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Old 22-03-13, 06:29 PM
markbriscoe markbriscoe is offline
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Default Rabbit skin glue as a paint binder

I wanted to use rabbit skin glue (RSG) with pigments for some quick tonal under painting. does anyone know about RSG going dark or yellow over time..?
With some old oil paintings you can often see what looks like the RSG primed canvas showing through in places and it looks quite light, so from this I would imagine it doesn't darken too much. any knowledge about this anyone? Many thanks…
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Old 23-03-13, 03:04 PM
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Salamander Salamander is offline
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It's called distemper paint. It is an old medium. Usually worked with warm. Toulouse Lautrec used it.
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Old 24-03-13, 09:11 PM
dbclemons dbclemons is offline
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Not all RSG is the same, or may not even have come from rabbits. As with most things of this sort, it varies in quality, so seek out a reputable source that claims to be authentic and high quality.
Edouard Vuillard was another artist well known for using distemper. Bernard Dunstan writes about him and his use of distemper in his book "Painting Methods of the Impressionists;" although, not in great detail. Something he emphasized was, as with gouache, the color values change when they dry, sometimes dramatically. If you're planning to paint over it with another medium, like oils, then that won't be much of a problem.
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Old 25-03-13, 07:28 PM
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Bron Bron is offline
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Thomas Hart Benton also used distemper as an underpainting, including some of his murals. I wouldn't worry about the discoloration so much, but I would be concerned about painting too thickly. Old glue on the backs of frames I've seen has been pretty much the same color as fresh glue. Most of the general woodworking glues I've seen are fairly dark to begin with. The RSG type glues tend to be paler, blonder, probably a little more refined.

I've never tried distemper, but do have some experience with a wide variety of hide glues. If you just want to experiment, Titebond makes a liquid hide glue that could probably be thinned and used as a medium, just to get a feel for the process. Liquid hide glues have had a gel suppressant added, salt or urea. Old gesso recipes sometimes call for urination into the mix. Large mammal urine=urea=gel suppressant. The glue dries staying mostly liquid. Straight hide glues, especially the stronger RSG grades, gel, like jello, very rapidly.

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Old 26-03-13, 08:37 AM
markbriscoe markbriscoe is offline
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Thanks for all your replies... I didn't get an email notification of them...
Yes I had heard of distemper, but thought it was more of an old recipe for painting walls than for fine art work. The fact that there are no major thumbs down for it's use in painting is sufficient enough for me to start experimenting with it. nice to know it has been used by some historically big names in the art world... thanks again!!!
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Old 28-12-13, 04:46 AM
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jeff jeff is offline
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I have used it quite a bit under egg tempera painting and consider it the best to use for underpainting overall. It gives a superior surface for egg tempera to be painted on to, having this beautiful absorption to the ET strokes and in itself if wonderfully bright and luminous. It really is just equivalent to the gesso which is white coloured distemper if anything. The only problem is keeping the RSG warm enough to paint with.
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Old 10-02-14, 06:06 PM
arbrador arbrador is offline
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Default Blake and distemper

Hi All,

This is totally unscientific but I remember viewing some William Blake paintings at the Tate in London many years ago. The paintings were dark and the room was very dimly lit ostensibly to resist further darkening. I was told by someone that he used distemper. I vowed never to paint with glue as a medium but to only reserve it for gesso-making. Since all the other comments are positive I'm probably wrong but I'm sticking to my vow!

Also someone mentioned that he did not get an email notification of a response. I don't think we have RSS capabilities for this forum. Does anyone know how we might have email notifications when someone has posted? Or perhaps the entire forum could be converted into a Google group or Yahoo group so we receive new posts in our email.


Lora Arbrador
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