Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Long-Term Effects of Moving, Temperature and Aging

(My mother when she was in her twenties. An inexpensive photo-copy that is discoloring with age)
I often like to sit in a comfortable chair surrounded by old art magazines and browse for ideas, tips, or inspiration. As I peruse and ogle, I hunger for information. I drool over skillful and unusual paintings wanting so much to suck up as much knowledge as I can. My own efforts pale in comparison.

In the June 2013 issue of “the Artist’s Magazine” an article called “Problems with Watered-Down Acrylic” caught my eye. Written by Michael Skalka, Chair of the subcommittee on artist’s materials for ASTM International and framed in a Q. and A. format discussing acrylic paints.

Question: Can I use water as a medium with acrylics? I’ve been told that practice can compromise the archival quality of a painting?

Answer: Water compromises the archival quality of an acrylic painting. Acrylic medium is a substance that has identical or compatible properties with the pigmented material to which it is added so that the medium may modify the colorant without compromising integrity. 

Water is a diluent and a solvent. It has no resins or linking molecules that will support or strengthen an acrylic paint film; instead water places distance between acrylic resin molecules so that they form a weaker film than they would if the paint were not diluted.

Above Skalka demonstrates the differences visually. How he managed such perfect circles is beyond me. The difference between A. and the lighter B. is that the one on the left has used medium and the one on the right has used water as a diluent.

I tried a test of my own, but ended up with the medium and water looking the same which made me wonder if my acrylics were a better quality or if the medium I had purchased from Hobby Lobby was at fault? Since I apply several layers of acrylic in my paintings, perhaps the paint eventually fills in the missing pieces?

1. Burnt Sienna/Ochre w/water.

2. Burnt Sienna/Ochre w/acrylic medium

3. Crimson/raw sienna 2/water

4. Crimson/raw sienna 2/acrylic medium

Later I read the article again and noticed that Michael had suggested a compromise that allows you to use water as a medium and still create quality painting. 

“Mix a fresh solution composed of 50-75% fluid acrylic medium and the remaining percent water. Use this mixture as a medium for painting with acrylics.

"In colder temperatures, this mixture may have to be altered. Acrylic paints become brittle and may crack easily under stress. Finished acrylic paintings may even get hairline cracks over the surface. If you have to move your paintings, be sure they are insulated when you crate them and avoid shock or vibration."

I currently live in Florida. If we ever move back to Minnesota, I will need to take this advice to heart. Currently my paintings are in excellent condition, and I wouldn’t want a move to upset the acrylic paintings currently in my possession.

Many of you have an art studio away from your home. Be sure the climate is controlled or you may compromise “in-progress” works or risk damage to those in storage.

My mother on her 80th birthday (two years before her death). She aged beautifully!
(Newspaper Clipping)
I have some collectibles that I’d hoped to sell, but my moves from a cold to a hot and humid climate have caused the paint on some to crackle. This reduces value and profits. Had I known how fragile some of these objects are, I would have stored them in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.

Unfortunately, cross-country moves usually involve a rental truck or moving van where objects are left outside or in cold storage units. An antique sofa was once ruined by the mover’s dog that not only slept on our brocaded pink sofa, but managed to urinate on it. His whole family had used the van and our furniture as their personal motor home.

Of course, there was a claim and the sofa was reupholstered, but there are losses that can never be replaced. Is it any wonder I hate to move!
("Happy Habits" hairline cracks formed on the white areas only. I was so disheartened to find them!)