Pushing the limits of oils and spirits

edited June 19 in General Discussion
I have recently been experimenting,   I have been doing monochromatic watercolour style paintings using oil paints and turps on watercolour paper, with and without, gesso.

Has anyone else tried this?

The idea came to me many years ago.   I would rough in a painting with burnt umber and turps on a canvas and would love the effect the sepia tones gave the initial forms.    I was always disappointed when I then worked with different hues over that underlayer.  I felt it was ruining the magic of the initial workings.

Recently I got out some watercolour paper, and started playing around.  Using the burnt umber in a wash of turps on the paper.  Each time I go over a section a few times, it gets progressively darker.  I can leave the white paper behind as highlights.  It gives the effect of an old photograph.

I have tried it with a lean medium as well, but this dries shiny and I would have to gloss varnish the entire page to bring it all together as the turps only bits are matt.

I have read that oil paint rots paper.   How long does this take to have an effect?  I have some oil on non gessoed  paper I did 15 years ago, and it seems stable.  It lives behind perspex.  For the low prices I charge for my works, if they only last for 50 years, does it matter?   I will not be around then, nor will my clients.   I am not egotistical enough to think my work is so excellent as to warrant being in a museum and existing eons into the future!!

If I gesso the paper, will it stop the rot?    Will the paint stick to the paper for 50 years if there is more turps applied than paint (very thin wash)?

Here are some sections of what I have been doing.  I would be grateful to read people's thoughts, and ideas as well as anyone with the scientific knowledge behind what I am trying.


Old oil on paper above.
new oil turps mix below






Hope this gives an idea of what I am meaning?
Thanks

Ed to add..............

I am trying to achieve the runniness of the turps to be like water for watercolours.  I had thought the gesso may impede this.   I am still undecided.  My question is, would the small amount of oil left on the paper after the turps has evaporated (it was suspended in the wash of turps) cause much damage, or is it only thick paint with lots of oil in it?

The way I am working, I think the turps may be destroying the oil and I am left with the powder/pigment suspended in turps.

Probably my main questions are....
Will the turps damage the paper even with gesso?
Will the pigment stick without much oil?
Will spay varnish help it stick the way it does with charcoal?


Comments

  • As far as I know an unprotected paper will be degraded by the oils. Have a look at this:

    https://justpaint.org/painting-with-oils-on-paper/
  • Thanks for that link, Richard_P.  I wonder why they did all the tests on untaped paper?  The paper I have been using both plain and gessoed, have been taped and of the 7 sheets I have used so far, there has been no warping or bending of the paper at all, even when released from the tape.

    The article does not mention using just spirits and a bit of oil paint as a wash.  That is probably the thing I am most interested to learn about.    Will the oil stick to the paper for more than a few weeks?  If so, how long I wonder?  It gives a wonderful effect, yet I have not heard, or read of anyone who has worked this way.   I wonder if there is a reason for this?  Does everyone know something I do not in this regard?
  • toujours

    extract from: https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/painting-on-paper-with-oils-2578730

    Paper has not typically been used by traditional oil painters because oil and solvents from oil paint can cause the paper to degrade and because it is thought that oil paintings on paper can be prone to cracking when subjected to changes in humidity. However, as the paint manufacturer, Winsor & Newton maintains in the article, Sizing Watercolour Paper for Oil Painting, "Oil paint is completely stable when painted on properly prepared paper. Any weakness of oil on paper would be due to the lack of rigidity in the sheet versus a board or canvas paper."

    So, mount the paper on a panel.

    Denis

  • @toujours, I had not heard that oil paint rots paper and maybe that is the case if your re using, as you say, watercolour paper.

    What about using paper that is meant to be used with oil paint, such as Arches ?

    Its one I sometimes use (I do apply gesso) others are available. I doubt it would rot otherwise they would not be in business.

    Here is a quote from their site….


    “Oil painting appeared at the end of the Middle Ages. Oil paint has the particularity of drying slowly, which makes it possible to work on colours, motifs and materials until the desired result is achieved.

    It is a technique that requires paper with very good mechanical strength. Since 2012, ARCHES® has offered a ready-to-use paper specifically formulated for this technique.”




     :) 
  • dencal said:
    toujours

    extract from: https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/painting-on-paper-with-oils-2578730

    Paper has not typically been used by traditional oil painters because oil and solvents from oil paint can cause the paper to degrade and because it is thought that oil paintings on paper can be prone to cracking when subjected to changes in humidity. However, as the paint manufacturer, Winsor & Newton maintains in the article, Sizing Watercolour Paper for Oil Painting, "Oil paint is completely stable when painted on properly prepared paper. Any weakness of oil on paper would be due to the lack of rigidity in the sheet versus a board or canvas paper."

    So, mount the paper on a panel.

    Denis

    Yes, I have thought mounting would be necessary and suppose that will help support the paint if the paper should eventually fail.

    Once mixed in a turps wash, there is so very little paint, I do not know what its sticking ability will be, but I like the effect.    I wonder if varnishing afterwards will also help keep the paint on the paper?
  • Watercolour ends up being pigment stuck to the fibres in the paper, so it sounds like it would be ok. It's just the solvent and oil effects on the paper.
  • MichaelD said:
    @toujours, I had not heard that oil paint rots paper and maybe that is the case if your re using, as you say, watercolour paper.

    What about using paper that is meant to be used with oil paint, such as Arches ?

    Its one I sometimes use (I do apply gesso) others are available. I doubt it would rot otherwise they would not be in business.

    Here is a quote from their site….


    “Oil painting appeared at the end of the Middle Ages. Oil paint has the particularity of drying slowly, which makes it possible to work on colours, motifs and materials until the desired result is achieved.

    It is a technique that requires paper with very good mechanical strength. Since 2012, ARCHES® has offered a ready-to-use paper specifically formulated for this technique.”




     :) 
    Hi @MichaelD,   I read somewhere that watercolour paper is fine to use with oils if gesso is applied.   It seems that oil paper is, at its most basic, just that.   Paper the company has put gesso on and sells as oil paper.   I cannot buy it in my town, so have tried doing it myself with some of my experiments.   The other I just tried without.    

    I am trying to achieve the runniness of the turps to be like water for watercolours.  I had thought the gesso may impede this.   I am still undecided.  My question is, would the small amount of oil left on the paper after the turps has evaporated (it was suspended in the wash of turps) cause much damage, or is it only thick paint with lots of oil in it?

    The way I am working, I think the turps may be destroying the oil and I am left with the powder/pigment suspended in turps.

    Probably my main questions are....
    Will the turps damage the paper even with gesso?
    Will the pigment stick without much oil?
    Will spay varnish help it stick the way it does with charcoal?

    It has taken me all this to just understand what I am trying to ask....sorry I did not understand my questions sooner.  Perhaps I will add these at the top of the page, to help everyone understand my real worries?
  • Richard_P said:
    Watercolour ends up being pigment stuck to the fibres in the paper, so it sounds like it would be ok. It's just the solvent and oil effects on the paper.
    Richard_P, thank you.  I will keep going with both untouched and gessoed paper and see in 6 months if there is a difference.
    Meanwhile, I shall keep looking out for any references to others succeeding in what I am trying.
  • dencal said:
    toujours

    extract from: https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/painting-on-paper-with-oils-2578730

    Paper has not typically been used by traditional oil painters because oil and solvents from oil paint can cause the paper to degrade and because it is thought that oil paintings on paper can be prone to cracking when subjected to changes in humidity. However, as the paint manufacturer, Winsor & Newton maintains in the article, Sizing Watercolour Paper for Oil Painting, "Oil paint is completely stable when painted on properly prepared paper. Any weakness of oil on paper would be due to the lack of rigidity in the sheet versus a board or canvas paper."

    So, mount the paper on a panel.

    Denis


    "...There are many other papers available, some high quality and acid-free, and they are certainly worth trying and using. If you don't have those on hand, don't let that stop you from painting. I have also used lower quality paper, such as brown kraft paper, with and without having primed the paper with gesso, with lovely results. The paintings might not last centuries, but that's okay, and the less expensive materials gave me more freedom to experiment...."

    Lisa Marder is an artist and educator who studied drawing and painting at Harvard University. She is an instructor at the South Shore Art Center in Massachusetts when she is not working on her own art.

    dencal.  It gives me much hope I am on the right track.  Many thanks.
  • You could ask on the MITRA forum (art conservators):

    https://www.artcons.udel.edu/mitra/forums
  • Richard_P said:
    You could ask on the MITRA forum (art conservators):

    https://www.artcons.udel.edu/mitra/forums
    What a great idea.  Thank you for the link.
  • @toujours – Experimenting is good. Experimenting without knowing the limits of one’s materials is not good. Its great that you are asking about this to improve your painting.  I think the MITRA website is a wonderful source of information. I sometimes oil paint on paper, but only on paper commercially made for oil painting, and only after I put on an acrylic-based ground because I like the surface and the way it takes the paint. I use Arches oil paper. I think that its ok to use watercolor paper, but only with an acrylic ground on it. Don’t use an oil ground on it.

    I think that the flexibility of paper is a separate issue than the rotting of paper from acidic oil. All oil will degrade paper made from cotton, linen, or wood fiber. So this problem will still happen with walnut, safflower, and poppy oils. I know from personal experience that oil will rot cotton (either in a canvas or  regular paper) starting immediately and really showing in less than 10 years. After 10 years, the paint started flaking off where the oil rotted the substrate. I glued the painting to a panel to stop the flaking, but the rotting will continue. There is no cure for this, only prevention.

    “My question is, would the small amount of oil left on the paper after the turps has evaporated (it was suspended in the wash of turps) cause much damage, or is it only thick paint with lots of oil in it? “

    Answer: Yes. Any oil will damage regular paper. The more oil the more damage. Commercially made paper for oil paintings will not be harmed by the oil. 

    “Will the turps damage the paper even with gesso?”
    Answer: Yes, in the sense that it will swell the paper because it is a liquid causing waving or wrinkling. It will not rot the paper. The more the ground (meaning an acrylic-based ground, and not traditional glue-calcium gesso), the less the damage. A really good amount of ground will effectively stop the turps swelling the paper.

    “Will the pigment stick without much oil?”

    Answer: Yes, but not as well as with more oil. Oil is what “glues” the pigment to the substrate. I went to art school with someone who loved doing turps washes with oil. The paintings looked great but were really fragile. You could lightly brush a finder over the surface and the paint would come off.  

    “Will spay varnish help it stick the way it does with charcoal?”

    Answer: Yes.

    Taping paper:

    Answer: This will help reduce the wrinkling from the turps.

    “Will the oil stick to the paper for more than a few weeks?  If so, how long I wonder?  It gives a wonderful effect, yet I have not heard, or read of anyone who has worked this way.   I wonder if there is a reason for this?  Does everyone know something I do not in this regard?”

    Answer:  The reason you have not heard of this is because it results in a painting which will self-destruct. Painters who use a wash as an underpainting then use more paint with more oil on top of the wash. This over layer helps the wash stay on. If you are going to do these washy paintings, then doing it on commercial oil paper will be better than on canvas, because the paper surface will absorb more evenly the paint and turps than the canvas will.

    If you use materials and processes which have shown to degrade within a lifetime (40 years or so), then I think it is ethical to tell the people who take your paintings about it.

    If you really like this washy affect, why don’t you use watercolor or acrylic? You are a talented artist, and I hope you paint in a way which will last a long time.


    tassieguyMarinos_88
  • @toujours, I think the above by @Desertsky is correct. As I understand it from my research, oil on any organic substrate will cause the substrate to rot unless it is isolated from the oil with a layer of acrylic gesso. However, you want the substrate to absorb the turps and oil paint to get the wash effect you're after but gesso will prevent absorption.

    The photos of the paintings you posted above have a watercolour feel so why not go with watercolour or watered down acrylic on watercolour paper? That way you'll get the wash effect you're after without the risk of short term deterioration of your work. 
  • edited June 20
    @Desertsky and 
    tassieguy -I am eternally grateful for the time you put into answering my queries and the depth of knowledge you both have and advice you have to offer on this subject.
    Thank you.
       If nothing else, it has been an interesting experiment.  I have found that using the oil and turps, that even though it is very dilute, you are still able to move the paint around the paper in a way that is not possible with watercolour or watery acrylic.   You are able to put light and dark areas in shadows by just over brushing and shifting the paint to an area to the left, right, up or down.   It is fascinating and useful for certain effects!

    I am trying to do a series of 12 works that can be made into cards, posters and perhaps calendars.  There are some wonderful old buildings in my town and I thought the paintings could have an old photograph feel to them, hence the sepia look.  I had thought to eventually sell the series as well, as a set of originals, or split them up.

    So far I have done 6 I think, but since there is a mistake in each, I will have to do them all again.   My humans are never as good as my horses and even a spoked wheel can look flat...according to my sister...even though they have solid rubber!   
    I asked for advice, since I can take my time over the final pieces, having settled the initial "creative flurry" by doing this lot.     It makes sense to do it properly for the final pieces.
     This is an example of one I have nearly finished.  I just need to add a rear axle, clean up the pair of horses by the pub, and add a suggestion of reins.  I am using businesses that existed in my town's early days on advertising signs.   I may even use some old photos of prominent characters if my portraits improve enough.  Meanwhile, these figures from behind are a lazy way out!

     I will do some trials with watercolour and acrylic as you suggest, as well as some with more gesso on the paper, to see which I like the effect of most.  
    I will update as to the results.
    Thanks for now.
    GTOtassieguyArtGal
  • This is a new post on Jackson's Blog (art supplier here in the UK) which has a lot of information which is relevant to you:

    https://www.jacksonsart.com/blog/2021/06/15/everything-you-need-to-know-about-oil-painting-paper/
    tassieguyDesertsky
  • There's some really useful information there, @Richard_P. Thanks for researching and posting about it.  :)
  • Richard_P said:
    This is a new post on Jackson's Blog (art supplier here in the UK) which has a lot of information which is relevant to you:

    https://www.jacksonsart.com/blog/2021/06/15/everything-you-need-to-know-about-oil-painting-paper/
    Great article, thank you for the link.  It is the type of article that will be a useful reference tool for years to come.
    I was unaware of that company, so will also be able to spend many happy hours browsing.

    I have started a new work, still in oils, but with more acrylic gesso on the watercolour paper.   It certainly changes the way the wash reacts to the surface.    It was initially far too runny, but using less on the brush, and having the paper horizontal rather than vertical helps as the turps can pool until it evaporates, rather than running away from where I placed it!
    dencal
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