Use Archival fast drying alkyd based mediums and Fast Drying White to speed up drying time.

Fig. 1. Cracked Painting

Fig. 2. Clem Millward Impasto painting Close up

Archival Oils Crack Test

Archival Oils

Brand X Crack Test

Brand X

In lab tests Archival oils have been proven to be the only oil paint to remain flexible while all other brands become brittle and crack.

Mona Lisa

Fig. 3. Age crackling as seen here in the Mona Lisa will not happen to paintings done with Archival.

Fig. 4. Euan Macleod often paints thin glazes over thick uncured underpainting, this would be disastrous with any oil other than Archival.

Using Archival Oils and Mediums

Fast Drying Time

When combined with Archival’s alkyd based mediums Archival Oils dry quickly on paintings, but will remain workable on the palette until mediums are added. The ideal working situation for most oil painters today is to be able to work wet-in-wet during a painting session of 3-6 hours on one day and be able to overpaint the following day. The flexibility and fast drying time of Archival Oils and Mediums make this possible.

Try Fast Drying White to Speed Up Drying Time.

Nearly all paintings contain about as much white paint as every other colour put together and white therefore ‘sets the pace’ for drying times, this was one of the reasons why artists used to like Flake White because it dried faster than Titanium White which takes about 5 days. As well as the fast drying mediums we have introduced a Fast Drying Titanium White which dries in about 2 days and of course faster, if fast mediums are used with it.

Archival Re-writes the Rules

The restrictive “Classical Rules” can now be replaced by the following simple ones

  1. Thick paint applications (15-60mm) should contain a 50/50 mix of paint with Smooth Gel. The gel sets the impasto paint firmly in place and accelerates the drying process so effectively that it is safe to overpaint as soon as the painting is touch dry. It also prevents wrinkling and distortion of thick paint.
  2. It is still sensible to scrape off unwanted areas, but they can also be over painted.
  3. The Fat-Over-Lean Rule gives way to a simpler rule where you do not use a fast drying medium on top of a slow one. All the Archival Mediums are modified so that they have an ability to stretch, preventing the build up of tension which leads to cracking problems.

The flexibility of Archival Oils has allowed artists to explore new techniques. Archival Oils with their mediums and gels have allowed oil painters to safely use techniques which would otherwise have been disastrous, or which would have been impossible to carry out while following the classical rules because of the long waiting time between layers.

Important Note: Painting Thickly With Titanium White

A layer of White must have access to oxygen to be able to dry properly. When applied very thickly, the wet paint in the middle of the layer may take many months to dry completely. Because of this delay in drying, some of the safflower oil in the paint may migrate or “sweat” through the top layer of the painting  (which of course will be dry because it has been exposed to air) and this may lead a microlayer of un-pigmented oil on top of the painting, which cannot be removed. If this happens, the best remedial action is to place the painting in direct sunlight; over a period of time, this will help to bleach out the yellowing effect, and the warmth will also help the underlying layers of paint to dry properly.

The problem I'm describing is a modern one, due to the use of driers in oil paints. There are 2 types of driers used in oil paints, Surface Driers and Through Driers.  In the past, manufacturers used lead-based Through Driers. However, there is legislation in place which forbids the use of lead as a Through Drier, because it is poisonous if it is ingested.  So for those artists wishing to use White very thickly today, the best suggestion is to use the Fast Drying Titanium White, which is boosted with Alkyd Resin to make it dry faster, and also to use a liberal quantity of Smooth Gel Medium, which accelerates the drying of the paint.

 

What are the Classic Rules for Oil Painting and Why Are the Archival Rules More Relaxed?

As an Archival painting cures, the surface layer stretches to accommodate movement below, allowing the artist to go on and complete their work quickly without harming it, even when complex layering techniques are used. The modified polymers used in Archival Oils and its mediums produce a paint film which is highly flexible like an acrylic. It has allowed artists much greater freedom of technique. The classic oil painting rules have become less well known and artists want faster processes to get their work done, Archival provides the answers.

The two most important ‘old’ rules are:

Classical Rule #1

Do not overpaint for at least six months if impasto underpainting has been used. The cracked painting to the left ( Fig 1 ) was done on top of another painting, not particularly thick and presumably, less than six months later. The top layer got more oxygen than the underlayers and dried faster, becoming brittle while the underpainting was still soft and mobile. This movement made the brittle top layer give way.

Archival Oils stretch in this situation but we advise using 50/30 paint and Smooth Gel if thick impasto is used and then overpainted because the gel stabilises movement in drying impasto layers. The impasto painting by Clem Millward ( Fig 2 ) was done in 1990 using archival Oils and is still as flexible now as it was then.

Classical Rule #2

Always add more oil to each layer in a layered painting. The ‘fat over lean’ rule says: dilute with solvent or a low solids medium when underpainting or laying in, followed by undiluted paint from the tube if you are finishing off, or, if more layers are used, an oilier medium is used for each successive layer. The basic idea is that each layer will be more flexible than the one underneath it because the medium usually contains stand oil, which is slightly more elastic than raw oil, especially since the 1920s when driers were introduced to speed up drying of the new oil aged on the painting itself. The effect of driers is to catalyse the raw oil, making it become brittle much faster.

Some manufacturers claim that mediums made from alkyd resins solve the problem. The molecular structure of alkyd resin is larger and more robust than raw linseed oil, and alkyds have replaced linseed based house paints because they last longer; but longer for house paints is maybe ten years where oil paint would crack in about five years, alkyds are tough but not inherently flexible, so the Archival Alkyd Mediums are modified to remain flexible permanently.

The rules for using Archival Oils are much more relaxed because each layer of a painting is able to stretch, which avoids tensions as a painting goes through its drying cycle.

Archival Re-writes the Rules

The restrictive “Classical Rules” can now be replaced by the following simple ones

  1. Thick paint applications (15-60mm) should contain a 50/50 mix of paint with Smooth Gel. The gel sets the impasto paint firmly in place and accelerates the drying process so effectively that it is safe to overpaint as soon as the painting is touch dry. It also prevents wrinkling and distortion of thick paint.
  2. It is still sensible to scrape off unwanted areas, but they can also be over painted.
  3. The Fat-Over-Lean Rule gives way to a simpler rule where you do not use a fast drying medium on top of a slow one. All the Archival Mediums are modified so that they have an ability to stretch, preventing the build up of tension which leads to cracking problems.

The flexibility of Archival Oils has allowed artists to explore new techniques. Archival Oils with their mediums and gels have allowed oil painters to safely use techniques which would otherwise have been disastrous, or which would have been impossible to carry out while following the classical rules because of the long waiting time between layers.

Elisabeth Cummings, Euan Macleod and John Walker have kindly given us permission to show close ups of their work here to demonstrate the versatility of Archival Oils (please visit the gallery to see more of their paintings).

Archival Paintings Age Without Cracking

The flexibility of Archival Oils allows for movement as the painting dries, cures and becomes stable. Age crackling will not happen to paintings done with Archival.

All painting substrates move with climatic changes, especially canvas, so in the long term paintings done with traditional oils will crack as the Mona Lisa has done ( see Fig 3 ). Cracks caused by differential shrinkage of traditional oil paints usually show up within about 4 years.

The Short Term Advantages of Archival’s Flexibility Can Be Dramatic

The picture shown in Fig 1 cracked because it was painted on top of another painting which was not cured. Movement in the paint layers below the surface tore open the top layer.

Fig 2 shows a section of the painting done by Clem Millward in 1990 and demonstrates how useful flexibility is as a protective factor in oil painting. The impasto landscape elements remain as flexible today as they were in 1990. What is perhaps more important to notice, is a band of slightly raised colour in the sky. It is slightly lighter than the rest of the background, which is a thin glaze of umber over the gesso ground. The lighter band is Archival white which has also been glazed over, normally a recipe for disaster because umber dries faster than white. The white would have been uncured and still moving, but the umber glaze was able to stretch. Thin glazes over thick uncured underpainting happen all the time in the work of Euan MacLeod ( see Fig 4 ), one of the artists who pioneered the use of Archival oils because he knows that he can use that technique without penalty (see more of his work in the gallery).