Monday, June 25, 2012

Painting Surfaces

In 1956 a group of us went out on a class session near the Stamford Reservoir where our teacher, Alfred J. Tulk, had selected a yellow house for us to paint (make a painting of).  We all had our folding wood tripod, paint box and a Fredrix canvas board. This canvas board was a cardboard core wrapped in primed canvas.  There was no discussion about archival boards back then for our work.

However this painting has lasted 56 years, and counting, without any signs of deterioration. The label glued on the back fell off years ago. This was my introduction to painting surfaces and my regular painting surface for a few more years.

Pio was my nickname.  A very long story. Don't ask
In the painting courses at college, the teacher wanted us all to loosen up and use large painting surfaces. Large being around 48" x 36". Of course stretched canvas was not in our student supplies budget so the school offered alternative materials at very reasonable cost.  Sometimes we had untempered Masonite. These were all available through the local lumber yard and furnished to the school at reasonable prices. They were primed using white house paint applied with a paint roller. Our concern was definitely not longevity. At times the work was over-painted with a roller and reused if it was nothing you felt was worth saving and usually this was the case back then.

The idea was to use a large brush, thinned out paint and use your entire arm with LARGE, studied, decisive strokes. That really changes the way you see the subject before you touch the painting surface.  I still do small study sketches with black and white Conte or pastel to see what I have.

Black and white values study on colored paper.
Once I had need of some non-standard size canvases which I had custom made through a New York supplier.  The linen and stretchers were absolutely first quality and were rather expensive as expected.  After that I tried to stay with standard size stretched canvases.  My work was 90% hobby and cost was an issue.  The difficulty with these inexpensive canvases is that some were made in countries that used the metric system and their 16" x 20" canvas did not exactly fit a pre-made 16" x 20" frame.  Drats.

Having learned to paint on a hard surface initially, I found the stretched canvas has a spongy quality to it.  So I re-investigated painting boards.  Some painting boards were more expensive than stretched canvas.  In my internet surfing I discovered RayMar brand with various canvas types mounted to a masonite panel with an additional gray melamine finish on the back. These are of archival quality in packages of ten. I also liked the fact that if I needed a non-standard size, I could cut the board with a sturdy utility knife and a steel edge.  How convenient.  I also use a very fine toothed blade in an electric hand saber saw (jig saw) with a fence guide for straight lines.  Since the blade cuts on the up stroke, I put the canvas face downwards for a really clean cut.

I continued using RayMar until I discovered that Fredrix started making an archival quality canvas wrapped Masonite board with the qualities that I was looking for.  Unlike RayMar, they were available at almost any outlet that carried Fredrix products.  Their price was also about a third less than RayMar. They are also sold in a package of ten boards.  They can also be cut down to any size you like as well.

Remember that you can also do oil sketches and studies on sized paper. See the post of February 12, 2012 for details.

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