Archive for February, 2009

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Making Thicker Paper

February 25, 2009

For any of you who might have problems getting hold of thick paper for your watercolors, or any other media that involves placing water on paper, here’s a little trick to thicken up the paper you have on hand so it will perform better for you. Just take several sheets of paper and glue them together.

papercement

The image above shows a jar of Best-Test Paper Cement from Union Rubber, and a pad of drawing paper from Daler-Rowney that I picked up recently at a half price sale. The cement has a neutral pH and bonds paper very well. It’s not extremely strong, but is at least as strong as the cellulose holding the paper itself together. I brush on a coat to both sides of the paper sheets and press them together after the glue dries which takes only a minute. This drawing paper is 110lb. (130gsm) weight, and it takes about 10-12 sheets to equal the thickness of 3-ply illustration board, or 3-4 layers for a good watercolor surface. The assembled “board” can be used right away once you’ve got all your pieces glued together.

papergrain

The main thing to pay attention to is the “grain” of the paper sheets. Yes, paper has a grain (of sorts.) The slurry of fiber pulp used to make paper (whether from wood or rag) flows in a particular direction as it settles and dries. You can see this by holding the sheet up to a light source and looking through it. It’s subtle, so it won’t be obvious linear streaks, but more like wave ripples. Different sheets can have different grain orientations, although those within one pad are usually all the same. When you glue the sheets together, rotate the grain so they are in perpendicular layers (90°.) This adds strength to the whole construction, like making plywood, and helps prevent curling when wet. Of course, it also means that the largest size of the paper you are making won’t be larger than the smallest size of the paper you are using, unless you fill it in with extra strips. That can work okay, but the seams can show when using thin paper. You can also mix your papers so that the lower layers are wood pulp and the top is rag, or glue a plate surface on top of cold-pressed paper, etc.

This cement is waterproof which improves the overall performance of the paper. The fumes of it require ventilation and it’s flammable, so use with caution, and keep the cap on when you are not gluing. Other glues will work too, but I like this one since it dries quickly, doesn’t shrink, and doesn’t require water or pressing.

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Making My Own Frames: Final

February 21, 2009

The frame has been painted with a thin coat of burnt umber casein, and finished with amber shellac. *

Frame with backing sheet

Frame with backing sheet


Cut foamcore backing

Cut foamcore backing


Gluing backing to art

Gluing backing to art

The backing will be an acid free foamcore panel. I trace the inside of the frame on the foamcore to fit. I push the cut foamcore to the front of the frame, and then mark the inside of the front lip so I know where to mount the artwork. The backing is slightly larger than the art so as to avoid squeezing it in the frame too tightly. My adhesive of choice these days is Golden’s Soft Gel, which I dilute slightly with water and brush onto the foamcore. I line up the artwork and press it down with a few books to keep flat as it dries for a couple of hours. The support for this painting, by the way, is a thin piece of birch veneer.

Metal strip

Metal strip

To hold the art in place in the frame, I screw metal strips typically sold as hangers inside against the foamcore, placing them about 6 inches apart. I leave a little space (@ 1/16th inch) between the front of the artwork and the frame as “breathing room” so the wood doesn’t press against the art.

Back of frame

Back of frame

To finish off the back, I cut a piece of mat board and staple it to the back of the frame, hiding the staples with tape along the edges. I place the hanger wire about a quarter of the way down from the top. I’ll later add a label that shows the title, my name, and media. It’s now ready to hang.

Hanging artwork

Hanging artwork


* A word of caution about disposing of shellac: as soon as it touches water it congeals into a gummy mess that will clog your sink. You could dilute it heavily with ammonia and that will go down the drain okay, but better still dispose of it in the trash. The alcohol will evaporate and the shellac is organic matter.


Read other posts in this series:

  • Making Frames, Part 1
  • Making Frames, Part 2
  • Making Frames, Part 3
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    Making My Own Frames: Part 3

    February 18, 2009

    After cutting the wood for my frames, I place a small amount of PVA wood glue on both ends of the joined corners, press them together, and use a band clamp to squeeze the frame square and hold it tight, making sure the joints are a flush as possible. Not shown in this picture is a scrap piece of plastic that I placed between the metal ratchet of the clamp and the bare wood so it doesn’t scratch the frame. Pieces of plastic wrap placed between the metal corners of the clamp and the wood help keep any excess glue off the clamp.

    Frame with band clamp

    Frame with band clamp

    I let the glue set for about 20 minutes, and then flip it over and place staples in the back at the corners. I remove the clamp and clean off any excess glue, and then replace the strap and let it set for a couple more hours.

    After glue dries

    After glue dries

    When the glue has completely dried, I remove the strap and lightly sand down the corners. It’s now ready for finishing.



    Read other posts in this series:

  • Making Frames, Part 1
  • Making Frames, Part 2
  • Making Frames, Final
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    Making My Own Frames: Part 2

    February 17, 2009

    frames04

    I’m continuing to make a frame from the last post. Here you can see the wood strips on the miter saw to cut 45 degree angles. This Stanley saw has some nice features I like such as locking at the correct angle setting and screws that hold the wood in place. I could do everything on the table saw, which I’ll be using next, but this saw gives a better cut for me.

    frames05
    Using the table saw I make the first cut in two passes to make a groove that is ¼” wide. I then make a second cut at a right angle to notch out an “L” shaped corner. A router table would make this easier, but a table saw does the job okay. The next step will be to glue the pieces together.



    Read other posts in this series:

  • Making Frames, Part 1
  • Making Frames, Part 3
  • Making Frames, Final
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    Making My Own Frames: Part 1

    February 16, 2009

    frames001

    This is how I build my own frames. The finished example above is one of two that I need to make for an upcoming exhibit. One down, one to go.

    Measuring on Paper

    Measuring on Paper

    To help me measure out the frame, I place the artwork on a large piece of wrapping paper and make marks at the corners along the edge of the art. Since these measurements are all based on the artwork edges, it’s important that those edges be perfectly square.

    Drawing Frame Edges

    Drawing Frame Edges

    I draw a rectangle 1/8” (2mm) inside those marks to represent the inside of the frame. Next I use a piece of the wood to get the thickness correct and draw a larger rectangle as the outside edge of the frame. Of course, you could figure this out by just measuring and not use paper, but I feel this helps me visualize the frame more accurately. “Measure twice, cut once” as they say.

    Marking the wood

    Marking the wood

    I then line up the wood to be used for the frames along the side of the outside rectangle, and mark the wood at both ends. I continue marking this measurement for all four pieces, and take it to the miter saw to cut the angles which I’ll show in the next posting. By the way, the wood I’m using is a species of pine I like that has good resistance to moisture.



    Read other posts in this series:

  • Making Frames, Part 2
  • Making Frames, Part 3
  • Making Frames, Final
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    Polypropylene Film for Painting

    February 14, 2009

    Yupo! That might sound like an odd exclamation of joy, but it’s actually a brand name for a synthetic material sold for a range of uses, including a surface for making art. It’s made of polyproylene and comes in single sheets, pads, or rolls. It’s either translucent or opaque, and available in different weights from 155 – 390 GSM. I paid @ $15 USD for a pad of ten 11 x14″ sheets.

    yupo1
    I had actually been exposed to this product some time ago by another artist who used it for drawings. It takes pencil and ink very well; although, any ink that has alcohol seems to cause a chemical discoloring. I never thought to try paint on it since I figured it would be too slick. Continuing my exploration of synthetic surfaces, I decided to test that out for myself.

    Acrylic and Oil on Yupo

    Acrylic and Oil on Yupo

    The Yupo surface is very smooth, and as such, paint does tend to slide around on it a bit more than I care for. I’ve tested oils, acrylics, casein, gouache, and different drawing materials on it. They all seem to hold fairly well. The paint can’t be peeled off, but can be scratched. I’ve been able to improve the grip of the surface a bit by prepping it with a single coat of acrylic primer or thin layer of paint. If you don’t like the slickness of it with wet media like watercolors, consider priming it with an absorbent ground like that made by Golden.

    The main advantage of this film for water soluble paints is it doesn’t react to the water at all. Unlike paper or wood panels, it will not buckle or curl. It works okay with oils, and the acidity of oils or solvents will not affect the surface. Although it doesn’t require priming, that can prevent it from being too slick. Oils seem to take extra time on this to dry, at least the first layer, probably because it’s not porous. A thin layer of oil and turpentine or spirits will dry to touch in about 2 days.

    Another brand of polypropylene film on the market is “Denril” which is a brand of drafting film made by Borden and Riley. Unlike Yupo, it has a slightly rough matte surface which seems to hold the paint a little bit better. In conclusion, between these two, I tend to prefer Denril, but Yupo shows potential. I may write to them and suggest offering a matte surface as well.



    See also my post regarding…

  • Painting on Drafting Film
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    Busy Work

    February 12, 2009

    I must appologize for not being too attentive here, but I’ve been occupied with a new short-term contract job for a local game company. In the meantime, I’ve been doing some busy work at home such as varnishing and mounting some finished paintings. Here are a few new sketches
    salsasun
    concert
    oldhandschair

    The business distractions should be over in a few days, so I should soon be able to get back to the fun stuff.

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    No Refund

    February 5, 2009

    alfred
    “…Musicians should never pay a music agent or music manager any money in advance ever …”
    ShowbizLTD

    “Legitimate literary agents make their professional livelihoods from the commissions they earn through the sale of their clients’ books to publishers.”
    Agent Query

    The unanimous advice from all legitimate artist agents is the artist should avoid doing business with anyone who expects to be paid up front for their services. It is only when those agents find work for the artist they represent that they get paid a percentage of the deal they’ve made. This should apply to all organizations as well, including those who sponsor exhibitions or competitions of visual art. The principle is the same.

    Many art competitions, even those that don’t offer prize awards, expect the artists who enter to pay a nonrefundable fee, often as little as $10 but I’ve seen some as high as $100 for one entry. Are we paying someone’s salary? It’s like a football pool at work where everyone puts in a few bucks and someone else wins the pot. How many entries do you think such places get? How many rejections? Apparently, these places are incapable of doing fund raising on their own, and expect the artists to pick up the slack.

    Some artists I have spoken with have rationalized paying fees as the cost of doing business. Let’s consider the cost of advertising. Perhaps an exhibition could draw hundreds of viewers, even potential international attention, and that seems well worth the expense of a small fee. The thing is, although you would spend far more money with other conventional means of advertising, those places would not take your money and then refuse to do business with you. A nonrefundable fee is a bad policy. It just hurts the people they are supposedly trying to help.

    Consider the Hunting Prize. They charge no up front fee and the award money is $50, 000. American Watercolor Society estimated awards up to $40,000, no fees. How can they manage this while so many others charge fees? They do it the old fashioned way. They earn it.

    So, after all that ranting you might wonder if I ever enter shows myself? You bet. Maybe two or three times a year. You can’t win if you don’t play, right? I also occasionally buy lottery tickets or enjoy a nice game of Texas Hold ‘Em. I get approximately the same odds of winning either way.

    Look here for some listings of art competitions (usually charging fees):
    Art Deadline
    The Art List

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    New Sketches

    February 1, 2009

    Here are some recent sketches from the last couple of days, each @ 8 x 10 inches. The singer was rendered in ink marker and litho-crayon. The cafe scene was made with a marker.

    guitarist
    olivegarden

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