Gamblin Oil Painting Ground question

I plan to paint over my old oil paintings and I bought Gamblin Oil Painting Ground to cover them. I never used oil primers before, but I think I followed the instruction pretty closely. I used two coats and let it dry for two weeks (the instruction says one week is enough). The canvases looks and feel quite nice now and everything seems okay when I start painting, but quite soon the surface gets very tacky and it gets pretty hard to move the paint around. It seems to me that Gamsol dissolves the newly applied ground. Is anyone familiar with the problem? Should I try another brand or is it always like this with oil primers? Thanks for any info!

I’m sorry I can’t be helpful, I haven’t used the oil grounds either but have planned to eventually. Have you contacted Gamblin about it?

I love Gambling Oil Ground and have never experienced this issue before on prepared new panels. I wonder if your old oil painting had not completely cured? If it is fat, the oil may still be trying to rise through the ground perhaps? I think it is best to sand down the old painting before applying the ground though I’ve been told that even this is not the best practice.

An explanation could be that the surface takes up some of the oil from the applied ground, that is already quite lean, so when there is not enough binder the film forming is poor, so it cant stand the attack of solvents. It could maybe work better if some pure drying alkyd varnish (not the liquin types) were mixed in.
you can test the primer first on a piece of alufoil or glass.

Sunny, no, I haven’t contacted Gamblin yet. As I never used oil grounds and never even painted on them (always used ready made gessoed canvases or boards) I wasn’t sure if it’s something typical for oil grounds/primers. What confused me was that I found this post about Gamblin oil ground on WetCanvas saying “The paint got tacky sooner than I expected”. I was surprised that the paint should ever get tacky, because I never experienced that with gessoed surfaces unless the painting was half-dry and I started painting over it. Now I plan to test the primer on a piece of glass as Jens Ole Olsen suggested let you know the result.

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Elo, thanks for your input, but no, the old painting underneath is not the reason: some of the canvases were not used at all, I just didn’t like the their rough surface and hoped that with the oil ground on top of gesso I will get more smooth canvases. I tried these canvases too and see the same effect: the surface gets sticky in about 20-30 minutes.

Thanks a lot for the info, I never thought about the chemistry behind the oil ground application. On the one hand it would be strange if the surface could take some oil from the ground, because it was already gessoed (some of the canvases were just gessoed, some had some old paintings on top of gesso, but in both cases such surface should not take any oil from the ground, right?) On the other hand, the ground in the can seemed to be much thicker than I expected after watching Gamblin video, and had even thicker crust om top (could it be that the can wasn’t sealed properly?), so it was pretty hard to apply the ground, and finally I used a bit more of Gamsol to make it thinner. Could that Gamsol be a problem that prevented forming the film?

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Try and make a test with the acrylic gesso on glass or metal, when it is completely dry, it takes long time to get rest water out, then brush, or with the side of a finger, a little water over the surface to see if it sinks in, in most cases I think it will, so linseed and sunflower oil also will. I would also test the oilground itself on glass.

I sometimes apply a very thin coat of a pure acrylic medium over the gesso, and if not, then medium out with a mix of linseed oil and a pure alkyd. The polymerised oil will not sink in or to a much lesser extent, so therefore it is good to have a little in a medium.

Thanks so much again! Actually, I never prepared my own canvases/boards, and don’t have even a regular acrilyc gesso to make a test, but I can order one (or make a test with a ready made canvas). Same about alkyd: I don’t have any, as I normally don’t use any mediums except for applying a little bit of linseed oil to the surface before I start painting, but I will buy some and try to apply over the oil ground and see if it helps. Also, I have a can of Quick Dry medium from Krylon. A friend who gave it to me said that it works perfectly as a varnish, but according to the instruction it can be used between layers. Maybe I can try to spray the oil ground and see if it helps. Thanks again for all the info!

Good Idea to get a gesso primer, There can be a lot of difference between the brands, The one I use is Galeria from WN thats fine.
I dont know about the quick dry medium you refer to, not sure it is a good idea to spray this over the ground with the problems you described.
Gamblin has a pure alkyd medium, dont know how it works, I am going to try, the one I use is an alkyd varnish for boats and sets a bit too fast, however it can be very watery to begin with, wich is nice, I also use it for speeding the drying.
Good to have also an acrylic medium, the one I have is a very buttery medium for making paint, I tried to make a gesso myself but that is not a good idea - too much work and it takes a lot to grind the pigments.

Irina, here is some info that I have on file that came directly from Gamblin:
“If the original oil paint was applied very thinly and the overall appearance is rather dull or matte, you may apply a coat of our Oil Ground right over the top. However, if the surface is either shiny or has unwanted texture, sand it before applying the Oil Ground. In some cases, very little paint needs to be removed to adequately roughen the surface. You may find “buffing out” the shiny areas with fine (#000) steel wool is effective without creating as much pigment dust. When sanding down an old painting on stretched canvas, we recommend placing something firm beneath the area being sanded to avoid cracking the old paint layers.”

I have bought one of your paintings in the past, love it! The particular painting I bought was very shiny and would need sanding first. Also, you implied that you were adding ground to unused canvasses to smooth a surface. According to Gamblin these would also need to be sanded first. Any time I contact Gamblin I get an immediate and thorough response. They also have information on how to maintain the ground if it is not being used regularly.

Thanks for all the ideas, looks like there is a large field for experimenting!

Bobbie, thanks so much for your reply and I’m really glad you still like that button painting! Yes, it’s shiny, mainly because I varnish all my paintings before shipping them, but the ones I wanted to reuse weren’t varnished and weren’t too shiny. Indeed, I skipped sanding, and I will try and do it next time, though I somehow believe that the main purpose of sanding is to avoid adhesion issues. For now I plan to make one more attempt to paint on one of those canvases, and if the issue is still present (and it’s been about three weeks since I applied the ground) I will take a few close up shots of the canvas surface and contact Gamblin about it. Thanks!

Just wanted to post an update: yesterday I tried to paint on one of the canvases I prepared 3 weeks ago and had no issues described earlier. No tacky surface, even a bit of opposite: it turned out to be a bit more sleek than gesso-ed canvases that I usually use. Not sure why it took much longer for the ground to get completely dry, but it finally worked out pretty well. Again, many thanks to everyone for all the information, I learned a lot from this thread!

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Im confident its a solvent that gives you some trouble. On oil base primers use linseed or stand oils to make paint smooth and move across canvas with ease. I hope this will help you⚘

Thanks so much, Stasia! Actually, I don’t use any mediums, just paint straight from the tube, but I do use Gamsol to clean my brushes, and I guess, you are right, it could be the cause of the problem. I know some artists use different kind of oils to clean the brushes too, and I can try that some day. But as I wrote, if I wait long enough (3+ weeks or so), the surface gets perfectly fine, no tackiness or any other issues…

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I’ve used this ground before and had my best luck by applying it with a small sponge roller. I apply it VERY sparingly rolling back and forth, up and down and corner to corner to get it to spread. Again - sparingly. Thin. But covered completely. Originally I used a brush but did not get a surface I liked. Rolled out thin, you still see SOME weave but it is smoother than gessoed canvas and you lose some tooth.
I have never experienced the tacky issue and wonder if it may have been applied thick and not quite ready for painting on.
Good luck. Let us know if you determine the culprit! :slight_smile:

Thanks for the idea to use a roller! I used an old credit card as Gamblin suggested. Anyways, if I wait for about 3 weeks I have no problem with the surface.