An Experiment with Linen and Varnish

I love the texture of linen, and it does provide some "tooth", so I wanted to try it as a ground for my painting process of using PanPastel over a gouache gray value under-painting. I thought it might be fun to try doing a finish on the linen that would eliminate the need for glass. I did the painting and then experimented with MSV (mineral spirit varnish).  Here's what happened. 

For the varnish experiment, I put three different values of gray gouache on the sized linen- covered board. Then I put the corresponding values of Pan Pastel in both warm and cool colors over the gouache. I used the oval angled sponge applicator. Then I sprayed the surface with 3 very thin coats of Golden Archival Mineral Spirit Varnish-gloss. I don't like a glossy finish, however, I tried a matte finish and this made the color milky. The idea was to use the gloss first and seal the more brilliant color and then use a satin or matte finish on the top layer.

But I never got that far because I just didn't like the way the varnish darkened the darkest values. I was not unhappy with the mid-tone and highlights though. I can see I would have to paint very high key paintings if the values were going to come out right using this varnish. Using the sponge bar point applicator which seems to deposit a bit more pigment than the oval would have been helpful. Also, the MSV has a really strong odor. I sprayed the board outside, and then had to leave the board outside for over an hour before I could bring it in and tolerate the smell. I didn't spray the actual painting because of the color change issue.  I think I would like this varnish technique if I were using stick pastels. George Carlson did a fabulous series in the late 80's (I think) on the Tarahumara Indians in which he used tons of fixative to produce a very durable finish not unlike the the surface after using MSV. It's a thought for a further experiment if I ever decide to drag out my stick pastels again. Meanwhile...

I did the first painting on the linen. You can see that the color is not very nuanced and the under-painting shows through too much causing transitions between highlights, mid-tones and shadows to be too severe. I do love the linen texture showing through though. This texture is hard to see in the image here. The second painting is on Ampersand Pastelboard using my usual technique. It is richer in color, warmer, and more nuanced, but not as textural. I was not going for a likeness, but the linen piece looks a bit less like the model at this point and more like her younger self. (I have been painting her for years). 

One idea for further experiment would be to apply a linen-like texture to Pastelboard. I'll give that some thought. 

 

 Experiment with MSV on linen over gouache and Pan Pastel

Experiment with MSV on linen over gouache and Pan Pastel

 "Lost" 12" x 12" Pan Pastel  over gouache on linen

"Lost" 12" x 12" Pan Pastel  over gouache on linen

 "Lost" 12" x 12" Pan Pastel over gouache on Pastelboard

"Lost" 12" x 12" Pan Pastel over gouache on Pastelboard