Sealing and varnishing finished artwork on Ampersand panels is extremely important especially when framing without glass. Be sure to select a varnish that is appropriate to the type of paint you are using. Provided below are a few basic suggestions for sealing and varnishing several popular mediums using products we have successfully tried and tested on our panels.
Watercolors & Gouache
Seal watercolors or gouache with several light coats of spray varnish (or fixative), being careful to spray outdoors during warmer months or in a well ventilated and heated area during colder times of the year. We recommend the Krylon® UV Archival varnishes.These spray varnishes offer advanced non-yellowing protection against fading, dirt, moisture and discoloration. The Krylon® UV Archival varnishes contain superior levels of UV light absorbers and are removable for conservation purposes. For additional protection against scratches during transport and also ultraviolet light, follow the application of Krylon® spray varnish with Golden® MSA UVLSor Golden® Polymer UVLS varnish. About 4 coats brushed-on, provides a very durable archival finish and is also removable for conservation purposes.
Ampersand panels do not lessen the drying time required for oil paints before varnishing. Allow the oil painting to dry for 3-6 months before applying the varnish. A good choice is Gamblin’s Gamvarthat is easily applied using a soft natural hair brush. Unlike varnishes made from natural resins like Damar and mastic, Gamvar does not yellow with age or become more difficult to remove. It contains a UV stabilizer and offers some measure of protection to less lightfast pigments, depending on how heavily it is applied. For tips on application, Gamblin offers this video demonstration.
For Acrylic paintings, a light coat of an acrylic varnish like Golden® MSA UVLSor Golden® Polymer UVLS varnish is advised. Problems such as smoke damage, handling blemishes and dust or dirt accumulation on the surface of the painting can be removed along with either varnish type. Golden® varnishes offer protection from UltraViolet (UV) rays generated from the sun and consolidate the artwork with an even sheen. Gloss varnishes can intensify colors while Matte or Satin Varnishes soften the color and minimize glare. Alternatively, Gamblin’s Gamvar[see varnishing oils] can effectively be used to varnish acrylic paintings. This is a Golden video on the Proper Spray Application of MSA varnish
Sealing pastels with spray fixative tends to dull the color of the pigments, so we recommend all pastels be framed under glass. The glass protects the fragile nature of the pastels while also keeping their colors true to life. For tips on matting and framing pastels, consult this article.
Sealing Scratchbord™ (formerly Claybord Black)
Seal finished Scratchbord™ art with a spray fixative like Krylon® UV Resistant Clear Coating or use the Krylon® UV Archival Spray Varnish. The fixative [or spray varnish] will dissolve fingerprints or smudges and will protect the surface from dirt and moisture. For best results, first remove all loose dust and debris from the surface with a soft brush. Then, spray with 2 – 3 coats [as directed on can] in a warm, well ventilated environment during low humidity.
Dana Brown knew he was an artist before he entered elementary school and even began introducing himself that way at the time. He was drawing all of the time and continued to work realistically through college. It was his day job in art materials that brought him to a desire for the abstract in his own paintings. Understanding color relationships and how oil paint worked coincided with his full-time job as well as leaked into his art.
Dana is most likely the voice at the other end of the line when you call Ampersand or whose inbox you reach via email. Like most other Ampersand employees, Dana wears many hats. He answers customer questions about technical information, works on order requests, and travels to retailer stores to train staff, set up displays or conduct workshops. And yet, panels are not Dana’s only area of art material expertise. Before arriving at Ampersand, Dana worked with Gamblin® Artist Colors, Portland-based oil color manufacturer. Since the art materials industry is fairly small, Dana was already familiar with Ampersand panels before coming to work at the factory in 2006. So, Dana has a very good understanding of quality and how the end result is affected by his choice of materials.
Investing in good materials “means taking [his] work seriously,” says Dana. “I invest a lot of time and effort into my artwork and I want to know that it will look the same next year or even 100 years from now.” With so many different artists out there making use of the range of available materials, it makes sense that there are a lot of options. However, each artist needs to choose what works best for their style, their process and intentions, not to mention their medium of choice. “When you have high quality materials, certain struggles disappear,” he explains.
His own artwork has improved greatly with his knowledge of Ampersand’s panels and his awareness of how the surface actually effects the finished image. Since working with Ampersand’s many artist clients, Dana has had the chance to get to know all levels and styles of work, what those artists need, and how their own work is influenced by the substrates they choose. He has then had the opportunity to put into practice what he has learned from understanding good materials and watching other artists around him. It has given him the opportunity to take a closer look at how the substrate influences the work just as much as the paint.
For artists looking to change their practice to panels or try out panels for the first time, Dana shares how the differences are surprising. There is a lot of control in painting on prepared panels. There is no uneven texture or discoloration to conceal and colors are more accurate. Painting on a perfectly smooth surface, like Claybord™ or on the slight “tooth” of Gessobord™ that Dana uses, allows the light to hit the pigments evenly. Each brush stroke goes down as intended, without the canvas texture affecting the surface. However, the panels allow for paper or canvas to be mounted as well, providing an archival rigid substrate without the need for framing. For artists still interested in painting on a canvas-like texture, there is always the Artist Panel™, which offers a canvas texture along with the stability of an Ampersand panel.