Conservation and restoration of a painting is a meticulous process, employing majestic skills and the utmost patience.
The restoration process begins with cleaning the painting and removing any discolored or oxidized paint from previous restorations. The best reconstruction method to use depends on what materials the artist used during painting and how the previous conservator applied technique. If possible, a copy or picture of the original piece should be located and used as a template. If no template is available, other works from the artist can be used as a reference point. other paintings from that period of time can also be used. Traditionally throughout history, oil paints were widely used, yet these paints tend to darken or fade over time. Try to use paints made specifically for restoration.
Extreme care must be taken when removing the varnish because once it is taken off it cannot be replaced. An appropriate solvent must be used to dissolve the varnish. Use and apply your swab carefully-you do not want to remove any paint, only varnish or dirt.It is best to eliminate the chances of any unexpected results by starting with a mild version of solvent and gradually adjusting levels of solvent accordingly. When preserving a piece it is imperative to become familiar with the type of paint the artist actually used, as all paints are different. The majority of the accumulated gunk and grime from the canvas is scraped off using a scalpel and a skilled hand.
Conservators will often utilize a technique called ‘Facing the Painting’. This is the process of applying an adhesive layer of tissue paper. Facing the painting is important for a number of reasons. Facing protects the painting from handling and prevents sliding on the surface of the table during the reconstruction process. It is typically done with Japanese mulberry paper and varnish or washi kozo paper. It also prevents fingerprints on the surface of the painting.
In some cases, such as when a painting must be pieced back together, all of the original adhesive applied to the painting must be removed so it can be fitted for another canvas. When removing old adhesive, a scalpel is often dulled so as not to have too sharp of a blade to scrape the surface. Very little pressure should be applied, just using the weight of the blade should be enough to remove the adhesive. For areas of paint loss result from an abrasion or damage, Calcium Carbonate or a chalk mixture is used as a fill-in. Typically the area of missing paint is overfilled with the mixture and the excess is removed later.
‘Facing the Painting’ is a final stage in conservation, yet must not be overdone. Over time, paintings tend to lose their vibrancy. Retouching or ‘Touching up’ is done in little areas as needed, to restores the piece as closely as possible to the artist’s original vision, ensuring that no harm is done to the piece. Having fewer paint colors is easier for color matching. If you have a palette of 50 colors, one could easily become overwhelmed. A simple palette of five to six colors should be sufficient to match any color required. The piece should then be sealed with a high-quality varnish to finalize and protect the artwork.