Each year I receive emails asking if I would consider providing courses in statue repair. I hope this post helps those interested in repairing their smaller plaster figures, and provide some useful tips. The post is written for beginner level.
Please note that this post is advisory only, all decisions taken to restore a statue are in the hands (quite literally) of the person restoring it.
Beginners inform me that they successfully use spackle from the DIY store which they sand to shape when dry. It is something I have never used on statuary myself, part due to my dad having worked with plaster all his life, I inherited his affinity with it, and it has never occured to me to use anything else.
Statues must be cleaned before they are restored. This helps the paint to adhere to the surface.
A variety of different types of paint may have been used on the statue and so caution is required. A warm damp cloth which has a little tooth such as a microfibre cloth can be useful here. Do not over-wet the figure. If paint begins to run, or peel, then halt the process. Stains which are ingrained cannot be removed, and these surfaces can only be improved by re-painting.
Preparation for painting can begin once the surface is dry .
A fine grade sandpaper can be used. Great care must be taken not to flatten off any subtle modelling in the flesh areas, such as toes, and noses.
Before painting, ensure any deposits of dust are removed. This can be done with a soft paint brush. Good preparation is a must for achieving lasting results.
When readers ask me how they might improve their painting skills, I have to reply "Practice and observation". These are key to all artistic practices, the more you do the better your work will become.
Extra attention should be given when it comes to painting eyes well. Beginners can give a statue a startled look by placing the iris too centrally onto the eye ball or "orbit".
Although a depiction of dear St. Winifred about to have her head chopped off, could be considered an exception!
Avoid startled eyes, and those pointing in opposite directions!
Due to the rising trend in crafts and hobbies, there are many paints now available with their accompanying non-yellowing varnishes available on the market. Online art shops provide a wide selection of options. Two paint types to avoid on plaster are watercolours, and in particular oil based or gloss paints. Both would have an adverse affect on the underlying plaster.
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