So here I’m gonna do another narrated walkthrough of the restoration of this painting of Mother Mary. It’s not meant to be instructional or exhaustive, just to give you guys an idea of what I’m doing. This painting was pretty damaged and had been exposed to moisture which resulted in a lot of flaking. There were punctures and tears.
The painting was quite dirty, and there was an old varnish on it. Obviously, there’s a lot of paint missing which also needed to be addressed. So the first step is to remove the painting from the stretcher, and I’m using an upholsterers tack pulling tool to remove these nails. I just need to get it off the stretcher so that I can start working on it, But I want to preserve the tacking edge as much as I can. The next step is to clean the back, and this is just to get rid of the dust dirt and grime that’s trapped in between the stretcher bar and the canvas. The next step in the conservation process is to repair the tears, and what I’m gonna be doing is something called bridging. And that’s where I take little strands of Belgian, (I was just cutting them off) and a conservation adhesive and I will lay these strands perpendicularly across the tear. The reason that I do this is to provide some stability to the tear so that it doesn’t move, and to provide a nice foundation for the fill-in medium which will replace the missing pigment, and generally just to hold the tear together. So it’s slow going and after the strands are laid down, I have to make sure that they’re fully saturated and adhesive, and then I can press them and I’m gonna use a piece of silicone release film and a pad of felt. The release film makes sure that nothing sticks and the felt is just a cushion, and then a steel weight. Next I’m going to be cutting off pieces of Belgian linen for the strip lining and that will go on a new tacking edge. I’m going to fray the edges of this linen so that the edge doesn’t impart upon the face of the painting. If I don’t do that, the crisp edge of the new linen can sometimes show through on the face of the painting. Now here I’m using a conservation adhesive film (it’s iron-on) and then I’m ironing on the new piece of Belgian linen and as I go I use a weight to make sure that… Uh… it uh, dries flat. Cutting off the excess and there you go, the whole thing has been strip lined. In this step I’m gonna start cleaning the painting and the first step is to remove the surface grime. So I’m using a paste that I mix, to loosen up and remove the accumulated surface grime. And that’s dust, dirt, oils, just… grime that’s sitting on the surface of the painting. And I have to remove this stuff first before I can get to the varnish layer, because that layer of surface grime prevents the solvents from penetrating through, and softening up the varnish. If I were to just try using Solvents it would be ineffective, and then I would probably go to a more aggressive solvent and eventually do damage to the painting. So, I’m making my own large swabs because cleaning paintings with q-tips is not effective, and here I will start to remove the surface grime and the old varnish, and you can see it start to come up… there. I work slowly and I work in isolated sections because I like to keep control of what I’m doing. Here, I’m working on metallic letters. I’m using Q-tips because I want to just focus on those letters. Now here I’m squaring up the stretcher. I need to make sure that it’s square before I stretch the painting to it. These little nails are gonna make sure that as I’m handling the stretcher, it doesn’t flex or distort and become parallelogram. So the painting gets laid down onto the stretcher and then I will use steel upholstery tacks to secure it to the stretcher. I use a magnetic hammer and steel tacks. I prefer them over staples for a lot of reasons. I think they’re superior. Some people will debate that with me but this is my studio, So I get to decide on the rules. I like to put the tacks in about an inch to an inch and a quarter apart. I feel like it gives good coverage without over stressing the tacking edge or the stretcher. Sometimes I’ll use a pulling plier to add tension. But in this case, I don’t want to sometimes using my hands. And I can add pretty good tension with just my fingers. I’m gonna clean up the corners and fold over the new Belgian linen and secure it with smaller tacks. I prefer this as opposed to staples or glue. I think it looks nicer and it’s easier to remove in the future I’ll clean up the corners again. Just making it nice and tidy. Then the next step is gonna be cutting new keys for the stretcher. Now, these little wooden wedges are keys and what they will allow me to do is add tension to… the stretcher because the stretchers joints are not glued together… I can insert this key and tap it with the hammer and slowly expand that joint. And if I expand all four joints, I can enlarge the stretcher and add tension. Here, I’m using fishing line and a tack to secure the key so that it doesn’t get lost. If that key falls out, it falls in between the painting and the stretcher bar it will create a bulge and there’s no reason why that should ever be lost. Here I’m using a putty to fill in wherever there was missing pigment. This is necessary because if I don’t fill this in and just go ahead and retouch it, you’ll see that as an indented area and it just won’t look right. I’m removing the excess. All I want is where the missing pigment is to be filled in. And now comes the retouching process, and this is the long, and slow, and time-consuming, tedious work of putting the painting back together. And here I’m using a conservation pigment, and a medium, and I’m just gonna mix my colors and slowly add them to the painting where the color is missing. You’ll notice I’m using a very, very small brush. And I’m going very slowly and I’m just adding pigment where pigment was lost. As a conservator it’s my job to… restore the painting to how the artist envisioned it not to make editorial decisions. So it’s inappropriate for me to glaze in large areas or to add medium where there already is medium. This is again I said, it’s just slow going and uh… methodical, and some days I have to wipe it all off and start over because the light wasn’t right or because I’m not satisfied with the retouching, but the good thing about using archival and reversible pigments is That I can remove my retouching without damaging the artwork. And then finally I will varnish the painting and here I’m mixing the varnish, a combination of matte and gloss varnish with an UV stabiliser that will prevent the varnish from yellowing. And I’m going to brush it on the painting. Generally I prefer to brush my varnish as opposed to spray it, sometimes I do spray. But in this case brush is fine. It gives me a little bit more control. And I just prefer it. There’s no right or wrong way to add varnish. Other than to go evenly and methodically, and to keep in mind that you can always add more varnish when the paintings wet. But removing varnish if you put too much on is much more difficult. So, once the painting is varnished, it is all complete and you can see the… …final product, here! So the clients were really happy with this. I was really happy with it. The painting is now stable, and sound, and uh… …will be good to go for the next 150 years. All the work that I’ve done is archival, so none of it will damage the painting and it’s fully reversible. So if in the future another conservator decides to take my work off and give it a go, It should be pretty easy for them. So thanks for watching. I hope you enjoy it.