I found that the surface chipped slightly when I knocked it. But then painting liquin on tacky maroger wasn't the wisest thing to have done.

    Best wishes
    Vincent
    Last edited by Vincent; 09-05-2007 at 10:18 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nickej
    . . . I can't think of a reason it would be un-sound . . .
    But I can. !
    Acrylic co-polymer resins remain indefinitely flexible (60+ years, so far so good . . . generally). This violates a basic principle of constructing a sound painting, whether it's the finish on your BMW, repainting the barn, or "fyne arte". That is, paint fat over lean. Much depends on how much acrylic material is applied, and its properties.

    That said, acrylics provide "instant gratification" in building up a painting ground. Traditional methods such as oil/white lead require patience and pre-planning. A painting in oils over an acrylic ground will not immediately self-destruct; if some common sense is applied along with the paint, the picture will outlive the painter.

    There is no such advantage to choosing an alkyd-based ground over lead/oil. If "archival permanence" is your goal, why diverge from methods and materials proven over time to be durable?
    " . . . inertia is the strongest force in nature." -Nero Wolfe

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    Thank you all for the replies and the useful information.

    When you say that it is unsound because of the flexibility of the acrylic ground, it just makes me wonder how painting on stretched canvas in the first place does not violate the principle of the "fat over lean" rule, since a stretched fabric support is inherently flexible. And most everyone insists on using hygroscopic RSG underneath the oil paint. How is this not also a violation? How can using flexible acrylic gesso and matte medium beneath your oil layers be any worse than RSG on canvas beneath your oil layers?

    I also thought I read somewhere that lead white stays relatively flexible as compared to titanium, and so a lead white ground would be potentially more flexible than the layers of paint on top of it, wouldn't it?

    Obviously, in either case, you are better off using a rigid support if you don't want cracking at some point in the distant future. But in comparison to oil paint on an RSG-sized canvas, isn't the point about the flexibility of an acrylic ground moot, since the accepted way of doing things similarly violates the flexible over inflexible rule?

    This brings up another issue that has been nagging at me. If there is such a big concern about any movement in the substrate under an oil paint layer, why on earth do people sometimes roll up oil paintings and put them in tubes for shipment? It seems like they are begging for cracks! Is it because they are only doing this with relatively new paintings, on which the oil layers are still flexible?

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNick
    I have a couple of questions about it. Is painting oil over acrylics really a sound practice? I have seen many people recommend it, but there is a great deal of bad advice floating around out there. Also, if I do this, how long should I let the matte medium dry before I can safely paint on it with oils?
    My concerns as well... I've been building up several layers of 50/50 matte medium/water on a paper ground adhered to a panel and then painting with oils. ( http://www.honewilliams.com ) I'm 66 now and just started oil painting again, but plan to be around and painting at least till 100, so if I remember, I'll let you know how the paintings are holding up in about 35 years... if I remember...

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNick
    . . . how [can a] painting on stretched canvas in not violate the principle of "fat over lean" rule ? . . . everyone insists on using hygroscopic RSG underneath the oil paint.

    . . . you are better off using a rigid support if you don't want cracking at some point . . . If there is such a big concern about any movement in the substrate under an oil paint layer, why on earth do people sometimes roll up oil paintings and put them in tubes for shipment? . . .
    Don't confuse the support (and its relative stability) with paint layers. Why does "everyone insist" on RSG ? In spite of all the perceived disadvantages and shortcomings of hide glues, the fact remains that used in preparing canvas, mixed into "real" gesso, and holding Cremona stringed instruments together for centuries, the results are pretty darned good.

    In fact, a stretched canvas is not "flexible" in the way you envision . . . at least unless it's pushed or poked, or torn. Rigid panel substrates are subject to "movement" associated with changes in ambient conditions too. As for a rigid support being superior, true. You can't poke a hole in a poplar panel as easily as you can through a stretched canvas, but the simple fact remains that limitations of size and weight favor stretched canvas for paintings above a certain scale, and the advantages outweighing the disadvantages in such cases have been apparent for centuries.

    Roll an oil painting? Probably a bad idea for a 500 year old Raphael. For anything under 35-40 years old, the paint film will be flexible enough to withstand this practical method of dealing with a painting on textile . . . if it was painted on a realiable oil/lead ground.
    " . . . inertia is the strongest force in nature." -Nero Wolfe

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    To get back to the original question...
    Different brands of acrylic matte medium vary quite a bit in their degree of "toothyness." You may have to experiment with a couple to find a surface sympathetic to your needs. Gloss medium or gel I would never use, as the surface is isn't so much slick as sticky/plasticky, very different from the smoothness of an oil ground.
    Tristan Elwell

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    The chemists at Golden and Liquitex have been concocting all sorts of new acrylic grounds, mediums and paints. It's changed so much that I have been throwing out all of my old acrylics and will be buying new paints and mediums as I re-explore the world of acrylic painting.

    When working with acrylics, I was always working for reproduction (no, not that kind of reproduction, silly!). As a result, I never explored any of the paints and mediums that produced surface effects the camera would miss. Now, I want to explore using (or seeing if I can successfully use) some of the interference colors and textural mediums.

    I suspect that I'm in for a real awakening.
    .


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    I completed a couple of paintings recently with an alkyd ground in a pinch, and after sunning the last layer, I experienced my first delamination. It just bubbled up and rolled off! I should have taken pictures as it was quite dramatic. I have now learned my lesson, and I will NEVER touch alkyds again.

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    For some time now I have been tempted to try acrylics again, a fun diversion from oils if nothing else. I found a sale on the Chroma Interactive brand which appeals to me since they are purported to behave more like oils than traditional acrylics. We'll soon see as I ordered some basic colors to play around with.

    Everything I have read on them suggests to apply Binder Medium to the gessoed surface before painting, so that will be my experiment when the order arrives.

    After having tried about everything under the sun I have returned to oil painting only on lead primed surface ~ if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

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    Our Golden representative has demonstrated at two of our art leagues and I am convinced (in my head) that there is potential, with proper use of their materials, of duplicating any effect you can get in oil.

    They have bucky balls for general consumption yet!
    dj*
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    I paint on stretched fabric ( heavy cotton before, linen at present). I used acrylic 'gesso' alone or with acrylic sizing material, and fabric stiffener until about a year ago. I switched to 2 coats of RSG topped off with a lead/titanium oil primer.

    The main reason I switched was a conversation I had with Dr. Marion Mecklenberg of the Smithsonian. In his research on older oil paintings he found that the original canvases had lost their tensile strength and it was the RSG that was basically supporting the aged,brittle paint films. He has been acting as a consultant for various enterprises trying to develop modern sizing materials. As of our conversation of a year ago he said none of the new materials as currently constituted ( PVA sizes, acrylic fabric stiffeners, etc. ) could match the strength, and as I understood it combination of body and 'good' stiffness of RSG and so provide the support to ageing oil paint films that RSG does. He felt that the support provided by RSG was much more important than the fact that it is somewhat hygroscopic. The hope is that new stuff will come along that can match RSG's support capabilities without being hygroscopic, but evidently we're not there yet. Another possibility that I'm wondering about is polyester fabric which evidently holds it's tensile strength over time.

    Richard's point about the inherent flexibility of the stretched fabric not being so relevant in it's stretched, unmolested, ('unpoked') state is an interesting one and a good one. To the extent that inherent flexibility is relevant it's logical that RSG with its' stiffness and body would help mitigate it to the benefit of the paint film on top.
    Last edited by JH191; 09-07-2007 at 10:34 AM.

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    Default Can you explain further

    Hi Epiphany,

    Quote Originally Posted by Epiphany
    I completed a couple of paintings recently with an alkyd ground in a pinch, and after sunning the last layer, I experienced my first delamination. It just bubbled up and rolled off! I should have taken pictures as it was quite dramatic. I have now learned my lesson, and I will NEVER touch alkyds again.
    What did you do exactly? I have been using alkyds and liquin for years and never encountered delamination (and would rather not).
    I don't understand what
    Quote Originally Posted by Epiphany
    with an alkyd ground in a pinch, and after sunning the last layer
    this means. Can you explain further.
    Many thanks
    Best Wishes
    Vincent

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vincent
    Hi Epiphany,



    What did you do exactly? I have been using alkyds and liquin for years and never encountered delamination (and would rather not).
    I don't understand what

    this means. Can you explain further.
    Many thanks
    Best Wishes
    Vincent
    The manufacturers of the actual chemical alkyd warns against mixing it with certain drying oils and that delamination is quite common when it is layered. If you paint alla prima, it shouldn't be a problem but if you paint in layers, it becomes tricky and can delaminate...actually, the top shrinks tremendously, causing it to form huge flakes as it delaminates. This is also a problem with polyurethane. They need to be sanded between coats because they do not for a chemical bond between dry coats and require a mechanical bond.
    .


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    My first layer was Gamblin Neo Megilp followed by several layers/combos of canada balsam, stand, turps, & copal. This medium dried by the next day, and I believe I completed 4 maybe five layers. After I finished, the surface was still tacky so I put it outside to speed up the process (I sunned it).

    The painting (of Saguaro's) proceeded to bubble up and roll off like a series of shrinky dinks down to the Neo Megilp layer. The original lead ground was intact. I bet I could even duplicate the effect.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JH191
    I paint on stretched fabric ( heavy cotton before, linen at present). I used acrylic 'gesso' alone or with acrylic sizing material, and fabric stiffener until about a year ago. I switched to 2 coats of RSG topped off with a lead/titanium oil primer.

    The main reason I switched was a conversation I had with Dr. Marion Mecklenberg of the Smithsonian. In his research on older oil paintings he found that the original canvases had lost their tensile strength and it was the RSG that was basically supporting the aged,brittle paint films. He has been acting as a consultant for various enterprises trying to develop modern sizing materials. As of our conversation of a year ago he said none of the new materials as currently constituted ( PVA sizes, acrylic fabric stiffeners, etc. ) could match the strength, and as I understood it combination of body and 'good' stiffness of RSG and so provide the support to ageing oil paint films that RSG does. He felt that the support provided by RSG was much more important than the fact that it is somewhat hygroscopic. The hope is that new stuff will come along that can match RSG's support capabilities without being hygroscopic, but evidently we're not there yet. Another possibility that I'm wondering about is polyester fabric which evidently holds it's tensile strength over time.

    Richard's point about the inherent flexibility of the stretched fabric not being so relevant in it's stretched, unmolested, ('unpoked') state is an interesting one and a good one. To the extent that inherent flexibility is relevant it's logical that RSG with its' stiffness and body would help mitigate it to the benefit of the paint film on top.
    If you are selling paintings in Panama or Singapore, the hygroscopic nature of RSG could present a problem. But anywhere away from the Equator...especially in houses that have walls and windows, it negligible. I'm surprised that doctor whathisname didn't tell you that if you really want to prevent any take up of atmospheric water, you simply add alum to the glue mix or spray it with formalin. While that's a mysterious concept in academe, it is well known out here among the hoi polloi.

    For some reason, people keep referring to the Smithsonian as if it's an art museum. It's not. It's a collection of curios and probably has more Pez dispensers than it has paintings. It houses electric chairs, nooses that hung famous miscreants, war bonnets, propellers, parts of the lunar lander, the first chewing gum wrapper, a carousel and sea monkeys. Quoting doctor whathisname of the Smithsonian is like quoting the technical advice of the Flying Walendas at the Barnum and Bailey circus.

    The Smithsonian is aptly called "America's Attic." They probably have the occasional crazy aunt locked up in it.
    .


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    Rob, You are such a bore so much of the time. I did ask Marion about the alum and he said to forget it . He said it would only make a difference at extremely high relative humidities. That being said if you look at my post I say that Marion was positive about RSG and is certainly not overly concerned about its being somewhat hygrosopic. Marion Mecklenberg is a modest,talented, conscientious materials scientist with a well deserved reputation for the excellence of his research. He has done a number of research projects on issues related to oil painting. They include research on drying oils, lead in paints, RSG, just to name a few. Your referring to him and to the Smithsonian in such an unprovoked and derogatory way is just indicative of your ego problems. You obviously feel that this is your forum and yours is the only'expert' opinion allowed. You unfortunately at this stage are the kind of person that tries to feel taller by chopping the legs of of the other. I won't be posting here again. It seems your circle of participants is getting smaller, and it's no wonder. I leave you to your truly 'faithful'. I hope someday you wise up for your own sake.

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    Default Alkyd delamination issues

    Hi All, Epiphany

    FYI I use only W&N Alkyds.

    I double knife prime my canvas with W&N Titanium white, let it dry naturaly between layers (not in the sun), then use a liquin heavy wash with ultramarine and burnt umber to create my toned canvas.
    Let it dry naturaly.

    After this I do my first oil sketch in burnt umber and liquin.
    Let it dry naturaly, at least three days.

    Then I proceed with oils and Maroger.

    Rob, can you see any technical flaws in the above process that I may have missed, that might give me long term problems. As I said earlier, so far all my work is very sound and I have had no problems.

    Thanks

    Best Wishes
    Vincent

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    Quote Originally Posted by JH191
    Your referring to him and to the Smithsonian in such an unprovoked and derogatory way is just indicative of your ego problems.


    Sorry to have caused you to get up from your knees after being dazzled into submission by someone’s doctorate. First off...introducing "Doctor" into any art discussion is done only to add weight to a shaky premise. That's so bloody suburban middle-class as to reek of mini-van pooling and soccer balls.

    Another thing; nothing I said was derogatory, unless you consider the truth to be a form of calumny. The Smithsonian was set up to house curiosities of varying historical significance. It was not and is not an art museum of much note unless you include the Air and Space, American History Museum, American Indian Museum, Anacostia Community Museum, National Zoo, Natural History Museum, Postal Museum and the Renwick Gallery of American crafts. That's not derogatory. That's simply damaging to the unrealistic fantasies you had from meeting a real-live art repairman...and let's not forget what they are...art repairmen. The fix busted art, just as an auto body repairman fixes dented fenders. They do not make art from scratch and their opinions on what makes a good painting are almost as valid as what makes for a superior automobile when delivered by the guy spraying paint down at Earl Scheibs…or the opinions of a zookeeper

    You are easily impressed. I know of guys who specialize in three-card monte who would probably dazzle you if they had a doctorate. The problem is that you really have no idea of what the hell it is that those guys do. They have their own version of body putty and touch-up paint. Many of them use watercolor to touch up oils.

    I have no doubt that your idol is soft-spoken and generous. The world is full of soft-spoken and generous guys who speak outside their areas of expertise. Painting repair has as much to do with making paintings as auto body repair has to do with designing Ferraris. The truth is that these guys get it wrong more often than not.

    If you want advice on how best to make a painting, talk to the people who design and build them from the ground up. Talk with craftsmen who know that there's not some single source of rabbitskin glue and who know that most of the "rabbit" skin glue has always come from calf skins and glove trimmings. Just as there is not a giant mine of Maroger's and one large lump of mastic, damar or copal (there are over 150 varieties of copal resin).

    I'll bet that you'd wager money on some race driver who had a PhD in Raceology as opposed to some marginally educated Southern doofus who always wins.

    You'd better reexamine your priorities and your yardstick from measurement or you will continue to be the one deceiving yourself, not the kindly doctor/repairman.

    Now, for you assignment in reading comprehension, go back to the things that I wrote about the Smithsonian and disprove them. They really do have more Pez dispenser than they have pictures. They really do have a collection of hangman's ropes and electric chairs and other oddities. The art collection is just some suburbanite's attempt at making the Smithsonian into something more acceptable, but no matter how you try to civilize that tart, her carnival beginings are right there in the open for all but the self-blinded to see.

    It is apparent that you, sir, are a boor clawing your way up past your station to attempt respectability through whom you associate with rather than what you accomplish. Come back and lecture me once you've accomplished something in the field of art or art history besides having gained entrance to the painting repair department of Class Trip Central.
    .


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    Quote Originally Posted by Vincent
    Rob, can you see any technical flaws in the above process that I may have missed, that might give me long term problems. As I said earlier, so far all my work is very sound and I have had no problems.
    Yes. Paint films and coating (as well as adhesives) ideally have strength in three areas. What concerns us here is shear or the rigidity modulus and damping effects of the primer. Paint films with low modulus and high damping are the most resistant to chipping and peeling. Oil-modified alkyds (W&N still hasn't worked out the bugs and Liquin is in it's twentieth incarnation) have a high modulus and low damping. That gives them a tendency to flake in large sheets due to increased tension on the outer surface and a lack of chemical bonding on the underside. Thus we see large flakes peeling away from houses that have been painted just two or three years ago.

    As with polyurethane floor varnish, one applies a coat and while that coat is "tack dry" applies another coat. Because the underlying coat is still chemically active, the fresh coat forms a chemical bond, thus unifying the paint and causing a proper grip. If the third coat could be applied in the same manner, to partially cured varnish, the same chemical bond would take place and the result would be a long-lasting film. but the drying times are such that the paint crew leaves after the second coat and comes back in the morning to a dry film in which most of the volatiles have evaporated and the cross-linking is already accomplished. It is no longer a chemically active paint film that will bond with subsequent coats. The solution is to scuff the surface with steel wool to form microscopic foot-holds into which the next layer of varnish can grip.

    If you sand between each layer of alkyd, you will greatly increase you chances of the painting resisting subsequent coats and causing delaminating. In truth, all paint profits from being scuffed between coats. Obviously, this is a problem in painting in which surface texture is important. In those case, the alla prima approach would be the best guarantee of a cohesive paint film.

    That's the nature of the materials and Alkyd is a high modulus paint. knowing that, you can take precautions.
    .


    “The road to success is always under construction.”

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    Vincent,
    I also want to add that as I have been reading this forum for some time, and I knew better than to use alkyds. In addition, I had sanded the surface lightly before proceeding in oil as Rob cautions.

    I am sure that the sun was a factor in this, as I painted two others at the same time, that were not sunned and did not delaminate. But frankly, after seeing what occurred, I scrapped the other paintings as well and started over the right way.

    There are just too many things that could go wrong, and having a painting delaminate in a home or in transport would be a nightmare that I could have prevented. I also want to add that I regularly sun my paintings and have never had a problem with traditional materials before.

    I live in Az, and could only imagine how hot these paintings get in transport, and even though the sun itself may have been the culprit and not the heat, it am not willing to risk it. There are many roads to Rome and for me, Alkyds are not one of them.

    Best,
    Shirley

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    Default Drying time for lead white

    Hi Rob, Epiphany, and all.
    thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this one.

    My initial reason for using knifed alkyd was one of cost and time saving, and in truth I was using it as a subsitute for knifing lead white onto canvas. (the prcocess creates a non absorbent slick surface that I rather like working on.)

    Does anyone know the kind of drying times I can expect for lead white, (again applied to the canvas with a palette knife.)

    Many thanks
    Best wishes
    Vincent

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    Rob, Misrepresentation upon misrepresentation, and all coming from your ego issues. Sorry if my using the title Dr. riled you so. It wasn't a big issue with me and your making a big deal about it is ridiculous. Ok, Mr Rob whatsyourname you don't see what's disparaging about referring to someone in that way? You remind me of the annoying kid in school that would always throw the stone and then hide his hands.

    The person I referenced is not a conservationist. He is a materials researcher. I have read a number of his research papers - have you read any by him? His research projects are very well designed, serious efforts. I am well aware that there are a lot of pretenders out there in academia. I am very skeptical of what many such experts say. Marion Mecklenberg happens to be one of good guys. He bases his opinions on his own research. His opinions on RSG and lead paints, drying oils, etc. are interestingly ones you might well agree with. In any case, I would suggest you look at his research before being so disparaging. While I respect his opinion, I certainly am not over awed by it. I reserve the right to be the final decider as to my materials and methods.

    As for the Smithsonian. Did I ever say it was an art museum? They have a large art collection as part of their total holdings. They also have departments that conduct research into art materials/methods questions. What does the fact that such a large organization also has non art items have to do with those research departments or their work? Really, your irritability, and ego needs lead you to make some strange stretches.

    Finally Rob, as for my place in the art world don't worry about that. My work secures that for me and gives me what I need. I hope you find what you need. Now goodbye once and for all.

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