View Full Version : Oil painting question

2012-Oct-03, 09:22 AM
You know that scene in the movies where they take an oil painting that looks like a monkey did it, then the rub off a bit of the surface layer to find the canvas was really a lost Master? Does that actually work? If so, how?

Wouldn't the solvent that removes the upper layer also destroy the lower one(s)?

I'm picturing a situation where I paint something, then someone else comes along and paints over it. How long will my paint have to sit before the next person's pain won't just mix with it and change the color?

Then, would it ever be possible to remove their paint and leave only mine?

2012-Oct-03, 10:25 AM
If done very carefully, no. Accidentally, by a monkey? Well, it was plot device.

2012-Oct-03, 10:30 AM
Weeks to years, I would think. The main issue I see with this is, modern oil paints dry much faster than they used to, so your window of wiping it off is much smaller.

2012-Oct-03, 10:40 AM
By "by a monkey" I mean someone with my level of skill. Some really bad painting is done over the top of something of actual value, to hide it or something.

What I found on another site (Yahoo answers, I think) said that the second painting runs a risk of cracking as the oil is drawn into the older paint. That would be a show-stopper. I need for artist A to paint something good, then a month to a few years later, artist B comes along and paints the same picture using his own colors and style, to claim it as his own.

If I have to, I can make the first "painting" a pencil sketch, then move it to canvas by retracing over carbon paper, but I wanted a more direct way.

Nowhere Man
2012-Oct-03, 11:42 AM
The original could be given a coat of clear varnish to preserve it. As I understand this was typically done, with the side-effect that the varnish discolors over the years and makes the painting darker. If the paints and varnish have different solvents, then careful use of applied chemistry could remove the monkey's work without affecting the original.


2012-Oct-03, 11:59 AM
My suggestion would be to make the first painting very light and vibrant. Thinner paints and bright colors dry faster as do colors painted on an imprimatura (a tint used on the canvas). After that it needs to be protected. If the next artist uses an acrylic gesso before painting, it will protect the painting under it, but allows your readers to call shenanigans because it will be dry and wiping the paint off will reveal layer of gesso.

The main issue with reusing canvases is oil paint is thick. If the first painter uses a thick layer with lots of texture, the next painter wouldn't be able to obscure that texture. Reused canvases are sanded down and gesso'ed to make them flat, not to remove paint.

2012-Oct-03, 12:03 PM
Ir occurs to me that I may be posting as an expert, but in real life, I am closer to your monkey. :)

2012-Oct-03, 12:04 PM
Hmm. Looks like pencil and carbon paper is the way to go then. Thanks.

2012-Oct-03, 12:07 PM
Ir occurs to me that I may be posting as an expert, but in real life, I am closer to your monkey. :)

The only thing I learned in art class was that I liked the way finger paint tasted. My high school had to invent remedial arts and crafts for me to graduate on time.

2012-Oct-03, 12:27 PM
Hmm. Looks like pencil and carbon paper is the way to go then. Thanks.

I just thought of something. I copied a Van Gogh and had the hardest time matching colors because Van Gogh liked to take paint straight from the tube and mixed them on the canvas. My problem was I assumed that Van Gogh didn't have tubes of paint like me, because you know, he is really old.

If your first painter used manufactured paint and the second artist didn't know that and tried to make "old looking paint" from scratch, the second artists paints could have too much oil and the second painting might not ever dry. It could be wiped off at any time and would come off easily. The first painting would be much more stable and durable to support any rubbing. Making paint or dye isn't that hard, but it's much harder than buying paint in a tube.

2012-Oct-03, 12:55 PM
Oh, he's not trying to match anything like that.

Imagine you're in an art class with Dali when he comes up with his very first painting. Before anyone outside the class sees it, he's killed in some odd way and his paintings end up in your house.

After years of frustration, you pull them out, realize they are likely to do very well, but can't claim them as yours because there is enough of your work already out there for comparison. So, instead, you paint over the top of his, using your own colors and techniques, but his composition and images.

The end result is that no one ever knows Dali existed as a artist, and your stuff is being sold as posters in the head-shops in the mall. It's not so much forgery as plagiarism.

Then I find out somehow and blackmail you.

2012-Oct-03, 01:37 PM
As I understand it, in recent years, the way that such "hidden" paintings have been found is by x-ray techniques, not by removing the newer painting from on top. And numerous artists did this themselves: used an older canvas and painted a new painting on top, particularly when they were young and starving.

Here is a CNN article about such a discover for a Van Gogh painting (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/03/22/world/europe/new-van-gogh-painting-found/index.html)

A painting dismissed for years as the work of an unknown artist has been identified as a piece by Vincent Van Gogh, after x-rays revealed an image of two wrestlers fighting underneath the floral still life.

Here is a pdf (http://www.williamstownart.org/techbulletins/images/WACC%20Imaging%20of%20Paintings.pdf) from the Williamstown Art Conservation Center on several imaging techniques, including x-rays and IR.

2012-Dec-18, 04:45 AM
My suggestion would be the proportion of oil should be increased for each subsequent layer in an oil painting known as painting 'fat over lean' because the lower layers absorb oil from the layers on top of them. If the upper layers dry faster than the lower ones, they can crack. Avoid using Ivory Black for an underpainting or sketching as it dries much slower than other oil paints.Pigments containing lead, cobalt, and manganese accelerate drying. They can be mixed with other colours to speed up drying and are ideal for under layers.

2012-Dec-19, 03:48 AM
You also have to remember that hundreds of years ago, the starving artists couldn't just go out to the local art store and buy new canvases. They had to MAKE them.
And as the years of practice and learning went by they would recycle the old stuff instead of tossing them.
(so the older bottom layer may have had years to dry)