In the Beginning

In 1975 as a senior undergraduate student at Siena Heights University I did a number of large hyper-realistic oil paintings. The painting shown above entitled “Cosmic Sardines” sat idle in my parents, and later my basement for 45 years. I recently decided to donate the painting to my (first two years) undergraduate alma mater, Monroe County Community College. I have a special place in my heart for MCCC because in 1971 shortly after beginning my freshman semester, I was encouraged and then decided to become an art major, which set the professional career path for the rest of my life. Years earlier I’d donated another large hyper-realist painting to the college’s permanent art collection and thought this would be a nice companion piece.

Repairing the Damage

Unfortunately, the years were not kind to the painting. It had acquired two large tears in the canvas. One in the cloud to the left of the sardine can and another larger tear about 4 inches above the key on the right. Needing some guidance I spoke with some other artists and then turned to Youtube for a tutorial. I learned of several different approaches to fixing a ripped canvas. I chose to repair the tears with raw canvas and acrylic gesso. Turning the painting upside down on an inexpensive clean plastic painting tarp I purchased at Lowes, I cut raw canvas patches slightly larger than the ripped canvas. I then applied a liberal amount of gesso to both the back of the painting and the strip of cut canvas. After sticking them together I took a bunch of heavy books and placed them on the areas I’d just mended. This is to assure the canvas and repair strips are securely fastened. The next day I applied more gesso to completely seal the canvas patches to the back of the painting. Since part of the process includes applying pressure to the gessoed patches, when I turned the painting over the white gesso had bled between a quarter to a half inch on either sides of the now repaired painted canvas. That required color matching.


Believe it or not I remembered the colors I’d used over four decades earlier to create the background blue and clouds of the sky: Windsor & Newton Titanium White, Cerulean Blue and a hint of Paynes Grey. When I originally painted back in the ’70s I’d used a traditional oil painting medium comprised of three equal parts: turpentine, linseed oil and damar varnish. However I was going out on a limb since now, in order to avoid stinking up the house with turpentine (my studio is in my home’s basement) I have switched to Royal Talens water-based oil paints. They are true oil paints but have no odor and clean up with soap and water. Royal Talens offers their own medium which I used (another option is Walnut oil). I was happy to see that my water-based oils had exactly the same properties of the traditional paints I’d used, and once applied were identical to the original colors. Also, fortunately the painting had never been varnished so the texture blended in perfectly to the original background.

Now you be the judge. Can you see where I repaired the painting?

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