Thursday, April 5, 2018

Easy Repairs to a Vintage Oil Painting

I'm always on the hunt for vintage or antique watercolor and oil paintings when I'm out at the vintage markets or fleas. Pastorals or landscapes are my favorites, but are getting hard to find. Not to mention, the prices can be pretty steep. So when I happened to spot this canvas a few weeks ago, I grabbed it up.

It was a great price, about $40, but it had a little damage. It wasn't terribly noticeable, but the gouge mark in the main part of the painting was enough to make me think twice. It was just the canvas, sans frame, but I'm still fond of displaying a piece of art on canvas without a frame. That can always come later, if I decide it needs one.

I don't mind a little natural aging, but I'm not fond of displaying damaged paintings. Now the frames are another matter, because I love a little chippy paint and patina on a vintage or antique frame, but not visible damage on the painting itself.

But this was very noticeable to me. 
I had to decide if I could repair or at least minimize the problem area.

Here is the reverse side of the canvas, and you can see it's a smallish puncture of some kind. Not large, but enough that it needed some TLC.

I know these pics are pretty elementary, but I want to show you how easy it was to make a novice repair job. I don't claim that it's perfect. I just want it to not be glaring and the first thing that is noticed. So first I cut a piece of paper that was from an old calendar, about the weight of watercolor paper. 

Then I just covered the whole piece with some packing tape. Any kind of heavyweight tape will work, but make sure it won't get jostled around and come loose.

It doesn't look so hot from behind, 
but no one's looking at that anyway.
(hmmm. that philosophy can apply to more than paintings)

I just mixed up some acrylic paints that sort of camouflaged the area, and then smudged it around. It doesn't have to be perfect, just make it blend in and disguise the damaged and worn spots. That's my shadow, taking the pic if you're wondering what the dark area is there on the right. At this angle the repairs at the bottom right don't look like they match the painting, but when it's in natural light it blends in nicely.

I try to keep a good amount of colors in supply,  so I can mix things up, and do some subtle colors. I've used this technique so many times on so many different pieces. It makes a bargain look so much better. One step that I didn't mention or take a pic of was that when your paint is good and dry, dab on a little Satin Finish Water Based Varnish. I have a bottle of Ceramcoat that I've used a ton of times and I've had it for years. It hasn't dried up, and it comes in handy for these little repairs. It matches the sheen and patina of oil paintings and most dishes and pottery. Not glossy, just a little shine.

For now, I have it setting on the Entry Console. It's not real "Spring-y", but I wanted to have it out, while I'm thinking about where it can go permanently. After Easter, I've not changed things up much yet, just boxed up a few things that were really Easter-ish. I replaced my Easter postcards with Birthday Wishes. Love old postcards; they are little works of art that can brighten any spot or vignette.

Next time you see something with a little damage or noticeable boo-boos, ask yourself if it could be usable if it was just camouflaged a little. You can find some bargains if you think like that. Don't feel like you have to be an artist or great talent, just mix up a little paint and have a go at it. I think you'll be surprised what you can cover up with a little imagination. (and a few bottles of paint)

Hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend...
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  1. This is a fabulous fix. I couldn't tell at all where the problems were. Thanks for excellent instructions all down the line!

    1. thanks Jeanie, it's all about not being noticeable!

  2. Wow, you wouldn't ever know there was a fix! I'll be using this with some of my tattered oil paintings. You always have the best lambs and oils. Hope you enjoyed your Easter too!

    1. thankyou Cathy. I remember a gorgeous oil that was really old, I'd checked on it several times. It had a pretty big gouge but was still expensive. I didn't think it was fixable.

  3. I love old paintings like this. This is an especially nice one. Great job!

    1. thanks J, I thought this was pretty nice as well, sometimes they can be pretty amateurish. (which would happen if I tried to paint one!)

  4. You did a great job! Love your analogy of views from behind. :)
    I need to get my Easter chicks and bunnies put away - you've motivated me! I still have my winter rug in the sunroom, and it looks like I was smart to keep it - we're possibly getting snow this weekend!

  5. What a great tip. I love collecting original landscapes so now I won't pass the damaged ones by.

  6. Debra, I love the canvas and you did a great job of covering up the hole. I have had a bottle of Ceramcoat varnish for years as well. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  7. That is a great fix on a great painting. You are so right, vintage landscapes are so hard to find these days. I used to find them for a dollar.

  8. I love the character of old paintings and what a great idea for repairing the painting!!! Great job Debra!!

  9. You did an amazing job! I will have to remember this fix the next time I come across a painting with a little damage. Beautiful painting :o)


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