Sunday, 21 August 2011

Quest for the perfect painting surface.


I gradually seem to have become really particular about the surfaces I paint on and, over the last few years have (through a LOT of trial and error!), found a way of preparing canvases that suits my way of working well (involves many many coats of acrylic gesso applied with a foam roller, lots of sanding between each couple once dry until very smooth but not too smooth!). Time consuming (very!) but worth it as the surface allows me to handle the paint in ways that a toothy un-gesso'd canvas would not.

I also like working on board (hardboard/prepared mdf/masonite)- no days of relentless gessoing and sanding required as it is already smooth! Not so great for bigger works as it weighs a tonne but for little pieces it is great! Fed up of paying waaayyyy over the odds for board at my local art shop I decided to save money and prep my own. £6 for a fantastic enormous sheet of mdf at B&Q! They even patiently cut it up into about a million little boards for me! I have pretty much a years supply of 7" x 5", 6" x 6" and 7" x 7" boards now.

You can't paint straight onto board though, it'll suck the oil paint up like a sponge and yellow everything else, so the internet tells me. I gesso'd a few but decided to prepare the rest more traditionally- having read that an oil based primer would provide a slicker surface I wanted to give that a go. Before priming the boards they would need sizing first apparently so I dutifully bought a pot of rabbit skin glue size too.

Que much confusion with the rabbit skin glue. The instructions said to stand the tub in hot water to liquify it and then paint it on. Simple enough? BUT the liquified RSG was like water?? I put a coat on all of the boards (photo above!) but noticed after I had finished the last that the first looked matte and dry again- the board had just soaked it up?! Surely that wasn't right? I added another coat and experienced the same. Google wasn't very helpful but the oil painters on the Wet Canvas forum were- wateryness and absorption totally normal apparently! Phew!

So now all my little boards are RSG'd up front back and sides and are all ready for their primer. Tested some of the primer on a gesso'd board today and it looks a very nice surface... so hopefully all this work will be worth it!!