42nd Annual Meeting, Workshop Session, May 28, 'Essentials of Inpainting' by James Bernstein.

The Essentials of Inpainting workshop was well attended and greeted by a very welcoming James Bernstein adorned in wonderful kilt regalia. The one day workshop was presented predominantly through power-point presentation with plenty of interaction and discussion with the participants. The main head table was packed with portable workstation blocks holding a huge array of color pigments. The workstations were made from Ethafoam® and were light-weight and versatile. Examples of fillers were also available to examine which emphasized the essence of choice and considerations when thinking about filling and inpainting surfaces.
The day focused on practical application rather than ethical considerations due to time limits and varying contexts that conservators work within. A great booklet full of useful handouts which echoed the content of the presentation was provided from the start which helped prevent excessive note taking and increased knowledge transfer throughout the day. The booklet provided a summary of the content of the workshop; materials, concepts and participants experiences which included preparation, techniques, varying reactions of the choice of media, brushes, study of pigments, paints and their properties, toning and patination and in-painting standards. Complementary material relating to the presentation was included which was thorough in content which really helps with later revision.
James reminded the delegates of the importance of establishing a sense of the character of the object and all layers beneath the paint film need to be evaluated as all these elements effect one another. When thinking about inpainting, wicking and capillary actions need to be controlled and identifying inherent and altered states needs to be deciphered. These were just many of the considerations taken into account when trying to approach inpainting on various surfaces. Good support during treatment application was considered essential to enable good control. Painting sticks, plexi blocks and rolls were other alternatives if working with other substrates. Having a well organized and labeled pigment selection was highly recommended along with strong light and magnification.
Fill material and techniques were discussed and the importance of isolating areas requiring infilling to reduce the risk of leeching of binders. James spent a lot of time explaining the varying techniques to apply fill material to enable good inpainting. I particularly enjoyed learning about the use of cellulose fibers as they were compatible with cellulose materials such as canvas, paper and other organic objects. The material is inert and is easy to remove. Solka-Floc® was used as an example of Microcellulose Purified Cellulose fibers available in varying fiber lengths which can be used with the adhesive/consolidant of your choice. Differing techniques regarding reversibility of inpainting was also discussed such as how the Getty Conservation Institute use tissue overlays as an isolating method and as a form of reversibility. Drying time and shrinkage of fill material was considered an issue; if the fill is not applied well they have a tendency to sink in the center due to the material drying from the outside in, leaving the center to dry last. Applying the fill as thickly as possible will aid in less shrinkage, which is another common challenge with fills. James explained the effects of fill materials on inpainting through a failed project he had completed some time ago which highlighted how an incorrect fill could be detrimental to the inpainting applied. This was a great lesson. James presented all kinds of techniques with regards to good lighting, burnishing and smoothing.
Color and pigments were reported which led to a reminder of the color theory and pigment indexing. It was rather rewarding as a textile conservator to learn James is more fearful of dyes than pigments which really emphasized the complexity of dyed textile substrates in comparison to the complexities of pigmented paint film. The potential for dyes to migrate and bleed is a very real one and control can be difficult. Refraction and transmission of light were covered, as were issues surrounding whites, inerts pigments and black pigments. These can be difficult pigments to manipulate and a comprehensive pigment and particle chart was supplied which included health concerns.
The session progressed onto binders and polymers and the effects of low and high molecular weights with regards penetration. James advised to always check the composition of pigments, just because pigments have been selected for conservation use, it does not mean it is safe. Building up color slowly is essential to help with replication.
When first I realized the amount of information which was being packed into this one day workshop I thought the day would be too overwhelming. I was pleasantly surprised as to how much I actually understood due to the steady and consistent pace James presented his expertise. The handbook was incredibly comprehensive and James is very approachable as an instructor, both not just essential to inpainting but to training and developing.

One thought on “42nd Annual Meeting, Workshop Session, May 28, 'Essentials of Inpainting' by James Bernstein.”

  1. Hi, I was wondering where can one find, if there are, the documents about these seminar. I live in other country and is always difficult to assist to any of the seminars, so I was looking for papers that I can read afterward!

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