Learning from Mistakes

I was hoping this would be a happy “this is what I am doing” post. Sadly I messed up on something and feel I should share it. Hopefully I will not make the same mistake again and prevent someone else from doing the same mistake.

I did two full color puzzle paintings. I painted them in Gouache (goo-ash) for a few reasons.

1. Gouache is opaque. Any guide lines I drew on the puzzle would not show up.

2. It is something I want to practice more with. I usually use acrylic paint; for the puzzles I wanted something that was more opaque and something that I could blend more without over working the cheap cardboard the puzzles are made out of.

The down side of Gouache is that it is still water based. Get it wet (even sweat) will lift the color. Kids with sticky fingers or adults holding onto the puzzle pieces could end up with color on their hands.

I needed to seal the paint onto the puzzles. I cannot use my normal varnish, as it is wet and I would have to brush it on. I needed some spray varnish.

I went to the art store and picked up some Golden Varnish in a spray can. This said is was good to use on multiple types of mediums, including water color. I had some other things that needed to be sprayed, so this would work.

When I got home and got the lid off the can, I took my puzzles outsize and gave them a quick spray. The first one I did was the red one. It was almost all white. The blue one fared much better.

Now I have two puzzles that I cannot really use.

I have some brush cleaner that says it can remove dried on paint. I can see if it will remove the varnish from the puzzles. I put some in a sauce cup and use some cotton swabs to try to remove the varnish. I tried three times, each time the varnish would dry again and go back to white.

On a whim, I use the cleaner all over the red one, then brush some of my normal varnish over it. I hope that the “good” varnish will isolate the white and work some magic. It did not. The red one is now un-salvageable.

The blue one is better. I might be able to salvage it by repainting the background and a few touch-ups on the limbs. I am not sure if I am going to do that. I might just redo both of them and save the blue one for more varnish testing.

If I had stopped and taken a moment to look at the messed up space I would have seen that it was only on the background. The subject was just fine. I could have just put a quick coat of the background colors and tried resealing them.

In the end this is a good lesson.

Prime the spray varnish.  Let a stream of spray out of the  can to ensure that the mix was good. Who knows how long it has been sitting.

Do a test patch with a different item that has similar properties to your actual item.

Stop and look at things if they do mess up. It might be easily salvageable.


A bad varnish job. That I tried to fix three times. Lessons were learned.


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