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Exploring paint surfaces

Hi everyone, this week I have been drawing my students attention to painting surface options, a subject that we tend to overlook and often take for granted, that each of us knows what surface works well with what medium. So for visitors to my site and for consolidation for my students, here are a few pointers, but don't just take my word for it, nothing beats trying it out for yourself.

So lets explore the options for watercolour and gouache pigment.

The options for watercolour would be a welled dimpled paper that will catch and hold the water and allow the pigment you drop in to travel and spread freely. You can of course use a flat cartridge like heavy snowdon but in my opinion the pigment does not settle so nicely and I find it more difficult to control. However gouache waterbased paint (watercolour with added china clay making it opaque) tends to work really well on a heavy flat cartridge paper. In fact gouache is also great on newsprint type papers.

Okay, so lets move on to the options in surface for acrylic inks and acrylic paints alkyds and oils.

I do like to paint on heavy snowdon cartridge paper with these but it is essential that you seal and prepare the paper surface first, especially when considering oil because if you neglect to do this the oil will travel through and out of the back of the paper and over time will rot and make a mess.

I have found a couple of ways to do this the first of which is to coat the paper in a good cover of acrylic paint and the surface needs to dry to seal the surface before you add the next painted layer.

The second option is to use a gesso primer then a second acrylic layer,left to dry then you are good to go.

One of my favourite surfaces for acrylic is mount board, I find it so easy to take out and about into the landscape. I often will paint a layer in acrylic making sure I cover the whole surface[as above] and finish this with an oil or alkyd layer.

For those of you who like to use canvas or linen, these will need a primer so a couple coats of gesso and I like to add a base colour to get rid of the white primer ,thats just a personal choice as below.

Lastly,for those of you who are familiar with my work , you will know that my absolute favourite surface to paint on is birch ply. I favour this because I love the feel of the wood and the patination of the grain. I have been exploring ways to seal the surface using different coloured varnishes and shellacs to preserve the wood surface, this can be so easily lost when you seal the surface with a gesso primer.

I have been building 3 to 4 layers of an antique pine matte varnish with a view to creating a mid tone to paint on to. Once dry i then add a further few coats of shellac and give this a light sand and I m good to go with my first oil layers.

This is mount board prepared in the same way.

I think its interesting for you to explore using different surfaces for your painting. I definitely find that I adapt my painting style according to my painting surface, because I find different surfaces catch the paint in a different way and this keeps your painting moving forward. Give it a go and let me know.

Happy creating...

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