Painting Out Of Murals – Cleaning off the Overpaint – Art Conservation

The removal process, you can see from the last post, we’re talking about involves the cleaning off the overpaint from the murals that were painted out. This is more than just a cleaning issue: the art conservation and mural restoration of these two paintings will involve removing the overpaint, removing the spackling the painters used to even out the wall (Tacky looking! They didn’t even try to match the texture of the wall), addressing the flaking paint (consolidation and stabilizing it) that was covered over by the paint, properly filling and inpainting losses and then the final protective varnish layers.

I was planning on getting back to this blog the next day after I started the testing of the cleaning of the mural… but here it is several days later. The committee overseeing the survey asked me to add a couple of details to my reports that kept me busier than I had planned.

Tests to restore painted out murals

Testing for removal of overpaint from historic murals

The tests showed me that dissolving off the paint is not possible because the original painting/mural, which was done in acrylic, will dissolve in the process. Also, the texture of the wall complicates the issue of removing the overpaint evenly. Here’s a note for all you mural painters out there: If this mural had been painted in oil and been varnished, cleaning off the overpaint would be MUCH easier (they always paint out murals with acrylic paint) and the mural would be much more easily restored. The technique for overpaint removal will have to be a variation of the technique of swelling the paint then peeling it off. The tests confirmed that this can be done so we are proposing to move forward with the restoration of the murals by Harvey Johnson that were painted out. There are some logistics issues that we also have to consider: using smelly material in the busiest building on campus in the are of the main entrance, working on scaffolding.

So, there you go. The latest scoop on the famous Harvey Johnson murals at TSU. If this project gets scheduled, you’ll be the first to know if you stay plugged into the updates of this blog (click on the RSS button at the top of the page).

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Harvey Johnson Murals Were Overpainted

Murals? What murals?

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Testing the Removal of Overpaint from Murals by Harvey Johnson

I knew that the paint used for Harvey Johnson’s murals was probably acrylic but I wasn’t sure what the original artwork was painted with. It took about 5 minutes to quickly figure out that it too was done in acrylic… about 45 years ago.  Also, I quickly discovered that as I rub with a solvent that dissolves the top layer of paint… I’ll dissolve the original paint too. That’s not good.

Then I tried a citris product that swells the overpaint and I can peel it off like taking skin off of a sunburn! Anyone need a job? I started out with a couple of  2″ x 2″ squares but I’m going to clean off a spot about 12″ x 12″ just to get a good look tomorrow.

TSU has some great paintings an I am really enjoying my week here. This is Scott Haskins, over and out… till tomorrow.

Murals at TSU

A detail of a mural at Texas Southern University.

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There Are Some Great Murals at TSU! Second Day of Survey Underway

So, first off, the whole motivation for the hoopla over the murals at TSU was because a couple of great, historical murals got painted out. I’ll actually be testing those murals (white walls) tomorrow to see if they can be uncovered and how much it will cost. I’ll report on that, with photos, tomorrow. Here’s what the walls look like now…

Murals were painted out here 6 months ago

"What murals? Where?"

I’ve been on campus now for my second day looking at over 100 murals by past students and faculty from over the last 50 + years… and damn! There are some great murals/paintings. Of course there is some student stuff that was done just to get a grade. But there are lots that are very good. And I’m going to show you a bunch of them! In fact, I’m so excited about what I’m seeing, I’m going to make a little video and post it later. Of course, if you are acquainted with Texas Southern University, you’ll know its all art from African Americans (I presume). Most certainly, most all subjects reflect that bias.

TSU MuralsMy purpose, as I have written before, is to determine the condition of all the murals on campus and help the University Museum set priorities for taking care of the collection in the future. Lots of them are in really bad shape. I’ve got “upper level” meetings tomorrow to discuss progress.

Stay tuned. More info to come. Hey! You might be interested to know that I have been using a special black light to help see details that have ether been obliterated or have aged into “invisibility.” For more info, go and click in the navigation bar “UV Blacklight” Here’s a photo of a signature that was totally invisible and it popped right out …

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