Fine Art Conservation – The Retouching Process Narrated

Fine Art Conservation – The Retouching Process Narrated


In this video I’m going to be focusing solely on the retouching process now, this painting arrived into the studio very dirty with surface grime, old varnish, a massive tear through the sitter’s face and a lot of old retouching which you can see here as a large brown mass on his, uh- the right side of his face. With the retouching removed you can see the extent of the damage and just how excessive the old over-painting was. I suspect that the old over-painting which was done in oil not only had darkened as it oxidized but was probably color matched to a dirty painting, which is why it was so brown. Now, for the retouching that I’m going to be doing; I will be using a conservation pigment made by the Maimeri Company and unlike oil paint this pigment is different. It has no oil in it. So, it does not oxidize it does not harden to the point of not being removable It’s light-fast and with the appropriate solvent, it can be removed very easily without running the risk of doing any harm to the painting So when approaching retouching there are really two styles of retouching that I do one of them is called the mimetic technique and that’s where the conservator tries to reintegrate the the damage into the painting. So recreating the elements of the image that are lost so that at the end of the retouching process the damage is not visible and the other technique is called I think it’s called a ragazzini or ragazzo. It’s Italian and my Italian is non-existent And that’s a technique whereby the damage is camouflaged, but not made to disappear And it’s done by using a lot of little dots or little hash marks of similar colors but not really blending and that’s a technique that’s really common in museums, or for pieces where the damage is so extensive that you just couldn’t possibly recreate the image without being the author of the image yourself Now most of my clients choose to do the mimetic technique and most of them own these paintings, love these paintings and do not wish to see them damaged and so the mimetic technique allows me to kind of reintegrate the damage and put the piece back to how it should have looked prior to any damage. I have done ragazzini/ragazzo technique many times. It’s something I enjoy but, by and large, my clients prefer to have a mimetic technique so once we’ve decided upon the style of retouching that we’re going to do, we have to then start thinking about the actual retouching and in this case There is a lot of missing content – basically half his face is gone If this were a known artist – this painting is by an unknown artist I would be able to maybe even reference this painting prior to damage in a catalogue résumé or in an old exhibition catalogue Maybe there’s a photograph or a daguerreotype or an etching version of this painting that I can use as source material if not I would look at the artist’s other body of work and see how they executed other portraits; see what colors they used, how they handled their brushwork and other idiosyncrasies of their style. If I don’t know the artist, like in this case, I will start to refer back to my library and look at other mid 19th century portrait painters and try to get an idea of what the style of the time was. That can be really helpful when you’re trying to replace or retouch costume, clothing or scenery, less so with faces because every face is unique and so there’s not really a guide or a “how to”. So in this case, I have to use the actual painting as my guide so I’m using the surrounding colors of the of the sitter as my guide for what colors I mix and eventually I will start to use The skeletal form of the head and the other eye as a guiding factor But the first step is really just to start laying down some color and blocking out the damage And this is not meant to be very precise or very accurate It’s just meant to allow my eye to start to see the painting as a whole and not see the damage I will layer and layer and layer in various intensities and opacities, some of these layers will be more transparent than others and slowly build up what I think looks correct. Now in this section of the video, I’m going to start rebuilding the eye Eyedeally if I had a photograph of the painting before the damage, I would be able to work from that If I had a catalogue résumé or an exhibition catalogue, that would be just as good But in this case we did not have a photograph Now if I knew who the artist was, unlike this painting which is unsigned, I would be able to reference their other work and see how they executed eyes in other portraits Maybe take a look at the way they handled their brush: the direction and the brush marks the way they laid down paint all aiding in trying to rebuild the missing content Again, in this case we don’t know who the artist was. So that’s not possible So I took a look at my library and a look at mid 19th century portrait painting to get an idea of how How portraits are painted. What was on trend? What was the style? In this case, it wasn’t very helpful because every face is idiosyncratic That technique is really more applicable to recreating clothing or scenery, or other objects that were lost You know, sometimes you can reference another similar portrait. Things were very in style, you know, maybe a certain type of flower was used a lot or a piece of fruit. So in this case, I’m really just using the surrounding painting, particularly the other eye, as a reference point and I will slowly start to build up the paint putting on layer upon layer just like I did before This is a little bit more detailed and intricate – a little bit more fun but it’s really no different than the other parts of the painting, and in some of the comments people have said that the eye isn’t quite right for them. They’ve said that the shape isn’t right, the color is not right or whatever the case may be and those are all perfectly valid opinions. Unfortunately, they don’t really matter. The only opinion that matters is that of the client. And if my client feels like the work that I’ve done is excellent and great and they’re happy with it, then that’s fantastic If the client feels like the work is not up to par, or kind of misses the mark for them- the benefit of using conservation pigments is that I can remove them very easily with a solvent that won’t run the risk of damaging the painting. So if my client says “Well, no, Julian. He had one green eye. This is totally wrong.” I can wipe it off. If I’m in the process of retouching and I come back the next day and I decide that my color matching was off or something isn’t quite right: I can wipe it off and start again. It’s frustrating for sure, but it’s one of the benefits, and sometimes it’s necessary. There are certainly days when the light isn’t quite right, or I’m not focused enough and I come back the next day and I have to start again and being able to remove this pigment without damaging the painting underneath is a huge benefit one that just can’t be had with oil paint. So again, I’m just slowly building up the shape of the eye and working from the other eye and trying to get an idea of what it should look like, what I think it’s gonna look like, and just trying to put the the image back together. One thing that people always ask me about is color matching and how I can be so good at it and you know I say “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and have been making art and handling art for long before that” So there’s a lot of practice in it and there’s nothing like practice to make you better at something. But I will often relate what I heard about the way a dog sniffs things, the way the dog smells the world. If you give a dog a chocolate-chip cookie, the dog will simultaneously smell the cookie as a whole and also the sum of the parts. That is, the dog will smell the chocolate-chip cookie and the dog will smell the chocolate chips, the flour, the butter, the baking soda, even the salt and so when I see a color, I see the kind of cream-orange color that I just applied but I also see the titanium white, the alizarin crimson, the- cadmium yellow that needs to be mixed in. So, I’m able to see the color as the final product and the process of getting there. So it’s like seeing the destination and the journey at the same time. Now a minute ago you saw me wipe something on the surface of a painting and that was a cotton ball saturated with an odourless mineral spirits. And the reason that I do that is much like the reason that an oil painter would oil out the surface of a painting prior to applying another layer of paint. The Maimeri pigments- one of the downfalls is that they dry matte very quickly and the painting will not be matte. It will be varnished, and so, the appearance of the paints, the Maimeri pigments, when they’re matte is different than when they are varnished and of course, I want to match the colors as the painting is going to look like when it’s varnished. So to simulate the application of varnish I can wipe on a little bit of mineral spirits and it kind of saturates those Maimeri pigments. it saturates the colors of the original oil paint and it allows me to see what the painting will look like when that varnish is applied so that my color matching will be accurate. Other people would recommend using oil because it doesn’t evaporate as quickly but oil is not a good thing for me to be using on this painting. It will oxidize and it will darken and it will then betray all the hard work that I’ve done thus far. So something like the eyebrow, there’s a lot of color that goes into it and a lot of that color might even get completely covered up but there’s no shortcuts. You just have to work your way through it and slowly build up the color to what you want. If you just try to jump to the end it’s gonna look very flat. And so you have to kind of add layer upon layer and earn your way to the destination, as opposed to trying to just cut in line or cheat your way. So here- another perspective of the palette I’m using- let’s see, I have: one two, three, four, five six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven pigments on the palette, and I think I’m only using maybe eight or seven of them. You know, you don’t need a big palette of dozens upon dozens of colors. You just need to know how to mix color So keep a limited palette if you’re an artist and don’t, don’t go out and buy fifteen different versions of flesh color just learn how to mix the flesh color. You’ll be better off for it. Here again I’m just trying to work that color, make sure that the pigment that I add is appropriate and you’ll see that I- mix a little bit of color, I apply it mix a little bit more color, apply it and one of the benefits of that is that each time I go to mix a color It’s slightly different than the color I mix before and you may think that that would be frustrating or a problem but that’s actually good because if I mixed one big vat of color and just applied it to the area on the forehead where the damage was it would be very flat. So all of those subtle variations give depth to the retouching. And finally coming to the sideburn, again, I was lucky to have the other sideburn to reference. But this was a really fun part of the retouching process because, while the majority of the face the brushwork is pretty innocuous and not very defined, this was an area where the brushwork would really make it or break it. So I got to play around with how I was applying the pigment, the orientation of the brushwork, the width the brush hit the canvas and just be a little bit more creative in simulating the sideburn texture and hair and that just about wraps it up for the retouching on the face. And here we will come to the final painting with the retouching completed and the varnish applied. I think it turned out great and I’m excited to give it back to my client. I do have a full one-hour real-time video of this process. If you’re curious what that looks like or maybe you have insomnia and you need something to put you to sleep. Anyhow, thanks for watching. I hope you enjoyed.

100 thoughts on “Fine Art Conservation – The Retouching Process Narrated

  1. Why is the Video Description in German though? And was it done by Google Translator? ๐Ÿ˜€ Not judging btw, if there ever was the Need to find a Translator id totally help out ^^

  2. I guess retouching tecnique you mentioned is "Rigatino" instead of "ragazzini/Ragazzo" . Or might be something similar to rigatino

  3. >Or maybe you have insomnia and need something to put you to sleep
    What a rude callout… but seriously great work and I love watching your videos to calm down for sleep. Its so relaxing and staisfying to see a painting come back to life.

  4. I donโ€™t have insomnia but your narration of your process put me on a more relaxed state. Lol. A good side benefit.

  5. Him: so for any artists out there, keep a limited palette
    My broke ass: only has the primary colours, black and white check!

  6. I think with restoration the job isn't recreating the artists work but getting the piece back to being whole for the client and ensuring the artists work is preserved enough so their vision is intact.

  7. Looking at the end result, youโ€™d never guess the painting had ever been damaged! This is really really excellent.

  8. You really messed up here. The lateral incisions of your bilateral horizontal is just subpar in relation to your surrogate application of the iteration of linear geography in a substitute of molecular matching of the localised expression given in this combination of the visceral expression therein.
    Shame on you!

  9. That sideburn is off by quite a bit. Look at the line from the nose down the cheek to the chin on the right of his face, then look at where you stopped yours. It's way off.

  10. I think people might be responding to the angle of the eyes not so much that they do not fit. I feel it is a beautiful restoration.

  11. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

  12. "You might dislike the way I do this part of the painting."
    Why'd you have to suggest that! Now I can't unsee it.

  13. "Or maybe if you have insomnia and you need something to put you to sleep" he says as I lay awake at 5 am day 3 of no sleep ๐Ÿ˜€

  14. No. Thank you. Yes. I did enjoy watching. You're brilliant! I don't have insomnia, but your voice does help me sleep.

  15. Wow that bit on insomnia at the end really spoke to me, Iโ€™ve just fallen into a rabbit hole of YouTube and ended up here

  16. I just still think, that the new eye is almost twice the size of the left eye.. Sorry, byt it should have been smaller to match.

  17. I wouldn't be able to sleep – even though I was tired – because this is fascinating to watch. What an amazing work!

  18. Actually your care and respect towards the piece of art you are restoring induces a great sense of peace. And that helped me many times to get into sleep. Thank you so much for being as you are and acting as you do.

  19. The right eye is just terrible.he has had to ask a painter to redraw it. Its just like the portrait character is back from an eye plastic surgery.

  20. I kept thinking one of the small cracks on the nose was a hair on my phone, i kept trying to blow the hair off my phone to realize it wasnt hair XD

  21. I can't believe none of the comments seem to be mentioning the sad fact that we don't know who painted this… It was obviously a great painter and more works by him or her probably exists somewhere out there, but they are never going to get any recognition and their name and legacy is forever forgotten in history now. Hopefully one day some little piece of evidence turns up to tie this artwork to a name, otherwise would be such a shame.

  22. Am I the only one that thinks the "before" eye was better….as shape than the new eye? also the eyebrow is a little too long…..and he should have streched the pink from his cheek a little more close to the eye ….because it looks really pathy as the way it is now….

  23. I know restoration and painting are very different, but have you ever made any original work? That would be interesting to see.

  24. Your videos are so enjoyable that it's easy to just go from one to the next and not give a thumbs up. But if I watch a few then realize I've missed doing so I will go back and correct that mistake. Because you've spent so much extra time moving the camera and allowing clear shots in silence so as to create pristine videos, the least a person can do is a thumbs up. It costs nothing and lets you know your camera work and editing is appreciated. Anyhow thank you for sharing.

  25. itยดs "rigatino", not "ragazzini". It comes from the word "riga" which basically means "line" or "stroke".

  26. " and those are all perfectly valid opinions, uh, unforunately though they don't really matter." straight savage bro

  27. ุนู…ู„ูƒ ู…ู…ูŠุฒ ู„ูƒู† ุชุนุชู‚ุฏ ุงู†ูƒ ุชุจุงู„ุบ ุจู…ุฏุญู‡ ูˆุงู„ู…ูุชุฑุถ ุงู† ุชุชุฑูƒ ู„ู…ุชุงุจุนูŠูƒ ุญุฑูŠู‡ ู†ู‚ุฏู‡

  28. "… Or maybe you have insomnia and need something to put you to sleep."
    How does he know how I found him ๐Ÿคจ๐Ÿคจ๐Ÿคจ๐Ÿคจ๐Ÿคจ

  29. Greetings, this is Reverend Glen Horn from Pensacola, Florida. I have always loved old renaissance paintings. You have done awesome, amazing restoration to 200 hundred and three hundred year old paintings. It is amazing what life comes forth when you do this restoration to these old masterpieces. May God richly bless your work man. You are a great blessing to the owners of these masterpieces. You are a great and a very fine young man dude! Take care

  30. this was the first video of julien's i had watched, and then in january i got in a car accident and was home bound, and my mother decided we were going to start water coloring and let me tell you, after learning the basics of an art or any kind of painting, you really realize how much julien does. watching this the first time i thought what he did was a little extra, and now? in short i really appreciate all the work he puts into each one of his restorations.

  31. Ok…sry bt not looks flawlessly restored…need still some work…eye isn't look promisingly restored…sry bt it needs sm more attention…!!!
    Again sir…appreciating yo wrk n efforts n knowledge bt still…!!!

  32. Plz. Observe carefully at 5:44…size of eyes differs frm ech other…!!!sry…not proportionate…again sir u r gr8…not showing mistake bt seen cnt b unseen…sry if u hurt sir…!!!๐Ÿ™

  33. In my opinion, the sideburn is not exactly the proper shape, instead of being so rounded, it has more of an uplited hook. As or the left eye. I am certain that it might be acceptable to the untrained eye, but I am sure you missed the mark on the shape of the iris and position of the pupil. And then if I were to be rather picky, the eyelashes were also off. At a glance I noticed it was off. Perhaps the left eye is also too brown in relation to the right. From what I have seen of your work, you could have done a better job on this restoration. But that is just from my own perspective and opinion.

  34. I fell asleep to this last night and dreamt I was restoring it and telling a coworker that it didnโ€™t need a lining canvas and how it would take away from the original piece

    Iโ€™ve been watching these too much

  35. It's true, I watch these to fall asleep but I find myself so interested I keep waking back up. Love these videos.

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