Archive for September, 2008

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Essay: Painting on Paper

September 29, 2008

I have been having discussions for some time now about the use of paper as a painting surface for works of art, particularly oil painting. In most institutes of higher learning, conservators and artists who should know better might tell you that paper is an inadequate support for any serious professional painting, and when looking around you why would anyone think differently as paper garbage floats by in the wind?

Raphael

Raphael


Rembrandt

Rembrandt


John Constable

John Constable

These examples are paintings on paper. The first is by Raphael, another by Rembrandt, and the one on the right is by John Constable. The Raphael cartoons are painted with hide glue distemper, and the other two are oils. All are in excellent condition and quite old; although, to be fair, they have most certainly been well cared for. These can be described as studies for other finished works, but that doesn’t speak to the condition of the surface or how well they have withstood the test of time.

High quality paper is made from rag fabric fiber, either linen, cotton, or a blend of the two, but it’s the cheapness of wood pulp most people are familiar with that has given all paper a bad reputation. Even wood pulp can be processed to be virtually free of lignin acids that cause staining and brittleness. All types of paper need to be properly sized as preparation for oil painting using hide glue, PVA, or shellac. Mediums such as pastels or watercolors need glass protection mainly due to fragility of the media itself, and to simplify the care and maintenance of the work.

Today many galleries will not accept paintings on paper as a rule unless they are mounted under glass (glazed.) Unfortunately, that is not a good thing for an oil painting, since it would cause the oil to not oxidize properly, and for an acrylic painting it’s not required at all. Juried shows often have the same glazing requirement, and I can understand how it might simplify things for them to just insist that everything be presented the same way. However, it puts a burden on the artist that in some cases isn’t necessary, and implies that all paper stock is inferior to other surfaces. If it was good enough for Rembrandt, it’s good enough for me.

References:
Raphael: “Miraculous Draught of Fishes”
Rembrandt
John Constable
History of Papermaking
Paper from non-wood fibers
Rag Paper Manufacturing
History of Paper Sizing
Paper Terminology

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Hanging an Oil Painting to Dry

September 26, 2008

Since an oil painting typically needs a few days to dry I like to hang it up out of the way so the surface won’t come into contact with anything and in a location that has less dust floating around. What I do is attach a “C” clamp to the stretcher, and hang it by the handle on a metal wall shelf as shown in the photo above. For large paintings I use a couple clamps near each corner. I can safely hang several side by side and they get plenty of air circulation. The clamps are only a couple dollars each.

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Sitting in a Dark Corner, Part 2

September 25, 2008



Here’s the latest version of the painting I just started. I’ll let it dry some before I go back and add a few touchups. The closeup is approximately actual size for that area of the painting.



Read the previous post in this series:

  • Sitting in a Dark Corner, part 1
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    New Painting: Sitting in a Dark Corner

    September 24, 2008

    Starting a new painting. This is based on a sketch I made years ago while sitting in the back of a conference room during some boring seminar. There was a young woman in front of me gnawing on her thumb. Hang on to all your sketches. You never know what they’ll turn into.

    Pencil Sketch

    Pencil Sketch

    I decided to place her in the corner of a darkly lit room and this is the result. Here you see the beginning undertone layout. It’s in oil this time on a small stretched canvas, 12 x 9 inches.

    This paint layer is made using a medium mix of methylcellulose and water-miscible oil paints. Methylcellulose is a binder made from plant pulp and is a water and oil emulsifier like casein. Although not as strong a glue as casein it is clearer and won’t spoil. I like to use it in early layers like this so I can dilute the oil paint without actually thinning it, and it dries quickly. I could use regular oil paints with it, but I prefer water-miscible paints like Holbein’s Aqua Duo brand since they’re more water friendly. No turpentine is required.



    Read the next post in this series:

  • Sitting in a Dark Corner, Part 2
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    Wedding Reception Ink Drawing

    September 20, 2008
    Pen and Ink Drawing

    Pen and Ink Drawing

    I’ve made many paintings based on drawings, but I can’t remember the last time I made a drawing from a painting. Here’s one example. It’s from a painting I made a year ago called “Wedding Reception in Malibu.” I used the same contour line drawing that I made the painting from, so both artworks are the same size, roughly 16 x 16″. The drawing surface is a sheet of Multimedia Artboard, which is nicely smooth and stiff. Using a lightbox, I could see through the Artboard to the contour drawing beneath, which made the inking process easier.

    Some thoughts on drawing in general:

    • If you have a problem getting a straight line, slow down.
    • Practice your line shading on a scrap piece of paper as a warmup exercise.
    • Keep a relaxed grip on the pen. When making thicker lines, don’t squeeze, just push down.
    • Perfectly clean straight lines are overrated. Just concentrate on values and line thickness.
    • Thick outlines can help separate objects spatially.
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    Nightclub Painting: Final Stages

    September 14, 2008
    Final painting

    Final painting

    Here’s the latest version of my Nightclub painting. It just needs some cleaning up around the edges here and there. Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 9 inches.

    Acrylic palette

    Acrylic palette

    This shows my acrylic paint palette setup. It’s a variation on my casein palette that I posted earlier using the same gray plate for mixing. The difference here is I use a ceramic plate for the palette. It’s covered with a damp piece of muslin cloth, and on that is a piece of Sta-Wet paper from Masterson, which appears to be just heavy weight vellum. I use a plate for the dabs of paint so I can cover it with the mixing plate to help keep it from drying out if I need to take a break. I sometimes re-wet the cloth, but generally the paint stays moist all day with this setup.



    Read the previous post in this series:

  • Night Club Painting, Color Study
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    Imagekind Print Proofs

    September 13, 2008
    ImageKind mailtube

    ImageKind mailtube

    After lunch today I was just about to put brush to canvas for more painting when FedEx knocked at the door, and delivered two prints recently ordered from Imagekind, the printing fulfillment company I signed up with recently. I ordered proofs to see how well they made the prints. One of these was the recently finished “Chinese Restaurant” painting that I posted here a few days ago, and the other is a painting from last year called “Manhattan Beach.” They were shipped in a long thick cardboard mailing tube rolled up in tissue paper.

    For the “Chinese Restaurant” proof I chose the largest size they offered on the least expensive paper, figuring that would help me gauge a worst-case scenario for people ordering prints. The “Manhattan Beach” proof I requested was made to roughly the same size as the original but on glossy paper.

    Both prints look very good. I was worried that the common problem of matching a monitor display to print output color (CMYK) would appear, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. They both look very accurate. There is one problem; although, it’s not actually related to the printing. Even though the large print looks very accurate and sharp, its larger size magnifies the minute details of the small painting. Tiny spots of paint that may splatter in unwanted places, or shadows cast by thicker paint layers get enlarged several times. Small things that can be overlooked on the original are glaringly obvious on the larger print.

    These issues aren’t big problems, and if they were printed actual size or smaller they’d be okay, but the prints should look as perfect as they can be under all conditions. It would be convenient if Imagekind would let me control the size options offered, but that’s not available. It is good to offer larger sizes, I suppose, as long as the prints show up well, which they seem to do. I had touched up the digital images some even before I uploaded them, but apparantly I need to clean them up even more carefully, so it looks like I’ll be doing that over the weekend.