This old fabric sample is slowly revealing its secrets.
Using a digital microscope, I was able to closely example the cracked paint surface and actually see the different layers of paint and dope that have been applied over the years. It’s surprisingly complex.
Most of the sample as you see it here was not painted at all. The brown-colored areas are only coated with three semi-transparent layers. The bottom layer, clearly a transparent dope of some sort, is slightly yellowish. The next transparent layer looks like glass and is a sort of green/yellow color. On top, which is giving it most of its color, is a brown layer that is still semi-transparent. I don’t know which of these are true “dope” or which may be some sort of a clear coat. It’s also possible that one or more of these layers may once have had some sort of unstable pigment in them, which has since disappeared. I will have to do some real chemical analysis I think if I want to dig any deeper into their composition.
Along the edge of the sample is a dark stripe, some parts look dark brown/black and others are blue. I call it the blue stripe, just for ease of reference. It has two more layers than the main section of the fabric, and these layers are opaque paints.
The lower layer of paint, sandwiched between the bottom-most layer of dope and the glass-like green/yellow layer is sky blue in color. It may not have been well mixed as I’ve seen some spots that appear white as well, but so small that they must have been irregularities in the paint rather than intentional marks.
The other pigmented layer is a forest green. It lies between the glass-like green/yellow layer and the top-most brown layer. Where the brown sits over the green it makes a color that looks like coal or graphite.
The final irregularity is that I have found some areas where the green paint is absent, although the blue is still there. I need to map these out at some point in order to determine if it seems to be an intentional pattern or just sloppily-applied paint.
If anyone knows of a way I could tell the age or origin of these paints, or better differentiate between paint and dope, please do let me know.