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Painting in layers with Geneva paints

Sometimes the effect that one wants can only be achieved by painting in layers allowing bits of the underlayer show through.  For those using Geneva paints, how do you achieve this since Geneva paints dry so slowly?


  • @Wishiwaspainting   Check out @ArtistMartin1 new onion painting thread. He's painting in layers so he put his Geneva paints aside. His remarks answer all your questions.
  • Hi @BOB73 Actually this thread was started after reading the thread you reference. The answer to the question so far was that it cannot be done. I'm hoping that that is not the case and that others have found workarounds. Some bits that I have seen elsewhere suggest that some painters are mixing Geneva with other tube pigments. Others are using various additives to speed drying. I'm wondering if there are any common practices or consensus ideas as to what reliably works and is nontoxic.
  • Water Mixable oils. Geneva was formulated specifically for ala-prima. painting layers is possible with Geneva after the canvas is touch dry but Geneva has to be thinned more to get that transparent nature you want for layering. Get a few tubes of water-mixable color and use them with linseed oil. WMO can be used with Geneva too (to beef up color saturation or consistency). Don't Thin WMO with water.
  • It's very easy with my Geneva oil paintings, I get as far as I can, I place it in my storage area and paint one of the other 30 paintings I have going on at a time.  :)   
  • Geneva is regular paint, and can be mixed with all other types of oil paint.  Geneva contains slow-dry ingredients and medium, which affects the handling properties, so mixing in other paint will change the handling qualities of both.  It's not a problem, it just changes things.

    You can even paint oil over an acrylic layer.  But not acrylic over oil, it doesn't permanently stick.

    When painting in layers, you have the fat-over-lean rule, which is a misnomer, it's not really a rule.  The problem is that as a layer dries/cure/oxidizes/polymerizes it shifts around slightly, expanding and contracting.  If you paint a layer over another, then the two layers are now drying at different rates.  The layer on top has more access to oxygen and dries faster while the now hidden layer dries slower.  This disparity causes cracking, and can cause the upper layer to flake off, in extreme cases.  We don't like that, so the fat-over-lean "rule" says to add a little more oil/fat to the upper layer, and more and more as you add layers.  Cracking occurs over years and decades, or if you bend a canvas.

    What this oil does is further slow down the drying of the upper layers.  It doesn't solve the problem, it's just a nod towards the different drying rates.  There is no practical way to know how much oil to add to the upper layers, because it depends on so many variables.  The recommendation is to add a drop or two of oil to the next layer.  This adjusts the oil to paint ratio, and the drying time, but it is always just a guess, and just a guideline.

    If you let one layer dry perfectly (and who knows what that means, it depends on so many variables again), then you can just paint straight over old paint, and disregard the fat over lean rule.

    Most of this applies to archival works, long term stuff, and paintings you might sell.  If you're like me, and just practicing, you can ignore every rule and be fine.

    Back to your actual question, let the under layer dry a little (few days) so that you can put paint on top it.  This is easier if the new paint has more medium in it, otherwise applying thick paint to thick, wet paint you find it doesn't want to leave the brush.
  • edited February 2018
    @Wishiwaspainting ; for me, I don't like to mix my genevas with other (with the exception of small amounts of power color when I need it - I love Indian Yellow) - the even gloss finish, the lack of glare, the overall finish is unsurpassed when I use only Geneva.  If I start Geneva oil, I try to stay with it.  thin layers in the beginning help but if you want to glaze and layer, and glaze and layer, it really needs to be touch dry.  I have a spare bedroom/bath area that I keep closed off and because it is winter and we have heat going, my thin Geneva can be touch dry in 1-2 days.  

  • @BOB73, @Julianna and @PaulB Thanks a ton. These comments are very helpful. I'm asking because my next project will be a bird. An overpainting method seems like it would be perfectly suited for feathers and will require some experimentation first. 

    To clarify that I fully understand the choices, to paint in layers with Geneva oils there are several choices:

    -Stick with the Geneva paints only and allow layers to dry a bit before continuing. Add just a bit of linseed oil to the next layer to minimize later cracking. 

    - Mix in any other brand of quality paint, oil or water based, with the Geneva and they will presumably dry somewhat faster. It sounds like for the first layer it can be added straight from the tube and no additional medium even necessarily has to be added. But if a more smooth, liquid consistency is needed, some artist grade linseed oil can be added.  Either way, paint the bottom layer very thin. Then add more linseed oil to any additional layers as above.

    - Use a different brand of paint including acrylic on the underlayer to dry faster. If using an oil or water type paint as the underlayer, use linseed oil as the medium to keep it nontoxic. If using water mixable oil paint still use the linseed oil as the medium not water - though the linseed oil in both cases will still slow the drying time. 

    Did I get anything wrong? 
  • there are a ton of options.  I forgot about painting the underpainting in acrylic first!  that is what Michael James Smith does all the time and it works brilliantly.  I can't do that because I mainly use oil primed linen.  

    You can also use liquin like so many artists do to facilitate drying and it is a perfect glazing medium.  I notice a lot of artists using old master's maroger or neomeglip - fast drying and supposedly consistent sheen . Cuts the drying time in half or more!

    I have only mixed liquin with my genevas before - I still prefer genevas straight up with no medium.  that lush and even finish is sublime.

    So, have fun and experiment!  Let us know what works best for you.

  • Bright indirect sunlight, warm air and airflow will help the drying process of Geneva and any other oil paints. :)
  • I meant that you could add a little Geneva to WMO if you needed a more saturated color not  to add WMO to Geneva to reduce drying time. But overall I would not use Geneva for layering. I would use WMO if I wanted to avoid toxicity but that would be the only reason. I also completely forgot about Liquin. It can be used with WMO too instead of linseed oil. That would make the layers (thin layers) dry faster too.
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