Surface prep, laying out a composition, show update

Studio2016Jul11_schnackel

Work in Progress, 48 x 36 inches, © Cindy Schnackel, 2016

Today, I took four large canvases and four small & medium sized panels outside to prepare for painting. While I was working on the others, the first big canvas was drying so that I could start to lay out the painting shown in progress in this photo. (I won’t tell you what it’s going to be, you’ll have to wait until it’s done and I and the gallery it’ll be in start to promote the show this September.)

 

Sealing wood panels

Most panels need to be gone over lightly with sandpaper, wiped clean of sanding dust, and sealed. Our hot dry air makes things dry SUPER fast, so sealing requires working fast, resisting the temptation to brush back into it, and usually watering down the medium. If it’s cool and humid where you’re working, it may not need to be thinned at all.

I sand off any sharp edges, splinters, etc. It only takes a few seconds because most store bought artist panels are pretty nicely made.

One panel manufacturer, Ampersand, recommended Golden’s GAC as a sealer. (I only use acrylic paints; if you use oils, you may need a different product.) The panels were wood and masonite/hardboard type. I seal them with a large flat soft brush and Golden’s GAC100 or GAC 200 which are both multi purpose acrylic mediums that make good sealers. You can roll it on, and if your roller makes bubbles, have a damp, wide, soft brush handy to lightly flatten them before the GAC starts to dry. Once you find a roller type that works good for you, you’ll be able to avoid most unwanted textures etc, from rolling, like bubbles.

GAC 100 is more flexible, seems like the brush strokes float out better, but it is a bit tacky like acrylic paint when dry. Eventually it does seem to lose the tacky feel but can take weeks. GAC 200 is only recommended for rigid surfaces; it dries fast and without tackiness. I can, and did, get along with just 100. But now that I’ve had 200, I have found uses for it that will keep me buying both.

I find that most mediums like GAC can be thinned with a little water so the brush strokes float out and it doesn’t dry quite so fast. But, because water can raise wood grain, I may save the thinned coat for last.  If necessary, I sand lightly between coats. The first coat is most likely to ‘pull’ at the brush. Subsequent coats go more smoothly and level out nice.

Preparing Canvases

Eventually, I’m going to get around to stretching raw canvas on some stretcher bars I have, but this is about store bought, ‘ready to use’ canvases. They ARE ready to use, especially with acrylics, but many artists–like me–prefer to add a second gesso coat of their own.

The manufacturer’s gesso IMO still leaves them too rough and absorbent, too textural, for any of my detailed work. So, unless I’m going to do a palette knife painting right away, or am doing something where that canvas texture is really wanted, I put another coat of thinned gesso on them. Since I don’t need that coat to be all that opaque I may mix in some acrylic medium. Acrylic medium alone makes a good second coat if all you want is a smoother surface. I have used fluid matte medium, too. Whatever I have that gets the job done! The brushes don’t drag so much or leave ‘holidays’ when I give it a second coat before starting a new painting. ‘Holidays’ are those annoying little areas that the brush skipped and left white.

I usually brush on the gesso, but sometimes I roll it. I actually don’t mind the subtle ‘orange peel’ texture of some rollers. Like with sealing panels, even if you roll, you might want to have a wet brush handy to smooth out anything that needs it or even add an all over brushy texture. I tend to start in the middle with a big puddle and spread it out quickly to the edges. Look at it at an angle to see the light shining off the surface, to see where you’ve been, any missed spots or drips.

Acrylic gesso comes in white, black, clear, tinted, and even gold! You can tint it yourself with a little acrylic paint. Makes it easier to see where you’ve been, plus it can be nice to start a painting that’s already on a toned ground, as that can be part of your background color. I’ve used white, black, and clear gessos. Clear is kind of gritty and you can draw on it, and even layer drawn with painted elements.

Some brands of gesso are thin enough to just use out of the jar. Others are almost like paste, and unless you need paste, thin it out a bit with water. People have preferences for brands, due to how toothy or smooth they are.

There are even sandable versions.

Here’s how I laid out the painting. I’d like to hear how you lay out your paintings, too.

There was some dark blue thin acrylic glaze from a previous painting, that needed to be used up before it dried up. Using that and a large-ish round brush, I just started drawing the scene I vaguely had in mind. More ideas came up as it progressed. A wet rag was a handy eraser, for any unwanted lines. I don’t usually plan things much, but this ‘draw and erase’ method helps me invent as I go along until I get the main composition roughed in. The paint marks are kept smooth, so any wish to change things later is easily accomplished.

After roughing in the characters and main objects, I grabbed some ready mixed Liquitex pastel colors (soft body, comes in jars). These are great for when you know you just want a color as a main background, a real time saver, and it’s nice paint. Portrait pink and a sort of lavender blue. Then I used some yellow ochre (Golden paint co.) as well. These blocked in color areas as well as making some of the pink background warmer or cooler depending on where the light will be. The paint is still pretty thinned down to keep it smooth.

I was thinking as I went, about whether a character should be dark or light, to stand out against whatever was behind. But, a lot of things could change before it’s done. Even dark areas are not hard to cover up with a good brand of titanium white, and sometimes I will even carefully gesso over some part that I want white again. For that I would use pure gesso for maximum opacity.

Despite the heat, (110-ish these days), this is messy work that has to be done outside, but at least it’s mindless and quick. I had a big glass of ice water out there which helps!

Canvas or Panel–Which do you prefer?

Canvases have the advantage of being lighter weight and less expensive. When they’re done I like them just fine. But my preference, if I could always have my way in the universe, would be to usually work on rigid panels. I just like the way they feel. It’s an entirely personal thing; some people hate panels and prefer canvas.

A compromise is canvas panels. I like Centurion linen canvas panels, and have used some nice cotton ones, too, but only use them in small sizes. When I work larger, I prefer ‘cradled’ panels and canvases with deep edges so I don’t need to frame them. Canvas panels as far as I know only come as just the panel, no cradled edges.

You can adhere canvas/fabric, and even paper to panels but it’s not the most fun thing to do, working out the wrinkles, etc, so it’s a step I’d rather pass on, and just get surfaces that are what I want in the first place, (as much as possible). I find panels preferable over canvas for collage.

A note about my Fall 2016 shows!

The reception date for Olney Gallery is still Friday, Sept. 2nd. It will be there most of the month.

The reception at {9} The Gallery, which I’ve titled Fatal Farm, is now likely to open Friday, Sept. 16th. It had been penciled in as October but is now Sept.

I’ll be posting news about these shows when I know more and when the galleries start promoting them. Just wanted to let you know about the schedule change. Whew! I will be soooo ready for a break after September!

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Surface prep, laying out a composition, show update

  1. FABULOUS!!!!
    Cindy, I’m stopping every few sentences to let everything sink in, will be back when I’m all done. 🙂
    ::runs::

  2. Love the chickens! Lots of action and personality already.
    Thank you about the wood panels! I have a couple of small Ampersand ones that I haven’t used yet. I den’t realize they needed attention first, thought they were ready to go as is. WOW!! Oh, my gosh, the canvases! I don’t like the texture, either. And it’s hard to lose without piles of paint. I’m going to try the gesso again, see if I have more success with it this time. Good to know about the medium (mixing with it). GREAT to hear about how you laid out the painting, too! I’m still shocked at the fact that you do this work outside in that heat, though. “I find panels preferable over canvas for collage.” – When I use paper like paint I like the panels bec it’s easier (and safer) to push the paper into and around the paint/medium than those stretched canvas. LOL…tried it once and ended up with big stretched-out places. Not good! They’re less $$$, too, sometimes. But I have a lot that have warped and that’s not good. 😦
    TOW SHOWS in September! Woohooooo!!! Congratulations, Cindy!!! Can’t wait to see and hear more!!!! 🙂

Experimenting with Comment Settings, in case you don't see a way to leave one.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s