What to Do When a Painting Won't Dry and You Have a Deadline

Double Panel Painting for the ACE Hotel
Call Gamblin Artist Colors helpline. Too simple an answer, right?

If you've been reading my blog then I've been talking about a recent commission I completed for an interior design firm. The commission was to paint 4 double panel paintings for the new ACE Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was a dream job except for one thing - the deadline ... a really, really tight deadline.

I paint in oils and the beauty of working with oils is that they dry slowly which allows me to make lots of changes if I need to. That's usually a plus except for when there's a deadline - a tight deadline.

Solution - add a speed dryer to the paint. Which one though? There are plenty to choose from. I chose to use Gamblin's Galkyd Lite because it would speed the drying time to 24-30 hours and retain brushstrokes. Sounds ideal, right?

What I didn't plan on happening was a change in our normal dry, sunny Southern California weather. The month I was working on two sets of panels we experienced a cold snap accompanied by rain. We really need to rain and I was happy to see it however, I knew it would slow the drying time of the paintings. I just didn't know how much it would slow their drying time.
Double Panel Painting Installed in the ACE Hotel

Answer - a lot. Both sets of panels weren't dry at all in 24-30 hours or 36, 48 or 72. Panic.

Now if I was at a plein air event and the panels actually fit inside my car I would "car bake" them. Something many artists do that work the plein air circuit (Can you believe there is such a thing? Well, there is.) What they do is put a wet painting into a hot, sunny car to "bake" it dry. Heck, I've see a buddy of mine line up paintings on his dashboard and "bake" a whole batch!

But these panels I worked on were approx. 60" x 24" each. I do have a big "soccer mom" car but it's not big enough to hold all the panels I finished.

I decided to do the next best thing I could think of. I borrowed two space heaters from my brother-in-law, cleared out my kids bathroom (They don't really need a bathroom, do they?), put the panels inside the room, cracked a window and closed the door. After a few days when they still weren't dry and the deadline was looming I called Gamblin's helpline. Yup, they have a helpline and it rocks!
Panel Packed and Ready to Ship

The gentleman I spoke to was a wealth of knowledge about paint and painting materials. He asked me a lot of questions about what paint colors I used, how much medium I used, what surface I was working on and what the weather was like. After learning which colors dry more slowly than others (turns out titanium white is the slowest) he confirmed that I was doing the right thing. He said keep the air circulating in the room, heat it up, wait and in another day or two they would turn the corner and be dry enough to varnish (which I need to do before shipping them). I also learned that silicone parchment paper won't stick to oil paint - in case I needed to wrap slightly tacky paintings in paper and then ship them, which thankfully, I didn't have to do. He did suggest that next time I use straight Galkyd just to be safe.

Did I meet my deadline? Yes, I did and just in the nick of time too.

What about you, have you ever had to speed dry a painting? how did you do it? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.


Great post Kim. I shared around for those who may find themselves in the same boat:)
Congratulations on ACE Hotel commission and the panels are just beautiful!!
I have baked a few paintings in my car! Congratulations on your commission.