My piece in progress, working on Ampersand Gessobord with Terra Cotta Colourfix primer applied, I began working the piece with a thin underpainting of Caran d'Arche Neocolors and water with colored pencil on top. Read below about all my mistakes and how to apply the varnish correctly.
I think I should have titled this post "What Not To Do" because it's what just I've learned. As I've written about in past blog entries, I have been experimenting with different ways of presenting my colored pencil work so that it is varnished and not under glass. I have been admiring Ester Roi's work and her process of glassless framing explained on her blog. Ester uses Golden Polymer varnish with UVLS - Gloss to finish and present her work and I decided to try her method. I read Ester's blog entry a little too quickly and then read the label on the jar of Golden Polymer a little too quickly also, I mixed up the proportions. You mix 2 or 3 parts of the Golden Polymer with 1 part water and I did just the opposite, puzzled by the water-thin varnish and why it was taking 10+ coats to get a nice varnish. My second problem was puddling in areas and my third problem was lots of air bubbles.
In the photo above of my pears which began as an 8x8" piece, I laid the artwork sideways in order to show the problem spot right at the top and center. As I applied the varnish incorrectly, it puddled and left an uneven area which I attempted brush smooth after it had partially dried. However, I hadn't properly sealed the drawing so the pencil smeared when I tried to re-brush the area. Later when it was dry, I attempted to sand the area with a fine sandpaper which only left scratches that I couldn't get rid of (I think you can see them). Frustrated, I called Golden and explained to the representative everything I had done wrong. He sounded mortified and flustered and referred me to the Golden website and the technical information for the product and how to use it correctly.
I learned quite a bit from my flustered Golden rep! First of all, the artwork should be completely sealed with several coats of a non-removable clear, oil based varnish before the Golden Polymer varnish is applied. Part of the reasoning for this is because the Golden varnish is water based and can be completely removed if need be. He also suggested colored pencil use gloss varnish as opposed to matte varnish because matte varnish is porous and provides less UV protection. The rep recommended thinning the varnish with 25% water but I am still experimenting with the percentages as I find if the varnish is too thick, it can be streaky. All in all, I cut off an inch of the pear drawing containing the damaged part and I ended up with a nice, glossy finish on the piece (above).
I'm still having a little trouble getting rid of tiny air bubbles, if anyone has any suggestions please comment. I find varnishing small work is easier to learn on than large work. I recently took one of my older colored pencil drawings on paper, mounted it to Ampersand Clayboard and varnished it in this manner. However, I wasn't careful enough and found a brush hair and some air bubbles on the surface after it had dried. So I took this experimental piece to the sink and was able to wash off the entire layer of Golden Polymer Varnish, let it dry and begin again. Because I had the good coating of oil-based varnish on the drawing, the drawing itself wasn't harmed. I will post it at a later date.
The conclusion: take time to varnish correctly, read all directions, don't rush and be careful!