Saturday, January 27, 2018

Painting on rigid supports

18 x24" oil on birch

detail 1

detail 2

Finally, after years of trying and failing miserably, I've figured out how to paint on panels.  This is big news in my studio!

Smooth, rigid supports like wood and metal have defeated me in the past because I struggled to work in an alla prima fashion on them.  Getting past that first, scruffy, scratchy layer was a trial as my hog bristle brushes tended to remove more paint than they deposited.  I also found it hard to make the large variety of edges that I could on oil primed linen. 

Things I tried in order to make wood work for me:
- adding alkyd mediums to the paint (often too smelly and/or toxic and/or slippery)
- switching to soft or synthetic brushes (changed the consistency and amount of paint in each stroke)
- and thickening and drying the paint slightly by squeezing it out onto cardboard overnight (helpful, but too thick and dry for first layers).

I'd almost decided to give up on the idea of rigid supports, but, since my oil primed linen comes to me from US suppliers, and the exchange rate for our Canadian dollar is abysmal, I was motivated to give it another go recently.

This time, it's working, and it comes down to changing the one thing I didn't try in the past: the way that I work.  Over time, I've become a slower, more patient painter - willing to let layers dry between painting sessions - and that change in working method has, finally, allowed me to enjoy working on smooth supports.  In fact, I've discovered that there are more possible textural effects available to me on wood than there are on fabric. 

The images above show the complex textural surface of "Pike", done in many layers, and using my usual medium of 50/50 oil and OMS in the first layer, and then either straight paint, or paint with a bit of linseed oil.  Because I use OMS sparingly and only in the first layer, and I don't clean my brushes during the working day, this limits the amount of toxic fumes in my studio (and odourless mineral spirits are toxic despite the name).  The rigid surface means that I can pile on the paint without the worry of future cracking that is a drawback of flexible supports. 

I've learned to never say never when it comes to painting, and I'm glad that I persevered in this. 

Happy painting!


Brian Johnston said...

I too had difficulty. Changed gesso supply. Watch your fellow Canadian Mark Lague paint on board. It adds to his looseness.

Ingrid Christensen said...

Mark Lague is a favourite of mine, Brian.
Thanks for reading!

Ryan Ahern said...

Interesting thoughts, Ingrid. With changing the way you paint have you found that you need to wait a decent amount of time between "layers', so as to speak, given the time it takes oils to dry?

Muddying, and or lifting of under layers, made me succumb to using Liquin or going alla prima if using linseed/OMS only

Ingrid Christensen said...

HI Ryan,
I do face a lot of drying time for layers now. It's a drawback because I'm impatient when I'm in the flow of a painting and hate to stop because the materials require it rather than because I've run out of ideas. But, I've found that I actually do better work this way: more considered and with richer surfaces. So I've just accepted drying time, and have several pieces on the go at once.

Happy painting!

Ryan Ahern said...

Ingrid, yes, that makes sense. So I'm guessing you could be waiting up to a week or more for drying times between layers, yes? I hear ya regarding not wanting to stop when in the flow

I have read of some painting prior to touch-dry and just adhering to the standard fat-over-lean, with small amounts of each layer mixing somewhat. Not sure if that would cause any issues down-the-track however

Ingrid Christensen said...

Hi Ryan,
Layering should be done either on wet or dry paint, but not on tacky paint as that will cause cracking.

I sometimes watch acrylic painters with envy as they encourage cracking, slap layers on whenever, and paint thinly over thick with no ramifications. But I do love the glowing translucence of oil.