Damar varnish staying tacky?

16ga

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First I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this or not. If not feel free to move it.

I got a can of blair spray on Matte damar varnish for my paintings.
A little over a month ago I sprayed 3 paintings with it. All of my paintings are oil and they are all left to dry for at least 6 months before varnishing and were all dry to the touch.
One of the paintings dried fine within a few days and is now in a frame. The other 2 still felt tacky.
Now a month later those 2 painting still feel tacky.
I’ve also sprayed 2 more painting (not very good ones) with it last week and both dried fine. One has just been hit with a second coat because I seem to have missed a spot.

Any idea what happened with the first 2 paintings? I've read that humidity and temperature can cause problems but if that’s the reason why didn’t the 3rd painting done at the same time have the problem?

Also any idea what I can do about these painting? Will the eventually dry? Should I try to remove it? Just toss them in a frame behind glass and call it a day?
 

Artyczar

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Did you put all these paintings behind glass after spraying the varnish on them? I wouldn't do that. Typically, you are not supposed to put oil paintings behind glass. I wouldn't. They can't breathe. Oils stay alive forever. They never really dry, not for decades, and even still I wouldn't put them behind glass. They can be matte varnished to protect them. Leave them open in a floater frame.

If it is still tacky, I would guess you sprayed them when they were still wet, even if they were dry to the touch. I don't know how thick you paint, but if you could still stick your fingernail through the top layer and get to wet paint, they are not dry.
 

musket

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Did you shake the can for exactly the same amount of time before each spraying, with equal vigor every time?
 

Bongo

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Something I leaned using Gamvar and probably true for other varnishes. -- is that you need to apply a thin coat for it to dry properly. Like two molecules thick. Here in the summer, a thin layer of Gamvar dries in 20minutes, whereas a thick layer is still tacky two days later. - same is true for shellac I use on frames.
 

musket

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Spraying varnish or lacquer is a refined skill. It's much more difficult to get consistently uniform results with a spray can than with a gun.

Bongo is correct about film thickness. The thicker it is, the more likely to stay tacky.

Do multiple thin coats (assuming you need more than one) and let the previous coat thoroughly dry before the next--when you think it's dry, wait another half hour. Always begin spraying a few inches before you actually hit the piece, and go a few inches beyond the piece before you stop. It's also important to keep the spray parallel to the surface of the piece.

Damar tends to settle out of the solvent, which is probably methyl alcohol (if I were making damar varnish from scratch I would use 190 proof ethyl). So shaking the spray can enough is important. When you think it's enough, shake it for another two minutes.

If necessary, damar can be removed from an oil painting with alcohol. Oils dry by polymerization and shouldn't be affected by alcohol. But always test on a small area before proceeding.
 

WFMartin

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I quit using "spray-varnishes", and much of "spray-ANYTHING", because it is so profoundly difficult to obtain a truly "even" application with such techniques. Damar varnish is a natural resin, and is best incorporated with the ingredients of a painting medium, rather than being applied on top of it. Natural resins are useful within the painting construction, but synthetic resins are much more useful for those protective varnishes that go ON TOP of the final painting. I always advise the use of GamVar final painting varnish. GamVar is a synthetic resin, and it is not compatible with the ingredients of the oil paint, or its medium. That is a GOOD thing, because it does not bond, either chemically, or molecularly with the components of a dried oil-painted surface. It is easily removed with the weakest of all solvents--Odorless Mineral Spirits, should that ever be necessary.

Most natural resin varnishes tend to bond with the painting, itself, making it very difficult to remove. Turpentine is the solvent of choice for removing Damar Varnish, and that can tend to remove some of the paint, also, because Turpentine is a rather aggressive solvent.

For years, I've been using, and recommending GamVar Varnish as a final varnish for oil paintings. But, for heaven's sake, DON'T use it as an ingredient in your painting medium! Its weakness against Odorless Mineral Spirits precludes it from being recommended as a "part of a painting". You WANT a final varnish to be susceptible to being easily dissolved by a weak solvent, but that characteristic does not lend itself to being incorporated into the material of which a painting is composed!! I brush it on, evenly, and consistently, with no drips, orange-peeling, or starved areas. Been doing it for several years, now,

And, in terms of Damar drying "tacky"..,,,,Yeah. I used to use it. Damar does a LOT of quirky things! (So is it with alkyd materials.)
 
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16ga

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Thanks everyone.
Did you put all these paintings behind glass after spraying the varnish on them?
No. I let them dry first before framing them. So far most of my paintings have been small. 4.5”x6” on paper. The ones I decide to frame I just stick in picture frames.
If it is still tacky, I would guess you sprayed them when they were still wet, even if they were dry to the touch. I don't know how thick you paint, but if you could still stick your fingernail through the top layer and get to wet paint, they are not dry.
My painting aren't very thick. Trees and bushy areas on landscapes tend to build up a little paint but usually I'm told that I don't use enough paint.
Nothings still soft by the time I varnish them.
Did you shake the can for exactly the same amount of time before each spraying, with equal vigor every time?
Lol. Actually with the small size of the paintings I mounted the first 3 on cardboard and sprayed them all at once.


It could have been too thick. I'm not sure. The 2 that didn't dry were in the same row when I mounted them so they could have gotten a slower pass or something.

If necessary, damar can be removed from an oil painting with alcohol.
Assuming some of the varnish is dry would the alcohol harm the dry varnish? Just wondering if I would have to strip all of it or if I could just get rid of the tackiness and then respray after a week or 2?

For years, I've been using, and recommending GamVar Varnish as a final varnish for oil paintings.
Is gamvar something that gamblin developed themselves or is the same thing available from different companies?



Up until now I had been using kamar varnish spray but wanted to try something less glossy. Also I'd get it at walmart and the virus has left their art section pretty empty. I added this can to my last order to give it a try.
 

WFMartin

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Is gamvar something that gamblin developed themselves or is the same thing available from different companies?

Oh, I believe that it does have some generic, chemical name, but offhand I don't recall what that is. However, I can truthfully state that all synthetic resin varnishes are NOT the same. For example, for awhile, I believed that the synthetic resin varnish, Soluvar, was the same as GamVar. I was WRONG. While GamVar dissolves easily with Odorless Mineral Spirits, Soluvar requires White Spirit to dissolve, because I mistakenly tried OMS, and rather than dissolving, it gathered into clumps, much like rubber cement. It was that time, also, that I discovered there is a difference between Odorless Mineral Spirits, and Mineral Spirits. It seems that when they remove the smell, some of the dissolving power goes with it! I vote for GamVar, and I will not use Soluvar again.
 

musket

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700
It appears I'm wrong and Bill is right--mea culpa. The solvent for damar is indeed turps. Which means alcohol isn't likely to have much effect on it.... but, I don't know if damar is also soluble in alcohol.

You could try it on a small area in a corner and see what happens. Alcohol will have no effect on a cured film of oil paint.

I would say it's a good bet that your spray technique caused the problem. Bill is only partially right about spraying. Most people are indeed not very good at getting an even application. But for someone like me, with several decades of experience spraying guitars with cellulose nitrate lacquer, it's different. Even with a can instead of a gun, I know how to get an even application.

For those who don't have that kind of background, it can (so to speak) still be done, but as with anything else, it takes practice. You can't just do it any old way and expect to get an even application, and trying to do three pieces at once is a virtual guarantee that you won't.
 

16ga

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Sorry for the late reply.

Bill I don't think I can get any locally but I'll try to add some to my next art supply order and give it a try.

And Musket thanks. I haven't had time to try anything yet but I'll try turpentine when I do.
 

Trier

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Messages
340
I quit using "spray-varnishes", and much of "spray-ANYTHING", because it is so profoundly difficult to obtain a truly "even" application with such techniques. Damar varnish is a natural resin, and is best incorporated with the ingredients of a painting medium, rather than being applied on top of it. Natural resins are useful within the painting construction, but synthetic resins are much more useful for those protective varnishes that go ON TOP of the final painting. I always advise the use of GamVar final painting varnish. GamVar is a synthetic resin, and it is not compatible with the ingredients of the oil paint, or its medium. That is a GOOD thing, because it does not bond, either chemically, or molecularly with the components of a dried oil-painted surface. It is easily removed with the weakest of all solvents--Odorless Mineral Spirits, should that ever be necessary.

Most natural resin varnishes tend to bond with the painting, itself, making it very difficult to remove. Turpentine is the solvent of choice for removing Damar Varnish, and that can tend to remove some of the paint, also, because Turpentine is a rather aggressive solvent.

For years, I've been using, and recommending GamVar Varnish as a final varnish for oil paintings. But, for heaven's sake, DON'T use it as an ingredient in your painting medium! Its weakness against Odorless Mineral Spirits precludes it from being recommended as a "part of a painting". You WANT a final varnish to be susceptible to being easily dissolved by a weak solvent, but that characteristic does not lend itself to being incorporated into the material of which a painting is composed!! I brush it on, evenly, and consistently, with no drips, orange-peeling, or starved areas. Been doing it for several years, now,

And, in terms of Damar drying "tacky"..,,,,Yeah. I used to use it. Damar does a LOT of quirky things! (So is it with alkyd materials.)
Hey Bill -
I have long admired your paintings and very informative posts on WC and hope you don't mind if I ask you for any tips or advice you may have about painting with an alkyd medium.

I gave up on Griffin alkyds a while ago because it seemed to me that there was a lack of color saturation, but now I want to try again using homemade paints of dry pigments and a alkyd binder.
I tried an alkyd binder from Kremer and it nearly knocked me out even though I was working it outdors in a breeze.

Next up to bat is Gamblin's Neo Megilp, which seems to be an alkyd and says it is an oil medium on the bottle.
Since I am short on both material and time, and you seem familiar with Gamblin and of a helpful disposition, I thought I would ask. Thanks for anything.
Regards,
Trier
 

musket

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700
Why in the world are you using alkyd? To make things dry faster?
 
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Trier

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Why in the world are you using alkyd? To make things dry faster?
Yes, to dry faster like acrylics. So far they dry very fast when I add some OMS.

I am even messing with both regular and water based Polyurethane. They can dry even faster I find. Appears to be uncharted territory; probably for a good reason, like , its not worth it!

I'm glad you asked because you were the next one I wanted to update and get any advice from.
You sort of started me on this, Many Thanks.
 

musket

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700
I was mistakenly under the impression that you were going to do this in acrylics, not oils.

You should check this out.

http://www.jamescgroves.com/courtrai.htm

I haven't used any of Mr. Groves's mediums or driers but he has an excellent reputation. Even Rob Howard at the late lamented Studio Products said so, and I never knew him to have a good word to say about any other competitor. I have used lead napthanate from Robert Doak as as a drier, and Mr. Groves is correct--it does the job very well, but dulls the paint. He is obviously extremely knowledgable about this stuff. I would also check out his other mediums (the link is at the bottom of the page).
 

Bongo

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An oil painter I follow on youtube uses satin Gamvar. He says he lays it on -- then wipes it off? Only thing I can figure out from that is that he might be laying it on pretty thick then wiping it off with a towel - leaving a thin coat. Or is there something else?
 

Trier

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Messages
340
I was mistakenly under the impression that you were going to do this in acrylics, not oils.

You should check this out.


I haven't used any of Mr. Groves's mediums or driers but he has an excellent reputation. Even Rob Howard at the late lamented Studio Products said so, and I never knew him to have a good word to say about any other competitor. I have used lead napthanate from Robert Doak as as a drier, and Mr. Groves is correct--it does the job very well, but dulls the paint. He is obviously extremely knowledgable about this stuff. I would also check out his other mediums (the link is at the bottom of the page).
Hey musket -
I am sorry for causing confusion by not being entirely clear; it happens too many times due to my infirmities.

I was aiming mainly at acrylics and was making up an order from Grove's site and was astounded by all the Kremer when I found my old Griffin Alkyd paints and decided to try to improve them with some of the Kremer pigments I was getting for the acrylic dispersions you so kindly advised me about.
So I also included in my order some alkyd medium that Kremer had, and tried that first when the order finally arrived.

There was a broken item that I had to get replaced right away, which delayed my starting to mix pigments. I found the alkyd medium affected me very badly and I was looking for alternatives when I ran across Gamblin's stuff.

I intended to update you when I had some results, but was not yet ready.

Anyway, thank you for the new information on the oil mediums. I took a quick look at Grove's website and was bowled over with the amount of information he had; It looks like a really valuable resource.

Out of steam for tonight.
 

Trier

Well-known member
Messages
340
An oil painter I follow on youtube uses satin Gamvar. He says he lays it on -- then wipes it off? Only thing I can figure out from that is that he might be laying it on pretty thick then wiping it off with a towel - leaving a thin coat. Or is there something else?
Thanks, Bongo -
Yeah, that sounds puzzling - maybe some sort of variation on the 'wipe out' the highlights technique?
 

musket

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Messages
700
What's nice about the acrylic dispersions is, no awful physiological side effects. I could easily see a concentrated pure alkyd medium being highly irritating, even if alkyd paints or proprietary alkyd products aren't.
 

Artyczar

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I sometimes just spray a very light matte finish on them and leave them alone. That's about all will ever do to them. But I'm no true professional.
 
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