Bloom On An Oil Painting and A Disgruntled Art Collector

Plein Air Painting Under the Tuscan Sun in Lucca, Italy
February 23, 2017
Using Japanese Notan Design Principles For Plein Air Painting
May 3, 2017
Show all

Bloom On An Oil Painting and A Disgruntled Art Collector

Finding a happy home for one of my paintings is always a joy. I often receive emails, cards, and notes from happy collectors. That is why a recent phone call from a disgruntled art collector came as such a surprise.

©2010 Lori McNee, A Bit O’Gold, 24×12 oil on panel

In 2000, I sold my very first still life painting which featured a bird. At that time, the art collector saw some something special in this piece and she encouraged me to paint more like it. Well, I listened to her. In fact, I wish I would have kept this little piece because it was monumental to my art career! (I don’t even have a photo record of it!) Since then, I have become known for my still life paintings with birds, and this little painting was the impetus.

Anyway, according to the disgruntled art collector, my painting had deteriorated. Over the phone she explain how the background of my painting had begun to fade.

Here’s where I made THE biggest mistake in dealing with an unhappy customer. I attempted to solve the problem over the phone! Without seeing the painting in person, I made a diagnosis.

After listening to the unhappy art collector explain the problem, I assumed (ASS-U-ME-ed, which make an ASS out of U and Me) that maybe one of the pigments might have been fugitive. (Fugitive pigments can happen with watercolor, oil, other paints, and dyes which are impermanent pigments that lighten, darken, or otherwise change in appearance or physicality over time when exposed to certain environmental conditions, such as light, temperature, humidity, or pollution). Maybe the alizarin crimson had faded, and was the cause of the problem? Therefore, I incriminated myself.

Note to self: Do NOT offer any answers, criticism, or advice until you have the chance to see the damaged painting in person!!!

Luckily (or not), I live in the same proximity as the disgruntled art collector. We made an appointment, and she brought the painting to my studio. Unfortunately, when I welcomed her in she immediately asked for a full refund! I asked her to give me a chance to repair the painting, and she agreed.

In front of her, I inspected the painting. Sure enough, there was in fact a thin milky haze that had formed over a section of the painting surface. Because of my encaustic painting background it looked like ‘bloom’ which is repairable. Bloom is a thin film or haze that often develops during the curing process of an encaustic painting. However, I had never before experienced it with oil painting.

Feeling fairly confident, I assured the disgruntled art collector that I would restore the oil painting back to its original state. I asked her to leave it with me, she agreed.

©2002 Lori McNee, Asian Influence, 40×30 oil on canvas

When bloom develops on an encaustic wax painting, it only takes a light buffing with a soft cloth to return the painting to its original luster. But, I didn’t know how to safely remove bloom on this oil painting.

I quickly did research about bloom on oil paintings. I learned that bloom is often created when oil paintings are either varnished too quickly and moisture is trapped, or when they are cured in a damp environment. Oil paintings can take up to a year to completely dry. This is one reason why we are taught to wait at least 6 months to apply a final varnish.

An example of ‘bloom’ covering an oil painting. Photo from article, The Case of the Ship Lost in a Fog.

After researching this topic, I asked my collector were she had been hanging the painting. She said it was hanging near the laundry room for fear of the dry Idaho climate. Bingo! The moisture from the laundry room had caused the bloom to develop on my oil painting.

I quickly did more research to find a remedy to the problem. I have a buddy who is an art restorer, but I first decided to use Google to solve my problem. I quickly found a few sites that suggested using turpentine to remove the bloom, but that sounded dangerous. I was concerned it would damage the delicate transparent glazes on my painting.

Then, I found a WetCanvas thread that easily addressed the blooming problem! All I needed was a can of 3-In-One-Oil and a lint-free cloth. Sure enough, it did the trick. The oil quickly lifted the haze of bloom right off the painting and restored it to its natural luster.

That same day, my disgruntled art collector ended up with a smile on her face. Phew!

Again, I learned NOT to try and solve the problem over the phone. This was a valuable lesson lesson learned.

What if I couldn’t repair that painting? Well, that’s a whole different blog post.


Here’s a well informed article about Choosing Quality Art Supplies.

Originally published on

Lori McNee Art & Fine Art Tips