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Old 26-02-09, 01:59 PM
berenice berenice is offline
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Default a little knowledge for the inexperienced

I have noone to guide me in the use of egg tempera and have been using instructions found on interent.
Slowly gaining experience and loving it more and more.
I know I don't need to cover my canvases after painting in oils, and that water colours need glass.
However, what does one do to protect paintings in egg tempera?
A varnish? A spray? Nothing?
I'll be so glad to get a reply. Thanks.
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Old 26-02-09, 07:24 PM
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cmunisso cmunisso is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Roma - Italia
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A way to protect the egg tempera is with a good varnish, the best is Chio's mastic.
You must wait the tempera is completely dry, about 6 months or better one year prior to varnish.
After varnish your painting will be glossy and the colors bright. If you don't need this, a glass is a quite good solution.
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Old 27-02-09, 09:10 AM
berenice berenice is offline
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Thanks for your reply. I really appreciate it.
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Old 03-03-09, 09:09 AM
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It is also quite acceptable to leave the paint unvarnished and in its natural state. This is preferred by some, myself included. Tempera has a subtle yet beautiful sheen to it, and this can be brought out by buffing with a soft cloth after the paint has dried for a few days. A cotton velour is good, or some other soft, napped fabric that doesn't generate much friction with the paint surface, and doesn't tend to abrade the paint.

Naked paint may be slightly more apt to get dinged by careless handling, but the dings are very easily repaired if the work is not varnished. Glass is the ultimate protection, I suppose, but it also obscures the sheen. Another possible downside to varnishing is the danger of altering tonal values when the varnish is applied. Sometimes the effect is good, sometimes not, but you never find out for sure until it's too late.

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Old 03-03-09, 03:52 PM
berenice berenice is offline
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Default varnish or not, glass or not.

You know, it sounds so logical. I've certainly got plenty food for thought now.
It's wonderful to have found you people out there after being alone in this use of egg tempera till now.
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Old 04-03-09, 05:42 AM
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RobM RobM is offline
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Location: Nottingham, England
Posts: 352

If you do a search for beeswax it will bring up a load of posts on finishing a painting.
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Old 18-03-09, 09:37 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: 316

Hello Bernice,

As mentioned a delicate polishing can bring out a beautiful, soft, "egg shell" shine. No varnish necessary in this case, but the painting must then be handled with care as it is more vulnerable. As for varnishing, there are countless possibilities. Any varnish that works on an oil painting will work on a tempera as far as I know (tempera is after all an oil paint - an egg oil paint, emulsified in water - but nonetheless an oil based binder). Make sure the painting has been given time to cure: a few weeks is necessary for a flexible, retouch varnish; a minimum of 6 months for an inflexible, final varnish. Be aware that any varnish applied to a painting before is has fully cured (i.e. 6 months or more) will adhere to some degree to the underlying layers, and thus be hard to remove. Conservators hate those types of varnishes!

Derived from deposits left by the lac bug on trees in India, shellac is my preferred tempera varnish. The benefits of shellac are that it is relatively flexible, very fast drying (within a minute or less), and creates to my eyes a beautiful finish. But beware that is tricky to apply evenly. Any accidental puddle or line will begin to harden within seconds and you may be stuck with it. Practice applying shellac before you try it on a finished piece. Sponge brushes work well but can hold a lot of shellac, so squeeze some out before you inadvertently lay on a small pond.

The pre-made shellac sold in hardware stores is generally intended for furniture finishing, and has a rich amber hue not appropriate for a painting. So it is important to make your own shellac from scratch. Buy the best quality bleached (white) varieties to minimize yellowing (available on line from natural pigments, sinopia, kremer). To make your own, combine 1 part crystals with anywhere from 2 to 6 parts denatured alcohol. Denatured alcohol is available at hardware stores. The more crystals, the stronger and thicker will be your shellac. Ideally, you want to get away with as inconsequential a layer as possible (to minimize yellowing, which is minimal anyway with the bleached variety) so start with a thin solution and if you need more coverage you can increase the percentage of shellac crystals. I find that 1 part crystals to 4 or so parts denatured alcohol works well for me, but other painters prefer stronger or weaker formulations. Give the crystal a day or two to dissolve, stirring occasionally. Strain through cheesecloth before using. Keep shellac away from water, as the two are incompatible.

The draw backs of any varnish is that it will change the tonal scheme; i.e. dark colors appear more saturated and hence a bit darker. (I actually like this as I like to expand my value range.) Varnishing also impart a greater shine (how much depends on the kind of varnish used), killing the soft shine of a plain tempera that many painters so love. Nearly all varnishes yellow to some degree, but this can be minimized. On the other hand, a varnish can impart desirable visual effects, and it will protect the painting. Although you may on occasion read, as if it is a "rule", that you can't/shouldn't varnish a tempera, it is entirely a personal aesthetic and technical decision.
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Old 19-03-09, 11:57 AM
berenice berenice is offline
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Thanks for your advice. I shall definitely try shellac - making it too. Everything is a bit frightening at first isn't it.
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Old 25-03-09, 12:22 PM
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UBI UBI is offline
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Default shellac

Hello Koo

I'm curious about your preference for shellac.

Reading books about tecnique, often the use of shellac as final varnish is discouraged
because is said that could darken and it's not reversible ( meaning that over a long period of time became insoluble in any solvent) giving problems
if you must remove it.

Personally I would like to try shellac, because I like the finish of furniture
treated with this varnish, but until now never tried due to these objections I've read.

Pls could you clear the state of knowledge about shellac as final varnish?

Thank you
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Old 25-03-09, 02:59 PM
dbclemons dbclemons is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Texas
Posts: 231

Shellac can be processed to become practically water clear. Sometimes what is labeled as clear is actually either "white" or "extra blond" (or pale or lemon...) which is not clear. Clear is also weaker in strength because of all the bleaching, but still effective as a finish. Here's a music supply shop that shows some of the range of coloring, including white and clear.

Some types of denatured alcohol you buy to liquify the shellac is not pure and can cause problems applying the shellac. There are some places that will sell you fresh shellac that has been ready-made to a liquid, but again make sure you're getting the right coloring you need.

Some folks use a wax finish for tempera, or wax over shellac. This can still effect the tone like Koo mentioned, so it helps if the tempera has completely cured for a few months first.

I wouldn't recommend ever trying to remove a finish of any sort that was placed directly on tempera. You'd likely remove paint along with it.
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