Sunday, August 2, 2009

Working with Alkyds

I'm having a blast playing with alkyds this week. Alkyd oils, for those of you who don't know of them, dry much faster than traditional oils. If you're travelling and painting outdoors, your paintings will be ready to pack up in about a day. Here's a piece I did yesterday. It was already dry and ready for a light coat of retouch varnish this morning.

"Greens at Low Tide" 8x10,

You'll note that there's more of a "dry brush" appearance to this one. It partly has to do with the fact that alkyds start to set within my two-hour painting window. (I believe one can use a traditional, three-part medium - damar varnish, turps and linseed oil - to slow down the drying rate. I'll verify this and post the answer here.) I like this look, which is similar to what you'd get with traditional oils and a very absorbent painting surface.

It was nearly 80 yesterday and very dry - much different from the weather we've been having! If I'd painted on one of our cooler, damper days, the alkyd would not have dried as fast. Just as with traditional oils, alkyds dry by oxidation, which is a chemical reaction. You should remember from high school chemistry that the warmer it is, the faster things react. Thus, the cooler, the slower.

PS You'll be asking what that little thing is in the water in the distance. (Doug Dawson cautions against painting a "whatsit" painting, in which viewers will ask that very question!) It's the Lubec "Sparkplug" lighthouse, in the Lubec Channel between Campobello and Maine.

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