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Old 09-08-13, 03:05 PM
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Bron Bron is offline
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: South Bend, IN
Posts: 57


I routinely use shellac over all kinds of leaf, both size gilt and water gilt. I also sometimes add flatting powder, which is a very light silica powder to reduce gloss. Whiting can be added to shellac to reduce gloss, and I've heard of using talc, and corn starch, though I've never tried them. The problem with the whiting is it has a tendency to settle, and you can get streaking. Adding pure turpentine to shellac will retard drying, allowing a little more working time if you are brushing it on.

Sorry, no recipes, as a lot of what I do is just by feel.

P.S. I just tried finding a source for the silica flatting agent, and most of what I've found is industrial. I bought a can many years ago that I'm still using. It was from an old line paint store, Elston Paint and Supply, on the north side of Chicago. Times change, however, and it is very hard to find traditional materials.


Last edited by Bron; 09-08-13 at 03:22 PM.
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Old 09-08-13, 03:49 PM
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Bron Bron is offline
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: South Bend, IN
Posts: 57

Also, wax over an oil gilt gold is risky, as the solvents in the wax can damage the gilding. Waxing water gilt gold is not a problem.

If you experiment with shellac and whiting, the whiting should be precipitated calcium carbonate. Natural chalks (whiting) are inconsistent in both size of grain and hardness. The mixture will be cloudy, ranging to opaque. The less transparent the flatter the finish.
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Old 12-08-13, 02:29 PM
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Koo Schadler Koo Schadler is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Alstead, NH & Zirahuen, Mexico
Posts: 317

Thanks for the shellac tips, Bron - I like the option of being able to cut the shine. Have you by chance asked George O'Hanlon at Natural Pigments about the silica flattening agent? If not, I'll ask as he might have some leads. I'd like to try it.

Phil, I appreciate your patience in listening to yet another varnish oration from me. Your point is well taken too: an unvarnished but polished tempera surface is very lovely, and quite durable once properly aged. I polish my surfaces a lot - but then feel compelled to put something on top, since I can't wait for full polymerization/hardening and don't want to risk scratches once the piece is sent out in the world (I love those darker values too). Varnishing can impart both good and bad things, and you are of course right that many of the old oil paintings are in worse shape than the old temperas.

Except for Van Eyck's oils, which are generally in excellent shape! He was so knowledgeable and careful in building up his layers. The more complexity there is in a system, the more opportunities there are for things to go wrong, which means the more diligent and informed you have to be to build that system correctly (as Van Eyck did). Throwing varnishing into the mix definitely adds complexity - and opportunities for things to go wrong. I'm not immune to those mistakes...still trying to figure out the best way to get the saturation, protection and shine that I love without negative consequences.

So there is a good reason - i.e. simplicity - in sticking with an unvarnished tempera, if it suits your artistic goals. As it clearly does yours, as evidenced by your paintings (I like the Goose and Teapot myself - really beautiful color in that one.) Unfortunately I have the Northern Renaissance bug and can't get it out of my system...still trying to emulate that look, in my own quirky you say, onward!

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