March is here! Preparing for the art exhibit… Varnish

Decisions on varnishing paintings for the show at Osmosis Gallery in April 2014

Decisions on varnishing paintings for the show at Osmosis Gallery in April 2014

Most of my paintings for the art show in April are finished. (yes, I said most…) I’m checking off my mental lists for the next preliminary steps:

1. Finish paintings and make sure they are dry enough to varnish and frame.

2. Take the necessary photographs, high resolution.

3. Decide on varnishing “look” and then varnish paintings.

4. Visit the framer, order frames.

5. Meet with gallery owner about hanging the show.

Four paintings, four decisions on varnishing

Four paintings, four decisions on varnishing

There are many reasons to varnish a finished painting in the right way.

1. Archival reasons: your collector will appreciate a properly varnished painting, because it will stand the test of time, and look its best for many years to come.

2. Varnishing the painting creates a more uniform look for the over all painted surface. Sometimes a matte/non-shiny look of the paint exists right next to a smoother, glossier texture within the same painting due to differing paint mixtures. Varnish can pull the differing effects together in one final finish and eliminate the possible distractions of paint quality for the viewer.

3. Glossier varnish illuminates the color. But there will be reflected light glare for the viewer depending on the lighting in the exhibit area.

4. Matte varnish dulls the glare and yet also the overall color impact. Yet the painter might decide to keep a non-glossy look for the final painting effect.

A final consideration of surface texture. The two paintings on the right were painted on linen/board. Linen is a lovely and very textured surface. Textures cut down on effects of glare a little. The cat painting to the left was painted on hard wood board, very smooth gessoed surface. Glare will be a little more pronounced when I used the same gloss varnish on this surface versus all the others. (I decided that was okay, because I wanted the color to shine in the best way ever.)

I haven’t decided yet how to varnish the small floral painting above the cat painting in this photo. I’ve been hoping to try out the “satin finish” varnish  I saw last week at the art store. This will be a good candidate for that experiment.

A final note- before you varnish your painting, make sure to choose the right varnish for your painted surface. Did you paint with oils or acrylics? That’s the first consideration, then talk with your art supply store. Oh, here is the next BIG thing to keep in mind:

If you have a cat, keep her out of the studio on varnishing day. Watch for dust falling on the painting while you varnish. Pet hairs love to fall right on the painting if you are not careful!


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