Thursday, June 28, 2012

Panel Making

For some time I've been experimenting with panel making to support oil paints. I thought I had a good process down but still had a few questions. As I am using Golden products, I turned to their technical support to help me out.

. . .

Here is my query to Golden Technical Support:
I am making panels for oil painting only--no other media. I begin with masonite which I lightly scuff and then apply two coats of GAC 100, then two coats of Acrylic Gesso and finally a few coats of Sandable Acrylic Gesso. My goal is to achieve a smooth surface and I'm pleased with my initial results.

I do have a few questions that I hope you can answer:

-- For oil painting only, should I still first use GAC 100 or can I start right off with Acrylic Gesso?

-- If I should use GAC 100, would GAC 500 work just as well. (I am interested in the self-leveling property.)

-- Do I need to use Acrylic Gesso before applying Sandable Acrylic Gesso? I seem to remember reading that in one of Golden's guidelines for use but cannot now locate it. From what I can find I do not need to use regular gesso before applying sandable gesso.

-- Can I tone Sandable Acrylic Gesso with dry pigments? I have toned the Sandable Acrylic Gesso with a raw umber aquaeous dispersion from Natural Pigments and that seemed to work well. I later read that Golden recommends toning with acrylic paint. I'd like to be able to use my collection of dry pigments if that is possible.
. . .

And here is Golden's reply:
We are not fans of hardboards, generally speaking. 'Hardboard' is the general term for what used to be called masonite, which was a brand of hardboard, not produced anymore, to my knowledge. Hardboards are made with wood dust and a variety of ways of getting them to stick together. Some use resins, some use polymerized oils, etc. The main issue has to do with moisture sensitivity. We think that either Birch Plywood or MDO Plywood are better choices, and that either of those panels would have better dimensional stability. Having said that, many artists are still using hardboards of various sorts. It is possible that certain types are more stable than others, but we do not have that information.

You do not need to be concerned with SID or support induced discoloration if you are painting with oils, so the GAC 100 or another stain blocking primer is not required for that reason. The other reason for using GAC 100 is to block oil absorption into canvas, but I doubt this is a concern with the hardboard. We still like the idea of some kind of separation or primer, and you could use a commercially available one such as Kilz, in either the alkyd or water borne variety, or you could use GAC 100. The newly re-formulated SHG does not require a coat of Gesso first, so you can apply it directly over the GAC 100 ( or 500 if you like, in this instance ), or commercial stain blocking primer.

Yes, assuming you can get the dry pigments to disperse well, you can use small amounts to tint the SHG. Too much may make the mixture have a higher propensity to crack or craze upon drying. The reason we recommend acrylic paints is because dry pigments tend to clump and it is difficult to get then dispersed and homogenized in the material, without using a paint mill or special mixing machine. But, if you feel it is working for you, then by all means go ahead.

Our Sandable Hard Gesso tech sheet is found when you put your cursor over 'Products", then click on 'Gessos and Grounds'. Here it is:

I hope this information is helpful, and if you have more questions, please don't hesitate to call or email.
. . .

My follow-up responses:
I finally found the reference to first applying regular gesso before sandable--right on the label. So for now I'll stay with my process until I pick up a new jar of sandable gesso.

I hear you on the dry pigments. I suppose I could try to premix pigment with gesso using a palette knife or muller on my grinding glass but I'd be going against the quick drying nature of the gesso. All this instead of a little squeeze of acrylic paint...
. . .

I'll be documenting my adjusted panel making in a later post. I have plywood to cut and a proper color of acrylic paint to select. I've learned that even with an established process, it must be revisited to keep up with product changes.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A little more work

Some time ago I wanted to compare the relative yellowness of various oils. Additionally, I duplicated the comparison so as to keep one in sunlight, the other darkened. While building these samples I really didn't pay attention to the thickness of applied oils, making my test a bit skewed. But, the difference between light and dark is more significant than I would have imagined.

After a good start over a week ago, I'd slipped away from my brushes. At this point I'm simply blocking in with minimal form and detail.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Back to copy work

I've been in a painting slump, some charts and mulling and such but without any real painting. I was recently lucky enough to be called out on this by a couple of dear friends, both who know that discipline leads to accomplishment. In that spirit, I've turned back to Old Master copy/study work.

I'm working with Meléndez's Still Life with Oranges, Honey Pots and Boxes of Sweets.

Still Life with Oranges, Honey Pots and Boxes of Sweets
Luis Mel
A scan from the book "Luis Mel
éndez Master of the Spanish Still Life"

Yesterday I began by trimming a masonite panel. The original painting is 19" tall but I scaled it down slightly to fit an 18" panel. I applied Golden's GAC 100, Gesso and finally Sandable Gesso toned with an umber aqueous dispersion. I like starting with a toned surface and the sandable gesso allows me to work up a reasonably smooth finish.

Here I've dropped in a background of ultramarine and burnt umber for a rich black and set initial values for the table. Working on a toned surface allowed me to use titanium dioxide Saral. I find it applies much easier than the graphite Saral.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Exploring PR264

I've been checking out my newly mulled Irgazine Ruby. I tried stringing out the pigment with Lead White and Raw Umber Dark. For previous charts I've created lower values with black but recently read that dark umbers might pull less of a hue shift with yellows, oranges and reds.

I used a heavily umber-laden mix for those deep shadows in the rose petals. I also applied lots of glazing as well, finding real joy in slowly laying in transparent glazes of studio oil mixed with aged linseed. This might be too fat a medium and I'll be looking into glazing recipes. It's all new to me at this point.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Extending my palette

I am taking the leap into a few high chroma pigments in oil. It's not that I need an intensely high chroma color but that I want a higher chroma's ability to mix into an extended range of colors. To that end I first tubed up Viridian, a lovely blue-leaning transparent green.

Next I mulled Ultramarine Blue. My usual procedure is to first mix oil and pigment on a glass grinding plate with a palette knife. Once the materials combine I turn to the muller. With this pigment, mulling caused the paint to become runny. You can see that effect here--the pile on the left is palette knife mixed whereas the pile on the right has been subsequently mulled. I then went back and added dry pigment to firm up the mix.

According to what I've read, Ultramarine Blue is often allowed to "sweat", that is to let rest for a week or two as it again softens up. More pigment is added and remulled. This process may continue for more than one round to fully develop this paint. I have my mix in a cat food can sealed with plastic wrap, which I'll check back on in a few days.

Here's a batch Irgazine Scarlet PR255 underway. This pigment is documented as having a granular nature that requires extra breaking down with the muller and that was experienced here. I had to apply extra pressure on the muller to quicken the breakup of obvious clumps.

I forgot to grab a picture before tubing but the scraped palette still shows the intense cool red of this Irgazine Ruby PR264. Makes me think I have the beginnings of a split primary palette.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Have you seen this recent ArtPlantae Today article? Congratulations to my friend Valerie Littlewood! Her work as an artist, designer and educator comes together naturally as she entertains and educates us in the ways of bees and their ecological importance.

I first discovered Val's work with her leaf a day botanical illustrations from Leu Gardens in Orlando. See her past and recent work on the wonderful Pencil and Leaf blog.

Again, congratulations Val for well deserved recognition as ArtPlantae's featured guest artist!

p.s. Her cards, prints, book and original artwork available via the Waving Bee Press site.