Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Today I've been listening to my latest CD, Beethoven's 5th, 6th and 9th symphonies conducted by Herbert Von Karajan, simply wonderful. I had the idea of making a film of Beethoven's life, the sole soundtrack of which would be the 67 minute long 9th symphony here.

My next purchase will be cold pressed linseed oil. This artist shows how he washes it and that his five year tests indicate it to be as lightfast as poppy oil, although the alkali refined stuff seems to be the worst for yellowing. This makes some sort of sense. So my current oil lightfastness list in descending order is: beeswax, cold pressed linseed, poppy, walnut, linseed stand oil, liquin, alkali refined linseed. Safflower and sunflower oil are reputedly like poppy.

He also states that amber is yellowing and dismisses it like that. I like amber so this requres some thought. On the plus side, Dali recommends amber in his 1947 book and the Blockx company make it and they have a good reputation. Amber stones don't seem to have darkened in 20 million years, some are white, so perhaps any darkening is an atmospheric reaction alone. On the negative side, Leonardo recommended amber varnish and his paintings are rather brown compared to Raphael's... but perhaps only the varnish is amber and the cracking might let air attack the paint layers. Amber is brittle so should probably never be used on anything that might bend, or get rolled up like the Mona Lisa was when it was stolen. Perhaps beeswax will be an adequate substitute, although amber's flourescence in ultraviolet light and the refractive index are desirable properties and it's simply nice to paint with.

3 comments :

Arena Shawn said...

I'm so new to oil painting that I am just absorbing all the material related knowledge like a sponge. This is all so interesting. I am also curious that you mentioned refractive index -- it is not a term that is easily found in the common lingo, and combining this thought with your discussion on entropy made me want to ask -- are you a science major by any chance?

Mark Sheeky said...

I've studied the basics but I'm self-taught in everything. School was too slow for me and by 12 I was programming computer games at home with such intensity that I didn't consider school very important. I now know it wasn't, fortunately. I'd have liked to study physics, it was my dream, but by a freak chance I couldn't do that, so I developed games on my own until I was 34, never successfully. At that point I decided I liked the creative aspects best anyway so decided to become an artist. Only then did I leave the house and contact humanity. Now art is my dream and passion and love and purpose in life!

Mark Sheeky said...

On more important matters; some points in this post have been superceeded. My own tests showed that linseed wasn't very good in yellowing terms and that stand oil and safflower oil were the least yellowing by far of the painting oils, and that amber seems to be very stable as well as beautiful. I now use James Groves amber varnish (tiny bits!) mixed with safflower oil and a little stand oil as my medium for solid/board surfaces but sometimes avoid the amber for canvas, just because of flexibility issues (I tested that too, it is more brittle than James Groves says).